JWT Builds Comedy Central Show -- but With No Brand in Mind

Animated Series Not for a Client; Will Appear on Network's Broadband Site

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NEW YORK -- They cruise the mean streets of Miami, talking about the virtues of smooth skin. During blood-and-guts-filled shootouts with bad guys, they discuss "backne." They are Flex and Zephyr, two chain-smoking, gun-toting, appearance-conscious cops at the center of an animated web series created by JWT.
Flex and Zephyr: These gun-toting metrosexual cops were created by a JWT group known as the Nursery.

The animated shorts have been selected for a development deal by Comedy Central. Under the deal, the WPP Group agency will write scripts for six episodes and explain to the network how the story line will develop. "[Flex and Zephyr] struck me as an interesting concept," said Lou Wallach, senior VP-original programming and development, Comedy Central. "They live in Miami, they're concerned with Loofah sponges and Prada shoes. They're metrosexuals."

JWT's Nursery

The saga of these loofah-loving cops came to Mr. Wallach's attention via a longtime producer familiar with JWT who told the Comedy Central exec about the agency's recently launched production unit, JWTwo, and the group of animators, filmmakers, writers and producers that make up a JWT unit called The Nursery. The group focuses on developing new types of content, largely web-based comedy.

Unlike the agency's traditional stock of TV, radio or print ads, the work generated by JWTwo and The Nursery is not always commissioned using clients' funds or even with a specific brand in mind.

"We believe that developing expertise in building audiences in general is something we need to practice, as opposed to preach," said Ty Montague, chief creative officer and co-president, JWT, New York.

Cable shorts

Some of the content developed by Nursery inhabitants has ended up on cable -- most recently, the poetry of Billy Collins has been animated and licensed to the Sundance Channel as interstitials, and a 65-episode microseries called "Love Bites" was licensed to agency client Unilever for its SunSilk hair products that aired on TBS (though the brand is not mentioned in the shorts, one of the themes is "hair-apy").

The deal struck by the agency and Comedy Central is a first for both. "In my seven years at Comedy Central, this is the first time I've worked with an agency as a production studio," said Mr. Wallach, who regularly scouts potential broadband and digital content for Motherload, Comedy Central's video broadband site that made its debut in late 2005. "You assess each project, whether it works for our young-male demo, as well as particular media platforms. It's a process similar to developing TV shows."

Could end up on TV

Under the agreement, JWT and Comedy Central are co-owners of "Flex and Zephyr." Comedy Central pays the agency a fee for delivering six episodes. If the project gets the thumbs-up by network executives, six to 10 webisodes will be produced for Motherload. If the show catches on, a TV show may be developed.

Brand integration is a possibility, said Mr. Wallach, though it has not been discussed much so far. "The concept is integration-friendly," Mr. Wallach said. "They're talking about metrosexual stuff."
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