- Car rental service Enterprise and "Cobra Kai," YouTube's most popular original scripted drama, have entered into a co-marketing agreement ahead of the premiere of the show's second season on April 24, according to a report in Variety. The news marks the first brand deal made for a YouTube scripted original.
- The multi-part promotion features Enterprise ads with the show’s stars, Ralph Macchio and William Zabka, digital media buys promoting Enterprise and "Cobra Kai," and in-show integrations which take place in episode five. In a new 30-second spot, Macchio and Zabka are shown renting cars at an Enterprise counter and carrying on with their characters' famous rivalry that began with the original "Karate Kid" series on which "Cobra Kai" is based.
- The campaign that rolled out on April 15 will run for six weeks in the U.S. and additionally includes co-branded assets at Enterprise locations and airport kiosks, such as posters, counter mats and vehicle hang tags. Shown on YouTube Premium, "Cobra Kai" has proven a success with users, with a first episode that has logged more than 60 million views.
The co-marketing deal between YouTube and Enterprise underpins a trend toward more integrated product placements that feel like a cohesive extension between a show and a brand's creative. Such integrations are becoming more popular as viewers experience greater commercial fatigue and adopt ad blockers and marketers try to get in front of eyeballs on what are often ad-free or ad-light digital streaming services. For the "Cobra Kai" partnership, Enterprise fits into the picture with an Exotic Car Collection by Enterprise location that is part of the Larusso Auto Dealership, the business operated by character Daniel Larusso (Macchio).
Product placement marketing is on an upswing with sales estimated to have hit $10 billion fin 2018,, according to PQ Media data. Automotive categories have shown notable interest in the space as they seek ways to excite a younger generation, who are paying less attention to auto brands. In this arena, Subaru recently partnered with the CBS drama "Life in Pieces" on an integration, while Range Rover teamed up with Hulu to showcase a futuristic car in the streaming platform's series "The First."
YouTube deepening brand integrations around dramas like "Cobra Kai" signals that the platform has confidence in some of its most popular premium originals and is looking to grow their potential as a source of advertising revenue. Previous reports have indicated that YouTube will scale back its scripted programming next year to shift a greater focus to ad-supported video.
But recent moves have kept YouTube's broader originals strategy in the conversation as rivals like Apple and Disney, along with a smattering of networks and telecom companies, gear up their own streaming services. Earlier this week, the Google-owned video platform hired Fox Broadcasting's Alex Piper to spearhead its unscripted originals programming, according to Variety. The company plans to unveil new unscripted and scripted offerings at its Brandcast presentation on May 2, which is part of the NewFronts, Variety said.
YouTube also recently formed a unit to develop choose-your-own adventure-programming and live specials as part of a push to make its content more interactive and innovative, Bloomberg reported earlier this month. The initiative is being spearheaded by Ben Relles, who Piper is stepping in for on the unscripted front.