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Yahoo Launches 9-Part Minivan Ad Disguised as Comedy Series Starring ‘SNL’ Alum Ana Gasteyer

Is it entertainment or is it a commercial? In the hybrid world of “branded content,” the two collide — resulting in something packaged to look like a show, but is really an extended pitch for a product or service.

In one of the latest executions of the concept, Yahoo debuted a digital comedy series starring actress-comedian Ana Gasteyer (“Saturday Night Live,” “Suburgatory”). The nine-part series, “Going There with Ana Gasteyer,” is brought to you by Chevrolet: In each episode, Gasteyer tools around with “celebrity guests” in the automaker’s 2016 Traverse, following storylines written to highlight the minivan’s “family-friendly features.”

The weekly series, exec produced by Ellen DeGeneres and Jeff Kleeman, is from DeGeneres’ A Very Good Production in association with Warner Bros.’ Blue Ribbon Content short-form digital studio.

Yahoo, of course, isn’t alone in farming this soil. For example, AwesomenessTV boasts that one of its most popular original series, “Royal Crush,” which looks like a scripted teen drama, is actually branded content sponsored by Royal Caribbean. Brian Robbins, founder and CEO of AwesomenessTV, has said that whereas most TV product placement puts the product in the show, “Royal Crush” puts the entire show within the product itself.

Advertisers love the approach, because it’s supposed to be content their target demo (in the case of Yahoo-Chevy, it’s moms) will want to watch, enjoy and share with friends — which is not always the case with a 30-second TV spot. Media companies, meanwhile, are able to cover the upfront production costs and like that the model gives them better odds of actually generating profits.

Guests on the weekly “Going There” series, which Yahoo launched Monday, include Jenna Fischer of NBC’s “The Office” (pictured above); former “SNL” castmate Maya Rudolph; and Jessica St. Clair (“Playing House,” “Bridesmaids”).

It’s a kind of spin on Jerry Seinfeld’s “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee,” the popular long-running series on Sony Pictures Television’s Crackle. “Comedians” has been exclusively sponsored by Acura since its inception, but Jerry drives around a variety of autos (in contrast to the starring role of the sponsor’s product in “Going There”).

As part of the pact with Yahoo for “Going There,” Chevrolet will place ads on Yahoo and syndicate the videos. Yahoo also will produce additional content featuring interviews with celebrity guests, as well as “moms and dads of all stripes,” on topics of interest to parents for the “Going There with Ana Gasteyer” site. The series was created by Libby Silverman and Blue Ribbon Content’s Zoe Friedman.

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