Back in March, HBO made fans watch ice melt for 69 minutes on Facebook Live to find out when Season 7 of Game of Thrones would premiere. A few weeks later, TBS trolled the premium cable channel by “freezing” the title character of one of its own series, slapstick comedy Angie Tribeca, in a life-size block of ice and livestreaming the event.
After enduring her co-stars’ hazardous (and lame) attempts to free her, which involved everything from blowtorches to firearms, actress Rashida Jones emerged to hype the show’s third season debut. She had nary a bullet wound, no hypothermia and pretty decent hair. Imagine that.
These stunts are just two recent examples of the lengths to which television networks will go to grab viewers’ attention, creating original short stories, parody videos and pieces of quirky content and distributing them across linear and digital channels to pique interest and drive tune-in.
It’s not just the golden age of TV we’re living in; it’s the golden age of TV promotion.
In fact, there’s probably more pressure on marketing than ever before, given splintered audiences and fierce competition. Networks and their promo shops, often drawing in advertiser partners, are going far beyond the traditional 30-second spot to create inventive, compelling, Easter egg-filled content that’s meant to share with friends and spark conversations.
“It’s a seismic change because we’re moving away from a time-honored format. That one hero spot is a much lower priority these days,” said Brad Roth, principal at Stun, which created the Angie Tribeca gag. “Campaigns need a range of content to run across various platforms.”
That’s why AMC launched faux ads for Los Pollos Hermanos, a fictional fast-food chain in Better Call Saul run by series arch-villain Gus Fring. The cable net also opened pop-up restaurants in several markets and worked with Acura on animated “training videos,” webisodes and interactive games tied to the prestige Breaking Bad prequel.
Meanwhile, Netflix teased its new superhero mash-up, The Defenders, with “surveillance footage” of four Marvel characters stuck in an elevator, while E! made mock offers of marriage for money to Bachelor contestants via social media videos to promote its new scripted hit, The Arrangement.