July 14, 2024

Advertising: Celebrating ‘South Park’ by Bringing It to Life

As part of an extensive promotional campaign, Year of the Fan, to observe the 15th season of the show, Comedy Central, which has been presenting “South Park” since August 1997, is teaming up with the Frito-Lay division of PepsiCo to produce 1.5 million packages of Cheesy Poofs to be sold in Wal-Mart stores beginning next month.

Anyone reluctant to pay $2.99 for a 2 3/8-ounce bag of Cheesy Poofs can get a free bag at an exhibit, called the Ultimate “South Park” Fan Experience, that Comedy Central is sponsoring in conjunction with Comic-Con International in San Diego July 21 to 24. The real version of the imaginary snack will be available at a replica of the school cafeteria from “South Park,” which will be near a replica of South Park Avenue, another major feature of the make-believe South Park, Colo.

The exhibit, running 15,000 square feet, will also offer artwork, memorabilia, photo and tattoo booths, trivia contests and a station to create “South Park” avatars that can be uploaded to profile pages in social media like Facebook.

Anne Garefino, who is an executive producer of “South Park” along with its creators, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, likened the exhibit to the street fairs she attended as a child growing up in New Jersey.

She said she hoped the attractions would offer “silly fun, playful things” as a way to thank viewers.

“To be honest, Matt and Trey said, ‘We don’t want to be celebrated,’ ” Ms. Garefino said. Rather, she added, the concept became “let’s do it” but “let’s make it about the fans.”

It is unusual, but not unprecedented, for fans of a television series to tour the set on which their favorite show is filmed. It is more difficult to do so when the series is animated and the set does not exist, much less the location the set represents.


But bringing elements of “South Park” to life, in what is known as experiential marketing, is a way for Comedy Central to strengthen connections with viewers. That is increasingly important when competition among entertainment properties for hearts, minds and eyeballs is fiercer than ever.

“Right now is ‘South Park’s’ moment in the sun,” said Michele Ganeless, president of Comedy Central in New York, part of the MTV Networks unit of Viacom. “Fifteen years of a success on television, let alone on cable, is an achievement.”

“Making it about the fans” is a way to counter possible perceptions that the campaign is self-congratulatory, Ms. Ganeless said, and it is appropriate because “South Park” has “such a devoted fan base.”

The budget for the campaign is being estimated at $3 million to $5 million. The equivalent media value of the air time and online inventory being devoted to the campaign — on other MTV Networks properties in addition to Comedy Central — is being estimated at $10 million.

There will also be an hourlong documentary about “South Park” in the fall, on Comedy Central and “some of the other networks as well,” Ms. Ganeless said.

As befits a campaign about a series with a passionate following among men ages 18 to 34, the campaign will have a considerable presence in new media, among them Facebook, at facebook.com/southpark; Twitter, at twitter.com/SouthPark; the “South Park” Web site, southparkstudios.com; and the Comedy Central Web site, comedycentral.com.

Bringing a fictional snack to life also makes sense given the dietary proclivities of that audience.

“It’s fair to say the viewers of programs on Comedy Central overlap well with consumers of our products,” said Chris Kuechenmeister, a spokesman at Frito-Lay in Plano, Tex.

“This is the first time we’ve moved into something like this,” he added. “It seemed like a nice thing to try.”

This is, however, not the first time that cartoon brands have been turned into actual products for flesh-and-blood people. For instance, to promote “The Simpsons Movie” in 2007, products like Frosted KrustyO’s cereal and Buzz Cola were sold in 7-Eleven stores; some stores were even temporarily converted to Kwik-E-Marts, after the inconvenient convenience store in “The Simpsons.”

Being able “to step into an animated world is awesome,” said Eric Murphy, president, chief executive and creative director at Pop2Life in New York, a marketing promotion agency that is building the exhibit for Comedy Central.

“Giving ‘South Park’ fans a chance to physically be part of ‘South Park’ is priceless,” he added.

Comedy Central is presenting the 15th season of “South Park” in two parts. The first part ran from April 27 to June 8 and the second is scheduled from Oct. 15 to Nov. 16. The series is renewed for a 17th season through 2013, Ms. Ganeless said.


It is coincidental, Ms. Ganeless and Ms. Garefino said, that the campaign will be taking place as Mr. Stone and Mr. Parker bask in the success of their hit Broadway musical, “The Book of Mormon,” on which Ms. Garefino is a lead producer.

“Year of the Fan has been in development for the last 24 months, before we knew when ‘The Book of Mormon’ would launch,” Ms. Ganeless said.

When Ms. Garefino was asked whether the people behind “South Park” had considered a musical version, she replied: “After the third season, someone asked us to consider it. But we couldn’t think of a way to put the characters on Broadway because of their big, blinky eyes.”

Ms. Garefino, who lives in Los Angeles, is in New York “casting for vacation swings,” or replacements, for “The Book of Mormon.”

“It’s a big eye-opener for me,” Ms. Garefino said. “Cartman never takes a day off.”

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=38ce2bece80fa51538db9f1d878c5a14

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