Its a very smart show, and a show thats very big with critics, but its not a very big ratings hit, Chris says. If youre doing Two And A Half Men or The Simpsons, everybody knows about the show, what it is, and a lot of people have seen it at least a few times. Not 30 Rock. It doesnt have a very big audience; people arent familiar with it.
So how do I broaden it out? Its a niche-y, cable kind of show, even though its on a broadcast network. Ive got to grab people whove never watched it. How do you do that?
For one series of promos scheduled for large urban markets, 2C created an animated subway map, then added clips of comic 30 Rock mishaps like Fey losing her phone and Morgan getting lost. In that one, you get peoples attention with a place that they relate to, Chris says.
Then we created some spots that revolve around the characters for instance, a promo made of clips of nothing but Tracy Morgans epic bizarreness. Its made to hook people who arent necessarily interested in a show satirizing a TV network but might be interested in this funny, weird character.
And everyones had a hard boss. So we did one with just clips of Alec Baldwin being mean and unreasonable.
Building promos around themed clips requires so much studying that 2Cs offices sometimes resemble a college library full of students cramming for a final exam.
Carla and I watched 30 Rock and loved it, so we had a lot of ideas, Chris says. But when we got the contracts for Desperate Housewives and Greys Anatomy, I didnt know anything about them. If a shows popular enough to get into syndication, theres generally somebody on the staff with encyclopedic knowledge of it. But when theres not, we watch DVDs, we look at fan sites and YouTube, we read old issues of Entertainment Weekly. We read entire books about some of these shows.
With new shows, the problems are different. If the network isnt far along in production, promos have to be vague and fascinating at the same time. When HBO asked for a promo for the third season of Eastbound & Down, a sitcom about a former baseball player, the network was still months away from getting its first script.
There was an unusually long period between the second and third season, and they wanted to get some buzz started and remind people the show was coming back, says Ben Frank, a 2C Media producer. But how do you do that when you dont have any footage and dont know where the show is going?
About the only thing the 2C Media team handling the project knew was that Kenny Powers, the shows party-hearty main character, was moving from Mexico to Myrtle Beach, S.C.
One of our first concepts was to get a Confederate flag into the promo somehow, Frank said. That suggests the South. Then we started thinking: What is Myrtle Beach about? And what is it about Myrtle Beach that fits Kennys character? Somebody mentioned beach boardwalks, and we started thinking about the kind of businesses you find there. Hey: How about tattoos?
Initially, the team thought about a woman clad in a Confederate-flag bikini getting a tattoo of Kenny Powers face on her back. That morphed into something less grisly: a bosomy girl panting suggestively as Kenneys face is air-brushed onto her T-shirt. Then the shot moves to her back, revealing a tattoo of the shows logo.