Web series 'Darkcasting' bows today

The latest hybrid from Lexus won’t roll into dealerships until next year, but the luxury automaker is already fielding a slate of branded entertainment properties to attract younger buyers to the car.

The latest, “Darkcasting,” bows today and features comedian Whitney Cummings as the host of a talkshow set inside the CT 200h, Lexus’ fifth hybrid in its lineup.

The Web series will feature local influencers, such as chefs, models, DJs and entrepreneurs in six cities, including New York City, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Miami and New Orleans.

Guests include social media expert Brian Solis; DJ Q-Bert; soul singer Goapele; exec chef Matt Accarrino of San Francisco’s SPQR; comedian and the Onion’s Web editor Baratunde Thurston; DJ Harley Viera-Newton; and chef Carlo Mirarchi of Roberta’s in Brooklyn.

Concept is designed to present a sort of test drive for the viewer: Cummings interviews each guest as they steer the compact car through their own stomping grounds.

Lexus has had to be a little more creative in how it promotes its new hybrid considering it doesn’t have enough of the vehicles to show off to potential buyers in person yet. While the car was officially unveiled last March, it won’t be available to purchase until February.

So the carmaker’s turned to branded entertainment as a way to put a spotlight on the car and come up with ways to put consumers inside the car without a hard sell — while appealing to more than just car fans.

“We were faced with filling a year to make people believe that they knew something about the car without seeing the car,” said Brian Bolain, marketing strategy manager for Lexus. “At the end of the day, we’ve chosen this entertainment approach because most people have to purchase a car but not everybody is a car person.”

“Darkcasting” follows this summer’s interactive short film “Dark Ride,” starring Norman Reedus, which enabled viewers to sit in the passenger seat and control camera angles as the plot’s chase sequences took place.

“With ‘Darkcasting,’ we’re providing a mobile studio from which an entertaining talkshow will take place against a moving cityscape,” said Lexus VP of marketing Dave Nordstrom.

Lexus turned to Cummings, who landed a pilot deal with NBC last month for a romantic comedy, as part of its overall “Darker Side of Green” campaign that is designed around introducing “green with an edge,” Bolain said. It also aims to break any preconceived notions about hybrids, such as that the driving experience is not as engaging as that of a regular gas-fueled vehicle.

“We’re playing with ways to introduce the car — challenging content formats and marketing platforms,” Nordstrom said. “It’s fun for us as a brand because there is nothing else like it in our portfolio.”

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