Open mike night with TBS 'bitcoms'

Unilever gets message out with stand-up comedy clips before commercials

CORRECTED 4:41 p.m. PT Jan. 24

TBS has launched an advertising platform called "bitcoms" -- 30-second clips of stand-up comedians telling jokes about brands -- with Unilever's I Can't Believe It's Not Butter signed on as the first partners.

The TBS-branded and -produced bitcoms run as the first spot in the commercial break and lead into the advertiser's traditional commercial. They are the latest initiative from TBS aimed at getting viewers to stay tuned through commercial breaks.

"This is a win-win for both the advertiser and the network," said Linda Yaccarino, executive vp at Turner Entertainment ad sales and marketing. "It's a 30-second piece of original content designed around a brand that can message its brand attributes, or whatever the client wants to say, but then we make it funny. That's what makes this such a strong vehicle and why the network supports it to a great degree and why the advertisers are so interested in it."

The first bitcoms premiered this week with a comedy sketch during "Everybody Loves Raymond" featuring comedian Whitney Cummings telling an audience that as part of her new year's resolution to eat better, she's giving up butter and eating I Can't Believe It's Not Butter because "it's so much healthier for you but it tastes just as good. Seriously, taste it; you'll be more surprised than my mother when I told her I was straight," Cummings says in the spot, shot in a comedy club.

TBS has been in talks with Staples and Pizza Hut, among other advertisers, though no other deals have been confirmed. Bitcom placements are available to advertisers during "Raymond," "Office," "Family Guy" and TBS' original sitcom "Tyler Perry's House of Payne."

TBS collaborates with the advertisers and comedians on the scripts. The bitcoms are shot in a comedy club and feature either TBS talent or comics hired by TBS especially for the bitcoms. There also will be online extensions at TBS.com.

"Once we cross that bridge and make it funny, it becomes something attractive to the network, so that's why we have a big capability to promote these things, to air them on TBS.com and to get a lot more mileage out of them than just a traditional commercial," Yaccarino said. The bitcoms are an extension of the network's "Very Funny Commercials" platform, featuring back-to-back spots with a TBS "seal of approval," she said.

Yaccarino would not discuss the financial terms of the bitcoms but said advertisers pay a premium for them.
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