Getting to Know The Motorcycle Project: Q&A with SVP of Branded Entertainment at Shaftesbury, Ka

As SVP, Branded Entertainment, Kaaren Whitney-Vernon charges her team to produce original content for television, film and digital brands designed to drive revenue. She is one of the Executive Producers of the highly successful digital series Carmilla, with U by Kotex® as Executive Producer. The award-winning show has racked up over 70 million views.

We spoke with Kaaren this week about the latest show she's been working on, The Motorcycle Project, which will star one of the actresses from the Carmilla series and already has nearly 100,000 views of the trailer just released this month. Leveraging what Kaaren and her team have accomplished and learned from the Carmilla series, The Motorcycle Project could be another roaring success!


The Carmilla Series has been a multi-year success story for branded content. What are the key metrics of that success that the sponsor, Kimberly-Clark, has considered when re-upping for new seasons?

KWV: We did pre and post research after the first season. We were tracking unaided brand recall, intent to purchase, brand advocacy and net promoter score. The results were amazing, with over 90% brand recall and over 66% saying they tried U by Kotex® for the first time because of the series. The brand also saw their social channel engagement increase dramatically whenever they posted content from the show.

Tell us about The Motorcycle Project - how did this show concept develop?

KWV: The story idea was based on a popular website about Van Life. It is a site where people post their stories of hitting the road and living out a van. This wanderlust was our inspiration, but it is Shaftesbury's understanding of creating interesting characters with stories involving tension and mystery that builds fandoms and fans of the brand. Two half sisters are unlikely travel mates as they look for their missing sister, driven by clues found on social media. The travel component is important as more and more people are in search of their roots and the meaning of their family.

Half-sisters Jazz and Beth go searching for their missing sister in “The Motorcycle Project”

Who is the target audience?

KWV: The adventurous, or want to be adventurous, woman who loves travel.

What is duration of the shows and how many in a series?

KWV: While Carmilla was shot in one room with the adventure happening outside the room, The Motorcycle project will be shot on location to bring the beauty of Central America and the openness of the road. A total of 10 episodes of 8 minutes in length each.

Who is the writer?

KWV: TBD. It’s important that we include the brand in this process. I like the idea of the brand being part of the writer’s room. It's a rewarding process.

What about the actors? Will their social media following help drive viewership?

KWV: Yes - Carmilla created influencers out of the actors, but again, once we have a brand involved, it may change the direction of the talent.

Humberly Gonzales and Elise Bauman play Jazz and Beth in “The Motorcycle Project”

What type of brands would be best fit for this series?

KWV: Hero brands, Explorer brands, even an Outlaw brand like Harley Davidson would fit this story world of strong empowered females. I like the idea of traditionally male targeted brands embracing this type of story. Imagine how this could work for Red Bull or REI!?

Is this a one-brand opportunity or could multiple category-exclusive brands sign on?

KWV: We have done both funding scenarios and find that if the brands already work together it can work really well.

How would you work with a sponsor in terms of creative involvement? Is it hands-off or some limited input?