FedEx Enlists Fred Willard, Bob Odenkirk for ‘Infomercial’ Campaign

Looking to explain a litany of small business services without boring potential customers to tears, FedEx has produced a series of tongue-in-cheek infomercials that it hopes will go viral.

The videos, which star Fred Willard (Waiting for Guffman, Spinal Tap) and were directed by Bob Odenkirk (Mr. Show With Bob and David, Tom Goes to the Mayor), are the centerpiece of an online campaign that includes display and pre-roll ads on sites like Hulu, Yahoo and YouTube. All the creative directs viewers to FedEx.com or YouTube to see the videos, which were created by FedEx’s creative agency, BBDO.

“All these things started off with the brief, which was to convey a lot of information about services they have and to do it online and to engage people,” BBDO’s Mike Smith, a creative director on the account, said, “We thought to ourselves that the infomercial was a natural fit for us as a platform.”

In each of the five videos, which can be seen at YouTube.com/getinfotained, Fred Willard plays the cheesy, clueless host of “1,2,3 Succeed,” an approximately three-minute “show” in which he shows his daughter or a friend how to use various Fed Ex services, such as FedExMobile, FedEx International or FedEx Office Print Online, in front of an artificially enthusiastic audience.

Although it is FedEx’s first serious foray into branded content, Smith noted that the brand has a long history of humor in its advertising, such as the series of commercials in the 1980s featuring “the world’s fastest-talking man,” John Moschitta, and recent Super Bowl ads featuring pre-linguistic cavemen frustrated by shipping inefficiencies.

“We wanted to do something that was layered and rich with jokes that carried throughout the film to keep people engaged throughout the three minutes,” BBDO’s Greg Hahn, also a creative director on the account, said.

Although the target audience for the campaign is small-business owners, the media buy reflects outreach to comedy fans as well. In addition to buying time on portals and business-oriented sites (and using ad networks Tremor Media and Undertone Networks), the campaign is running on Crackle, FunnyOrDie and Blip.tv.

FedEx has also enlisted The Feed Company to seed the videos in order to help them go viral, though after four days online and a full day of the display ads running, each video had been viewed fewer than 400 times on YouTube. The channel had recorded just over 6,000 channel views as of last night.

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