Discovery Campaign Thinks Funny

Discovery Channel is set to kick off a new on-air marketing campaign that relies on a series of tongue-in-cheek spots with the tagline, “Know more than you should.”

The branding campaign — coupled with tune-in spots that Discovery plans to run for the new series that bow in early June, Big and American Casino — represent the channel’s biggest marketing push of the year.

Discovery Channel senior vice president of marketing Julie Willis compared the campaign to a “lob-spike strategy” in volleyball.

“The brand spots are an invitation to view,” Willis said. “The program spots are meant to close a deal.”

An extension of Discovery’s “Entertain Your Brain” campaign, which debuted last year, the marketing push will target young men throughout the month of June with 30-second spots on NBC’s Today and The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, in addition to CBS’s CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.

Discovery is also buying national and local cable spots on services popular with young men, such as ESPN, TBS Superstation, MTV: Music Television, Spike TV, Turner Network Television, Comedy Central and USA Network.

The four humorous commercials — designed by director Jim Jenkins, who has produced commercials for ESPN, American Express, MasterCard and BMW — don’t feature Discovery’s logo until the last few seconds.

One spot begins with two office workers who watch an elderly woman drop her umbrella on a sidewalk below, prompting the woman office worker to tell her puzzled colleague, “Great, now there are going to be cats everywhere.”

The umbrella sets off a chain of events. A man slips on the umbrella, startling a squirrel that runs into the middle of the street, causing a milk truck to overturn, which attracts dozens of cats.

“It’s a little bit of an added punch line. You wouldn’t quite expect these spots from Discovery,” Willis said, noting that some viewers would be inclined to believe the spots were from another network or advertiser if Discovery stopped the commercials before its logo appeared.

Discovery will use some guerilla marketing to hype Big, which “challenges designers and fabricators to create enormous versions of everyday objects — a titanic toaster, a behemoth blender, plus-sized popcorn popper and a gargantuan guitar.”

Willis said Discovery plans to bring the giant popcorn marker to New York to generate publicity.

Discovery will also place the four 30-second ads on its Web site for viewers, along with behind-the-scenes footage from the making of the commercials.

The next big marketing push for Discovery comes in July, during its annual “Shark Week” programming stunt.