NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Conan O' Brien's self-described "flat tuchus" had barely warmed the seat of his new desk on "The Tonight Show" when things began to sour in January. Not even eight months in L.A., and NBC attempted to edge him back toward "Late Night" hours in order to accommodate a new slot for Jay Leno, after the predecessor's ill-fated go at prime time. In the end, Mr. O' Brien decided to leave the Peacock network altogether, but instead of fading from view, his star -- and brand -- glimmers more brightly than ever, thanks in large part to an army of online fans and a savvy integrated marketing campaign to promote his new show on TBS, "Conan."
The comedian's surge in popularity began in the midst of the late-night debacle, when a swarm of followers rallied around their beloved "Coco" on the "I'm With Coco" fan-originated Facebook page -- now an official site boasting 1,082,740 likes, and on Twitter, where his devoted number at about 1.8 million. Shortly after, Mr. O' Brien announced that he would be taking his funny business on the road, hosting the "30-City Legally Prohibited from Being Funny on Television Tour" of live shows, sponsored by American Express, many of which sold out on the spot.
During the lead-up to the Nov. 8 debut of "Conan," the comedian managed to keep fans salivating with a highly entertaining, social-media-driven integrated campaign that—if it's anything like the show it promotes -- is a promising sign of things to come. The effort so far has featured a Pandora's Box of traditional broadcast promos, Twitter updates, a live webcam, YouTube videos and even a Foursquare-linked dirigible.
Much of it originates on the official Teamcoco.com site, now the portal for all things O' Brien. It's there that he first announced the name of the new show -- "Conan," or "Conaw," as his sloppy writing suggested-- while other videos saw him responding to Facebook comments ŕ la Old Spice's Isaiah Mustafa.
The effort, not surprisingly, has also drawn some major advertiser support. AT&T turned out as sponsor of the flying billboard, as well as accompanying online skits.
And his first night back on TV, he bested Jay Leno and David Letterman in the ratings .