HARDWICK SELFIE (2013)

HARDWICK SELFIE (2013)

CASE STUDY: @MIDNIGHT

In the fall of 2013, I was given the creative lead on launching a potential addition to Comedy Central's late night dominance: @midnight. It was going to be a younger-skewing quasi-game show airing four nights a week after the late night behemoth Daily Show / Colbert Report combo. The format of the show was still being worked out when I started coming up with marketing ideas and strategies (both for linear television and digital outreach).

Under my direction, we were able to create enough interest and audience to make the show a bona fide phenomenon, and a key ratings success story for the year. @midnight is a unique television show that it straddles both traditional television and social media extremely elegantly (the name of the show is both its twitter handle and what time it airs, for example), and so it was crucial to my promotion strategy to come up with a way to innovate our approach so that we could make an impact across many platforms simultaneously. My team and I pioneered some new ways to "gamify" twitter and tweeting to reflect the spirit of the show, and when those ideas caught on, I led efforts to take the outreach further into the area of mobile gaming. Below are a few of the spots we made for the launch, plus some of the thinking behind them and some of the plans I was making towards the @midnight mobile game.

@MIDNIGHT

LAUNCH PROMOS 2013

When we first started to consider how to promote @midnight, the first and most imposing challenge was how to describe what the show was and why it belonged in Comedy Central's Late Night block. There were so many things we could say about the show, and only a few seconds to do it. Or as I put it in the deck presenting my initial creative concepts, it was like a hydra:

How to promote @midnight? If you focus in too much on one head, you risk being devoured by the other heads. What would Hercules do?

How to promote @midnight? If you focus in too much on one head, you risk being devoured by the other heads. What would Hercules do?

This is how you tackle a hydra: you lasso a few heads together and then strike at the body. By looking at the promotable aspects and classifying them as being either Who, What, When, Where, or How based, we were able to get a better grasp on how we needed to talk about the show and cut straight to the heart of the matter: Why this show was needed.

AtMidnightHydraTaming.jpg

And why did we need @midnight? How could I convince people watching The Daily Show and The Colbert Report that this strange new quasi-game show might be worth checking out? Well, the answer I came up with was that all three shows were powered by the same thing: WHAT'S HAPPENING NOW.

It was still a mouthful to get out there, but fortunately for us, Chris Hardwick is an absolute pro and can speak faster than anyone I've ever worked with. We channeled his enthusiasm and energy and made a bunch of quick moving attention-grabbing promos. Here are a few of my favorites:

One of several launch promos for @midnight, featuring the mighty charisma of Chris Hardwick. I'm especially proud of the special Vine imagery at the end of this spot featuring internet goodness being sprayed over "your brain's boobs" (which I figured was the corpus callosum?)

One of several launch promos for @midnight, featuring the mighty charisma of Chris Hardwick. Man, he read copy great.

SOCIAL STRATEGY

We also designed a social strategy to amplify the fan engagement, coming up with several innovative tactics that let fans feel a whole new level of connection with the show. We experimented with adding a new level of gamification to Twitter, and our Proxy Playing idea became the popular "Tag Team Thursdays".

We saw results almost immediately. Despite being an entirely unknown quantity when it premiered, @midnight was quickly able to find enough of a core audience to grab a foothold in the ratings, and its "Hashtag Wars" segment created a trending topic on Twitter pretty much every single night. It came out of nowhere to become the third most talked about show in cable (according to Nielsen's SocialGuide) and kept rising. The show was renewed for 140 episodes after its trial run.

But our work didn't stop there. In the hiatus between seasons we had to keep the audience engaged and the social chatter going. We had to figure out how to keep the @midnight phenomenon going even when new shows weren't on. And then we had to figure out how we could take the phenomenon even further.

@MIDNIGHT:

THE MOBILE GAME

This is where I tried to move Comedy Central into a really bold new area.  I saw an opportunity for Comedy Central to branch out into a new arena: making funny mobile games. To me it seemed like an @midnight game was a no-brainer and represented a potential tentpole event. Entirely by my own initiative, I assembled teams and started working cross-departmentally to conceptualize what an @midnight mobile game might look like.

The following slides come from my deck pitching my vision for what the @midnight mobile game could be.

The following was one piece of the prospective gameplay I was prototyping... this didn't get made into an actual game, but I include it because a) I think it shows the level of detail and complexity I'm capable of bringing to an idea, even one outside of my areas of speciality, b) It informs what I was talking about with the whole constantly updated UGC (User Generated Content) piece I was talking about above, and c) I still think this would have been a bomb-ass game.