Cap’n Crunch is tapping into the spirit of its cereal to cultivate equity among consumers through The Earliest Show, a brand-sponsored entertainment series and ad concept made in partnership with Funny Or Die.

The fictional six-episode series—a morning show that takes place in the middle of the night—stars perky co-hosts Ben Schwartz (Parks and Rec, House of Lies) and Lauren Lapkus (Orange Is the New Black).

Quaker, the parent company of Cap’n Crunch, created the video vehicle to connect with nocturnal male millennials who snack at non-breakfast times.

“Consumers have more control over their media consumption than ever before,” Jessica Spaulding, marketing director for Quaker, told [a]listdaily. “It made more sense for our brand to find ways to be part of their experience versus just trying to interrupt it. Through The Earliest Show, we’re creating meaningful connections with our consumers that cater to their very interests, humor and aspirations.”

Each episode of the digital shenanigans ranges roughly to a dozen minutes and features guests such as Reggie Miller, Reggie Watts, Jake Johnson, Jane Levy, Thomas Middleditch and Pedro Pascal. The hijinks are highlighted by the comedian Schwartz botching a live on-air proposal in the first episode, and the eventual unraveling of his life that ensues afterward.

The show’s skits are integrated with cooking tutorials and wacky infomercials at the halfway point of each episode.


“In the series you’ll see the brand is featured in infomercials that break up each episode and within the show as a segment sponsor, or featured in cooking segments. We wanted brand integration to feel natural to the humor of the show, and to do that we had to find the right balance of being featured versus not appearing at all,” said Spaulding. “We saw an opportunity to disrupt the space by speaking specifically to [millennial males] in a way that really breaks through their daily clutter and makes them think about the brand in a new way. Our work with Funny or Die demonstrates how a brand can put a platform, in this case The Earliest Show, at the center of a marketing program versus starting with a tactic such as a 30-second spot or pre roll.”

Spaulding said that co-developing and co-creating the series with Funny Or Die and their president of digital, Chris Bruss, has been instrumental to the success the comedy show has seen since it premiered in late October.

“From the beginning, it’s been such an integrated and collaborative experience for both sides and I think Chris would tell you that, too,” Spaulding said. “We worked together to land in a spot where we’ve created some awesome content for the consumer.”

Marketers from companies like Starbucks, Geico, Chipotle and Nutella are increasingly using branded content in favor of pre-roll ads to elicit emotional responses from viewers. The alternative entertainment is outperforming the traditional and sometimes archaic format.

Original branded content generates an average of 86 percent brand recall among consumers—a much higher number than the 65 percent with pre-roll advertising—according to a July study from Television News Daily.

Cereal brands in particular are experimenting in unique marketing to share and showcase their stories for next-level engagement. Earlier this summer, Kellogg’s and Post both used virtual reality to connect with cereal-loving enthusiasts and General Mills, who has its own newsroom and has become an earned media machine in recent years—dove into eSports and became the first presenting sponsor of Yahoo ESports Live, an hour-long pair of weekly live shows. Cap’n Crunch previously poured branded content over its cereal in 2013 with an animated YouTube show.

All of this marketing is to combat the stale and soggy sales statistics cereal brands have been dealing with in recent years. By the end of 2016, sales of hot and cold cereals will have declined by about 17 percent from $12.7 billion in 2009, according to research firm IBISWorld.

The Earliest Show is not your typical brand sponsorship, and it has the potential to turn some heads in advertising. Whether or not it’s savored or soured by the patrons they’re targeting remains to be seen.

Follow Manouk Akopyan on Twitter @Manouk_Akopyan