The Best TV Show Marketing Campaigns Do This

“I love when a TV show, or entertainment in general, makes me feel something; be it positive, be it negative, be it happiness, be it awkward, uncomfortable. If it can make me feel, it’s done its job.” – Nathan Fillion, actor


Most people know Nathan Fillion for his leading role on “Castle,” which aired for eight seasons on ABC until its cancellation in 2016. Fillion has since found a new TV home at Netflix, where he appears on two shows: “A Series of Unfortunate Events” and “Santa Clarita Diet.” The latter – a dark comedy about zombies – garnered quite a bit of attention last year with its vivid billboards in high-traffic areas in the U.S. (and beyond). These digital ads showed lead actress Drew Barrymore climbing out of the billboard to attack (and eat) people in other billboards. And, reactions of passersby to the publicity stunt were mixed. Some laughed, while others were horrified. But, to Fillion’s point, the ad did its job. It compelled viewers to “feel.” And, the show has recently been renewed for a third season – no easy feat in today’s market.

Competition across TV networks is heated. In fact, 487 scripted, original series aired on TV last year. The number is a 69% increase from five years before, and almost 300 more shows than in 2006. This forces agencies to come up with the best of the best TV show marketing campaigns to lure viewers to tune in. And, like the TV shows they represent, they’re finding those that immerse consumers and provoke emotions are the ones that win.


Tuning In to TV Viewers’ Emotions

It comes as no surprise to learn where TV shows have experienced the most growth – via online services such as Netflix. Since 2012, related programming has expanded by 680%! And, that may be due to its ability to let us “binge watch.”

A NBC News article reveals the appeal: “it’s due to the chemicals being released in our brain.” When we binge watch a show we love, our brains continually produce dopamine, and our bodies experience “a drug-like high.” So, we begin to crave the show. Still, it’s more than that. We become immersed “in the lives of characters.”

A psychiatrist explains, “Our brains code all experiences, be it watched on TV, experienced live, read in a book or imagined, as ‘real’ memories. So, when watching a TV program, the areas of the brain that are activated are the same as when experiencing a live event.” This makes clear why experiential marketing has become the basis for the best TV show marketing campaigns.

Both mediums have the ability to draw us in and build relationships. That may be with the characters when watching the show or the network via experiential event staff. Both offer the chance to escape the “day-to-day grind, which can act as a helpful stress management tool.” And, both allow us to “foster relationships with others.” This may be in discussions with friends and family who watch the same show. Or, in the case of experiential marketing, it’s with those who take part in activations with us – a big reason all people love experiential marketing events. But, just as writers must be meticulous in their scripting of TV shows, agencies must be mindful of critical activation details. The heat is on when it comes to immersing viewers on screen – and in person.


Finding the perfect promotional model


3 Considerations in Planning the Best TV Show Marketing Campaigns

When planning experiential events that immerse viewers and inspire reactions, agencies should carefully consider the following elements. These elements can add up to producing the best TV show marketing campaigns.

1. Location.

Deciding where to activate is driven by many factors. These include premiere dates and target audiences. But, sometimes, networks will want to garner attention on a broader scale. They do so by going big at large-scale events. This was the case for HBO, which sought to bolster “Westworld” at SXSW 2018 in preparation to retire its ever-popular series, “Game of Thrones.” And, their effort was smash hit, drawing attention from media everywhere.

Business Insider described the activation as “the most sophisticated stunt” ever attempted by HBO. Truer words were never spoken. It took four months, 60+ actors, and 440 pages of script to bring a real ghost town outside Austin, TX to life. But, not all efforts have to be this elaborate.

When HBO planned to take part in San Francisco’s Gay Pride Festival, it took advantage of the opportunity to showcase its new sitcom, “The Comeback.” It got into spirit with drag queens and a pink limo. It also set up a stand, from which promo staff could hand out swag and encourage photos with show-related props. Though the resources used were minimal compared to the Westworld activation, the network still made a big impact, touching thousands of attendees.

2. Promo staffing.

HBO’s activations show the diverse staffing needs of experiential events. And, knowing how important relationships are to both TV shows and these events, it’s important agencies make smart promo staff decisions.

Sometimes, needs are as basic as a great physique, such as when the Bravo network required shirtless models for a PR stunt. Other activations call for special skills to fulfill your plan and provide the immersive escape attendees seek. One example is technically savvy staff. This was the case for Fox Network’s “Sleepy Hollow” series, which used VR tech – Oculus Rift – to wow attendees at Comic-Con.

No matter to which end your needs lie, your promo staff must align with the show’s look and feel. They must be engaging to build important viewer relationships. This means agencies and networks will often partner with a top-tier event staffing agency that can identify and qualify candidates and then present them to the client – you – for final selection.

3. Press and social media.

Experiential marketing events, though powerful, should never stand on their own to make the biggest impact. Coupling the effort with that of various media outlets boosts both return on investment and engagement.

Agencies begin by alerting media targets of their pending activation. This may be social media influencers that follow a network or a TV show. Or, it may be residents of a metro area or attendees to a convention or other event. This may be through media, who cover the activation and show others what they missed.

For every brand activation, opportunities should be planned to capture content for sharing on social media. One example is Showtime’s promotion of its TV show, “Happyish.” Promo staff encouraged consumers to pose for a slow-motion camera, while surrounded by falling confetti. This created a fun moment for attendees, which built relationships with the network and strengthened those with others who took part. The added benefit in these cases for the network is the sharing of content that will take place after the event. Research shows a whopping 100% of people will share event content they created with their friends and followers on social media. Results then greatly amplify as you engage potential viewers and make them “feel” – for a job well done.


At Elevate, we’re proud to work with networks, studios, and entertainment agencies to provide camera-ready promo staff for the best TV show marketing campaigns. Contact us to learn how our teams provoke emotions, build relationships and secure viewers for any TV show.

Author: Nick Riggall


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