NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Can Stephen Colbert and Coke oust "Mad Men" and Eight O'Clock Coffee as the sponsored cable-TV avatar app of the year? Comedy Central aims to do just that with a new social-media application launching today at ColbertNation.com.
"The Colbert Nation Interview Simulator," co-created by Oddcast and "made possible by Coke Zero," is an interactive application that allows fans to insert themselves into an online interview with Mr. Colbert, edit his questions and even write and record their own responses.
So what does Coke Zero have to do with this?
"With Coke Zero, it's possible to have real taste with zero calories, just like the 'Interview Simulator' makes it possible for you to be interviewed by Stephen Colbert," said Coke spokeswoman Susan Stribling. "Also, Colbert is very relevant to our target of young adult males. He shares the same irreverent personality with the brand."
The "Interview Simulator" also syncs up with Facebook Connect, so fans can insert their own Facebook photos into their Colbert avatar, and Flux, MTV Networks' social-networking platform that all ColbertNation fans must be members of to participate.
ColbertNation.com will roll out three more Coke Zero-sponsored avatar apps inspired by the show by year-end, including "Better Know Your District" (Oct. 13), "Formidable Opponent" (Nov. 10) and a table-turning chance to virtually interview Colbert (Dec. 8.)
Rachel Maceiras, a senior producer for Comedy Central Digital Media, said Colbert's fans have long been more interactive than most, citing the show's popular Green Screen Challenge as the most prominent example.
"Our fans are incredibly active, and constantly submit their own high-tech videos. But what about the person who doesn't have editing software of six kids and not enough time? How do we get them involved?" Ms. Maceiras said.
The benchmarks for the app are fairly high, given the 700,000 unique users who frequented ColbertNation.com in July, according to a Compete.com analysis. (The 700,000 uniques are only a portion of the 11 million registered users within the Flux family of sites.)
A half-million people downloaded AMC's "Mad Men Yourself" avatar, created by Deep Focus and sponsored by Eight O'Clock Coffee. Although the "Mad Men" app was used mostly to broadcast fans' love of the show through their profile pictures on Twitter and Facebook, the Colbert app is a more involved experience that also has to adhere to a few ground rules on behalf of Coke Zero -- like no profanity or blasphemous language. Each clip will be vetted by Coke and Comedy Central, a process Ms. Stribling called "pretty typical nowadays."
David Goodfriend, VP-digital ad sales for MTV Entertainment Networks, didn't disclose any specific benchmarks for the app, but was confident the Coke Zero brand would remain intact throughout.
"For us it's about having the experience travel across the web and allow people to view this and work within it wherever they are," he said. "We want to give fans the opportunity to share their clips with their friends and create a great around Coke Zero."