Acura Caps This Season’s Better Call Saul Partnership by Bringing Back Some Memorable Season 1 Characters

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Throughout its three seasons, AMC’s Breaking Bad prequel, Better Call Saul, has brought back several characters from the original series. But now, Saul is resurrecting some characters from early in its own run. A new video features the return of the Kettlemans, a family last seen dealing with embezzlement charges in Season 1.

However, there’s a twist. Instead of appearing in Saul’s Season 3 finale on Monday, or anywhere on linear TV, the three-minute video catching up with the family is only available online as the capper to Acura’s season-long partnership with Better Call Saul.

Acura and AMC teamed up for weekly branded content webisodes, which feature the return of the mysterious driver character from Acura’s previous sponsorships of the show. Each of the 10 spots, which aired weekly and showcased the Acura NSX, directed fans to participate in a bingo trivia game on the show’s digital and social platforms.

Starting June 12, audiences playing the trivia game were able to unlock “No Picnic,” the three-minute video featuring the Kettlemans, as the family devises an usual way to spend time with patriarch Craig (played by Jeremy Shamos), who is serving a 16-month prison sentence and is picking up roadside litter along with fellow inmates. While the general public won’t be able to access the video until June 19, the night of Saul’s season finale, Adweek has the first look at the spot here:

The Kettlemans were last seen in the seventh episode of Saul’s first season, as Craig, who had been accused of embezzling $1.6 million, finally agreed after some last-minute arm-twisting on the part of Jimmy McGill (the man who eventually becomes Saul Goodman, played by Bob Odenkirk) and Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks) to take a plea deal in order to protect his wife Betsy (Julie Ann Emery) and kids Warren and Jo Jo.

The “No Picnic” spot is the culmination of Acura’s Season 3 partnership with Better Call Saul, which included weekly Los Pollos Hermanos training videos with Breaking Bad villain Gus Fring (played by Giancarlo Esposito), who joined the prequel’s cast this season. Acura and AMC also teamed on the weekly mysterious driver spots, which ran during each episode and directed fans to the trivia game.

Acura and AMC have teamed up for all three seasons of Saul, but this year’s campaign was “our most ambitious,” said Phil Hruska, manager of media strategy, American Honda. “The content has been so incredibly engaging. We’ve seen really high video completion rates, and the average time spent with the branded content has exceeded our benchmarks. So, we’ve been really happy.”

The spot is Acura’s latest effort to engage Saul’s dedicated fan base rather than repel them with a tone-deaf integration that takes audiences out of the show’s world.

“We’ve really spent a lot of time trying to make sure that we thread the needle,” Hruska said. “The key for us has been working with both AMC and the show creators. When you get in close with the show creators, it adds that authenticity. All of our content is being produced by the same people that are doing the show, so it has that look and feel, and especially with a premium show like Better Call Saul, it’s all about those details. We’re making sure we have the details right and that the fans can see that we took the time to put in the extra work.”

“No Picnic” was directed by Jenn Carroll, an associate producer on Saul, and written by the show’s writers’ assistant, Ariel Levine. It was produced by creative agency Bacon & Sons Film Co., a frequent marketing partner for AMC.

For this season’s campaign, the partners came up with the idea of culminating the trivia with bonus content featuring characters from earlier in the run.

“What’s something that we can build up to, that people who watch the show and are into it will enjoy?” Hruska said. “It harkens back to previous characters that were very beloved, and so when you see it, you’re like, oh yeah, this is part of the show!”

Melissa Wasserman, svp, client solutions and integrated marketing, AMC, said this was the first time the network has worked with a production team to bring back a previous storyline or character for a brand partnership. Wasserman’s group collaborated with Saul executive producer Melissa Bernstein and her team, and asked them to come up with ideas. They also collaborated on the weekly mysterious driver spots and trivia contests.

The key, Wasserman said, is finding something “that’s going to have a valuable payoff for both the viewer and the client, remain engaging, and yet, be considered good content. The idea of good content was really important to us. That’s why Acura wraps it, and they’re not in it. We don’t like to up the cheese factor.” (Also, because Better Call Saul is a prequel, Acura is not able to integrate its new vehicles into the show.)

“This is a really terrific partnership for us, one that we hold up as an example to all others,” said Wasserman. “Having all these parties invested in the success of this, both internally and externally, was a really cool endeavor. It’s the payoff of everything that we try to accomplish with each campaign that we do.”

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