Roku entered into an agreement with Funny Or Die’s branded entertainment division under which about a dozen of the company’s branded content team members will join Roku. Financial terms of the acqui-hire pact weren’t disclosed.
FOD personnel joining Roku include Chris Bruss, previously Funny Or Die’s president of digital content and head of its Gifted Youth commercial production company, who will lead the new studio. Also coming over are Brian Toombs, previously FOD’s senior VP of branded content production, and a group of Funny Or Die producers, editors and writers.
In addition, Roku last month hired Rachel Daly Helfman — a five-year veteran of Snap, where she was U.S. creative strategy manager — as head of creative ad solutions. The execs join Roku’s Patrick Colletto, head of sponsorship sales and brand partnerships, in leadership roles at the company’s advertising brand studio.
Overseeing the studio is Dan Robbins, Roku’s VP of ad marketing, to whom Bruss reports. He said the new team represents the first ad studio built specifically for streaming: “The shift to TV streaming has accelerated, and leading advertisers are going beyond the 30-second ad.”
Robbins added, “These folks bring extensive experience crafting award-winning customer campaigns,” for clients including Kroger, Lyft, Ralph Lauren and Wendy’s. Roku now will be able to execute advertiser-commissioned short-form TV programs and interactive video ads, among other branded content formats, he said.
Roku plans to announce additional details of its ad studio and branded-content strategy, including partners and specific projects, at its 2021 NewFronts presentation on May 3, 2021, according to Robbins.
For Funny Or Die, the move is an exit from the branded-content business. The company will continue its TV and film production business, as well as a consumer-facing digital and social content efforts. Launched in 2007, Funny Or Die founders included Will Ferrell, Adam McKay and Judd Apatow. The company, whose investors include AMC Networks, is headed by CEO Mike Farah.
Roku’s formation of the ad studio comes on the heels of its deal to acquire Nielsen’s addressable-advertising unit earlier this month. Over the past year, Roku also has been opportunistically looking for content assets to scoop up, angling to drive up viewing on the Roku Channel. In January, the company acquired Quibi’s slate of original shows and last week announced a deal to buy the business behind home-improvement media brand “This Old House.”
It’s all part of Roku’s focus on growing viewership and revenue of the Roku Channel, which the company said more than doubled its U.S. audience to 63 million in the fourth quarter of 2020. The company also said that in Q4, the six largest ad agency holding companies more than doubled their spending year-over-year with Roku and committed to “significantly larger 2021 upfronts.”
To date, Roku has sold marketers sponsorships and native ads. Those campaigns have included TurboTax’s College Basketball Game Guide on the Roku platform for the 2021 NCAA March Madness tournament, a hub for college basketball content with a game element that let viewers shoot hoops from an augmented-reality lens on their phones virtually into a virtual basket on TV. Roku also has worked on custom campaigns for marketers including Lexus and Molson Coors North America.