Commentary

Small Business Gets Its Own Branded Entertainment, And It Doesn't Suck

LeapYear

If you are trying to grab the attention of small businesses with a branded entertainment play, then an office situation dramedy seems like a no-brainer. But can it work? Given the wooden delivery, hit or miss writing and almost mandatory bad timing that occupies most webisodics, one wouldn't expect much from a series produced by a small business insurer targeting SMBs and their entrepreneurial streak. But "Leap Year," from Hiscox Small Business Insurance and its agency, CJP Digital Media is surprisingly good. The banter among the young dreamers and worriers is snappy and well delivered, enough to make you care about the characters who are in a range of startups chasing a $500,000 new business prize.

There is talent here, including folks from Damages, Crash, and some earlier Web series. Better still, the series is actually just part of a package of other video assets that include interviews with entrepreneurs like Buddy Media's Mike Lazerow, Gowalla's Josh Williams and Mahsable's Peter Cashmore as well as commentary on the series itself from The Young Entrepreneurs Council.

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I was impressed and intrigued so Hunter Hoffmann, U.S. Communications Manager of Hiscox was good enough to respond to some of my questions about how they are distributing and targeting the show as well as some of the brand's goals for the series. The production values are obviously good, and they have ambitious distribution channels across hulu, Vimeo, Inc.com and iTunes.

Q: Where does your target market hang out online and what kind of up front research did you do to find out how and where to distribute?

Hoffmann: Our target market is interested in what's going on in the small business landscape, tips for building successful businesses and knowledge sharing with like-minded individuals.  They're looking for content and engaging in conversations about small businesses on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook, as well as sites focused on small businesses such as Inc.com.  We're promoting the show across these social media networks and the fan base is growing week on week. We've partnered with organizations like Mashable, the Young Entrepreneur Council and Inc. on content and distribution. We also have some high profile business icons making cameos in the show such as Guy Kawasaki, Gary Vaynerchuk and Adam Ostrow, Editor of Mashable and will work with them to promote their participation to their networks.

Q: Is there a banner or search campaign of some kind driving traffic?

Hoffmann: Our banner and search efforts are focused on driving targets to our transactional site.  We aren't currently spending budget to drive people to see Leap Year, but the audience is growing quickly. The Leap Year program is focused on building affinity among this audience and creating a connection between Hiscox and the Small Business/Startup audience.

Q: What are the campaign goals and how will they be measured?

Hoffmann: Our campaign goals are focused around the total views we receive over the entire Leap Year campaign, our ability to grow our followers on the major social networks and increased awareness of Hiscox in the US market.  The views and followers are pretty straightforward. The brand awareness is something we'll measure next year in comparison to the timeframe before the series launched.

Q: What was the initial response to the series?

Hoffmann: The initial response to the series has been very positive.  Viewers appreciate that Hiscox is sponsoring this series, but hasn't tried to jam product placements into the actual content.  Most importantly, the entrepreneurs and startups that we want to reach are saying that the series rings true to their actual experiences, with an entertaining story line to maintain their interest.
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