I’ve decided to start writing an occasional post highlighting projects that I feel like are working, and most importantly to explain a little bit of why I think they’ve been successful. With the first of these posts, I want to break down why I think comedian Dan Bialek’s YouTube series Action Figure Therapy has been so successful.
Action Figure Therapy is on the verge of attracting its one millionth view, which is quite an accomplishment for any web series. The series “features action figures talking to therapists about their problems at work and at home,” and is written and produced by Bialek and voiced by several different comedians and performers. Here’s a sample episode:
So why has the series caught on? Here’s 10 reasons why I think it’s working…
1. It’s Nostalgic
I’m guessing that a lot of the people that have become fans of the series used to play with these action figures once upon a time. That creates an instant nostalgic connection to the content and creates a situation where people want to like the videos when they first watch them, as opposed to being skeptical of them.
2. The More You Watch, The Better It Gets
The videos include a lot of recurring jokes and callbacks to events that were mentioned in other videos. This creates an “inside joke” effect, that makes the videos seem even funnier as you watch more of them.
3. It’s Promoted Well
Good content doesn’t just find an audience without promotion, and Dan has done a great job promoting the series. There’s lots of little subtle promotion tricks in play here including the website being watermarked on all the videos, annotations being used to ask people to subscribe. and a banner on the YouTube channel plugging the series’ Facebook fan page. All those little things can add up to make a big difference.
4. It’s Been Around For A While
It takes time to build a true audience for your content no matter how good it may be. In this case, Action Figure Therapy has been around since June and slowly built a strong fanbase. You may be able to go viral overnight, but you can’t build a fanbase overnight. It takes time.
5. It’s Short
The most common problem I see with web series creators is that their videos are way too long. People just aren’t going to watch the 12-minute debut episode of your series, let alone future episodes. All the videos in Action Figure Therapy are under 3 minutes, and most are under 2 minutes. They’re quick, they get right to the jokes, and they get out. This encourages people to watch them and to watch more of them.
6. It’s A Flexible Concept
Action Figure Therapy is a great web series concept because it’s flexible enough that there’s limitless stories and jokes you can tell without it getting old. Too often people back themselves into a corner because they’ve got an idea for a series or character that may be hilarious once or twice, but ultimately has no place to go and it just gets old. Ideally, you want to create a “world” that has some loose rules to provide a framework, but enough space for you to keep telling new stories.
7. It’s Cheap To Produce
This series is proof that you don’t need a lot of money to produce a web series. Over on his Facebook page, Bialek made a reference that he created the series with $100 and a bunch of stuff he found in the trash and I believe it. He’s made 37 episodes of Action Figure Therapy so far and it costs him next to nothing to do so. If he had to spend $500 an episode to produce them, the series likely would have died a long time ago.
8. Each Video Works Alone Or As Part Of The Series
Here’s another common mistake that people make: don’t create a web series in which the individual episodes don’t work on their own. You can watch any single Action Figure Therapy video on its own and get some laughs – even if you haven’t seen any of the others. That’s important, because you don’t want to alienate viewers who don’t feel like watching your series from scratch.
9. Its Fanbase Is Engaged
Just about every comment on these videos is replied to on YouTube by Bialek (or somebody else who’s representing the channel). On the series’ Facebook page, fans are given fun questions and encouraged to comment on the series. These videos aren’t just being thrown up and ignored by the creators, they’re being used as launching points to engage a fan base and make those fans feel like they’re a part of this world.
10. It’s Funny
Last, but certainly not least, is the fact that it’s just a damn funny series. If your creations aren’t funny, none of the other stuff matters because it won’t work. But if you create funny stuff, and do some of the things that the Action Figure Therapy crew is doing? Well, that why it works.
What other web series do you think work? Please leave a comment with your suggestions and favorites…
One thought on “Why It Works: The “Action Figure Therapy” Web Series”
Great idea! I really appreciate how you break this down into understandable pieces.
My favorite YouTube series right now is Amy Sedaris’ Simple Times: Crafts for Poor People. She’s already got a rabid fan base and the book tie-in, but I enjoy how the series (which is wickedly risque and funny) makes her seem so personable.