The Emmy Awards will air this Sunday. Beautiful actresses will saunter down the red carpet in elaborate gowns. Andy Samberg will crack (sometimes funny) jokes. And talented individuals from the television industry will walk up to the stage, receive a golden statuette, and either inspire or bore us with their thanks.
As much as I want to believe that people receive these awards based solely on talent, many factors contribute to determining the actual winner. The number of viewers a show has. The number of times a show has won or hasn’t won previously. The way the characters or plot of a show promote social change. The voters’ preferences.
What if we determined the Emmy Award recipients by another factor? As someone in the marketing industry, I’m always interested to see how networks decide to promote their shows. They use advertisements, social media, and other means to get people watching. What if shows could only win based on their ability to sell their product—in other words, the show itself?
Before the actual awards, I’m going to decide the winners of Outstanding Drama Series and Outstanding Comedy Series, based not on the quality of the show, but the quality of its marketing campaign.
And the Emmy goes to . . .
Outstanding Drama Series: Orange Is the New Black
Netflix has become more and more successful by developing a platform around what viewers actually want: the opportunity to watch TV when they want, as much as they want, and on whatever device they want.
The advertising for Orange Is the New Black wins because it deals with a major complication resulting from Netflix’s business model: you have to keep fans interested for an entire year before you release more episodes. The show succeeded with some of the following strategies:
- A video of the inmates singing to “12 Days of Christmas”
- Cast members posting from behind the scenes on Twitter and Instagram
- Countdown videos/teasers on Twitter and Instagram a week before the premiere
- Large prayer candle figures in NYC that doubled as photo booths
- OrangeCon, a meet-and-greet event that fans could attend if they submitted the best OITNB fan art (plus, the marketing team now had pictures of fan art they could post on social media)
The marketing team also targeted their most obvious audience—the people who already subscribe to Netflix. I have to admit that I don’t watch this show, but I considered it when I got an email from Netflix about the new episodes, when an OITNB video started playing as I opened Netflix, and when I could see what the show’s main character was “watching” on Netflix.
After Netflix teased the release of new episodes for months, they rewarded fans in a big way. They released the episodes early.
You might think that a time difference of five hours doesn’t matter. But consider the audience OITNB wants to please. They’ve been waiting for months. They probably planned on staying up late to watch a few episodes after midnight. This means everything to them.
Orange Is the New Black earns their viewers by giving fans what they want and marketing the show year-round—not just a month before new episodes are set to premiere.
Outstanding Comedy Series: Veep
Truthfully, the marketing campaign for season 3 of Veep was the true stroke of brilliance. While Selina Meyer, the show’s main character, ran for president, Veep’s social team was busy allowing fans to text their support for Selina and creating a fake smear campaign.
However, if Modern Family can keep winning Emmys for no apparent reason, why can’t I award Veep for this season too? This show built on its solid social presence by:
- Partnering with the app Dubsmash to add sound bites from past seasons of Veep (and invited Julia Louis-Dreyfus and other actors from the show to submit their own Dubsmash videos)
- Partnering with the app PopKey to include .gifs from the show
- Hosting a Twitter Q&A with Selina Meyer to parody Barack Obama’s #AskTheWH campaign
- Asking the cast to live tweet the season premiere
- Creating YouTube videos around the “Great Veep Debate,” where cast members answer “Would you rather?” questions
Although this TV show doesn’t receive the same amount of viewers as some of the other nominated shows, they embrace the fans they do have and give them plenty of opportunities to get involved with the show.
Highlights from the Competition
It’s an honor just to be nominated, right? Although we wouldn’t reward dragons, corrupt rulers, or an actual show about advertising the Emmy for best marketing campaign, these TV shows delivered some amazing moments.
Game of Thrones: Game of Thrones is always one of the most talked-about shows on Twitter, but one particular series of tweets stood out this year.
Fans could sign up at ThreeEyedRaven.com—but for what? Eventually, the social media team sent out short videos (that contains a combination of old and new shots, much like the “visions” in the show) via text message. These videos disappeared 90 seconds after viewing, to the dismay of fans. However, that anger and passion is exactly what the marketing team was angling for.
Mad Men: One can only assume that AMC used a different tactic for marketing Don Draper and co. this year. Mad Men ended its seven-season run, so rather than win over new viewers, the show needed to remind current fans why they loved Mad Men in the first place. The network organized a “fan cut” of the pilot—viewers could sign up for a scene, recreate that scene, and then watch their work as part of an entire fan-generated episode.
AMC also marketed the show offline, sponsoring an exhibition at the Museum of the Moving Image and adding a bench with Don Draper’s silhouette in front of the Time-Life building in New York.
How Do You Take Next Year’s Prize?
Novelist John Scalzi once borrowed his friend’s Oscar statuette for three days, and he decided to let other people hold and examine it. He explained that every single person did the same thing: held the Oscar in a tilted position, looked forward, and said, “I’d like to thank the academy…”
Everyone has a prepared acceptance speech. Maybe you’re not in the right industry to win Emmys and Oscars, but every person aspires to some great reward. It could be a literal award, higher sales, or customer satisfaction. Take a hint from the campaigns above. Follow these common traits to create your own marketing strategy to the ultimate prize:
- Know your audience—who they are and how they use your product. Consider the age, lifestyle, and needs of the people who buy your product. Then it’s a lot easier to reward them with the content they want.
- Answer your audience’s questions. Both OITNB and Veep have done Q&As with fans. Similarly, you should find out what people need to know before and after they buy your product. Then work that information into your campaign.
- Get involved. Did you notice how the stars of Veep posted their own Dubsmash videos? Don’t just outsource your marketing and forget about it. Show your support. Even if someone else writes blog posts or makes videos for your company, share them and contribute to the work others are doing.
- Be real. Whether through a meet-and-greet event or fake smear campaigns, all of these TV shows turned fiction to reality. Give an inside look at your business. Write tweets in your own voice. Show the human side of your business.
- Try different platforms. Veep teamed up with Dubsmash, for crying out loud. You won’t find success with every type of social media, but keep your audience in mind and post wherever they might see it.
Unfortunately, in the end, my picks for Emmy Awards won’t matter in the slightest. Above all else, it’s still the content itself—the acting, directing, and other elements of the show—that result in a win. Your business needs a brilliant marketing campaign to attract customers, but the quality of the products you produce or services you offer are what will actually keep people coming back.
Follow these marketing suggestions as you aim for your own win.
Do you agree with my picks, or are you unimpressed with these marketing campaigns? Want to share which shows you’re rooting for on Sunday night? Now it’s your turn to discuss in the comments below.
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