American fast-food chain Carl's Jr has partnered with US broadcaster Adult Swim's show Rick and Morty. The resulting ad is a parade of sentient branded burgers spewing sauce all over the titular characters.
By giving the show's creators Dan Harmon and Justin Roiland full control of this irreverent approach, Carl's Jr manages to associate its brand with Rick and Morty without alienating its fans.
For Carl's Jr, this is a likely welcome departure from deploying scantily clad female talent. Copy-testing firm Ameritest reported in March 2015 that 52% of its consumer panel found the brand's latest Super Bowl ad annoying and offensive, with 32% even reporting they felt worse about the brand for having seen it.
This isn't the first time 72andSunny, the international creative agency behind the Rick and Morty ad, has paired Carl's Jr with another brand. In November 2015, the agency launched a joint campaign with Black Ops 3. In exchange for making US publisher Activision's video game the first with its own themed burger meal, Carl's Jr branded items became part of Black Ops 3 gameplay.
The campaign was created through 72andSunny's Brand Partnership Incubator – "a new practice dedicated to initiating, developing and executing strategic brand collaborations".
Ad blocking and the long tail in entertainment make large audiences increasingly harder to reach. In this environment, partnerships that let brands align around shared messages are an effective way to combine each other's consumer bases.