Objectives: To drive brand awareness, re-invigorate the TV show Friends, increase social traffic and drive TV ratings (all in the UK market).
Last year, we significantly invested in renewing our license to broadcast Friends from Warner Brothers. For a healthy return on investment, we needed to ensure viewers still wanted to watch the show.
We put our thinking caps on and created 'FriendsFest, the ultimate Friends experience in the heart of London. We recreated the iconic Friends apartment and other famous sets from the series, giving fans an unmissable experiential event. We were confident this creative idea would reinvigorate the show, drive awareness of Comedy Central being it's UK TV “home" and most importantly increase TV ratings.
We know that these sorts of experiential events are really popular right now. Fans enjoy getting up close and personal with their favourite brands. In fact, research has shown that since the global financial crisis, spend on interactive events in the UK has increased nine times
FriendsFest had to work across every area of the business. It had to be sharable to make it socially successful, it had to work for our on air programming, it had to make a lot of press noise and ultimately it had to drive TV ratings on the channel.
FriendsFest was a socially led campaign. An essential part of our strategy was to design an experience whereby every element was highly shareable across social media.
FriendsFest centred around the recreation of the iconic Friends apartment. With an iconic show like Friends, we knew how many diehard fans there were, so it was important for us to make sure the whole experience, the apartment in particular, was as authentic as possible. This was an integral part of our strategy as we were aware that any inaccuracies would receive backlash/criticism from fans & potentially ruin the entire campaign. Therefore we partnered with the best set builders in the UK to ensure our replica apartment was a perfect mirror of the original TV set.
Another aspect of FriendsFest was a one-off exhibition. We flew in original memorabilia and props from the series (including the China Dog, Wedding invitations & scripts) that had never been seen before in the UK. We were only able to do this by working closely with the licensor Warner Bros who owned the props and kept them in their Burbank Studios. In fact, we wouldn’t have been able to put on FriendsFest without permission from Warner Bros and so securing their trust and “buy-in” was essential.
At the Central Perk coffee bar, which included the famous “orange sofa”, we wanted to enhance the fan experience by giving them free cups of coffee and cookies. However, our budget couldn’t stretch to this. Therefore, we worked hard to secure commercial partner for this aspect of the event (Lidl grocery chain).
Before we opened FriendsFest to the public, we held a launch party and invited key press and celebrities to experience the event. We also invited the actor James Michael Tyler (who played Gunther on the show) as our special guest and key spokesperson. We knew this would create a lot of social and press noise & get fans excited for the event. Everything on the night was carefully planned from security, travel, production to music ensuring a slick and seamless party!
We also partnered with UK radio station Heart FM to host a closing party for FriendsFest, with some lucky fans being able to mingle with some of the biggest names in UK broadcasting. Celebrities like Emma Bunton, Mark Wright and Jamie Theakston all came to this party to meet fans and take pictures of their favourite sitcom set. Heart heavily covered FriendsFest both on its radio station and website.
We thought up a creative way for FriendsFest to feed into on air programming by asking fans (while they were at the event) what their favourite episode was. We then created a countdown on Comedy Central the weekend after, including fans 21 favourite Friends episodes. Some lucky fans also got to see themselves on the channel performing their favourite scenes from friends!
We ran competitions on our twitter page and kept fans constantly engaged with fun Friends themed posts, keeping the event and the show top of mind with consumers.
Our strategy was to deliver a full 360 campaign. It had to make a lot of press noise, it had to be sharable to ensure social traction and most importantly it needed to drive TV ratings.
We generated over 300 articles across print, online and broadcast media, delivering a PR reach of 148 million with a PR value for £2.1M.
- Social Posts (Media, Celebrity & Fans) Reach: 85.2M
- #Friendsfest reached 24.4 million users on twitter. #Friendsfest trended 6 times throughout the event, hitting Number 2 on twitter and number 1 on Facebook (also 140,000 impressions on Instagram)
- Our Twitter account grew by 35% with 45,000 new followers
- Visits to CCUK Twitter increased by 5000% and @ComedyCentralUK mentions increased by 2000%
- Our Facebook following increased by 9,000 (5%)
- Traffic to the website increased by 15%
FriendsFest grew viewing and share amongst 16-34 year olds (our target audience) by a quarter (+27% viewing, +26% share) compared to the six week average before launch (Monday-Friday 5-9pm)
Friends ratings were +18% bigger and share was up +11% compared to Friends in all slots for the six week previous.
The second week delivered the highest weekly share for Friends of the whole fiscal year.
Overall FriendsFest improved Comedy Central's General Entertainment channel ranking (in Pay Homes) three places – from the usual #5 to #2.
Over the course of 23 minutes, 267,000 people attempted to buy the 5000 tickets.