Make ‘em Laugh: Q&A with JK! Studios CEO Stephen Walter
JK! Studios launched late last year when an ensemble of talented comedians and actors left the BYUtv cable network after 9 seasons and over 2 billion YouTube views to start their own company. They sought to take their knack for creating highly engaging, hilarious content and reach a broader audience on more platforms while expanding their brand storytelling portfolio.
Since opening shop, JK! Studios has created two web series with different brand partners and have completed a number of one-off sketches for other brands. The studio aired a ten episode web series with Jane.com called Loving Lyfe, a satire of YouTube influencers and instagram culture, and just wrapped up an eight episode web series with Clickfunnels called Freelancers.
Brand Storytelling caught up with JK! Studios CEO and President Stephen Walter to talk about their creative process and the work of bringing comedy to brand-funded content:
What is your process when it comes to ideating and producing brand funded comedic content?
It’s cliche to say it, but we start with the funny. Our team already has a small portfolio of shows in development, so we strive to collaborate with brands that have a product or service that fits well into our show. We then work closely with their creative team to make sure that we are speaking to their unique offering correctly. We’ve been lucky to find great brands that work well within our shows.
In what ways have you found that comedy endears consumers to brands?
Comedy can be a phenomenal way to engage with customers and tie them to a brand on an emotional level. It can also be a valuable tool for brand perception. For example, we recently collaborated on a web series with online fashion marketplace Jane, a ten episode series titled Loving Lyfe. With a growing skepticism around influencer culture - something Jane had previously prioritized in its marketing strategy - the brand wanted to shed light on the issue. At JK! Studios we created content spoofing influencer culture to help Jane reposition their brand. It was a very brave move for their whole executive team to use comedy to solve a unique problem while exposing their brand to a whole new audience and it's still paying dividends for them.
What is JK! Studios creative common denominator? What is the through-line shared across all of your content?
Conan O’Brien was nice enough to host our ensemble on his show in 2017, and he commented that their work is “you do clean comedy, it’s for families… and in an era that wouldn’t be so popular... and it’s good comedy.” I’ve always appreciated that about their comedy - it’s funny without begging you to like it, it’s brand-safe and family-friendly without sacrificing laughs. This creates a perfect asset for marketing teams who long to start using long-form content like the full web series, but also gives them clips they can share across social media with gifs, photos, and etc. to round out the whole campaign on any platform.
What’s next for JK! Studios?
This summer six of our actors will be appearing on the new NBC comedy competitions series “Bring The Funny”. They shot this show last month on the Universal lot with the judges Chrissy Teigen, Jeff Foxworthy, and Keenan Thompson and had a ball doing it.
We partnered with Purple Mattress for a 10 episode web series, airing weekly all summer. We also are shooting a TV commercial which ties into the web series that Purple will be running concurrently. Purple’s marketing is legendary and we consider it a huge compliment that they are working with us. I loved the Purple Boys campaign they did with Absolutely last year.
We are currently looking for a partner on three different shows right now: Commute, a vehicle centric workplace comedy. Reincarnated, a sitcom about a down-on-their-luck man reliving his glorious past lives. For Her, Inc. an office comedy about branding products unnecessarily for women. Looking forward to sharing more details when I meet the BrandStorytelling family at Elevate this July.
Learn more about JK! Studios this Summer at ELEVATE, the premiere retreat for brand storytellers and their partners.
About Stephen Walter
Stephen Walter serves at the CEO and President of JK! Studios, where he oversees all production, branded content and creative development for the company.