TV Show Marketing in the Digital Age

August 15, 2017 | by Anna Woodward

If there’s one thing all members of the BMSD staff have in common, it’s our unabashed love of quality television. We don’t all watch the same shows, but where there’s overlap, we carve out a good chunk of time before work each day to discuss every last detail. And as branding and marketing nerds, we inevitably dissect the ways these shows are advertised.

The digital era alone has brought major changes to the way we watch shows and therefore, how networks organize their TV show marketing strategy. With many people ditching traditional cable for streaming services and choosing to binge-watch over live viewing, networks have to get creative with promoting their shows. As one AdAge article points out, “it’s not enough to promote a new show during an older one. Audiences are splintered, rely on social recommendations, don’t watch as much live and often binge-watch full seasons in a single sitting, so marketing needs to be more collaborative and planned.”

Social media has radically changed the way we interact with not only each other, but our favorite entertainment brands too. When it comes to making the most of social media, arguably nobody does it better than HBO with Game of Thrones. The show’s fans exhibit such staggering devotion to tuning in every Sunday, it’s comparable to entertainment’s last live-viewing stronghold: sports. HBO’s marketing team has fully embraced and amplified the fan frenzy by getting involved in social interactions online.

Ahead of the show’s fourth season, they introduced the #RoastJoffrey campaign, which “in its first 48 hours, it collected more than 60,000 roasts, 1 million interactions and 850 million impressions,” all during the show’s off season. HBO even managed to keep GoT fans watching a live stream of a block of ice melt for over an hour, just to reveal the release date of the delayed seventh season. That’s some serious fan dedication.



HBO doesn’t just pull out all the stops for Game of Thrones. To get fans of the show The Leftovers excited for the this summer’s final season, they released the trailer in seven chunks, sending fans on a digital scavenger hunt to piece it all together. The innovative campaign “challenged fans’ knowledge of the show, while creating a fun way for viewers to actively engage with the show’s marketing.”



Fox pulled a similarly engaging stunt to promote the reboot of The X Files. For a show that ended long before the era of social media, the network made spectacular use of the digital tools available to them. The nearly year-long campaign leading up to the debut of the series included scrambled tweets and secret Snapchat messages.

Angela Courtin, Fox’s head of marketing, says the campaign was designed to, “[raise] more questions than it answered… It was a steady stream of content that was purposeful and built over time rather than crescendo too early.” The campaign was brilliant because it engaged fans in a way that speaks to why the show was so beloved in the first place–the endless hunt for answers that never really seem to reveal themselves. In the end, viewers had to tune into the show to find out if the truth really is out there.

With so many new shows airing every year, and alternative forms of entertainment gaining traction, networks have to work harder than ever to make sure their TV show marketing gets them the viewership they need to survive. As these examples have shown us, it’s not just about making sure consumers are aware of your product and where to get it—or in this case, view it. It’s about tapping into your brand fan base and making them feel like contributors to something they love.

What TV show marketing campaigns come to mind as your favorite? If you’ve got one, sound off in the comments.

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