Leap Year is a branded entertainment web series with a sizable budget funded by Hiscox, a London Stock Exchange-listed insurance provider that specializes in niche areas of the insurance market (including art collections and kidnapping/ransoms) that last year extended its offerings to provide small business insurance to companies in the US.
The show was created and executive produced by Wilson Cleveland and CJP Digital (the individual and company behind other online branded programs including The Temp LIfe, The Webventures of Justin and Alden, Suite 7, and Bestsellers) and written and directed by the Baranovsky brothers under the banner of Happy Little Guillotine Films (the digital production shop behind titles like 7-Eleven’s Road Trip Rally and Break a Leg). It’s comprised of a cast that fans of CJP Digital and Happy Little Guillotine productions will find very familiar (including Yuri Baranovsky, Alexis Boozer, Cleveland, Daniela DiIorio, Drew Lanning, Rachel Risen, and Mark Gantt) and contains a laundry list of cameos from Hollywood vets and tech industry celebs (like Craig Beirko, Julie Warner, Guy Kawasaki,Gary Vaynerchuk and Mashable’s Adam Ostrow).
The 10-episode first season debuted on Hulu in June of last year. The comedy follows the out-of-work and entrepreneurial escapades of five recently fired co-workers who invest in a shared office space and pursue their daydreams of starting their own successful businesses by competing for $500,000 in startup capital from a mystery investor.
You should watch it. It’s good. If you don’t believe me, the following number and accolade should convince you otherwise. Those 10-episodes garnered 3.7 million organic episodes across all of Leap Year’s distribution outlets and earned the program a Digital Luminary Award from NATPE for the excellence in branded entertainment.
But more than viewership and acclaim, Leap Year is good because – like other great branded entertainment programs – it worked. I caught up with Hunter Hoffmann, Head of U.S. Communications for Hiscox over e-mail, who explained to me how Leap Year was nothing short of a success for his company.
Leap Year as a marketing vehicle gave Hiscox great value. The series helped drive aided awareness of Hiscox in the US market from 0 to 10% in less than a year and the related spend was only 3% of our 2011 marketing budget. We increased our social media followers by 1,300% to over 40,000 active followers and Hiscox mentions on social media have increased by 2,300% since the series started. The second season will give us an opportunity to continue engaging with these followers and reach new audiences to further increase awareness and affinity for Hiscox.
And that’s the reason why Leap Year is coming back for a second season.
CJP Digital Media and Happy Little Guillotine Films are scheduled to start production on March 5 for a Hulu premiere this summer. In this sophomore season you can expect the same cast of characters with some additional notables (including Joshua Malina, Steven Weber, Emma Caulfield, Randi Zuckerberg, Reddit Co-founder Alexis Ohanian, What’s Trending host Shira Lazar, and TechStars Founder and CEO, David Cohen and Managing Director, David Tisch.
You can also expect longer episodes. Cleveland tells me this upcoming season of Leap Year will contain 10 22-minute installments. Here’s one of the reasons why:
Yuri and I have been championing the idea of longer-form, TV-length programming on the web for a long time and it would seem both the industry and the audience are finally ready to oblige. Hulu is among those at the forefront of this new format and we’re excited and proud to be working with them again this season.
Get caught up on all things Leap Year and C3D holographic web conferencing devices (which, if you don’t know what those are, means you need to get caught up on Leap Year) before the second season hits a computer screen near you. Watch the first season at Hulu.com/Leap-Year.