Target will be the exclusive sponsor of a four-part webisode series that ties in with The CW second-year vampire drama The Originals.
The first episode is scheduled to appear on a special cobranded CWTV.com page on Nov. 10 in conjunction with that week’s show.
The special Web series, titled The Originals: The Awakening Exclusively By Target, was put together by the writing staff of the TV series through a deal worked out between the retailer and The CW’s senior VP of integrated marketing Barbra Robin.
The webisodes are centered on the youngest Originals vampire brother, Kol, and the episodes will give fans answers about his past and tie into the midseason finale of The Originals to air Dec. 8.
Target was an on-air and digital sponsor of The Originals during its freshman season, and the exclusive retail partner for regular episodes streamed across desktop, mobile and tablets. During the most recent upfront discussions, the retailer expressed interest in wanting to go beyond that by sponsoring a scripted Web series.
The sales team approached Julie Plec, creator and executive producer and showrunner of The Originals and asked if her team would be amenable to writing and shooting the webisodes.
Plec is no stranger to working with brands. She cocreated the CW series The Vampire Diaries which has had numerous brand integrations during its six-season run, particularly early on with AT&T. But Plec is also quick to say that she is not a fan of forcing brands into scripted episodes where they don’t fit, and she knew that there was no way a Target store could be worked into an episode of a series about 1,000-year-old vampires living in New Orleans.
However, all Target was interested in is exclusively sponsoring a webisode series that tied into the TV show.
“Target was great,” says Plec. “They have been completely and graciously hands-off as far as managing content. It has been a productive and very harmonious relationship.”
Plec says once it was clear of what they were interested in sponsoring, it was up to her and her writing staff to come up with the four, two-minute scripted webisodes that would tie directly into the TV episodes.
“When they approached us, we had the luxury of already being deep enough into writing the second season that we had scripts through the first nine episodes,” Plec says. “We knew what the story line of the TV series would be so it was relatively easy to write the webisodes and tie them in. We wound up shooting them while we were shooting episode 9 of the TV series.”
Plec was also happy that Target paid for a special set on which the webisodes were shot, along with episode 9 of the series. “With the money we got from Target, we built a new set that we used to shoot those webisodes and now we are using it for shooting the remaining episodes of the TV series,” Plec says. “So it was a win-win for both of us.”
Plec says from her show creator and producer point of view, the new set and the buzz she anticipates being created by the webisodes among the series’ fans makes the project well worth it.
“When we started The Originals we felt the show was not one that could support TV integrations; most categories just didn’t fit,” she says. “But Target recognized the value of creating additional content and putting it on other platforms. We know our fans love the opportunity to see extra content and extensions of the show and Target is partnering with us to do it.”
Plec says shooting the webisodes at the same time as the TV series enhances the quality. “If you shoot them separate you usually wind up doing it on the cheap, but in this case the production values were the same as the regular series.”
The four-part flashback tells the story of Kol Mikaelson, played by Nathaniel Buzolic and his quest to form an alliance with the witches in the French Quarter. It will give fans insight into how and why he found himself in opposition of his siblings and what unique backstory he has with the witches.
Each of the webisodes online will have a cobranded opening. They will post one per week on the CWTV.com website while each episode is airing on The CW. The webisodes will also be available on CW Network apps on smartphones and tablets and on YouTube.
The CW began promoting them during Monday night’s episode of The Originals.
Plec says working with brands to create additional content like this webisode outside the TV series itself is something she favors rather than trying to work brands into the TV scripts. “There are many opportunities to create digital content that enhances the TV show and if we can find partners like Target where we have an end-goal that’s the same, it is a positive experience,” Plec says. “I also realize that second-year series sometimes don’t get as much promotion as first-year series, so this was a great opportunity for us to get this additional exposure.”