Judging by the glut of food-themed shows infiltrating the airwaves lately, it’s obvious I’m not the only one with an insatiable appetite for some on-air culinary competition.
But while the Top Chefs and Hells Kitchens of the world are slicing n’ dicing their way into pop culture, let us not forget that the Food Network was at it virtually before them all, introducing the Iron Chef to America while whetting our appetites on a daily basis.
With its surprise hit show Ace of Cakes, though, the stalwart cable network has loosened the food formalities even further, injecting a little rock n’ roll spirit as it focuses on the exploits of series star Duff Goldman, a bald badass who also happens to be one of the most sought-after cake makers in the world.
By creating scrumptious confections that range from seven-tiered, askew Dr. Seuss designs to perfect replicas of Wrigley Field, Duff and his cakes gained a modest cult following in the show’s first season. But to promote its second, which begins tonight, the Food Network is setting the creative bar higher by enlisting the services of Agency.com, who in turn created an online ad execution that launched this week.
“As with every project, we go down to the roots with what it is we’re talking about,” Agency.com VP Tom Ajello tells ADOTAS. “With Ace of Cakes, it’s really understanding what the show is all about and getting the full sense of the experience that the show is. It’s a no-brainer for us to create something that just celebrated the wild factor of what this guy brings to life. It was all about celebrating that and doing something that created some sort of interactivity and inspired the interaction in the banner, spending time in the banner, understanding the show is at such and such time, and then a click-through. We pulled all sorts of levers, with seeding and grassroots stuff in the interactive space.”
Launched this week, Food Network’s online initiative kicked off with banner units placed on popular 18-34 sites including Ask Men, People.com, VH1, TV.com and snark-tastic blog Gawker. Based on and around the anatomy of a cake, the units feature Duff and a German Shepherd-shaped cake that expands and allows users to rollover the cake to reveal the actual ingredients. When users rollover one of the hotspots, they can play a video clip of how that part was made. The ads also contain an introduction to the man known as Duff and allow direct click through to the Ace of Cakes home page.
“Most of the designs from the filigree, the metallic treatments, and the way the ad plays out in its overall texture is based on us trying to bring that rock n’ roll lifestyle that Duff has into the ad and to the user,” says Agency.com creative director Doug Rowell. “So it’s actually a completely unique experience brought to them that’s based purely on the fact that it’s rich, interactive media.”
According to Rowell, though, the process from concept to creation wasn’t without its constraints. “Time-wise, as always with working with TV, you have these eleventh-hour deadlines. From concept to creation, this project was delivered in about four weeks, meaning we had to react very fast, think large—not just large in the sense of what the executions were being, but in lies the fact that Duff is such a charismatic personality and he brings this engineering genius to his cakes. So it’s trying to come up with a conceptual theme that would draw people into that.”
Four weeks seems to have been optimal time to concoct the ad units, which lead to the innovative home page created by Calliope. While Ace of Cakes the TV show displays Goldman’s ingenuity in spades, the official site gives users a closer, more immersive look at Duff and his Charm City Cakes operation, which rests in the heart of Baltimore. Once on the landing page, a slideshow featuring full-color photos meshed with black & white backdrops can be controlled by simple mouse movements that lead to a bevy of video units. The video not only consist of backgrounds on Duff and his gaggle of cake-making friends/colleagues, but they also share secrets and blueprints to some of Duff’s most whimsical creations—German shepherd included.
Of course, the doors to the site were opened by the units courtesy of Agency.com, whose creative leaders seem well-aware of both the pitfalls and potential of video. “One of the most important wins on this is—especially with entertainment clients and tight timelines, it’s really easy to fall into the trap of just showing video, like an excerpt of the show and being done with it. That’s the risk we all take in the industry right now with regards to video becoming a more doable, relevant piece online.”
He continues, “The beauty of this unit is we’re still interactive-ists at heart and our core philosophy at Agency.com—something Doug, I and the rest of the team breathe—is experiences before messages. To make something that is just as turnkey as a video, but allows the user to explore, we believe gets us that much closer to a click and gets the user to spend that much more time with the brand, which obviously we feel is a huge thing.”
In conjunction with the ad unit themselves, the folks at Agency.com also formed a co-branding effort with omnipotent video-sharing site YouTube. “Part of our strategy that we worked out with [Food Network agency partner] Media Storm was that when we looked at seeding, not just in the sense of giving exposure to the ads of the show, but how else we could bring elements of Duff’s show and his personality to the user, we looked to seed on YouTube but also tie it into some very simple, commercial banners that would drive to the microsite,” adds Rowell.
While plans to further optimize and tweak the units are being discussed and are possibly contingent upon click-throughs and overall site traffic, Ajello seems more than pleased with how the first phase has turned out. “The big win for us I think is that this guy comes to life; the energy of what he’s all about comes to life,” he says. “For us, it’s not just leveraging their branding elements in an interesting way, which we think we’ve done a really interesting job with these ads. But in the small space that we’ve got, and as limited time as we’ve got, getting the sense of the energy that the show actually has, we think that in the quickest form possible, we nailed it.”
Want to have your cake, and stream it too? Go to AceofcakesTV.com