'Warning' Brings Viewers for 'Chapelle's Show'

“Warning” may not be the best word when promoting a new product, but it worked for Comedy Central as the channel used it prominently in more than 2.5 million e-mails and wireless messages touting the debut of “Chapelle's Show,” starring comedian Dave Chapelle.

“The idea was to let people know that this was going to be a different kind of show,” said Richard Loomis, Comedy Central's vice president of marketing and advertising. “We were warning them that what they see on this show is going to push the envelope and maybe some buttons.”

The show debuted Jan. 22 with the highest rating for a Comedy Central premiere with viewers ages 18-49. Ten days before that, Comedy Central began a wireless marketing effort targeting an urban/hip-hop audience of 1.5 million cell-phone users and two-way pager subscribers. The promotion ran through the Jan. 22 premiere.

Messages sent on the two-way pagers were aimed at people who have opted in to receive “content related to urban culture,” said Dov Pinker, director of business development at Avesair, a mobile marketing and media solutions provider that worked with Comedy Central on the promotion. The ad was a push message with no response mechanism.

“The goal was to get them to tune into the show, so we made it a one-way campaign,” he said. “All they received was the warning message and the date and time of the show's debut.”

Cell-phone users received ads while browsing the Web on their phones. They could click through to a jump page for show information. Pinker said this effort generated a 3 percent to 6 percent click-through during the 10 days.

Comedy Central sent more than 1 million e-mails to comedycentral.com subscribers five days before the show's debut. The e-mail contained the same messaging as the wireless, print and online efforts, but also came with a video clip of the show.

“We wanted to get him out there and in front of people,” Loomis said, “and at the same time give them a chance to sample a piece of his show.”

The online effort also included banner ads on The Onion, Hollywood.com, IGN, Black Voices, Vibe, Rolling Stone, Skateboardlink.com, SOHH.com, boarding.com and Live 365 online radio, which will include a pop-up ad when the audio clip plays.

The print ads ran in general entertainment magazines including Entertainment Weekly, The Onion, Time Out NY, Rolling Stone, The Week, ESPN, Maxim, Blender, spin and High Times. Ads were placed in African-American-focused magazines including Vibe, The Source, King, Complex, Oneworld, Slam, Jet and Frank 151.

Ads ran in 33 college newspapers, targeting top-enrollment and African-American colleges.

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