Upstairs Amy: Walmart Canada Explores Branded Entertainment

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Walmart Canada is getting into the branded content business. Next month, along with debit system Interac, it’s launching Upstairs Amy, a scripted web series about millennial parents that also features brands a wry Canadian sense of humour (with a U).

A press release describes Upstairs Amy—which will run on the Walmart Canada and Interac YouTube channels—as “a modern comedy about millennial parents and the gap between who they are and who they want to be.”

The web series will feature the daily struggles of Amy Zhang, a mother of a toddler, as she investigates her new neighbor.

Promotional materials describe the series as “built on the Walmart and Interac brand values and attributes from the ground up.” The storyline will address contemporary family dynamics in a manner that’s “engaging and entertaining.”

“The series was built on the Walmart and Interac brand values and attributes from the ground up,” said Kaaren Whitney-Vernon, SVP of branded entertainment for Shaftesbury, to Adweek. “It is exciting to infuse their respective brand values into an original series as well as supporting the series with blogs, vlogs, and social content created by real-life influencers, extending the series’ themes and storylines into the real world.”

“We are so excited to engage with this audience—a digitally savvy generation who has grown up with us and truly embraces technology,” said Andrea Danovitch, EVP of marketing and brand at Interac. “The prospect of coming together with another iconic brand like Walmart to offer up relevant content in an authentic manner is a welcome opportunity.”

There is good reason to be bullish on the branded series, which also will have its own YouTube channel and be cross-promoted by partners Walmart Canada and Interac. Upstairs Amy will also feature a sub-plot about an accountant-turned-YouTube vlogger and will use that as a way to bring real life YouTube stars and social media influencers into the show.

“The story of Upstairs Amy, and the many influencers we have engaged with for this program, reflects these core values in an authentic and entertaining way,” said Heather Loosemore, senior director of marketing communications for Walmart Canada, about the modern family dynamic featured in the series.

Upstairs Amy is also being produced by Shaftesbury, the Canadian studio responsible for the vampire web series Carmilla, which was made in partnership with Kimberly-Clark’s feminine care brand U by Kotex. Carmilla has been a multi-series hit.

Upstairs Amy is a Walmart Canada-led project, but the retailer is spreading the love around. The series will feature a selection of brand partners including Hamilton Beach small kitchen appliances.

This highlighting of brand partners is something Walmart has done with other branded content. In the US, Walmart recently released a short film on its YouTube channel featuring Giti Tire, the maker of the retailers house-brand Dextero tires.

Interestingly, the rise in investment in branded digital programming is happening as evidence shows brand placements in non-branded television series are declining. Recent Nielsen research data show a 6% decrease in individual on-screen brand placements in  non-sports prime-time network programming.

The flow from branded content over brand placements is not all in video and YouTube. Foodie lifestyle-in-a-box brand Blue Apron recently launched a branded podcast series in “Why We Eat What We Eat.”

Fitbit has partnered with magazine Men’s Health magazine for The Adventurist, a branded editorial series featuring action sports and Fitbit’s new Ionic device. And healthy snack brand Vea is partnering with The New York Times’ T Brand Studio to find and train a class of sponsored residents.

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