Comedy Central is the television network known for potty-mouth cartoon characters, sketch shows, web redemptions, standup comedy, and satirical commentary on politics and current events. But behind the scenes the network is all business when it comes to creating its popular shows, and promoting them.
The network’s promotional efforts span print, web, and video — and every piece of creative begins its life in digital form. During the content creation process, these video clips, graphics and ads require approval from a variety of internal teams within the company, and they get updated in rapid-fire iterations throughout the day.
In a landscape where major players in digital content management were offering an array of generic products, Comedy Central took the road less traveled and built a better workflow system for itself, from the ground up.
The project brief called for a system that would foster collaboration, improve the speed and efficiency of the group’s creative output, and bring order and transparency to the approval process. But it must do no harm. The topline mandate was to respect how the teams already worked – and improve it – rather than overhauling the process.
Once deployed, the system became the core component of the network’s media management strategy. It brought together three separate Brand Creative teams and played a key role in helping the network unify its marketing strategy and speak with a single voice across all media and platforms.
The Brand Creative group within Comedy Central operated two existing approvals systems that served the unique needs of the on-air and off-air workgroups. These systems had been independently developed and were both in need of security and technical upgrades. Meanwhile, those two groups, along with a third (digital) had recently merged. This created an imperative to glean the best features of the existing systems and develop a unified channel-wide Creative Review and Approval System for all to use.
Research methodology centered on heuristic analysis. Through observation and interviews with key members of each team, the discovery phase documented existing workflows, identified mission-critical features, and unearthed further ways that life for the team could be bettered.
Features that some users required were irrelevant to others. For example, project managers wanted to view all the related projects together, and to instantly see the approval status of individual elements. Video editors cared about the capture and display of certain metadata. Producers wanted to create presentations of their work. Creative directors required version control – to track the progress of a particular graphic or video clip through all its iterations to the finished piece.
Yet, formal approvals had not been implemented uniformly across the groups, so any approval function had to be optional and unobtrusive.
Comedy Central’s Brand Creative Review and Approval Site is cloud-based and built on an open-source framework. It manages the creative output of the on-air, off-air, and digital platform teams, and helps them accomplish daily tasks quickly and easily. Users have a centralized place to upload their work into projects organized by major campaigns.
The system shows users their recent projects, lightboxes and sent files in a personal dashboard. Brand Creative work is organized by Campaigns and Projects. In the Campaigns view, users can see all promotional work being done across the Brand Creative team. Each Project shows thumbnails of the uploaded files, plus useful information and tools for essential tasks.
Projects maintain a running list of participants, allowing managers to see at a glance who is involved. Managers can also see instantly the status of every file based on its approval flag.
Users can create new Projects and upload files into those Projects. They can undertake a variety of actions on the Projects and files including renaming, adding files to a lightbox, sharing for approval, downloading, adding revisions on top of existing files, adding notes and comments, approving or rejecting, archiving projects, and communicating quickly and easily with individual coworkers or the entire team, with one click.
Approvers can see immediately that new items await their review. Comparing iterations of an item is done through an instant slideshow, and approval is granted through a single click. Feedback can be left directly attached to the element, and additionally sent through the internal messaging system to any participant in the project.
Creative Directors and the Marketing team can see an overview of the entire Campaign via an instant slideshow, to audit for effectiveness and consistency across platforms. Approving, rejecting, commenting and sharing are all done with one or two mouseclicks.