UPDATE: Comedy Central’s Roast of Justin Bieber was the most social Roast ever, with 6.2 million total viewers across all platforms and 7 billion social impressions.
The telecast dominated Twitter’s trending topics all night long and amassed more than 3 million Facebook mentions, becoming the most social show on television Sunday night.
Monday’s Comedy Central Roast of Justin Bieber is more than just a night of fun and good-hearted mockery – it also marks a new era for the teen pop star and a major night of marketing for the network.
Bieber seems very prepared for the jokes that are coming at him in Comedy Central’s teaser campaign and that was intentional. He wanted to do this Roast as a way to rebrand himself and boost his tarnished image, using it as his ultimate publicity tour.
“Justin came to Comedy Central ready to sit in that chair,” said Walter Levitt, CMO of Comedy Central. “He came ready to play.”
And so did Comedy Central – ready with teasers galore, a red-carpet event, Tumblr contests, Snapchat Discovery posts, a partnership with new app Whipclip and a very involved star who helped make this Roast one of the network’s most social events yet.
After years of run-ins with the law, rocky relationships and controversial antics, Bieber and his team wanted to celebrate his 21st birthday with a turning point – a very public turning point.
Comedy Central’s Roast, which taped March 14 In Los Angeles and will premiere on Monday, March 30 at 10 p.m., features Roast Master Kevin Hart with roasters Hannibal Buress, Chris D’Elia, Snoop Dogg, Natasha Leggero, Ludacris, Shaquille O’Neal, Jeff Ross, Martha Stewart and SNL’s Pete Davidson. As Comedy Central’s Roast site explains, it’s all in the name of holding “one of the world’s biggest teen idols over an open flame.”
The first teaser for the event was released mid-February, introducing the tagline “Come and get it.” It was also the first promo Comedy Central shot with him, which proves how ready he was for this.
“From the get go he said he was ready, he wanted to do it,” said Levitt. “We certainly wanted to make sure that idea came through creatively.”
The “Egged” teaser also marks the beginning of mocking Bieber directly for things he has been involved in over the years. The most recent Roast of James Franco zeroed in on his do-it-all, indie film persona, but this one hit Bieber with his own past antics (egging houses, car accidents, etc.).
That spot alone has now been seen by 20 million people across Comedy Central’s digital platforms, which, according to Levitt, also speaks to the power of his Beliebers.
That was another easy target - his very active and very dedicated fan base kept the campaign going, watching and sharing the Roast’s promotional spots.
In “The Beliebers Can’t Even,” the network combined one of his most famous songs, “Baby,” with a slow-motion video of his fans reacting to all the hate.
But if you really want to see how involved Bieber was in this campaign, you only have to see the spot with legendary roaster and comedian Jeff Ross, mocking Bieber’s recent Calvin Klein campaign.
Levitt says that Bieber and Ross met for the first time on the day of this shoot, and even after Ross whispered ridiculous things in his ear and introduced himself as Bieber’s worst nightmare, the star still kept somehow kept a straight face. For an inside look of how that happened, check out Comedy Central’s behind-the-scenes video of the shoot.
But Ross wasn’t the only one preparing to roast the pop star. Comedy Central let its fans in on the action too, with social plans across all of its popular platforms.
Socially speaking, Levitt says that the network has (so far) reached more than 4 billion people through messaging across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, YouTube and Snapchat Discovery.
On Tumblr, Comedy Central launched a fan art contest, asking people to submit their own posters for the event, with a winner being unveiled at the Roast’s pre-show Monday night.
Using #Sharetheroast, Comedy Central asked “Beliebers and Non-Beliebers” to create a new, original poster for the night of the Roast, with favorites being posted to its Tumblr account leading up to March 30. Instructions were simple: Include the network’s name, the show’s name and the date, “because we said so. If you want, you can also include the time (10/9c). We won’t hate it.”
Tumblr and Instagram also had a major presence at the taping of the Roast and its red carpet, with a GIF booth and portrait studio where a fashion photographer took shots of celebrities and roasters at the event.
Watch me and others clown my boy @justinbieber @ComedyCentral #BieberRoast TONIGHT at 10/9c! It’s about 2 go DOWN! pic.twitter.com/jhpn6AczjX
— SHAQ (@SHAQ) March 30, 2015
.@natashaleggero will put her bitch on a leash. She also brought her dog. The #BieberRoast premieres Monday at 10/9c. pic.twitter.com/sETN9LQ62T— Comedy Central (@ComedyCentral) March 29, 2015
Tonight’s the night! Tune in to @ComedyCentral at 10pm for the Roast of @justinbieber #BieberRoast pic.twitter.com/vgnc16NTiR
— Pete Davidson (@petedavidson) March 30, 2015
The entire pre-show was released on Comedy Central’s app over the weekend, and Facebook and Snapchat Discovery come into play on Monday, with behind-the-scenes video footage and clips from the comedians being released throughout the day.
Last week, leading up to the Roast, Comedy Central also partnered with Whipclip, a new app that lets fans watch, clip and share their favorite TV moments as they happen. As launch partner, Whipclip featured clips from Bieber on its feed throughout the week and made it possible for fans to watch moments from the Roast, clip the part they liked then share the video on social platforms.
“People generally love sharing comedy content, and he has a rabid fan base and a lot of people who just know him or know of him,” said Levitt. “We think this is likely to be one of the most social TV events in 2015.”
Because of that social expectation, Comedy Central will also re-air a social media version of the show on Thursday, highlighting the night’s biggest moments along with viewer reactions on social media.
And, of course, Bieber’s incredibly active social following hasn’t hurt either.
With almost 62 million followers on Twitter, 74 million likes on Facebook and 24 million fans on Instagram, Bieber posted almost daily about the upcoming Roast, even retweeting his roasters who were preparing their burns.
Just watched the next #BieberRoast commercial that’s coming. @realjeffreyross is crazy. Am I ready? No. Lol
— Justin Bieber (@justinbieber) February 27, 2015
Watch @justinbieber learn how poor, defenseless houses feel. The #BieberRoast premieres March 30. https://t.co/yJH5D9exTM
— Comedy Central (@ComedyCentral) February 17, 2015
@ComedyCentral @petedavidson someone my age? Wow. #BieberRoast
— Justin Bieber (@justinbieber) March 13, 2015
It’s a ROAST. My man @justinbieber was a great sport. #BieberRoast airs March 30th. https://t.co/xy93ve2DGo
— Jeff Ross (@realjeffreyross) March 17, 2015
Plans throughout the night ramp up significantly, with Comedy Central treating the roast as a true “pop culture moment,” according to Levitt, who says it’s going to be big. “When you’ve got one the biggest celebrities in the world being roasted, people are genuinely interested.”