In the spring of 2011, messaging app LINE launched as an emergency response to a natural disaster. Since then, LINE has grown rapidly, capturing a vast majority of the user base in East Asia, issuing a successful public offering, and extending its brand into TV programming and mobile games. One such extension, LINE PLAY, has seen massive worldwide success to date, with status as a top-three-grossing app globally. But US growth was slower than desired. So LINE PLAY engaged us to create a series of influencer videos promoting their game to American girls ages 13-24. But we took the brief further, combining the absurdity of LINE PLAY’s animated avatar world with inspiration from YouTube star Meghan McCarthy’s zany life—and voice.
LINE PLAY had dipped its toes into influencer-driven video in previous campaigns, with loose integrations into the summer-themed videos of popular American YouTube creators. But partnerships with influential creators should go beyond a simple endorsement. They’re influential for a reason: their outlandish personalities and endless creativity. Why not leverage that outsized presence into something more tangible and lovable—more like the game itself. Our strategic approach was to elevate the typical influencer content campaign—where influencers create simple content promoting brand products, with little focus on a mutually-beneficial partnership—in order to create something significantly more interesting.
We decided to bring the influencer into the game, proposing a pilot run of three scripted, animated sketches featuring a prominent creator/personality living life in the LINE PLAY avatar world. Rounding out the campaign would be additional behind-the-scenes and teaser content, a large PR effort, an in-game meet-and-greet between our star influencer and his/her fans, and organic social promotion.
Our talent search was centered around three key parameters: charisma, brand fit, and audience demographics. A sizeable social following was table stakes; we needed someone with an animated-series-sized personality and a following that would relate to the game. Enter Meghan McCarthy and her honest-to-goodness cartoon voice, gigantic personality, and millions of devoted fans.
The animated world of LINE PLAY provided plenty of material for story development. As a proof-of-concept pilot series, we decided to approach each of the three episodes as an independent sketch, à la Saturday Night Live (but animated). We focused on the central themes of the game that would best resonate with Meghan McCarthy’s personality and audience—fashion, awkward romance, and prideful individuality—collaborating with McCarthy herself on the content of each episode. With a target audience of girls ages 13-24, we settled into a tone that was light-hearted and fun, while simultaneously (and subtly) pushing the envelope for the entertainment of our older viewers—finding much common ground between McCarthy’s tone and that of the game. This process ultimately led us to the series title Glam Squad: A LINE PLAY Series.
After solidifying each script, we created sketched storyboards, identifying along the way which existing game scenes and assets could be leveraged, while creating some new assets and characters (including McCarthy’s avatar) in coordination with LINE’s creative team in Korea.
With approved storyboards, we then created animatics, blocking out scenes and timing dialogue with temporary voice-over (as performed enthusiastically by our team). These animatics allowed another opportunity for collaboration with the client and talent, while also aiding in the production of final animations and voiceover.
While animators were hard at work preparing illustrated assets for animation, the rest of the team were in the studio for final voiceover sessions. McCarthy was joined by a cast of seasoned voice talent for script reads and off-the-cuff improvisation, seizing a moment she’d been dreaming of for a while: putting her unbelievable voice to work as a cartoon character. We even had her interacting with her animated self for promotional teaser content.
02. Character Rigging
Two of our animators went to work, bringing scenes and characters to life—working independently, yet seamlessly together. We used the immense library of illustrated LINE PLAY assets to create scenes and characters both fresh and familiar, building custom character animation rigs to make them come alive.
03. Environments & Details
Animation was tedious, with extreme attention focused to detail: character movement, lipsyncing, and eye movement; extras to fill in scenes; subtle object movements like trees, clouds, and gems. The final step was to add the music and sound effects, created custom in collaboration with a local studio.
04. Final Videos
After final client approvals, episodes were launched on McCarthy’s channel every other Monday as a part of her “Meghan Mondays” video series.
In addition to procuring McCarthy’s promotion of Glam Squad to her own following, we also developed a comprehensive owned and earned media strategy for the series. Our team promoted the episodes within LINE PLAY itself, with Glam Squad banners, as well as through LINE PLAY’s social channels. There was also an extensive PR effort, with a Glam Squad makeover sweepstakes, a widely-distributed press alert, and other appearances for McCarthy—including an exclusive in-game “room party” where 20 fans came to Meghan’s room for a chat. It was crowded.
Production & Client Services
Bringing an animated series from pitch to launch in only three months is a herculean task, especially given the client’s goal of one million views without support from paid media. Talent procurement was a challenge because of our requirements, the short timeline, and limited talent availability. But results were fruitful, and we were able to begin story development while negotiations were ongoing. This allowed us to onboard McCarthy with a sense of the overall tone and structure of the series, allowing her to better collaborate with our team while keeping production moving.
Another production challenge was the requirement of additional approvals from the LINE PLAY team in South Korea—16 hours ahead of Los Angeles. Whether it was early calls, late calls, or weekend meetings we made it work with the team in Korea. Furthermore the pressure was on to deliver the three part series, teaser, and trailer—alongside other promotional materials—all within a limited time frame with daily deliverables. With open client communication and an extremely detailed and organized production system we pulled it off.
Within four weeks we garnered over one million video views across three platforms: YouTube, Instagram, and Vine. Sentiment analysis revealed an overwhelmingly positive response to our content, and indicated a great deal of immediate action taken by viewers to either download or play the game. Comments like “I just started playing LINE PLAY because of this,” and “This is SO COOL!!! You have to do more! I’m definitely playing this” were more the norm than the exception—demonstrating greater success beyond the awareness metrics we were tracking.
Press materials reached tens of millions, while purely organic social efforts reached widely as well, with McCarthy promoting the series to her millions of fans across social channels and LINE PLAY also posting through their dedicated US channels.
Ultimately, when creating a web series from existing intellectual property, the goal is to do the source material justice and to engage fans with something they will love. With key KPIs met, an ecstatic client, and a fan base clamoring for more episodes, Glam Squad was an overwhelming success as a pilot, and we’re excited about the potential for season two.
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