When you’ve got it flaunt it, right? MWG Entertainment the multi-platform digital studio behind web series My Two Fans and now wedding comedy Road to the Altar, has done an impressive job lining up some household-name sponsors for its projects. Altar is boasting wedding-friendly consumer brands Pier 1, iRobot, Panda Express and Blackberry signed on for the series.
So why not lean on the sponsors for that extra push? After all, shooting a web series is the easy part. Breaking through from the sea of episodic video content out there is not so easy. Giving away free things still works for attention online—see #squarespace and their Twitter iPhone giveaway.
Trying to stir up some buzz around the premiere, MWG has tapped its sponsors for a viewer sweepstakes with a $1,000 Pier 1 gift card, several iRobot Roomba vacuums, and some Tyler Candles. Reading the fine print, it’s only one entry per email address throughout the entire 10-week run (ends Aug 17th), which probably won’t work as well at viewer loyalty as say, one per day or one per new episode.
The 10-episode series, directed and co-written by Annie Lukowski, stars Jaleel White (Urkel on Family Matters) and Leyna Weber (who also co-wrote) from As the World Turns as a young couple, Simon and Rochelle, pulling together their wedding with a faux-reality TV crew in tow. The couple makes all the expected stops around town to find the perfect vendors for the wedding – florists, valets, wedding dresses, etc. And that’s where the veteran TV guest stars come in to shine—Kym Whitley (The Parkers), Rodney Perry (Who’s Got Jokes?), Susan Floyd (Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles), Jim Hanks (Dexter), Robert Romanus (Fame) and Earl Billings (What’s Happening!)
I went to a launch screening of the series last week in Hollywood, which was well attended with about 300 or so of mostly cast, crew and friends of the series. The MWG folks screened three full episodes along with a number of short faux interview segments. Each episode clocks in at about four minutes, making them feel a bit short considering the more than ample on-screen talent.
Altar is smartly written, with each episode ending with a signature comedic and often sexual joke as a button. White carries the show as our hero along for the wedding planning ride with only the illusion of actual decision making. A drawback for me was the the fake reality crew, which was oddly distracting. Including them in the shots is something that gold-standard mocku The Office chose to avoid for good reason. We know they are there. There’s nothing like a lingering shot of a boom operator to kill the mood.
Worth noting about this series is its ability to hook some actual sponsor dollars for a narrative web series. There’s been no shortage of naysayers lately about brands nervous about short-form narrative projects, so this has to be considered a win (so far) for independent web studios looking to shake the sponsor money tree.
“A mockumentary about an engaged couple is a great premise for Pier 1. Pier 1 is the perfect place for young couples getting married and decorating their first home,” said Kelly Keenum, public relations manager for Pier 1.
One distributor of the series, KoldCast TV, attended the premiere and interviewed White, Lukowski and Weber and others (above). Other online distributors of Altar include Joost, Sling, YouTube and Zillion TV. MWG plans to monetize the series through through sponsorship and brand integration as well as further worldwide distribution.