If you know me in real life, you’ll know I can’t go more than a few hours of either talking about or going to a shift Grady Newsource. It’s a four times a week, live, student new broadcast production where I do anything from running the teleprompter, to traveling half way across the county for a live shot, to even directing the broadcast itself. Although I have no interest in being a reporter, I spend a lot of time around news, so I end up analyzing packages (‘stories’ for you common folk) more like the way an editor would.
So when I saw this appear at the top of my tumblr feed:
I knew I had to click.
The set up of the campaign is interesting. Wendy’s has created a series of videos from their made-up station ‘444 News’. In that sense, it’s pretty clever. By having multiple barely-a-minute-long-clips, Wendy’s has lots of flexibility. Wendy’s can keep updating their playlists with these clips by updating the ‘news’ as necessary. It’s actually how we do our pre-recorded blocks at Newsource as well. Every story is recorded and edited separately, so we can add, delete, and shift around as needed.
These videos were geared for March Madness, since the Championship Game aired that same night. It had four videos, the first one introducing the premise of the campaign:
Then the second specifically addressed the championship:
I was one step ahead of their joke on this one. While the graphic of the bracket came up I found myself thinking “They must have filmed this weeks ago. Of course they’re not going to mention specific teams”. And then came the punchline. I’m not sure if this was really supposed to be a surprise joke, though. Seeing as tumblr pulled the video up in fullscreen, I completely missed the caption of “The 444 news team delivers in depth, pre-recorded coverage of the game.” But as I though of how rather predictable the joke was, I realized it’s genius: Wendy’s can’t say the teams names without paying out thousands of dollars in royalties. Technically, they could have filmed and edited a video for the championship. 25 seconds of video wouldn’t be too much to handle. Using the ‘pre-recorded’ joke is a much better -and funnier- option which perfectly fits with the quirky vibe Wendy’s is going for.
(Note: On a second watch, I realized the anchor did say ‘pre-recorded’ at the :10 mark. To make myself feel better, though, I’m leaving this paragraph in.)
I’m assuming Wendy’s is trying to pull off an Anchorman vibe here with their quirky talent Christina Newport reporting on nonsensical events. I don’t know if I really like it- I’ve never been a big fan of ‘stupid’ comedy. The repetition of ‘food’ in the list of topics did nothing for me. The 4 for $4 deal Christina was reporting on, however…
That’s pretty sweet. I know the deal’s been going on for a while now, but it is amusing that their campaign is focusing on the ‘so good and unreal, we’re reporting on it’ angle. It’s been done before. “The Longest Chase” Super Bowl Prius commercial comes to mind. I feel like it’s on the same level of ‘stupid’ comedy, because the next video on the playlist was:
(I’m pretty sure that was a Back to the Future reference? Movie people, help me out please.)
This one was a bit weird- I didn’t catch that the meteor in the third video was a threat. I figured it was just an out-there visual to go with the out-there theme. So I got confused when Christina said that she had just “reported on [the meteor] moments ago.” The ‘smoothening’ joke was lost on me as well. In a news studio, there’s two ways an anchor can figure out the correct pronunciation of a word: through their producer, and through their floor director. Producers are able to communicate to their anchors through an IFB (interruptible foldback) earpiece. This is why when anchors having breaking news, they’ll touch their ear. They’re listening to their producer in the control room relaying information to them as it comes.
The floor director is in the studio with the anchor, and would be another resource to check with. During live shows, the floor director’s main job is to cue the anchor when s/he is on camera. So when Christina looks around frantically, instead of focusing on one spot, slightly off camera (where her floor director would be) or pressing her finger to her ear (where her producer would be talking), it seems unrealistic to me. Maybe it would convince someone who’s never worked a news broadcast, but I’ve gone through three years worth. I’ve seen some stuff.
The tumblr playlist then ends with a :15 shortened version of the second video:
And that’s it. Interestingly enough, Wendy’s kept this playlist on their own tumblr with a 444 News theme. Actually, the campaign’s main page is their tumblr page. You can’t even find 444 News on their main website.
The focus of this campaign seems Internet-only, seeing as it’s basically YouTube videos running off a tumblr site. Since they’re targeting Millennials (obviously, because Internet + cheap food), maybe they don’t want the silly-ness of 444 News to leak into other demographics? I’m not sure how high of an image Wendy’s holds with any demographic, but you have to protect what you can.
But will this work? Will Anchorman comedy work again to convince Millennials to shove 1,130 calories down their throats for $4? Eh, probably. It’s still a bit early to tell. At the time of writing this, two of the four videos haven’t even hit the 1,000 view mark. We’ll see if Christina Newport can bring in the ratings. Back to you at the desk.