Campaigns of Distinction: ‘Chappelle’s Show’ DVD

Jun 20, 2005  •  Post A Comment

By Eric Estrin

When it came to marketing the DVD from “Chappelle’s Show’s” second season, nobody could accuse the folks at Comedy Central of not knowing what they had.

Show host Dave Chappelle’s sketch comedy series was the network’s signature hit and the DVD compiled from its first season has sold close to 3 million units-the most successful TV-based video on the market, the network claims.

“I think what we set out to do originally was to harness the incredible power of ‘Chappelle’s’ brand,” said Peter Risafi, senior VP brand creative and creative director for the network. “The show has been such a milestone for Comedy Central and for television; it was a reinvention of sketch comedy-completely courageous and brazen.”

The challenge, then, was to create a campaign that would capture the essence of Mr. Chappelle’s irreverent humor in a way that would instantly be recognized by the star’s legion of fans.

Working with others at the network and with their partners at Paramount Home Video, Mr. Risafi and Mr. Loomis started by focusing on Mr. Chappelle’s comedy itself.

“The thing that broke through to a lot people was the ‘I’m Rick James, bitch’ segments on the show,” Mr. Risafi said. “If anything made ‘Chappelle’ explode, it was that segment, and those four words, so that became a cornerstone of the cross-channel sell-through on television and radio.”

For the print campaign, the team crafted a different four-word phrase-one that reflected Mr. Chappelle’s attitude but also trumpeted what Mr. Loomis termed “an aggressive call to action.”

“It’s about damn time” was the headline they used.

The campaign marked a subtle departure from the selling of the show’s first-season DVD, reflecting an evolution in Mr. Chappelle’s on-air persona. In that maiden effort, the star came off as a kind of jester, said Nancy Wolpert, VP of Comedy Central home entertainment. In the second year, she said, “He became the star.”

The shift was reflected in everything, including the graphics and color schemes and the wardrobe shown on the DVD’s packaging. “It all had a consistent look, a very central image reinforced to the consumer,” Ms. Wolpert said. “You see Chappelle there in his cap, his jean jacket, his arms folded, exuding a wonderful nonchalance but still with a look of seriousness about the comedy.

“What Peter and Richard were able to do was to take everyone’s words and marketing-speak and turn it into a visual statement,” she said. “They know what the show is all about, and it’s reflected in every aspect of the campaign.”

Also receiving an award will be art director Rolyn Barthelman and designer David O’Hanlon.

Peter Risafi

Title: Senior VP, brand creative, and creative director, Comedy Central

How long in current position: Five years

Year of birth: 1957

Place of birth: Hempstead, N.Y.

Who knew? Mr. Risafi’s first professional job in the business was as an actor playing a talking bear in an educational series for Native American children.

Richard Loomis

Title: Senior VP, brand marketing, Comedy Central

How long in current position: 41/2 years

Year of birth: 1963

Place of birth: Rochester, N.Y.

Who knew? At age 12 Mr. Loomis had to dig a grave for the family’s Great Dane. “It wasn’t that traumatic,” he said, “but it was a lot of work.”