SOUTH PARK WALL (2011)

SOUTH PARK WALL (2011)

CASE STUDY: SOUTH PARK

For 12 years, I had the honor of immersing myself within a truly iconic property, submitting my work to be reviewed by EGOT-level masterminds, and being paid to be the biggest fan of South Park on the planet. South Park is the second longest running comedy in the history of television, and I've done more promo campaigns for South Park than anybody else in the history of Comedy Central.

Each time, I had to make a show that has been on for 19 years (longer than some of our key demographic have been alive) feel new and fresh.  Each time I also had to tailor my creative to the unique challenges that came from working with Matt Stone and Trey Parker, bona fide geniuses making a wildly controversial and beloved show unlike anything else ever seen on television, made in a way unlike anything else ever done in television.

South Park is an animated show that comes together in six days. That is a real timeline. Episodes are not available beforehand; they are written, produced, and voiced within a week. That means in promoting them, we hardly ever knew what they were going to be about, who they were going to offend, or if they would even be ready in time (to date, they have only missed one air date). South Park episodes are also written by Matt and Trey, directed by Matt and Trey, voiced by Matt and Trey, have all art production supervised by Matt and Trey... essentially, Matt and Trey have an unprecedented level of creative control over the South Park brand. So as one might expect, they also have very demanding standards about their brand and over any promotion done for their show.

Furthermore, Matt and Trey have succeeded over multiple media in a way few other artists ever have.  They have won multiple Emmys, Grammys, Tonys, and Oscars*. They have revolutionized video games with South Park: The Stick of Truth.  They have over 40 million Facebook fans. And of course they have built a billion dollar brand. My job was to unite that brand with Comedy Central's, in a way that preserved the character of both brands.

The following spots are from some of the campaigns I did during those years.



*They actually lost the 1999 Oscar for best song when "Blame Canada" from South Park: Bigger Longer and Uncut was beaten by Phil Collins' "You'll be in my heart" from Disney's Tarzan. It was a travesty.

SOUTH PARK 15:

YEAR OF THE FAN

In 2011, Comedy Central went through a massive rebrand, changing our logo and our whole style of promotion. We had to figure out how to bring South Park into the brandscape we were creating.

South Park liked the idea of calling their 15th season "The Year of the Fan". We took it from there.

What we ended up making was a massive cross-platform campaign, stretching from the television to social media to a massive installation at ComicCon. Making it took me to Bear Mountain and Flushing, Queens, where we shot four insane promos over two insane days.

A very spontaneous parade done in Flushing, Queens, on April 15th, 2011. Part of the promo campaign for the South Park "Year of The Fan" (season 15). Parade accessories (including the amazing Najix costume) by Katie Akana and team.

Field of Kennys (Kennies?) killed in terrible ways because we're bastards. Done in Bear Mountain, New York, April 22nd, 2011. Part of the promo campaign for the South Park "Year of The Fan" (season 15). Kenny mannequins (and carnage) by Art Director Katie Akana.

Balloons assembled to resemble a certain pudgy gentleman. Done in Bear Mountain, New York, April 22nd, 2011. Part of the promo campaign for the South Park "Year of The Fan" (season 15)

Time Lapse of a wall being painted with minimalist South Park art. Done in Flushing, Queens, in the wee hours of April 15th, 2011. Part of the promo campaign for the South Park "Year of The Fan" (season 15)

The way we at Comedy Central wanted to talk about South Park was as their #1 Fan. We didn't/couldn't control them, we had no idea what they were going to do next, but dang it we love those guys and everything they do and we're glad we can help them do it. That's why I wanted to make something elaborate and heartfelt for them, but to make it feel grassroots and attainable, like something only a true fan could make.

Meanwhile, we were also figuring out how to adapt the Comedy Central voice to talking about South Park, rallying around the message WE'RE FANS TOO. Here's some of the stuff we did:

These were clip spots for the 15th season of South Park. My goal in making these was to get across the challenges and rewards of working with South Park, to let them come across as comedic dynamos we could only hope to contain, and to show how they fit into our newly redesigned brand landscape (brandscape™).

The result was a big year for South Park, with ratings exceeding anything from the past four years. The already massive South Park social network ballooned in size (and this was the season we started social encores and livetweeting). But it didn't stop there.

We also did an immense YEAR OF THE FAN exhibit at ComicCon that year, featuring go-karts and branded ice pops and cheesy poofs and all sorts of other crazy stuff. Like me leading a parade of Chinese acrobats and lion dancers through the streets of San Diego.

From ComicAlliance.com's coverage of the event (http://comicsalliance.com/south-park-experience-comic-con/). I was doing a sort of call and response thing with the megaphone, yelling "Come on down to South Park and have yourself a time / Come on down to South Park and meet some friends of mine". The light is a bit weird in this picture, but my hat was Cartman blue... it was applying the Cartman color patterning to a bandleader costume.

From ComicAlliance.com's coverage of the event (http://comicsalliance.com/south-park-experience-comic-con/). I was doing a sort of call and response thing with the megaphone, yelling "Come on down to South Park and have yourself a time / Come on down to South Park and meet some friends of mine". The light is a bit weird in this picture, but my hat was Cartman blue... it was applying the Cartman color patterning to a bandleader costume.

Here are some more images from the event... it was really something. I was also there filming fans for some documentary-style spots that were ultimately killed by Comedy Central executives, but they were awesome. One day I'll get the cuts and share them.

SOUTH PARK 18:

HEADS UP

For the most recent South Park campaign, I wanted to have a strong central message that could unite a host of cross-platform executions. The way I figured I would do that is to find an iconic image from the show and let that image play out over many different media. The image I picked were South Park-style heads, and the message was HEADS UP

For the promo, I knew I wanted to use South Park heads in a striking, innovative way backed by a thumping music track. As a NYC-raised hip-hop head, I knew of a perfect track to sample: the hook from Jeru the Damaja's '93 banger "Come Clean" which forcefully proclaimed "Heads up 'cause we droppin' some shit". As it turns out, we couldn't get the rights to that, but we were able to get the rights to the track it sampled its hook from, Onyx's "Throw Ya Gunz". I wanted to find some way to make the bass in the track really come through, so I came up with a visual idea of fallen leaves on top of a speaker, with the thumping bass waves rippling through them. Working with designer Brandon Campbell, we were able to create this:

For the South Park campaign of 2014, we wanted a clear simple message to get people to tune in and a visual theme that could unite creative across many platforms. The message I came up was HEADS UP and the image was the iconic South Park heads. For this promo spot we used 298 different heads from South Park and licensed Onyx's track "Throw Ya Gunz", and then designer Brandon Campbell was able to take my direction of "Think fallen leaves on top of a speaker, rippling as they are moved by the bass waves" and turn it into this club banger.

For the Billboard and subway 2-sheet, we took the concept in a direction of pure minimalism. We knew a show like South Park was so iconic, we didn't even need to say its name. We were able to trim the text down to just two words and one character (our logo). There's also a fun game you can play with it (which we put out over instagram): Can you find Kenny in this picture? Look hard, he's pretty well hidden.

And while you're looking for Kenny, keep an eye out for your boy Rob Sosin. I'm somewhere in this sea of heads as well. Here's a clue of what I look like:

SouthParkSosin
If you can't find me in the picture, you can click the picture above. Or you can click the picture above if you like cute kids, that works too.

If you can't find me in the picture, you can click the picture above. Or you can click the picture above if you like cute kids, that works too.

By finding something as iconic as South Park heads to use as a common visual element, we were able to take our messaging over many platforms and have the campaign and the message feel more unified and powerful.  Here's an example of one of the spots our team (notably designer David Nagler) did over Instagram and Vine, where we gamified the Heads Up theme:

And because we were able to keep the messaging pure and simple enough to attach to any content, like episodic spots and this cross-channel spot about the Washington Redskins, shown locally in the Washington, DC area during a Redskins game:

This is taken from a fan uploading it to youtube, so excuse the quality, he's literally video taping a TV screen. Note that RGIII is in the shot: he was replaced by Kirk Cousins in the actual episode that aired three days later.

From YouTube:

Ad premiered during 3rd quarter of Redskins vs. Eagles game on Fox, Sunday September 21, 2014. Ironically after DeSean Jackson's 81-yard TD pass from Kirk Cousins in Philadelphia against his former team.

We also picked up the theme in ComicCon sticker giveaways, during countdown alerts on-line, on ads over Hulu, and many other places. The results were the highest rating in cable for the night and some of the highest ratings in years for South Park, and a strong and confident brand presence.

SOUTH PARK 16: COUNTDOWN

Done for South Park 16, as a part of a campaign where we made a new spot every day for two weeks leading to the premiere. Shot in our office for zero dollars.

For South Park 16, we wanted to prove our #1 Fan bona fides by making a new spot every day for the two weeks leading up to the premiere. We needed quick, teasy spots that demanded attention. I had wanted to do something about shadows for a while, having noticed that the shadow of the lowercase letter A kind of looks like Cartman. I printed the letters up, mounted them, cut them out with an exacto blade, and (with Director of Photography Lane Savage) shot them in our insert stage. I was very pleased with how it came out.

I also made the following spot with animator Tom Whittle, after noticing Cartman kind of looks like the Mandelbrot pattern formed by fractals:

Done for South Park 16, where we made a new spot every day for two weeks leading up to the premiere. Graphics by Tom Whittle, based off of an idea I had about how Cartman looks like a mandelbrot pattern formed by fractals.

I include these spots among some of my finest work, and I think they get across the Robert Sosin aesthetic pretty well in :10 each.