Inside Move: Comedy Central turns ‘Crank’ on Web promo

The 411 on creative marketing

Pick up that phone at your own risk — a strangely funny puppet may be uttering nonsense on the other end.

Starting this week, Comedy Central’s largest online marketing campaign to launch a show — the puppet-centered crank-call skein “Crank Yankers” — will incorporate new technology that allows Internet users to crank-call someone with an official “Crank Yankers” audio message.

Laffer net and marketing partner M80 enlisted tech company Estara to set up an Internet-based service where users can enter a phone number and a related e-mail address and click a “send” icon to initiate a crank call.

Following the call, the “cranked” will get an e-mail message explaining what just happened to them.

“The goal here was to go above and beyond what people generally experience in the online environment, and yet find something that fit in with the spirit of the show,” Comedy Central advertising and marketing veep Richard Loomis says.

“With a grass-roots campaign that started in April, we already found it works to spread the word,” he adds. “Several of us here got calls when a limited version of the service first went up — before it was even branded.”

Links will be set up on Comedy Central’s Web site, as well as Yahoo, the Onion and ComputerPranks.com, via banner ads.