How Obama Created A Branded Web Series By Accident

Political leaders know all too well that every word choice must be a careful one, that any casual aside can have national consequences. For example, one offhand joke from President Obama, made two weeks ago during a press conference, has kicked off a national branded campaign led by a daily episodic web series, thanks to the zealous marketers at 7-Eleven and Happy Little Guillotine Films. Obama, however, holds the key to the show’s potential success.

During a press conference on Wed., Nov. 3, immediately following the U.S. midterm elections, Obama made a joking comment that he would share a Slurpee with new House Majority Leader John Boehner, which was quickly branded a “Slurpee Summit” by the press and scheduled by the White House for Nov. 18.

HLG producer/writer/director Yuri Baranovsky, who created the web series Break a Leg, previously worked with 7-Eleven on the branded series 7-Eleven Road Trip Rally. So, about eight hours after Obama’s comment, he got a call from 7-Eleven asking if he and his team were available to put together another road trip web series — immediately.

That was Wednesday; by Thursday night, half of the crew was flying out to Dallas to begin shooting the first episode. And thus began the 7-Eleven Slurpee Unity Tour, which has traveled at a breakneck pace from Dallas to Washington D.C. to deliver Slurpees in time for the Slurpee Summit, scheduled initially for Nov. 18.


The daily episodes are primarily being distributed through 7-Eleven’s Facebook account, because in Yuri’s words, “there was no time to build a site up.” Hosted by comedian Mike McLendon (who was a Road Trip Rally contestant), the show tracks their journey, during which they gave out plenty of free Slurpees and filmed what Baranovsky categorized as “Daily Show-esque comedy bits” on the theme of unity.

The project hit a major roadblock on Tuesday, however, when the Republican leadership postponed the “summit” (a real planned political event, remember) to Nov. 30.

According to Baranovsky, though, no one on the production team was particularly disappointed by this development — especially after hearing that Obama might still attend the 7-Eleven-sponsored event still scheduled for today.

When I initially spoke to Baranovsky this morning via phone, he was standing on the streets of Washington D.C., five blocks away from the White House, waiting to see if the President was going to come outside and pick up the Slurpee (in a glass-blown cup) he’d been promised.

In the meantime, Blues Traveler was playing a free concert and everyone seemed to be having a pretty good time. “We wanted to spread unity and give out free Slurpees,” Baranovsky said. “That’s what we got out of it: The idea that two rivaling parties can get together over a snack drink. If he doesn’t show up, it’s fine.”

As of 6 PM ET today, Baranovsky was pretty sure Obama or Boehmer weren’t going to make it — however, he and the 7-Eleven team are holding out hope for as long as possible, and are also willing to make another trip out to D.C. for the rescheduled summit on the 30th, should they receive encouragement from either side.

Whether the next two years of Congressional and Presidential cooperation should really be kicked off by a branded event sponsored by a convenience store chain isn’t really a question for a tech blog to tackle. But the metaphor in play, I believe, is that red and blue Slurpee flavors can be mixed together and be equally delicious. It might not be a sophisticated symbol, but it does resonate.

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