These Innovative Agencies Deftly Delivered Impactful Messaging in Troubling Times

Presenting Adweek's 2020 Media Plan of the Year winners

Media Plan of the Year
Adaptability and versatility were the cornerstones of many of our Media Plan of the Year winners. Adweek

Amid a rapidly changing ecosystem, media agencies play an increasingly critical role in helping brands deliver marketing to consumers with maximum impact. Modern media agencies need to get particularly creative to cut through an ever more cluttered media landscape, and the best media plans of the past year found ways to innovate—from deepfakery and utilizing data to deliver ads 24 hours after a workout to barbershop screenings and Awkwafina lending her voice to New York’s 7 train. In 2020, media plans also had to evolve to meet consumers’ changing media habits as crises unfolded worldwide. Adaptability and versatility were more important than ever and were the cornerstones of many of our Media Plan of the Year winners, particularly those released during the Covid-19 pandemic. —Erik Oster


Comedy Central (Fallon) | Awkwafina Is Nora From Queens | Categories: Best in Show, Best Use of Alternative Media, Best Use of Experiential in campaigns spending less than $500,000, Total Campaign $5 million-$10 million, Best Use of Voice

Danielle Levitt for Comedy Central

Comedy Central and media agency partner Fallon went all out promoting Awkwafina Is Nora From Queens, including making its star the voice of New York subway system’s 7 train that runs through the heart of Queens.

The innovative stunt involved Awkwafina reading an original line written by Comedy Central’s team for each subway stop, leaning into the voice of the comedic star with original content rather than rehashing lines from the show.

The attention-grabbing activation paid off, attracting nationwide attention and leading to over $10 million in incremental media value and 36 million media impressions, and Comedy Central further supported the show’s debut with a social media campaign and a sequential YouTube campaign that made a skippable ad out of a full episode of the show.

The buzz generated by the campaign, including a social push timed around Awkwafina’s Golden Globe win for her performance in The Arrival, led to 3.8 million viewers for the show’s debut, making it Comedy Central’s biggest premiere since 2016. —Erik Oster

(Read the full story on Adweek’s Best in Show winner here.)


Comedy Central (Fallon) | South Side | Category: Total Campaign $10 million+

Comedy Central

To promote its new comedy South Side, Comedy Central and media agency partner Fallon focused on the show’s titular location with a promotional campaign designed to stoke local pride.

A large-scale OOH campaign included a station takeover at the Sox-35th L station near Guaranteed Rate Field, home of the Chicago White Sox, an activation Comedy Central claims 8 million Chicagoans saw.

Comedy Central also staged screenings at local barbershops, where patrons were offered free haircuts, set up a rent-to-own pop-up store at ComplexCon Chicago and added local radio, TV and print ads to the mix.

The approach was complemented by a national broadcast campaign on targeted networks, including a spot during the NBA draft that ran around the Chicago Bulls’ pick, and an online extension with video and amplified social placements.

The effort helped make South Side the No. 1 comedy premiere of 2019 with 2.2 million viewers and the top cable comedy among African-American viewers. South Side also debuted as the most socially engaged series in Comedy Central’s history at the time. 

It proved incredibly popular with local audiences, with ratings in Chicago up 444% for the series launch and 11% of YouTube views for the series coming from Chicago.

“We really strive to be creative and disruptive within our efforts to make sure not only are we checking all the boxes from a media buying and planning standpoint, but making some noise and generating some attention in a more unique and disruptive way,” Comedy Central svp, consumer marketing Shawn Silverman tells Adweek. —E.O.

This story first appeared in the Oct. 19, 2020, issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.

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