Conan O’Brien Finds the Funny Side of Brand Integration


Conan O'Brien Autotrader brand integration webisode 2018

Prime-time comedy/talk shows were founded (and funded) with the overt promotion of brands, and Conan O’Brien is certainly one late-night host who embraces the additional ad revenue that sponsorship brings—which will become even more important after he moves to a half-hour format next year.

Turner-owned TBS recently announced that O’Brien’s show Conan, which currently airs hourlong episodes from Monday through Thursday, will move to a half-hour in 2019 to better engage with younger fans and evolve in the age of digital. Already known for his original content on YouTube, Facebook and Snapchat, O’Brien—who celebrates his 25th year as a late-night host in September—said he welcomes the changes:

“Since I inherited my Late Night show in 1993, TV has changed exponentially. I’d like to think I have evolved with many of these changes, but now it’s time to take the next leap. A half-hour show will give me the time to do a higher percentage of the comedy in, and out, of the studio that I love and that seems to resonate in this new digital world. It’s still going to be me hosting a very silly show, but I want segments on my half-hour program to link to digital content, deepening the experience for my younger fans, and confusing my older ones.”

As part of his 25th anniversary, Team Coco is partnering with TBS and NBC to put O’Brien’s entire 25-year catalog online, including his late-night tenures on both networks.

“Not only does Conan have an epic history of working on one of the most prestigious and long running shows in comedy, the way he and his team have evolved the show over the past five years to create touchpoints that weave linear, digital and live for fans and brands is impressive,” said Billy Parks, the producer who will oversee digital brand integrations for the new Conan.  “I am excited to be a part of the team as TBS and Team Coco double down on being funny everywhere.”

Below, some examples of how O’Brien has worked with brands to sponsor digital content and branded entertainment:

Conan O'Brien at 2018 San Diego Comic-Con #ConanCon

The TBS star is at the San Diego Comic-Con for the fourth consecutive year with #ConanCon, where his tie-ins have included virtual reality activations with Pop! Vinyl and Samsung.

With the support of Snickers and DirecTV Now, he’s promoting upcoming movie releases such as M. Night Shyamalan’s Glass and having a little fun with the Marvel-DC universe battle and Star Wars mania in scripted bits:

State Farm helped O’Brien insure his 1992 Ford Taurus in March; this month, it’s sponsoring “Help Life Go Right” man-on-the-street videos for Team Coco House, bringing O’Brien’s unique brand of comedy to San Diego in a nightly pop-up comedy club during San Diego Comic-Con.

The partnership sets the stage for Team Coco’s initial 360-degree expansion efforts, which will include an array of talent deals with stand-up comedians driven by live touring and original digital material. Kicking-off in late 2018, O’Brien and his curated team of comics will hit the road for Team Coco’s Comedy Club, a multi-city tour hosted by O’Brien himself.

As the late night show that features the most standup comedians on U.S. television, CONAN and TBS plan to introduce the newest and brightest comedic talent worldwide on multiple platforms.

Autotrader recently sponsored a 10-minute online segment in which O’Brien helped his assistant Sona buy a car. The online car shopping experts helped him sift through options (including the Kelley Blue Book feature) to select a car that best fits Sona’s lifestyle—or what O’Brien thinks fits her lifestyle.

Mattel, presumably, didn’t pay O’Brien to visit the American Girl store in Los Angeles for this segment:

Dodge helped O’Brien promote his then-new show on TBS in 2010, when he drove a 1969 Dodge Dart (loaded with 80 lbs. of plastic explosives, illegal firecrackers, 600 lbs. of unpopped popcorn kernels and doused with 40 gallons of gas) down the 900 ft. Devil’s Drop Canyon. After the car exploded, a flame-covered O’Brien quipped “That was expensive.”

And about that 1992 Ford Taurus…