Branded Content Is What 'Portlandia' Does for GEICO

GEICO is giving viewers a look behind the scenes at IFC's Portlandia in custom vignettes that promote the show while echoing the insurance company's "It's what you do" slogan.

Two new vignettes were shot. The first has its debut Thursday night, the second will air next week, and the two will alternate through the end of the season.

This year marks the fourth season that GEICO has been a sponsor of the comedy. IFC for years was commercial free, meaning that sponsors got branded content on the network, rather than spots.

Creating branded content is still in the network's blood, says IFC VP of integrated marketing Mike DiGiacomo. "You're seeing more and more of that, brands looking to integrate natively into shows and GEICO's been doing this for a number of years".

When it first sponsored the show, Maxwell, GEICO's spokes-pig was seen on Portlandia running for mayor. Last year, sketches from the show were spoofed in vignettes for GEICO.

"This year we decided to freshen it up a little bit. Instead of playing up Portlandia sketches we would actually kid of turn the camera around and talk about it's what you'd do if you worked on Portlandia," DiGiacomo said.

In one of the vignettes, a woman working on the show (played by an actor) is looking for coffee at the show's craft services table. She encounters a barista boasting about having 50 different varieties of coffee. All she wants is a simple black coffee.

"If you work on Portlandia, you take coffee seriously. It's what you do," the GEICO announcer says. "If you want to save 15% or more on car insurance you switch to GEICO.  It's what you do." The spot closed by reminding viewers that new episodes of Portlandia air Thursdays at 10 p.m. on IFC.

The second piece highlights the way the series uses funny sound effects and shows the audio guy playing effects while his colleagues attempt to eat lunch. "If you work on Portlandia, you add sound effects. It's what you do," that spot says.

Subaru has been a sponsor of Portlandia even longer, but it tends to integrate its vehicles and messages into the show, rather than into vignettes.

GEICO is a big IFC sponsor, and last year it expanded its sponsorship activity by creating a vignette based on the first-year show Stan Against Evil.

That branded content was produced by Radical Media, which is both the production company behind Stan Against Evil as well as the primary production house used by GEICO to create its commercials.

"They knew the GEICO brand better than anybody, so it was the perfect marriage between IFC, GEIC, [media agency] Horizon and Radical to create the spot," DiGiacomo said.

The branded content is also distributed via social media, riding on IFC's Facebook and Twitter feeds. It also resides on the Portlandia page of IFC's website.

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.