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An inside look at Cinemax’s social TV strategy for ‘Hunted’

Cinemax is preparing to launch their latest original series and have tapped social TV fan experts Campfire to birth an experience to build buzz in time for the premiere. Hunted, a Bourne Identity-type show premiering on October 19th and starring Melissa George adds to the action-packed brand of originals that Cinemax has been building. Just a year ago the HBO owned channel successfully launched Strike Back, currently in the middle of episode two. We interviewed Chris Spadaccini, Senior Vice President of Brand and Product Marketing at HBO, Sabrina Caluori, Vice President of Social Media and Performance Marketing at HBO and Steve Coulson, Senior Creative Director at Campfire.

Here are two of the major components that Campfire has cooked up with Cinemax to unleash the shows themes, characters and more to potential viewers. HBO’s social team has even partnered with Reddit for the first time for a Hunted Subreddit.

  • “We’re Not For Everyone, Just The 1% That Matters.” ByzantiumSecurity.com was launched to familiarize influencers with the company with the same name in the show. Since September 10th, they’ve been running real adds down at Wall Street and on WallStreetJournal.com to create curiosity about “the 99% vs. the 1%”.
  • “Do You Have What It Takes?” They’ve created another site to bring fans into an even more immersive expereince about Byzantium. With ByzantiumTests.com “Campfire worked with a cognitive psychologist to develop the five-level experience, which combines Facebook integration, emotion recognition technology, logic and spatial puzzles, personality tests and subliminal commands.” Fans are rewarded in different ways for completing different tasks.

Lost Remote: Why did you decide to work with Campfire?
Chris Spadaccini: We wanted to launch Hunted with a provocative tease that was grounded in social storytelling. From experience, we knew that Campfire had a track record for developing unique transmedia campaigns that could ignite conversation. Ultimately, we were excited that Campfire approached the campaign from a more mysterious, psychological angle and that they were able to create a truly immersive, narrative experience that felt like an extension of the series itself.

LR: How has Cinemax evolved over the past year?
Spadaccini: With the success of Strike Back, and new series Hunted and Banshee on the way, Cinemax is no longer just a movie network infamous for late night programming. We are committed to differentiating Cinemax as a premium destination for entertaining, cinematic original series and delivering quality programming to our subscribers through a variety of linear and on-demand platforms including our MAXGO streaming service.

LR: What’s the social TV strategy for the show?
Sabrina Caluori: The Hunted marketing campaign has successfully kick-started the social media anticipation for the series by driving usage of the#Hunted hashtag, likes of the Facebook page and check-ins on GetGlue – all while bolstering the Cinemax brand presences onFacebook and Twitter. Additionally, we’ve partnered with Reddit for the first time to cultivate a Hunted subreddit.(just launched!) Once the series premieres, we expect the on-going mystery and layered characters to drive deep conversation and analysis of the plot, making it perfect for the Reddit community. And continuing the transmedia engagement of the series, the team at Cinemax.com will launch “Sam Hunter’s Wall of Clues” timed for the October 19 premiere on Cinemax. “Sam’s Wall” is an immersive in-season interactive experience where fans can work with the show’s main character, Sam Hunter (Melissa George), to solve the central mystery of ‘Hunted’. Fans can explore new weekly extended storylines created by the show and unlock clues that trigger flash forward glimpses of what’s to come in future episodes and ultimately, season two.

LR: How are you helping Cinemax launch this show? What are the social components?
Steve Coulson: We’ve created a cross-platform narrative experience that gives people the chance to dig a little deeper into the storyworld of Hunted. It includes posters on Wall Street that lure unsuspecting passers-by to the “corporate website” of Byzantium Security, where they can hear the star, Melissa George, narrate a short video about Byzantium’s agenda.

That in turn drives audiences to an immersive and somewhat subversive series of psychological tests, that lead inexorably to some dark secrets at the heart of the show, and to a killer finale that has people really buzzing (I won’t tell you what it is – like a great magic trick, it has to be experienced to be believed).

Your question is interesting because we really think that “social” has two components. First there’s the mechanism – integration of social networks and technology, which is what most people think about when they talk about these things, and this site has that. It’s specifically designed to drive traffic through social sharing, and that’s absolutely being borne out in our traffic referrals. Each stage has social sharing components really integrated into the progressive story across the three major platforms (FB, Twitter, G+) along with GetGlue rewards at key stages.

But more importantly, this was designed to be social in the sense of giving fans and communities something to talk ABOUT. It’s based on psychological testing and personalized results, which is a huge component of Facebook sharing, and it really taps into that. It also continues to throw curve balls right through to the end, and communities like Tumblr and Reddit have embraced that with long conversations about “how did they do that?”

I believe we’re also the first site to allow people to sign in with Reddit for an enhanced experience using their new OAuth capability.
There are other components too, like puzzles with hidden secrets being sent to fan communities and bloggers, but the main two pieces are byzantiumsecurity.com and byzantiumtests.com.

LR: How does Campfire think social TV fans have evolved over the past year?
Coulson: I think I might have covered some of that above. Campfire has a lot of experience creating programs that use social technology – Facebook Connect, #hashtag strategy, gamification & rewards, etc. But at the end of the day, the way to make something social is to give people something they WANT to talk about – something that’s cool enough that it makes their day. So increasingly, while technology is important, it comes down to the old adage of great storytelling – designing spreadable stories is just about creating stories good enough to share.

LR: How are you tapping into Occupy Wall Street themes for this show?
Coulson: The show itself delves into these questions – it’s a corporate security company, who work for the highest paying clients, essentially “the 1%”. But that introduces lots of questions about who is the good guy vs. the bad guy, and, is there even a good guy at all? We played on that with the posters that appeared down on Wall Street to coincide with the anniversary of OWS, which were noticed by the protesters:

Hopefully they realized that the show will actually explore the morality of many of the things they are protesting against.

LR: Anything else?
Coulson: There’s a really specialist team who created this. We worked with a cognitive psychologist in London to design the tests, and it’s all underpinned by fascinating psychological theories. So while it’s cod-psychology, it’s informed cod psychology ;) .

We’ve also had input from a magician, and our developers are the award-winning team at Jam3. But most importantly, we had full participation from the show, including specially shot video with Melissa George and close collaboration with showrunner Frank Spotnitz.

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