Just about 5 years ago, Funny or Die was launched by Will Ferrell and Adam McKay, with the help of venture capital firm Sequoia Capital, with a hastily made short video that would instantly catapult the website from obscurity to internet royalty. In an interview with Chicago Tribune Reporter Chris Borrelli, McKay discusses how the advent of short videos and films has been aided by the rise of the internet. He also talks about the content of the site and how it separates itself from other comedy outlets.
As if a website wasn’t enough, Funny or Die is now trying to capitalize on the iPad market with the launch of it’s new digital magazine “The Occasional.” While the content is strictly from Funny or Die, the design and art direction team had help from Managing Editor Inc. in learning how to turn that subject matter into an interactive experience that distinguishes itself from the website by providing exclusive content to subscribers.
Use of Advertising to Generate Revenue
As we see in the interview with Adam McKay, Funny or Die, despite its launch with a “just for fun” attitude, was essentially started for some kind of profit. Being a website today, it’s very easy to generate revenue based solely off of advertisements on a side-bar of the site. However, Funny or Die has gone further with product placement and unique corporate sponsorship. For example, after Blake Griffin won the Slam Dunk Competition by dunking over a Kia Optima, Griffin, who has worked with Funny or Die previously, did a video where a Kia Optima dunks over him. Funny or Die then subsequently released a second video in which they conduct an interview with Griffin after his “failed attempt.” This form of advertisement that focuses primarily on comedy rather than the pitch of the product is effective in that it reaches a large audience and is actually received, rather than ignored. Basically, people are watching for Blake Griffin and Funny or Die, and they’re also getting shown an advertisement. The best part is that they’re okay with it, and may even look forward to it, the same way people get excited for the commercials in the Super Bowl. The insanely popular ad campaign turned into a viral goldmine with this spoof.
Funny or Die Stays Relevant
Funny or Die’s content has stayed relevant by taking cuts at what’s current while being edgy by incorporating the butt of their jokes in their videos, such as Adam West and of course, the ever-popular series starring Zach Galifinakis, “Between Two Ferns.” McKay cites the importance of keeping the topics of humor pertinent. He says in his interview, “Our marching orders are: Keep it as specific to what you think is funny as you like. But it has to be about what is going on in the world. Not politics necessarily. It has to feel relevant.” An example of this is Funny or Die’s response to yet another season of “the Bachelor.” This spoof features David Spaide telling it like it is, in a very raunchy yet hilarious video featuring some actual footage from the TV show verbally berating the female contestants for being in the competition.
Despite its start and rise to fame through the use of short videos, Funny or Die continues to grow and is branching out to other platforms. The actor Billy Eichner hit it big when his recurring video segment, “Billy on the Street,” was picked up by Fuse and began airing full-length episodes last December. And then Funny or Die made the leap to the silver screen with, “Tim and Eric’s Billion-Dollar Movie.” The R-Rated film has the same raunchy humor that fans of Funny or Die have come to crave. But another key aspect discussed in the move from internet to film, for instance, is the ability to put out content in an inexpensive fashion. Funny or Die CEO Dick Glover said, “They just want to produce content, and do it in a way that’s inexpensive, leveraging technology and social media so the company doesn’t have to spend millions marketing like a traditional Hollywood studio.” What Glover is referring to is the fact that while the film was not very widely played like most theatrical releases, the movie was promoted by Funny or Die, and sold online through numerous outlets such as Amazon and YouTube. Basically, they weren’t necessarily trying to make a blockbuster, just something that would produce positive revenue that could be further supported through Funny or Die’s website.
Funny or Die has become a wildly successful venture, and no one could be happier about the company’s positive record than founder Will Ferrell. Ferrell cites an entire year of positive revenue last year to go along with 20 million unique visits to the website. For a website that was started with a single video that rocked the world, Ferrell has re-branded not only himself, but the entertainment industry with the creation of Funny or Die. Ferrell said, “It’s becoming part of the vernacular, which is great considering it all started with one silly little video.”
Funny or Die continues to get bigger stars and celebrities, not necessarily actors, to contribute to the website. This tactic keeps viewers interested in returning to the site, as well as hopeful that just about any major public figure would collaborate in the making of a short video. Some celebrities currently making an appearance on the site include Justin Bieber and some cleverly edited footage of former President of the United States, George W. Bush. Also, keep an eye out for Tom Brady, who was recently seen shooting another video for Funny or Die.
Being the CEO of Funny or Die doesn’t necessarily make Dick Glover a funnyman, but the way he conducts his company allows the talent that supports his site to flourish in a friendly, open and creative environment. Glover said in an interview with Bloomberg Businessweek that, “Creative people want to have an environment where they are trusted to be the creative one. They have that here. But here they also understand the business realities. They know how the business is doing, how what they do can positively or negatively impact the business, what they need to do to accomplish their personal goals, and how their goals fit into the larger company goals.”
What Will Ferrell and Adam McKay have created, and what Dick Glover is running, is a rare combination of success and freedom of expression. In an entertainment industry that is getting more digital by the minute, the future looks very bright for the people at Funny or Die.