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“Crank Yankers” Ad Impresses Agency Veteran

“Crank Yankers” Ad Impresses Agency Veteran Jeff Minsky

It has been a long time since I have been as impressed by an advertising campaign as the one I just viewed from "Crank Yankers", the new television show on Comedy Central. The show features puppets who place real world "Crank" phone calls. I admit that I have not seen the show, but I am now a bona fide fan.

About an hour ago seeking a quick diversion during lunch, I surfed over to TheOnion.com a newspaper satire site. I saw an intriguing, colorful, fun 125 x 125 ad unit. Those of you who know me will be shocked to hear that I could admit to being affected by a small ad versus the large, full-screen, intrusive interstitials that I normally advocate, but we are talking about a television show as product, not a complicated piece of broadband stereo equipment.

Clicking on the ad unit brought up a Pop-Up screen that allowed me to send one of two hilarious "Crank Calls" to a friend. Let me emphasize calls, not just e-mails, but a call directly from the ad to my friend's phone. Of course, they could have just used the Pop-Up and not bothered with the 125 x 125 and may have initially reached many more people.

Back to the experience: Utilizing IP telephony, the minute I hit submit, the phone rang. The quality of the sound was superb.

The two calls: One involves Directory Assistance for Batman, the other a request for Tupac and Biggie music. Both are hysterical, although not very politically correct. The campaign is brilliant. It incorporates pretty much every aspect of Best Practices for Convergence that we have collectively learned:

Fun: Somewhere along the line of accountability and ROI we forgot that good advertising is fun, creative, and that many of us got into this business precisely because it wasn't accounting. Yes, even media people like creativity.

Integrated Telephony: Very often when we talk about Convergence we default to visions of Interactive Television, Movies on Demand, e-mail on television. We completely forget that IP Telephony can be leveraged in effective ways. We all hate telemarketers, but when a good friend of yours is the catalyst and the message is humorous, could telemarketing actually be welcomed?

Relationship Building: Everyone at this point agrees that the letters CRM mean different things to different people. But the point of having a user opt-in is key. In this case, not only did the person who sent the call get a confirmation e-mail and therefore another exposure/reminder to view the program, but so did the person that was called. The obvious question comes down to the issue of whether or not this is SPAM. In my mind it is not. The e-mail was sent from the friend with the client as intermediary. However, it is imperative that Comedy Central or Crank Yankers not collect these names/phone numbers without a clear opt-in.

Viral: Every media pitch to every client says that you should have some viral component. Rarely are the ideas good enough and closely aligned with the product being sold to validate this strategy. Everything clicked (no pun intended) with this campaign. By participating in the campaign, you, in essence, became a bit player in the play; mimicking exactly what the puppets do during the program. The implementation was so perfect that whatever media expenditure Comedy Central put out to support this must be paying off in multiples of 100. I've already forwarded the Batman call to 20 of my closest friends.

All in all, this campaign deserves many kudos. It truly reaffirmed my faith in a medium that has taken so many hits of late. Now, let's see how the ratings go this week.

Jeff Minsky is director, emerging media at OMD Ignition Factory, bringing education and guidance to clients navigating the tumultuous waters of the transition from an analog linear media world to a fragmented digital, interactive media world. Minsky...

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