NBC Taps Sundance Short Director Suited for Branded Content to a Nestea

CTRL Z a short film by Robert Kirbyson In return for some exclusive brand exposure, Nestea is helping to finance the latest original Web series to come out of the NBC Universal Digital Studio. Based on Robert Kirbyson's Sundance short "CTRL Z," "CTRL" follows an ill-treated office worker who discovers that with the aid of Nestea and its "liquid awesomeness," he has the ability to manipulate reality.

Stuart, the protagonist in the series, is played by "Arrested Development" funnyman Tony Hale.

"We're pretty sure this is going to help Nestea break through the clutter," said NBC Universal Digital Studio head Cameron Death.

NBC Universal is planning ten episodes -- written and directed by Kirbyson -- to be distributed across NBC.com, Hulu.com, and USANetwork.com, as well various cable and gaming platforms.

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Last April, Universal relaunched its Digital Studio unit with a focus on branded entertainment, and helmed by Death. "We're just trying to keep up with demand," said Death, who was hired in 2007 by NBC Universal chairman Ben Silverman.

"Gemini Division" -- the first Web-based, branded entertainment property to come out of the reorganized unit -- was a complete success, according to Death. "It was able to sustain viewership levels over a long flight."

The 50-episode sci-fi series -- developed with Santa Monica, Calif.-based Electric Farm Entertainment -- managed to incorporate five sponsors into the story line, including Intel, Cisco, Microsoft, Acura, and UPS.

Believed to be a highly effective way to capture a consumer's eye, investment in branded entertainment is on the rise. According to a recent white paper by think tank Event Marketing Institute and agency TBA Global, more than two-thirds of marketers report investing in some type of branded entertainment as a means to reach consumers.

A full 44% of the marketers surveyed said they are investing in Web content, while 29% said they are allocating resources to social networks.

Custom Web programming, entertainment sponsorships and sponsorship activation spending all tied at 27% of investments.

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