July 15, 2008

Jeff Carroll ’02 Touts The Yucks For Comedy Central

He promotes shows online as manager of digital marketing

By Dan Edelen

When MTV Networks checks the pulse of the digital age, it looks to Jeff Carroll ’02, manager of digital marketing at the network’s Comedy Central. The Daily Show, Chocolate News, The Sarah Silverman Program, and the rest of Comedy Central’s cable TV lineup find their online presence bolstered by his creative spark.

“Search, mobile, on air, email, viral, wikis, gaming, and social networking—we make sure that Comedy Central speaks to our audience the way they want to be communicated to,” he says. “The beauty of digital marketing is our ability to react to change quickly and see results almost instantly.”

The route to TV’s home of comedy came partly by way of the golf course. In 2002, Carroll worked for Jay Mottola ’72 at the Metropolitan Golf Association. There the English major learned basic web design skills and tech knowledge, which he later augmented while working in digital marketing for AIG and Furnished Quarters. “I really just took to the digital space,” he says. “It came naturally.”

Despite his tech bent, Carroll’s real passion lay elsewhere: “I always wanted to do television and movies.” Though he worked on the final episode of the PBS series “New York: A Documentary Film” by Ric Burns, he wanted more. He posted his r�sum� online and got his break when an MTV Networks recruiter called him about the Comedy Central position.

During Carroll’s first day on the job, his boss noted the new hire owned every South Park DVD available. The comment proved to be Carroll’s epiphany: “I get to work with cultural institutions like South Park, The Daily Show, and The Colbert Report. If you’re a musician, it’s like playing with the Rolling Stones.”

Now he develops viral media content based on Comedy Central’s shows for inclusion on hot web sites such as celebrity tracker, political talker The Huffington Post, and gaming headquarters Kotaku. He brainstorms online vertical marketing for the channel’s shows, checks search engine placements, monitors demographics, and oversees development of desktop widgets and online social networking applications for sites like MySpace and Facebook. He particularly enjoyed creating an interactive application tied to the show Lewis Black’s Root of All Evil that asked online participants which of two subjects or items—say, Coke or Pepsi—is more “evil.”

Carroll, recently featured in Fortune magazine’s “Faces of the Future,” explains the passion: “The fact that I love these shows means they’re not just something I’m being paid to market. They’re something I care about.”

Though the irreverent Comedy Central work atmosphere— cranking Guns N’ Roses in the office, spreading ManBearPig awareness, or live blogging Indecision 2008 after hours while downing margueritas every time some talking head calls John McCain a “maverick”—flashes a single upraised digit to stodgy, corporate America, the frenetic demands of the TV business remain. Carroll faces relentless market space changes that tax his skills and keep him hunting for trends.

“Consumer market and digital market branding are converging, becoming the same thing,” he notes. “If you don’t know both, you’re out of the game.”

Yet as the stuff of everyday living, cell phones, iPods, and cars, increasingly merge with his digital domain, Carroll spots new opportunities. “The TV producer of 20 years ago is now also the executive producer of the web site and the video game.”

For Carroll, despite the challenges in the industry, the payoff makes the long hours marketing Comedy Central worthwhile. “If people come home and turn on The Daily Show or South Park and for an hour they laugh and forget that the economy is bad, or that politics in this country is down the tubes, or that their jobs are in jeopardy,” he says, “then I have done my part in making their day better.”

Though Carroll now works in New York City, it took time at Lafayette for him to appreciate that “the greatest city in the world is an hour away from school.” After graduation, he moved to Manhattan and now lives in Hoboken, N.J, where he writes poetry, enjoys drumming, and avidly reads science fiction and military history books—though, occasionally, quite slowly. He jokes that it took him 13 years to read one novel, a yellowed sci-fi tome he’d started as a teen and only finished recently after discovering it during his move.

With his channel having enjoyed its best year ever in 2007, he’s never been happier. “Seeing a show succeed and how a campaign helped drive that” is one of Carroll’s daily satisfactions. “Comedy Central is where I hit my stride,” he says.

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