Onion Launches Video Network, Dewar’s Sponsors (Since 1898)

For its sponsorship of just-launched The Onion News Network (ONN), Dewar’s is running a video spot with 109-year-old footage the spirits maker claims is taken from first filmed advertisement ever made. The ad, done in silent film fashion, displays its copy in title cards: “Dewar’s! And News! Go together like…Kilts and Prancing!”

Because the ad’s venue is “America’s Finest News Source,” viewers may question the veracity of Dewar’s claim. True or not, Dewar’s spot is carefully matched to the surrounding content, an intensive strategy the marketer is applying to several digital venues.

“It was created expressly for not only the Internet, but for that particular placement,” said Ian Schafer, CEO of Dewar’s digital agency, Deep Focus.

The sponsorship consists of a :05 static intro ad preceding the video content, and a longer :20 spot following it, plus in-page display units, a presence on the homepage and a full-page ad in the print paper.

The pre-roll ad is presented in the network’s voice. “We’re working on finding different ways to makes sure that voice is entertaining but clearly sets up the sponsor as the underwriter of this content,” Onion President Sean Mills told ClickZ News of the pre-roll shout-out.

Mills expressed pleasure with the end-roll ad, which he called well-tuned to the paper’s sensibility while being “unique enough.” “We definitely don’t want advertisers out there trying to ape what we do,” he said. “When you try to create content and call it an ad, people don’t like that.”

Dewar’s has an exclusive on the site through next week, said Schafer, at which point other marketers will get their turn. “We don’t want to overdo it and burn people out on Dewar’s messaging.”

Dewar’s and Deep Focus seem to have a thing for splashy media launches, or momentous denouements, as the case may be. Earlier this month, the spirits distiller sponsored the final week of Ze Frank’s year-long video blogging experiment, “The Show with Ze Frank.”

ONN’s tagline is “Faster. Harder. Scarier. All-Knowing,” and its promo spot promises, “You’ll never read again.” The site, which will be updated each Tuesday, launches with two videos, one about immigration (“The Human Cost of Mexicans”), another about Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s trip to Asia. (“The emperors of the orient shall bow low before her.”)

As of Wednesday, it was the second most-subscribed podcast in iTunes, an environment into which the ads can be served but not easily tracked; ONN and Dewar’s will know the number of downloads, not plays.

Dewar’s next move online will be to create “significant pieces” of original content, which will appear in the coming months, said Schafer.

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