Cannes Lions

Awkwafina 7 Train Takeover

COMEDY CENTRAL, New York / COMEDY CENTRAL / 2020

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Overview

Background

Awkwafina (Nora Lum) burst onto the entertainment scene with her blockbuster roles in Ocean's 8 and Crazy Rich Asians, quickly establishing herself as a staple in young Hollywood. Her rise to fame reached new heights when she became the first Asian-American woman to win a Golden Globe for her role in The Farewell in 2020. Coming off the heels of her Golden Globe win, Comedy Central (U.S.) launched its newest series, Awkwafina is Nora from Queens, starring none other than Awkwafina. For our marketing campaign, we wanted to leverage series star Awkwafina’s awareness and unique appeal to successfully launch the freshman series with mass awareness, strong ratings and earned impressions. To complement our linear goals, we set out to do something unique for gave a nod to Awkwafina's roots and one of the show’s core identities.

Idea

We turned our attention to New York's Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) to create a first-of-its-kind activation with something that all residents of Queens, the series' titular borough, are familiar with - the 7 Train subway line. The MTA ranks No. 7 in the world's subway systems, with annual ridership at approximately 1.75 billion and an average weekday ridership of 5.7 million. The 7 Train runs through some of Manhattan's busiest and most iconic stations like Times Square and Grand Central, all the way out to the heart of Queens. We wanted to leverage the scale and reach of the subway system to give commuters a little surprise and delight on their daily subway ride. While subway advertising was nothing new, no one had ever done something that leveraged the automated train announcements before... until now.

Strategy

Because the borough of Queens plays such an important role in the series' identity, we knew we wanted to target the borough and its' residents in a special way with this campaign. But we didn't want to just use standard targeted outdoor placements; we wanted to make a splash in the community. The 7 Train runs pre-recorded automated train announcements (as opposed to announcements being read by the train conductors), so we set our sights on this subway line and partnered with the MTA to bring our idea to life, all while ensuring that we did not interrupt New Yorker's commutes, a major faux pas. To add to this, Awkwafina's heightened awareness and natural comedic chops gave us the opportunity to leverage just her voice in a completely custom creative execution, something that can't always be done with new talent.

Execution

To promote the series, Awkwafina is Nora from Queens, we developed a first-to-market media stunt designed to draw attention to the show's premiere and pay homage to the series' titular borough, Queens, New York. To do so, we disrupted Queens natives' daily commutes by taking over New York City's 7 Train subway line, which runs through the heart of Queens. The week leading into premiere, Awkwafina became the guest announcer on the 7 Train, with custom audio recordings of her voice announcing every stop, as well as special announcements, with her signature comedic flare as the trains traversed between Manhattan and Queens.

Outcome

This takeover was the first activation of its kind, receiving widespread national coverage and massive press attention. It generated an estimated $10MM+ in incremental media value and 36MM+ media impressions during its flight, an ROI of 5,600%+.The stunt was picked up by National TV programs (Live with Kelly & Ryan, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, among others), news outlets (NBC, ABC, CBS, FOX) and a multitude of trade and entertainment partners (AdWeek, AdAge, Variety, CNN, The New York Times, People, Vulture among others). The activation generated an overwhelming amount of social chatter and awareness during its flight and lead to Comedy Central's best original series premiere since 2016, earning a .31 P18-49 rating, up +37% compared to prior Season 1 launches despite PUT (standard measure of People Using Television) levels being down -11% on premiere night and a 1.34 P18-49 share, up +54% compared to prior Season 1 launches.

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