Viacom’s Creative Renaissance Ignites With “Jersey Shore Family Vacation” and “A Quiet Place”

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

In the last week, Paramount Pictures’ A Quiet Place won the domestic box office and MTV’s Jersey Shore Family Vacation rolled to the strongest unscripted cable debut in six years. The efforts provide commercial evidence of Viacom’s ongoing transformation – fueled by wide-ranging creative investments in talent, programming, and marketing.

The chart-topping numbers are especially encouraging in a media environment of ever-more-elusive audiences. The divergent paths to success of these two properties – A Quiet Place delivering something novel by elevating a horror story to a genre-busting blockbuster that appeals to all audiences, Jersey Shore Family Vacation building on MTV’s deep well of intellectual property to connect with its core demographic – underscore the way in which a creative renaissance is driving Viacom’s growth.

Marketing a near-silent film in an era of loud

Making a bet on the film’s potential playability, Paramount unveiled A Quiet Place at SXSW to great response. The highly original film immediately started compiling incredibly strong reviews. A clever marketing campaign then helped launch A Quiet Place to a $50.3 million opening weekend, good for the second-best domestic opening of 2018 (behind Black Panther). With a $17 million budget, the Platinum Dunes-produced and John Krasinski-directed film is a validation of Paramount’s reoriented slate and refreshed marketing approach under CEO Jim Gianopulos, who joined the studio last year.

“An innovative concept, with great talent both behind the camera and in front, and a savvy distribution and marketing plan led to Paramount’s biggest opening since 2016,” wrote Viacom CEO Bob Bakish in a staff memo about the film’s success.

Building strong relationships with talent has become a particular focus for Viacom under Bakish, and Krasinski, who will produce and star in the Paramount Television-produced Jack Ryan for Amazon and co-created Paramount Network’s hit show Lip Sync Battle, demonstrates the enormous cross-brand potential that forming such deep relationships can yield.  

A Quiet Place’s unique storyline – featuring a family tiptoeing through a post-apocalyptic world infested with insectoid monsters that will devour anyone who makes a sound – created an opportunity for Paramount to execute an equally original pre-release marketing plan. They delivered: moviegoers in nearly 100 theater chains caught the sonically attuned monsters devouring noisy spectators in pre-show spots, with the stern warning that “the movie theater should be A Quiet Place.” A pre-Super Bowl ad, a launch of the second trailer on Ellen, and a kick-off spot and accompanying stunts at the SXSW Film Festival primed diverse audiences for the film’s release.

“Paramount’s reconstituted management team is focused on allowing great filmmakers to make great movies, and then doing everything we can to support those movies,” said Paramount Pictures Chairman and CEO Jim Gianopulos. “In A Quiet Place, we did exactly that: We gave a talented young director license to put together something unlike anything else out there, and then threw our marketing and distribution expertise behind the project.”

Tapping an iconic property to connect with a core audience

Jersey Shore Family Vacation had less work to do in the name-recognition department, as its iconic predecessor, Jersey Shore, had long ago etched its cast into the cultural conversation. The unknown was whether this fist-pumping bunch, six years older and reunited in the beaches and bars of Miami, would still connect with audiences.

It did. The show’s nearly 10 million total viewers and 4.2 average rating in the core 18-34 demo on live-plus-three-days metrics made Jersey Shore Family Vacation the most-watched unscripted debut on U.S. cable since 2012. The original Jersey Shore had ignited a global franchise – with spin-offs in the UK, Spain, Poland and Mexico, plus the recently launched hit Floribama Shore in the U.S – and the cast’s return resonated globally, with the premiere airing in nearly 180 countries and territories.

The strong ratings complemented a seven-hour trending run on Twitter and acted as an emphatic endorsement of MTV’s revamped creative direction under President Chris McCarthy. Under his leadership, the network has grown ratings for three consecutive quarters for the first time in seven years behind a blend of revitalized franchises, returning classics and original programs.  

“MTV is about celebrating youth culture and music where talent and creativity unite to produce content that resonates across generations,” said McCarthy, who also oversees VH1 and Logo. “Jersey Shore Family Vacation and the new Floribama Shore demonstrate how MTV can harness our heritage to create programming that appeals to a mass audience while serving as a great launching pad for our new series.”

All Good, All Year Pedals on With Cycle for Survival Fundraiser

Another year, another Team Viacom success story.

Part of Team Viacom at Cycle for Survival’s New York City fundraiser.

In a continuing tradition central to Viacommunity’s All Good, All Year initiative, 24 Team Viacom employees in  New York and Los Angeles joined the battle to beat rare cancers by participating in Cycle for Survival’s 12th year of rides, helping to raise some of the more than $40 million in critical funds that the organization has raised for rare cancer research this season alone.

In Los Angeles, eight riders rallied at Equinox Sports Club West LA for a four-hour single-bike relay, joining the more than 150 teams sharing 300 bikes among 1,500 participants. Paramount’s Anna Sivak won a $100 Amazon gift card from a Team Viacom fundraising challenge, while Equinox named the studio’s Kim Seiniger as the session’s most enthusiastic rider, awarding her a $100 donation to her fundraising page.

“Team Viacom was in full force for the Cycle for Survival ride at the Westside Equinox Gym. There were so many amazing riders pumped for the cause,” said Mary Jo Braun, executive director of Music Clearance at Paramount Pictures, who joined colleagues Ryan Stouffer Sandra Hiestand, Agnieszka Szymanska, Kevin Chalk and Stephanie Aguilar on the ride.

In New York, 16 riders shared two bikes over four hours at the second annual Media and Tech Innovators ride at Equinox Bryant Park, which hosted 600 riders from 30 companies.

“What an honor it was to be part of such a remarkable event and ride for those who have fought and continue to fight to beat rare cancers,” said Amanda Yasoshima, a manager at Velocity Brand Partnerships.

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Voting Is Open for Viacom’s Webby Nominations

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Viacom scored 13 nominees for this year’s Webby Awards, appearing across diverse categories – a blend of comedy, kids’ stuff, award shows activations, marketing campaigns, lifestyle programming and more – underscoring the company’s reach across broad demographics. Each of these 13 standouts is eligible for both The Webby Award – chosen by the 2,000-member International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences – and The Webby People’s Voice Award, which fans can vote on here through Thursday, April 19.

The 22nd annual iteration of the best-of-the-internet awards also granted Viacom 14 honoree slots, a sort of honorable mention that positions the activations alongside the vote-eligible finalists.

Click through below to vote for specific Viacom entries. The Webby Awards will announce this year’s honorees on Tuesday, April 24, and will host an award show in New York City on May 14. Fans can stream the show on the Webby website the following morning.

13 NOMINEES

Viacom Velocity:

  • The Big Sick – Life in the Laugh Lane – Film & Video/Branded Entertainment/Comedy

Vote now

  • VH1 Martha & Snoop’s Potluck Dinner Party – Social/Content & Marketing/Food & Drink

Vote now

  • MTV’s Lit! Dance In: Atlanta – Social/Video/Culture & Lifestyle

Vote now

  • Listen – Film & Video/Video Channels & Networks/Public Service & Activism

Vote now

Comedy Central:

  • The Daily Show: Between the Scenes – Film & Video/General/Comedy: Long Form or Series

Vote now

  • The Daily Show: Make Trump Tweets Eight Again – Websites/General/Humor

Vote now

  • The Daily Show social media – Social/Features, Best Writing

Vote now

  • The Daily Show social media – Social/Content & Marketing

Vote now

Nickelodeon:

  • Nickelodeon Soccer Stars 2Games – General/Sports

Vote now

  • Fart DJ – Social/Content & Marketing/Weird

Vote now

Viacom International Media Networks:

  • 2017 MTV EMA – Entertainment, Events, Video Social/Content & Marketing/Events

Vote now

  • 2017 MTV EMA App – Mobile Sites & Apps/General/Events

Vote now

Paramount Pictures (with WP Brand Studio):

  • Truth to Power: The “Inconvenient” Voices Taking on Climate Change – Advertising, Media & PR/Branded Content/Media & Entertainment

Vote now

14 HONOREES:

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Nick Animation Dazzles with Content Celebrating Women’s History Month

Viacom celebrated Women’s History Month with events and activations throughout the company, including a global cross-brand collaboration for International Women’s Day on March 8, and employee events (including an employee Art Exhibit) sponsored by HERE, Viacom’s resource group for women.

Women’s History Month is especially fascinating at a creative company like Viacom, as different brands and divisions offer bespoke contributions to honor women’s achievement.

Take, for example, Nickelodeon’s Culture & Digital Community team in Burbank, which collaborated with their in-house archives team to curate and create a selection of digital content for the Nick Animation social media pages to honor women in Nickelodeon cartoons throughout March. Selections of their work are highlighted below.

Charlotte Pickles by Alison Loccrichio | Nick Animation

This one, created by intern Alison Loccrichio, sketches a magnificent portrait of her “favorite boss” Charlotte Pickles (who was indeed a boss; I can’t recall a single episode of The Rugrats where she was not dressed in a power suit with a ‘90s-era cell phone permanently attached to her ear), as part of a Women’s History Month series, “featuring pioneering Nickelodeon animated characters”:

Yes, Charlotte Pickles was truly a pioneer.

Grey Griffin Voices Lola, Lana and Lily from the Loud House | Nick Animation

Here’s another, featuring Grey Griffin, the actor who gives voice to Lola, Lana and Lily on The Loud House. “There’s always room for talented people,” said Griffin. “Don’t let anyone discourage you by telling you what a ‘small world’ it is. I mean, it is a tight circle, but if you’re good enough, the circle will widen!”

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Why Kids Thrive, American Teens Driving Change, Sports in Australia and More: International Insights Digest, April Edition

by Christian Kurz, Global Consumer Insights, Viacom

Viacom’s latest consumer insights include confronting discrimination in the US, what makes global kids flourish, American teens driving change, kids and sports in Australia, and who global teens trust. As always, on our blog you can find these and all our stories in English, Latin American Spanish and Brazilian Portuguese.

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Nick International Highlights What #KidsCan Do With Nine Extraordinary Stories

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

A 16-year-old girl in the United Arab Emirates organizes environmental clean-ups in more than 10 countries. A 13-year-old in the Philippines gives gifts and hygiene products to 10,000 street kids in his community. A 16-year-old who fled Syria starts a school for 200 children in his refugee camp.

These are three of the extraordinary youngsters that Nickelodeon International has partnered with KidsRights Foundation to spotlight through #KidsCan, an international campaign that will profile these inspiring stories for audiences around the world.

The campaign, part of Nick’s international Together for Good initiative, will air new monthly profiles, beginning this month and continuing through December, of these nine kids, each of which has been a finalist or a winner of KidsRight’s International Children’s Peace Prize.

“Nickelodeon is extremely proud to partner with KidsRights as we celebrate young people making the world a better place, one project at a time,” said Nickelodeon International Vice President of Corporate Social Responsibility Bradley Archer-Haynes. “Kids everywhere have the power to make a difference, regardless of age or location. We wanted to provide a platform to help amplify their stories, while pointing to resources that help young people remember they can do anything.”

Here’s a closer look at some of these incredible stories:

Kehkashan Basu – United Arab Emirates: 2016 Peace Prize winner focused on environmental sustainability.

Kesz Valdezn – Philippines: 2012 Peace Prize winner focused on child healthcare.

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Art Therapy with HERE and Karen Margolis

Much of artist Karen Margolis’s work embodies duality. Her series on cartography involves layering stacks of old maps, then using a soldering iron to burn holes into the textual landscape: in her words, “generating something new from what was lost.”

Margolis mined her college journal entries to source inspiration for a series called Emotion Flow Charts, repurposing words from what she describes as “rants and dreams…interspersed with deeply poignant moments.” She matched words such as “angst,” “sorrow” and “self-doubt” with a bold color swatch arranged according to numerical Pantone (aka those cards you pick up at the hardware store when you’re trying to choose a paint color).

Margolis described them as “Encrypted self-portraits.”

“They’re revealing and concealing at the same time.”

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Kids’ Choice Awards 2018: Live Updates

On Friday, March 23, I began live blogging my Kids’ Choice Awards experience as a Viacom insider. Here’s what went down.

This post was originally published on Medium.

A sublime experience

I left the Forum about two hours ago (7 p.m. PST) and it’s finally setting in that the KCAs are over. And to be honest, I was a bit relieved — not that the event was over, but that I had successfully made it from New York to Los Angeles, to pre-parties, to the press tent (I got lost twice), to the Orange Carpet and finally to my seat.

John Cena gets slimed. (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)

As I was live blogging, my goal was to try and keep my “live” coverage to a minimum — a paradox, I know. But as any child of the internet age knows, you can’t truly experience anything if you’re trying to document it in real-time. I’ve made this mistake many times in life — professional and personal — and the lesson is, you retain much more about whatever’s happening in front of you if you focus your attention on what is in front of you, not at your phone or notepad.

Here’s what stuck with me.

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RuPaul Charles Becomes the First Drag Star Inducted to Hollywood’s Walk of Fame

On Friday, March 16, RuPaul Charles werked his way down Hollywood’s Walk of Fame in one of his dashing tartan suits and trademark glasses. The entertainment icon and LGBT advocate was finally cementing his status as a Hollywood legend, with a gleaming bronze star.

RuPaul is not only the newest member of the Hollywood Walk of Fame, he’s the only drag star to be inducted.

“This is absolutely the most important moment in my professional career,” said RuPaul in a speech at the ceremony.

Actress Jane Fonda introduced RuPaul, telling the crowd that he deserves a star at least three times the size of anyone else’s, to match the colossal contributions he’s made to entertainment and society at large.

“Behind the glamour, behind the drag queen is a man of great depth, incredible intelligence and compassion,” said Fonda.

The Emmy-, Critics Choice– and GLAAD Media Award-winner is credited with catapulting queer culture and drag to mainstream society, largely due to his hosting gig on VH1 franchise-turned-cultural phenomenon RuPaul’s Drag Race.

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Viacom to Support Courageous Youth Activists Who Have Had Enough of Gun Violence

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

February 27, 2018 – Parkland, Florida, United States: Volunteers hang banners, including this one reading “Stay strong, Stoneman Douglas, we’re with you,” around the perimeter of Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school to welcome back students who returned to school on Feb. 28, two weeks after the mass shooting that killed 17 students and staff. (Susan Stocker/SF Sun Sentinel/Polaris)

In the weeks since a gunman claimed 17 lives at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, courageous young people have marched and raised their voices to demand action on gun violence in the United States.

Viacom and its brands have a long history of supporting young people’s movements around the world, and today the company is extending that tradition by leveraging its substantial multi-platform footprint to support these extraordinary individuals and amplify the reach and impact of their activism.

This series of efforts across MTV, BET, Nickelodeon, Paramount Network, Comedy Central, TV Land, CMT and other properties will include partnerships with a coalition of organizations and students that are working to make America’s schools safer and reduce gun violence.

In addition, Shari Redstone, Vice Chair of Viacom’s Board, is personally championing the work of the student activists, contributing time and resources, including a $500,000 donation, to the March For Our Lives movement.

“This generation continues to be the driving force for change,” said Viacom Executive Vice President of Global Inclusion Marva Smalls. “With more than 17 young people dying from gun violence every single day, unfortunately no community is safe. We believe it’s critical to support the inspiring efforts of our youth, who are literally fighting for their lives. Viacom also has a responsibility to our audiences to do everything we can to elevate the many brave and bold activists to help them extend the reach and impact of their voices in this important movement.”

Here’s a sampling of the initiatives that Viacom brands have planned for the weeks ahead:

A pause to remember the victims

At 10 a.m. on Wednesday, March 14, all Viacom networks and platforms will suspend regularly scheduled programming for 17 minutes. This pause will coincide with the National School Walkout, a tribute to the 17 lives lost in the Parkland shooting, and to all young victims of gun violence. Students across the country will take over MTV’s social media accounts during the walkout.

The power of Viacom’s united brands support a march on Washington

Viacom’s brands will drive awareness of March For Our Lives through extensive on-air and digital coverage, as well as on-the-ground initiatives, leading up to the March For Our Lives demonstration in Washington, D.C. on March 24. MTV and Comedy Central will change the color of their logos to orange – in support of gun violence awareness – for the 10 days leading up to the event. The Daily Show with Trevor Noah plans to continue its ongoing coverage of the growing anti-gun violence movement in the country. So will The Opposition w/ Jordan Klepper, which will build on its recent interviews with students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School as well as educators and former military officials on arming teachers, and the 2017 special he produced, Jordan Klepper Solves Guns. Paramount Network will capture powerful first-person accounts for its pro-social initiative. Nickelodeon’s Kids’ Choice Awards, which airs that night, will acknowledge the march for its audience of millions.

Supporting efforts to reduce gun violence

Viacom networks have begun an array of ongoing initiatives aimed at curbing gun violence over the long term. For example, MTV has set up a website where people can learn how to take further action, BET will award DISARM pop-up grants to youth activists with innovative ideas about addressing gun violence and mental health issues, and CMT will work with the country music industry on its efforts to support gun safety.

Joining gun safety leaders to drive change

Viacom is partnering with organizations across the spectrum to develop gun safety-related projects for Viacommunity Day, Viacom’s annual day of community service, on April 20.

Get Schooled expands its curriculum

Get Schooled, an organization founded through a partnership between Viacom and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, will expand its efforts to educate young people on the actions they can take to participate in the national discussion.

*On average, 19.4 young people aged 24 and under die by gun violence every day. Source – Everytown analysis: CDC Fatal Injury Reports (WISQARS), data for 2012-2016.