Campaign Face for Comedy
Client Regent Inns (operator of Jongleurs Comedy Clubs)
PR team Van Communications
Timescale June-November 2006
Regent Inns, which operates Jongleurs, asked retained agency Van Communications to devise a campaign to promote the clubs in the UK.
To drive sales of Jongleurs tickets during the pre-Christmas period. To position Jongleurs as a leading authority on comedy and to associate it with the country’s best comedy talent.
Strategy and Plan
Van created a media campaign based on the concept of being ‘born with a funny face’ in a bid to explain why certain comics get better reactions than others.
It commissioned facial perception expert Dr Tony Little, from the University of Stirling, to investigate whether Britain’s top comedians share similar facial features, and to create the ‘perfect face for comedy’.
Using specially designed software, Little blended the features of 20 top comedians to produce a composite portrait of Britain’s funniest face. He found that softer, feminine characteristics were most likely to make people laugh.
The end portrait showed a resemblance to The Office creator Ricky Gervais, with a round face, small forehead and high cheekbones.
The campaign focused on national print and broadcast media, plus local press in the 14 towns and cities with a Jongleurs comedy club. Gervais agreed to endorse the campaign and provide a quote for the press release free of charge.
Celebrities were also examined for their comedy potential, including Sacha Baron Cohen’s Borat, Daniel Craig as James Bond, and England football manager Steve McClaren.
Where naturally comic features were absent – as, for example, with Tony Blair – Little redrew the faces with more comedic traits.
Media were invited to a presentation of the ‘perfect face’ with Little, Jongleurs founder Maria Kempinska, stand-up comedian Hal Cruttenden and Gervais.
Measurement and Evaluation
In-house evaluation counted 110 items of Jongleurs-branded coverage, all of which carried the campaign’s ‘leading authority’ and ‘best comedy talent’ messages.
National broadcast mentions included BBC1, Channel Four, Five and Sky News, and Little was asked by Channel Four News to create a ‘comedy face’ for newsreader Krishnan Guru-Murthy.
Print interest came from the Daily Mail, Daily Mirror, The Sun, The Times and The Independent, as well as 48 online mentions.
Matthew Beard, senior reporter at The Independent, says: ‘This had all the right ingredients. It was a plausible piece of “academic” research, and it was a happy coincidence that the funniest face belonged to one of the hottest comedy properties of the past decade. The story was all there – complete with usable quotes from Gervais.’
Jongleurs reports that ticket sales for its dinner and comedy package in the pre-Christmas period increased by 12 per cent.
Peter Mountstevens (pictured), group account director at Taylor Herring: Coming up with a unique hook around comedy is no mean feat. This campaign by Van Communications achieved some fantastic results by blending science and popular culture for a compelling news story that took full advantage of the soft news agenda in the run-up to Christmas.
The key to bringing these research stories alive often lies in having a result that resonates with the public – the fact that Ricky Gervais (the UK’s most high-profile comic with broadsheet and red-top appeal) came out on top spurred widespread coverage. Gervais’s direct involvement also enhanced the credibility of the study.
Strategically, the agency played by the book – a credible expert to conduct the research; widening the brief to include politicians and film stars; gaining industry endorsement; and tailoring the story to specific news outlets for a unique angle.
The campaign clearly amplified the Jongleurs brand during a key sales period – positioning the club as a comedy authority.
But with 20 regional radio interviews completed, it would be interesting to measure subsequent awareness of the dinner and comedy package.
However, this was a brilliantly executed, generic comedy campaign that took full advantage of the pre-Christmas ‘soft news’ agenda and gained some outstanding results within a limited budget.