At the many advertising conferences dotting Internet Week New York this week, speakers and panelists have been exhorting the ad industry to start thinking more creatively when it comes to tackling digital media--even creating elaborate branded series in lieu of traditional commercials.
They weren't the only ones who got that memo. Record label Universal Music Group's Universal Music U.K. announced Monday that it's partnered with social network Bebo to broadcast a series called The Secret World of Sam King: one part video blog, one part Choose Your Own Adventure, and one part Universal advertorial. It's being produced by Globe Productions, a division of Universal.
The premise of the new series is that Sam King, an extremely low-level fictional employee of Universal Music, decides to found his own record label in the company mail room. Along the way, he encounters real-life Universal artists, and viewers will be able to submit opinions, send in material, and suggest which bands Sam should scout.
The show will also be fueled by product placement, with handset manufacturer Sony Ericsson signing on as the inaugural brand sponsor. Apparently this will lead to the protagonist "winding his boss up with mobile phone-related pranks."
Bebo and Universal have not provided a concrete debut date.
Universal's concept of a "brand show" is a bit similar to Back On Topps, a series created by former Disney exec Michael Eisner's video start-up Vuguru, as a promotion for the trading card company (which Eisner himself owns). That series, premiering this week, also pits fictional company employees against the celebrities affiliated with it--in Topps' case, famous athletes.
For Bebo, which has its biggest audience in the U.K., and parent company AOL, its 42 million members get video content that will (ideally) be enjoyable and will keep them around. It'll also be cross-promoted across other AOL video brands. For Universal, creating an (ideally) hip show geared toward Bebo's young users could help recapture the attention of a generation that's turned away from the major labels and in the direction of BitTorrent.