For Viewers Who Like To Laugh

TBS’ Battin put a comedy stake in the ground

TBS’ “Very Funny” brand is simple, but it gets the point across: TBS is the place to go for viewers looking to laugh.

Creating that brand wasn’t as obvious as it may now seem. Molly Battin, senior VP of brand development and digital platforms for TBS, TNT and Turner Classic Movies, started by examining exactly what consumers were looking for.

“We identified viewers that loved comedy with characters and stories to which they could relate. There was a perfect alignment between these viewers and our comedy lineup of Seinfeld, Friends, Everybody Loves Raymond and Sex and the City, and there was no one filling that void for them,” she says.

“So we put a stake in the ground and said, 'We are going to stand for funny,” she adds. “We are going to become the authorities for funny.’”

From that stance, and plenty of research, emerged two notable branding campaigns. First, TBS launched a series of spots in which fictional people phone a call center inside the made-up TBS Headquarters, present their potentially comedic situations, and get an evaluation. TBS then extended that idea into the “Department of Humor Analysis,” complete with clever on-air spots and an elaborate digital extension at The campaign, featuring John Cleese, went on to win the Cannes Golden Lion Award.

“It evolved into something bigger than even we thought it would be,” says the Princeton (B.A.) and Northwestern (MBA) graduate. “We took the brand and married it to our programming. That really put a place and a face on the network.”

Says Turner Entertainment Networks President Steve Koonin, “Molly has an incredible ability to take a complex problem and make it simple. At TBS, Molly looked backwards before she looked forwards. And she’s an excellent gambler: She knows how to take an intelligent risk. When she’s told to get something done, I tell her once, and that’s the last time I worry about it.”

Since the “Very Funny” campaign launched in 2004, the network has become more aggressive about creating original comedy series to accompany its syndicated sitcoms. My Boys, starring Jordana Spiro and Jim Gaffigan, has its second-season premieres in July.

TBS also launched Tyler Perry’s much-anticipated House of Payne this month and will premiere The Bill Engvall Show on July 17.

Battin’s success in branding TBS led Turner to put the mother of three in charge of the on-air and digital branding of TNT and Turner Classic Movies (TCM) as well.

“What’s great about the two brands is that they are really different. TNT is a brand about emotion. It’s very aspirational; it’s about passion and conflict and heart-pumping. It’s all very 'lean-forward’ drama,” she says. “We do things on TBS that we would never do on TNT.”

And with all the new digital platforms, “it’s more important to have a brand than ever,” says Battin. “Once we create a strong brand, we can take it anywhere.”