advertisement
advertisement

Behind The Web Hit “Barely Legal Pawn,” Starring Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, And Audi

“Branded content is an effective way to engage consumers well before they are in purchase mode,” says Scott Keogh, Audi of America president.

“I’m seriously toying with a Kickstarter campaign to get the Barely Legal Pawn show off the ground,” says Joseph Assad, COO of PMK·BNC/Vowel.

advertisement

He’s probably only half-joking given how quickly the digital short went viral.

Posted on YouTube August 19, it’s already up to well over 5 million views. Created to promote Audi of America’s sponsorship of the 66th Primetime Emmy Awards, the video reunites Breaking Bad stars Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul, casting them as Buzz Jackson and Randy Jackson, two characters who run Barely Legal Pawn and star in a TV doc series named for their shop. Veep‘s Julia Louis-Dreyfus, playing herself, drops by the establishment, which proudly deals in the unique, the unusual, and the barely legal, hoping to pick up some cash for an Emmy she won back in the day when she was on Seinfeld.


Written and directed by Paulilu, the comedy team of Paul W. Downs and Lucia Aniello behind the Dollar Shave Club viral video, the digital short marks yet another big investment by Audi in brand content.

PMK·BNC has produced a handful of humorous digital shorts for the brand in the last four years in support of its sponsorship of the Emmys, including this 2012 gem starring Parker Posey as an acting coach. (Though it has nothing to do with the Emmys, PMK·BNC was also behind last year’s “The Challenge,” pitting original Spock Leonard Nimoy against new Spock Zachary Quinto.)

“Branded content is an effective way to engage consumers well before they are in purchase mode,” says Audi of America president Scott Keogh, who says the projects also allow the brand to inject itself in a smart, meaningful way into larger cultural conversations.


“With relentless competition for people’s attention, it is crucial that brands are reaching consumers with content that gets them excited. People don’t just buy Audi cars, they buy the Audi brand,” Keogh stresses.

advertisement
advertisement

All this said, Audi hasn’t forsaken commercials. As an official sponsor of the 66th Primetime Emmy Awards, the automaker will run in-show spots. “There are times when a 60-second product spot achieves brand awareness,” Keogh says, “and there are other times where projects like this keep Audi fresh in people’s minds while engendering a ton of well-being.”

“This year, we wanted to up the ante,” says Assad, who served as executive producer of Barely Legal Pawn, which was run through Vowel, PMK·BNC’s digital marketing agency, launched in April of this year. “We knew if we got the right talent on board, the piece would resonate with millions. Bryan, Aaron and Julia have such vast and loyal fan bases, and there’s still much love and longing for Breaking Bad.”

Barely Legal Pawn is an ambitious production for a short, running at more than six minutes, which Assad acknowledges is “way longer than conventional wisdom suggests. But I’ve always believed that quality is the determining factor, not time.”

And it came together fast. “We received client approval about six weeks ago, then talent signed on a few weeks later,” Assad says. But here’s the real shocker: “We shot it on a Thursday, then put it out four days later.”


Louis-Dreyfus drives a new 2015 Audi S3 Sedan in the video, though the vehicle is in more of a supporting role–we see the car (at one point, Louis-Dreyfus is standing in front of it signing a release form), but the Audi is not an overt character in the story. “It’s a delicate balance to feature enough product and branding so that viewers notice but not so much that you turn people away,” Assad says. “It’s something we’re always playing with and trying to perfect. My personal sense is that it’s better to get a few million more excited viewers than a couple more seconds of product. If people walk away singing Audi’s praises–and that’s what we’ve been seeing here–the benefit is huge.”

advertisement

About the author

Christine Champagne is a New York City-based journalist best known for covering creativity in television and film, interviewing the talent in front of the camera and behind-the-scenes. She has written for outlets including Emmy, Variety, VanityFair.com, Redbook, Time Out New York and TVSquad.com.

More