Rick and Morty, Revisionist History, and Ads I’m Happy to Consume (Business Brilliance #20)

22 June 2020 | 1 Comment

This morning I was listening to the first episode of the new season of the Revisionist History podcast by Malcolm Gladwell, and I was struck by something: I genuinely enjoy listening to the ads.

This is a rare thing for me to say. I skip ads on YouTube and on television, and unless an ad on Facebook or Instagram is perfectly targeted to what I’m hoping to buy at that very moment, I skim past it.

But there are a few exceptions, and I thought I’d explore two of them today.

Rick and Morty

I’m currently catching up on season 4 of this amazing sci-fi comedy show, which fortunately my TiVo has continued to record. As I mentioned, I usually fast forwarded past TV commercials, but Rick and Morty is different: Some of the commercials are actual vignettes that could just as well have appeared on the show:

I love this! I’d gladly watch any commercial in this style, whether it’s for Rick and Morty or any other show I enjoy, because it’s like I’m getting 23 minutes of the show instead of 22.

My only criticism of this method is that the commercials are so similar to the show that you can’t tell the difference the first time you see them. I found myself wondering, “Did I miss an entire plot line about Wendy’s?” So I think it’s helpful to add something–even a subtle touch–to make sure people know when they’re watching a commercial.

One other thought about this technique is that it seems like it would require quite a bit of time and effort from the source material creators (opposed to the advertising companies).

Revisionist History

Other than learning more about the world and history, one of the reasons I love the Revisionist History podcast is because I enjoy listening to Malcolm Gladwell tell stories. It’s for that same reason the ads in the podcast work so well: They’re just Gladwell telling a 1-minute story about a brand or company.

Similar to the Rick and Morty commercials, it’s clear that Gladwell and his team spent time and effort crafting the ads themselves (opposed to the companies buying ad space on the podcast). It’s not traditional, but it makes sense, because the ads are more valuable if people actually listen to them. If they’re more valuable, they cost more, thus generating more profit for the podcast.

Whenever Revisionist History shifts to an ad, the background music changes–it’s clear you’re listening to an ad, which I prefer. But I gladly listen anyway. Given the frequent personal connections between Gladwell and the product, I’m guessing that the companies sometimes reach out to him to say, “Hey, we know you wear our shoes. Would you like us to pay you to talk about that sometime?”

Do these methods apply to Kickstarter and/or game publishing?

I always try to tie these seemingly unrelated observations back to crowdfunding and publishing, though I’ve reached this part of the post and I still don’t have a clear connection to share! :) One somewhat related example is Game Toppers and other board game table companies–they often partner with large content creators so that game tutorials and reviews are filmed on the tables with the logos visible.

Board games do show up in even more mainstream media from time to time, like Western Legends’ appearance on South Park and Scythe’s appearance on Orphan Black. Both of those were organic, though–the Orphan Black producer reached out to me, for example, and we didn’t pay an advertising fee. We essentially provided a prop, and it wasn’t visible enough to actually attract any customers.

But I’m sure there’s a great example of a content creator seamlessly integrating a Kickstarter or game ad into their content at the same level of Rick and Morty and Revisionist History. If you can think of one–or any other related example–please share it in the comments below.


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1 Comment on “Rick and Morty, Revisionist History, and Ads I’m Happy to Consume (Business Brilliance #20)

  1. I see Scythe boxes all the time in the Japanese Anime “After School Dice Club”. The internet comedy series Meeple People would be a great place for a integrated thematic commercial.

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