Can Mailchimp — yes, the provider of email marketing and other services — produce a series as entertaining and engaging as anything on TV or Netflix?
That’s the goal for the company, which is assembling a slate of short-form unscripted and scripted programming to promote its brand in concert with entertainment industry partners like Vice Media, WME, Scout Productions (Netflix’s “Queer Eye”), production company Caviar (Lars von Trier’s “Nymphomaniac”) and Jason Woliner, whose directing credits include Fox’s “The Last Man on Earth.”
Mailchimp this week is officially launching Mailchimp Presents, which it describes as a “business entertainment platform,” centered on themes of entrepreneurship and aimed at owners of small businesses. It’s another case of marketing-as-entertainment, though execs say its lineup of series, films and podcasts are not branded content per se. Mailchimp expects to debut several dozen originals in 2019.
“One of our guiding principles has been to create content that is immersive and captivating enough to stand on its own,” said Sarita Alami, production lead of Mailchimp Presents.
Mailchimp isn’t saying how much it’s spending on the original content, but its first four video productions alone cost more than $6 million, according to IMDb budget estimates.
“Creating this original content came out of a lot of iteration and experimentation,” said Mark DiCristina, the company’s head of brand and Mailchimp Studios. “We can make ads all day long. But creating stories about entrepreneurship is a much different conversation.”
The Mailchimp Presents content will be free to watch or listen to, available exclusively at mailchimp.com/presents, and won’t carry any ads. What’s the return on investment? DiCristina said one of the aims is to build awareness: “We see this content being a great vehicle for attracting people to Mailchimp who have never heard of us and maybe don’t need us yet.” For the current base of over 11 million active customers, the objective is to “get them more connected to Mailchimp,” and — ideally — inspiring them to launch more email campaigns.
The company has a nonexclusive contract with WME, which is helping Mailchimp build out a development pipeline, reviewing show concepts and briefing clients on potential projects.
Launching Monday on the Mailchimp Presents site are two original series produced in-house: “Trade Show Show,” a scripted mockumentary directed by Woliner about a fictional trade show and the characters who attend it; and “Unlikely Business Lessons,” an unscripted series about unexpected business lessons from people like IBM artificial-intelligence expert Tanmay Bakshi, author and former cult member Diane Benscoter and bullfighter Dusty Tuckness (pictured above).
Coming out shortly after the June 10 launch is “Werrrk!,” a 12-episode business-makeover show from the creators and producers of “Queer Eye.”
Those join four other originals already soft-launched on the site: podcast series “Going Through It,” with interviews of Hillary Clinton, Soledad O’Brien and other women about pivotal moments in their lives when they had to decide whether to quit or keep going; half-hour documentary “Hamburger Eyes,” exploring the history of the San Francisco zine of the same name; “Taking Stock,” a scripted series following a woman who works at stock photography agency looking to get inspired to figure out her next move; and “Wi-Finders,” a docu-series about people in L.A., Tokyo, Buenos Aires and other cities around the world who work wherever they can get a wireless connection.
Mailchimp Presents’ “Taking Stock,” starring Ashley Denise Robinson
Mailchimp is “leaning heavily into short-form content,” with episodes of 5-8 minutes each, Alami said: “Our customers are very busy people, and we’re meeting them where they are in their day.”
Upcoming series include “Outer Monologues,” an animated series co-produced with Pop-Up Magazine narrated by Jay Duplass, Molly Bingham and other public figures who share what was really going on during moments in their lives when they seemed stoic and put together. There’s also “Second Act,” an unscripted series co-produced by Vice Media, profiling people who switched careers to become entrepreneurs including Deborah and Mary Jones of Kansas City’s Jones BBQ, who were featured in the third season of “Queer Eye.”
To promote Mailchimp Presents, the company plans to market it to current customers and visitors to its website and also will spend on paid digital media. “We’re trying to reach small business owners, but specific shows will lend themselves to niche audiences so we’ll be promoting each one in different ways,” Alami said.
Atlanta-based Mailchimp, founded in 2001, says that on a daily basis it sends over 1 billion emails and processes more than 1.25 million e-commerce orders through Mailchimp campaigns. The privately held company says it generated about $600 million in revenue last year, up 33% from 2017.