Jeff Ross Does Drive-By Roastings for Dodge in Comedy Central Branded Spot

Viacom Velocity-produced content promotes Roast Battle

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Many brands would want to stay clear of comedian Jeff Ross's no-holds-barred roasts for Comedy Central, but not Dodge.

The company is teaming up with Ross—known as Comedy Central's "Roastmaster General"—for two branded content spots airing on the network this week, promoting his upcoming Comedy Central event special, Jeff Ross Presents Roast Battle, and the Dodge Challenger. The spots were produced and shot by Viacom Velocity, Viacom's branded content division.

In the first spot, debuting today, Ross and Roast Battle referee Brian Moses drive a Dodge Challenger around L.A.'s Sunset Strip, as Ross uses a bullhorn to roast passerby. The spot promotes the July 28 debut of Roast Battle, which is a four-night, bracket-style insult comedy event in which comedians trade insults one-on-one, with celebrity judges deciding who advances to the next round. The show, hosted by Ross, culminates in a live championship finale on July 31.

The car company, which has been a part of other Comedy Central roasts, was "really excited" for a more active partnership, said Michelle Zoni, vp, integrated marketing, for Viacom Velocity/Comedy Central. "They wanted to come up with a really strong idea that was original to Roast Battle after everything they've done with the Roast in the past."

Ross, meanwhile, wanted to make sure the spot  was "authentic to what Roast Battle is, which of course meant unscripted and real," said Beth Trentacoste, svp, creative director, Viacom Velocity/Comedy Central.

Viacom Velocity shut down two miles of the Sunset Strip for two hours on June 8. Ross "really wanted to be on the Sunset Strip, and he also wanted to incorporate the Comedy Store," where Roast Battle began, said Trentacoste.

The morning of the shoot, Ross tweeted that he would be roasting people on the street that evening, "and people were showing up in droves as word got out," said Trentacoste. Twenty-two production assistants were deployed to secure releases for all the potential roast targets walking by.

While Ross' potentially anything-but-brand-friendly barbs would scare some advertisers away, "Dodge was fully on board. They were on set, but they trusted us and were really happy for it to be authentic," said Trentacoste. Dodge also was able to sign off on the final product, and ding any jokes. "This is the first time we've ever had a sponsor incorporated in live roasting of any capacity."

The second branded content spot, which will air the day of Roast Battle's July 31 finale, highlights Roast Battles held around the country last month, while also spotlighting the Challenger.

Unused material from the shoot could end up on Comedy Central and Dodge's social media platforms this week. "Dodge is a convergent [multiplatform] sponsor of Roast Battle, so we have a digital and social component to this as well," said Zoni. "We are looking at the footage right now to see if we can carve out some additional pieces for our social platform."

@jasonlynch Jason Lynch is TV Editor at Adweek, overseeing trends, technology, personalities and programming across broadcast, cable and streaming video.