As a historical drama, brand integration has been a tough mystery to solve for CBC Television’s prime time series Murdoch Mysteries, which is now entering its ninth season.
That changed this summer, when Toronto media agency Cairns O’Neil approached CBC about incorporating its client, SickKids Foundation – the fundraising arm of The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) – in the show.
Unlike many contemporary brands, there is a natural alignment between the two parties: Murdoch Mysteries is set in the early 1900s, while SickKids is celebrating its 140th birthday this year.
“We felt Murdoch Mysteries was a great platform to help SickKids celebrate this amazing milestone,” said Melina Corvaglia, associate director, scripted and acquisitions, content marketing, with CBC & Radio-Canada Media Solutions in Toronto. “It gives the [necessary] historical context to be able to tell their story.”
The two-hour special, A Merry Murdoch Christmas, airs Dec. 21 and will feature Hélène Joy’s character, Dr. Ogden, visiting a sick child at the hospital, where she is inspired to work with the show’s title character to invent a new piece of medical equipment they donate to the hospital. SickKids staff and patients are featured as extras in the episode.
“The creative link is that Murdoch solves murder mysteries, but SickKids has been solving medical mysteries for 140 years,” said Corvaglia. “It’s telling their stories through this lens.”
The marketing program also includes a pair of PSAs featuring Joy that will run across the CBC Television schedule for eight weeks,. “We thought [Joy] would be great to leverage by pulling her out of the show,” said Corvaglia. “She was thrilled to be the face and voice of the campaign.”
The first PSA began airing on Monday, and drives to a SickKids interactive digital timeline at CBC.ca/MurdochMysteries. The second will promote SickKids’ integration in the show. Both PSAs will include a donation message.
The partnership also includes social amplification through the show’s Facebook and Twitter pages.
In addition, CBC will run a lower third ad unit encouraging people to donate to SickKids. The unit will run across the public broadcaster’s schedule as well as twice during the holiday special.
It is the first time Murdoch Mysteries has embarked on a brand partnership, with Corvaglia saying the show’s historical setting has precluded it from engaging in this type of activity.
“The show has always been very open and brand-friendly, but I think brands are more focused on the present and the future,” said Corvaglia. “I think SickKids really saw and embraced the opportunity to celebrate their milestone.”