Streaming has been both a blessing and a curse, providing unprecedented viewing options but sometimes overwhelming audiences with the sheer scale of offerings. Even when a new launch is on a major network and features well-established stars, these days it’s still in danger of getting lost in the shuffle.
Traditional advertising is still effective, but has its limits. Audiences are larger, but more fragmented, experiencing content across a wide variety of platforms. Increasingly viewers are discovering new content in-app, where key art now has to do a lot of heavy lifting. If that small still image isn’t able to effectively engage viewers, the show will simply fade into the background as they scroll to something more interesting.
We were tapped by USA to develop key art and other branded assets for Barmageddon, a bar-game-themed competition featuring primetime mainstays Blake Shelton and Carson Daly, as well as WWE Diva Nikki Bella. While this certainly sounds like a can’t-miss hit, these days any show launch is in danger of fizzling out before it gains traction. It was our job to ensure that this didn’t happen.
Celebrities are busier than ever, requiring accelerated production schedules while filming. While every network’s goal is to provide an ideal set of talent photos and show-related assets, unforeseen circumstances will often work against us. The good news – we’ve got a lot of tricks up our sleeve to turn imperfect assets into perfectly branded content.
Our process begins with research and asset organization. USA provided over 800 isolated talent shots in a variety of poses, but shooting schedules did not allow for all three stars to be shot together. In addition, these stills were shot before we were able to begin our conceptualization process. Insights from our gallery photography deep-dive were crucial as we began exploring ideas. In addition, we used on-set photos as a reference to generate game-related items, which we modeled in 3D for final production.
As we moved into our initial creative exploration, we invested some time in exploring talent interaction using the photo assets provided by USA. As we brought Blake, Carson, and Nikki together in a single scene, we began to envision different possibilities for talent interaction. While we have the ability to use illustration and 3D modeling to create dynamic talent poses beyond what was provided in the gallery shoot, it’s helpful to know where we stand going into our design phase.
Sketching was a key part of our initial design phase – allowing us to quickly explore different talent interactions and over-the-top ideas. We let our imaginations run wild, exploring all sorts of fantastical scenarios where the talent are exploding out of Ole Red, towering over her, or whipped up in a frenzy of bar game action.
And while these sketches were crucial, we did not limit our initial exploration to sketching alone. We attacked the problem from every angle at once. Our mixed-media comps include explorations inspired by vintage neon signage, as well as Nashville street art. We really wanted to capture the feel of a booze-fueled night out on Honky Tonk Highway.
Ultimately, two ideas came to the forefront. A dynamic shot of the talent surrounded by a chaotic vortex of bar games felt like the most direct and impactful way to promote the show – nailing all of its major themes. But we couldn’t deny that our vintage neon signage explorations were extremely visually compelling – they just looked really cool.
The call was made to develop two designs for final delivery – a more evergreen concept focused primarily on the talent, and a second launch campaign direction showcasing large talent names in big neon letters.
Key Art select 1 is a talent-forward execution, presenting a dynamic vortex of bar games while making sure that Blake, Carson, and Nikki are the focus. This direction evolved out of our initial sketches of chaotic bar game scenarios. While those scenes were a lot of fun, the talent frequently felt lost in all of the chaos.
Barmageddon is a talent-forward property, leveraging well-known stars. We refined our design over several weeks, giving the talent more prominence while still retaining a sense of dynamic action.
Of course, when you need to stand out, one hero image just might not cut it. Some people are more visual, some are more verbal. While the talent still has a major presence, this direction pushed their names to the foreground – in big neon letters, to be precise.
Through our exploration phase, we really fell in love with the way that vintage neon signage communicates the Nashville vibe. This poster gave us the perfect opportunity to use this neon signage motif as a communication point. The talent are a key selling point, so it only makes sense to put their names in lights.
Throughout our key art exploration, we were simultaneously developing promo packaging ideas. Using the existing USA promo system as a jumping-off point, we explored several different packaging directions, from minimal to maximal, stylized to photoreal, and everything in between. Finally, we landed on a concept inspired by our Neon Signage key art.
Our promo packaging toolkit is designed to provide a sense of epic scale and anticipation for what’s to come. To balance out or mostly-interior show footage, packaging assets feature a night sky backplate, with the warm glow of downtown Nashville in the background. Typographic messaging is given a flashy neon signage treatment, casting colored light onto various bar game objects as they fly through the air – like the aftermath of a bar game explosion.
We matched our final delivery as closely as possible to USA’s existing promo toolkits, and provided clear and detailed instructions for any new features. This allowed USA’s team to immediately start applying the new assets, no learning curve required.