A new Stella Artois audio series with Andy Cohen? There's a story behind that.
The Bravo talk-show host and reality-TV producer narrates summertime tales from leading writers in a YouTube-based initiative developed by AB InBev's Stella and creative agency Pereira O'Dell.
The first 10-minute installment of "Daydreaming in the Life Artois" dropped last Friday. Cohen reads "Disco Ball" by Glen David Gold, about a Victorian house in San Francisco and the magical, musical secret hidden in its basement:
"Being a writer in my spare time, I've been wanting to do something with literature as a way to explore another possibility in the world of branded entertainment," PJ Pereira, creative chairman at Pereira O'Dell, tells Muse. "When we started to work on Stella's summer campaign, we felt it was the perfect opportunity to tell stories of a summer we wish we were having, like a meditation, or a daydream. Audio stories, in that sense, became the perfect vehicle."
New episodes break for the next five weeks. Each will feature a story set in a city where coronavirus isolation hit residents especially hard, and hopefully provide a respite for folks working from home (and who, perhaps, won't choose to travel far and wide as the weather grows warmer).
Here's the trailer for the series:
"We felt that celebrating the city was a good way to start," Pereira says. "So we picked a local writer for each city and gave them a little prompt as inspiration. We asked all of them to write stories they would be proud of, not ads."
Though "Disco Ball" mentions the Stella name a few times, the plugs fit snugly into the narrative.
"The stories we bought had a very wide range," Pereira says. "Some are funny, some are very endearing. Andy has the range we needed to tell all of them and make it feel meditative and transporting."
Cohen, who hosted the 60th annual Clio Awards show last fall, gives "Disco Ball" a breezy read, catching every sunny nuance and wistful but of irony. "He hadn't worked with Stella yet, but he had done audiobooks before and loves the brand, so it felt right," Pereira says.
As part of the campaign, Cohen chatted with Gold about "Disco Ball" on Instagram Live. Moving forward, the authors will conduct these "virtual happy hours" sans Cohen, discussing various aspects of storytelling.
When Pereira first queried literary agents about providing talent for the project, "only one even bothered to write back," he recalls. "We realized we would be better off reaching out to the authors themselves. So we picked some names, sent them messages, and a lot of them felt it was not only natural but also a very interesting new way of working."
He adds: "This is something I've learned about branded entertainment—brands with true creative ambitions and naturally good taste can often be better partners for the artists than their traditional ecosystem. Many times, I've heard that we are less attached to formulas. It's a great playground for artists wanting to experiment more with their craft."
Here's the upcoming series lineup:
• Miami (June 19) with "Dominos" written by Jennine Capo Crucet
• Los Angeles (June 25) with "The Reel Us" written by Alex Espinosa
• Chicago (July 3) with "Floored" written by Anu Valia
• Washington D.C. (July 10) with "Message in a Bottle" written by Jen Doll
• New York (July 17) with "The Devil went down to Brooklyn" written by Shalom Auslander