After stuffing an Italian family of three in the backseat of its cars to humorous effect, Fiat is going to introduce a new clan from the land of pasta and espresso – a ploy that executives at Time Warner’s Turner hopes generates interest from a broader set of advertisers.

The new Italians, a husband and wife, appear in a video vignette that launched Friday on FunnyorDie.com, the comedy website in which Turner holds a minority stake and represents exclusively to advertisers.The vignette, one of a series of five, is created by Funny Or Die in an encore of sorts: A bickering Italian family of three lived in the backseat of a suburban American couple’s Fiat last year in a video that garnered over 1 million views.

“We want to give the audience more of what they like, and turn that info a franchise,” said Ed Wise, senior vice president of Turner’s digital ad sales.

Doing so is an important selling point in Turner’s pitch in this year’s “upfront” market, when U.S. TV networks try to sell the bulk of their ad inventory related to the coming programming season. Turner is making efforts to sell not just TV outlets like TNT and TBS but also a wider array of inventory on digital venues, too. Its relationship with Funny Or Die gives the media company the chance to offer advertisers humorous videos crafted by the same folks who make the rest of the content on the site, as well as promotion of the vignettes on its cable networks.

Sustaining the Italian-family concept also marks something of a new step in the practice of creating advertiser-backed entertainment. In many instances on both TV and digital, the concepts come and then vanish, never to be seen again.

Fiat knew it wanted to expand the idea after seeing reaction to last year’s efforts, said Casey Hurbis, who heads up brand communications for Fiat in North America. But rather than making just one vignette, he said, Fiat wanted to “collaborate and work on an idea and tell maybe more of a story.”

While the videos appear on the site directly as a result of Fiat paying for them, the automaker does not want the pieces to be seen as traditional commercials, the executive said,but rather as part and parcel of the other humorous videos that populate the site. Such thinking is emblematic of advertisers’ interest in an age when consumers have increased ability to avoid or shun old-school advertising, but might be willing to watch something that carries the same aesthetic as the media outlet they turned to for entertainment.

The car marketer’s intentions are likely buoyed by results from last year’s effort: Almost 70% of consumers viewed the entire length of the video. And Funny Or Die users sent an average of more than four minutes on the page featuring the Fiat video, a potential indication they may have watched the video multiple times or re-watched certain parts.
Chris Bruss, vice president of branded entertainment for Funny Or Die, expects more advertiser to seek out longer-term partnerships in an effort to sustain an ad campaign that gains traction. “It’s becoming something where you start seeing a lot more repeat business,” compared with five or six years earlier, when many advertisers simply wanted to “dip a toe In the water.”