‘Big Love’ is all about secrets, and HBO has created a campaign that’s full of them to remind their audience of what each character has been up to since the last episode aired in August of 2007.
Probably their most unique promotion for the secrets campaign is a set of billboards in Los Angeles and New York that feature headphone jacks for passer-bys to plug their headphones into and listen to secrets about the people pictured. The voices that play through the jacks are unrelated to the characters from the show, and the goal is to reinforce the show’s tagline, “Everyone Has Something to Hide.”
These billboards remind me a lot of the Spore Billboards featured previously, in that they rely on street-level interactions for their success, and those interactions then draw in other people to interact with the billboards as well. I also like that these billboards utilize a personal element of interactivity, since each message only plays through one headphone jack at a time (rather than to a crowd through a speaker), and listening to the secrets through a set of headphones creates enough intimate isolation to really make it feel authentic. Lastly, the campaign is also geared well towards the commuter audience that it targets, since they are the ones most likely to be walking down the street with a set of headphones. (Though unfortunately, HBO wasn’t confident that this would be the case in LA, and had sets of disposable headphones on hand to hand out, which sort of ruins the effect.)
In addition to the billboards, HBO has also created a website called Web of Secrets that features secrets users have shared with the world by anonymously typing them into a prompt.
In my opinion, HBO made a mistake with Web of Secrets by not partnering with PostSecret, a website that has created an entire community around the sharing of secrets in a public manner. Perhaps they tried, and PostSecret turned down their offer, but it seems like a natural fit for both the show and PostSecret, so I can’t imagine that to be the case. (Plus, according to Courteney Monroe, HBO’s executive vice president for consumer marketing, they “did not study that site.”) More likely, HBO didn’t want to give up control of the campaign by moving the focus off of their domain, which is unfortunate, since it would have delivered the message to a whole new audience that had self-selected into a group of people that are interested in secrets, and thus a perfect target for the show.
Lastly, HBO also created a Twitter account called WebOfSecrets that takes user submitted secrets and reposts them for the Twitter audience to read.
The problem with this integration into the Twitter community is that it’s missing a few key elements that any good Twitter campaign should have:
- First, they don’t have the show’s URL listed in the Bio area for interested viewers to find out more information. They have the URL displayed in the account’s background, but this isn’t a clickable or copyable link, so users have to manually type the link into the address bar to visit the page.
- Second, the icon that they chose to use for the account’s profile picture is that of the show’s logo, and makes no reference of any kind to secrets. Rather than forcing the brand into the profile picture, what they should have done is made it easy for users to know with a passing glance what the account was all about. (A passing glance is often the only amount of time you’ll get from the Twitter community to make a good first impression.)
- Third, they neglected to fill out the account’s Bio with information about the show, and the background image doesn’t fill in many of the details either, so users are forced to guess at what the account is all about, or have previous experience with the campaign. This makes the Twitter account difficult to understand for the uninitiated, and HBO is missing out on a large number of followers that won’t see the value in following their unexplained updates.
- Interactive billboards encourage passer-bys to get involved.
- Multiple channels ensure the campaign reaches a large and varied audience.
- Anonymous participation encourages viewers to share their secrets with other viewers.
- Missed opportunity for a large and well-targeted cross-promotion partnership.
- Poor branding on Twitter diminishes the potential return.
- Campaigns stretch across many different channels, both offline and online, and unique ads draw the audience in and reward them for their participation.