When done right, viral marketing can build an incredible buzz for a new show. When done wrong, viral marketing for a TV show can utterly fail to intrigue potential viewers, and may even offend them. PR people, take heed: These are some prime examples of TV show viral marketing done very, very wrong.
Dexter Morgan's British invasion
On this side of the pond, Showtime's "Dexter" is an unquestionable hit. But Dexter Morgan didn't exactly make a good impression during the lead-up to the show's U.K. premiere. The British network that was airing the show decided to use a viral marketing campaign to build anticipation for the series.
The campaign, conceived by agencies Hot Cherry and Ralph & Co., involved sending unsolicited text messages from "Dexter" to mobile phones, which read, "Hello (name.) I'm heading to the UK sooner than you might think. Dexter." An email would then be sent to the person, sending them to an online video about the show.
While the campaign did raise awareness about the show, many people were upset at getting a double dose of what seemed like spam to them. Granted, the messages were sent by phone user's friends, and not by the network itself, but many people were still annoyed by the campaign.
Editing tools were a bad call
In retrospect, it should have been obvious that letting everyone on the Internet have access to official Chevy clips and editing tools was a bad idea. And yet, this crowdsourcing attempt at viral marketing was a blunder on a major scale, thanks to the geniuses at "The Apprentice." Chevy sponsored a 2006 episode of the show where Trump's chumps had to try and sell Tahoes to dealerships. However, the only ads that went viral were the ones created by anti-SUV activists, resulting in plenty of bad publicity for Chevy and a bit of an embarrassment for the allegedly business savvy minds behind "The Apprentice."
Nobody watches the Observer
Fans of the show "Fringe" are very familiar with the Observer, a mysterious character with a unique, bald-headed look. To raise interest in "Fringe," Fox had the Observer show up on a number of other shows, including one 2009 All-Star game and a 2009 episode of "American Idol." However, there wasn't a lot of natural crossover between sports fans, reality TV fans, and sci-fi fans, making a promotion a bit of an odd fit.
Perhaps if Fox had placed the Observer on a lot more shows, including scripted ones, "Fringe" would have had stronger ratings, and the campaign would have had more impact. Fox should have gone big with the Observer plan, and just had a single week of TV where he showed up on every program that Fox aired. From a cost standpoint, that might have been tough, but with digital editing and stock footage of the Observer being creepy, it would have been pretty simple to put him in the background of everything from "Family Guy" to "Glee" to "House." More appearances would have generated more interest in viewers.
- Arts & Entertainment
- Dexter Morgan
- viral marketing