DumbDumb's new online series "dirty shorts" for Orbitz Gum is just the latest in the field of "branded entertainment." And its first short - "The Prom Date" - is extremely well acted, well directed and well produced. Starring Jason Batemen and Will Arnett, the powers behind DumbDumb, and Ben Silverman's Electus, it has the look of a "Arrested Development"-quality sitcom - from which Bateman and Arnett hail.
But "Prom Date" itself is less branded entertainment than it is a five-minute commercial. It literally could be :30 long and deliver the same punch. Sure, the conceit - Orbits helps you deal with dirty situations, leaving a clean taste in your mouth - probably wouldn't fly on TV. But it seems made explicitly to sell the product just as any TV spot would do.
To borrow an adage from another sitcom, "not that there's anything wrong with that."
But when you look at branded entertainment like "The Motherhood" from Suave and Sprint, or "The Rookie" from Degree, or BMW's "The Hire" there's entertainment beyond just being a pitch. In those efforts, the product was part of the natural action. In "Prom Date," the entire set up is designed to have the product provide they pay off, making it far closer to a television commercial. In fact, it makes it a television commercial, just longer.
Don't get me wrong, this is entertaining. And I'm a huge fan of Bateman and Arnett. And plenty of people will disagree with me here.
But IMHO, if "Prom Date" is any indication, you have to wonder what additional value being online brings to this - other than the length of what seems like a long-form TV spot.
Read more about the effort, here.