Entertainment - HBO Halloween guide proves a scary success

HBO Halloween: cocktails and merchandise
HBO Halloween: cocktails and merchandise

Campaign: HBO Halloween at Home Guide
Client: HBO
PR team: Fearnhurst PR
Timescale: September-November 2010
Budget: £10,000

HBO's UK online store was looking to inject some fun and creativity around its range of merchandise for the US TV vampire series True Blood. Fearnhurst PR was asked to run a campaign to promote HBO's True Blood merchandise during the Halloween period.

Objectives

- To create excitement around True Blood merchandise during Halloween

- To drive traffic to the HBO UK store

- To generate a buzz through the media and social media.

Strategy and plan

The PR team wanted to capitalise on the current trend of young people staying home and entertaining their friends instead of going out. It developed a downloadable guide to hosting an at-home Halloween party, 'True Blood Halloween at Home'.

The team worked closely with HBO in the US to create content to include in the guide, ranging from themed recipes to cocktails, games and music. It also featured products from the HBO store, such as costumes and themed glasses.

True Blood has a large following in both the US and UK, so the PR team was confident that fans of the show would engage in the activity. The agency sold the kit in to all short lead media, with online press linking to the HBO website to generate downloads. Two weeks before Halloween, the guide was uploaded to the HBO store website and Facebook groups.

The PR team also organised for themed cocktails to be served at London's Lost Society Halloween event. It asked the bar's mixologist to create both an alcoholic and non-alcoholic cocktail using the drink from the show, Tru Blood.

The agency ran competitions to win the ultimate Halloween at Home party, and liaised with local press to give away tickets to the Lost Society party. Party goers were given a 25 per cent discount card for the HBO merchandise.

Measurement and evaluation

The campaign generated 11 pieces of coverage in titles such as the News of the World, Stylist online, Marie Claire online, Celebs on Sunday and Channel4.com.

More than 250 new fans signed up to Facebook, and the guide created buzz among bloggers, who further promoted True Blood. The party at Lost Society was sold out and more than 100 themed cocktails were consumed throughout the evening.

Results

The Halloween at Home promotion helped to propel the total True Blood merchandise sales in October to £20,000, which was a 25 per cent increase from September.

Sales in November also saw a dramatic increase compared with the same period in 2009.

Roughly ten per cent of the total traffic in October to the HBO store viewed the Halloween-related content.

There were 744 downloads of various sections of the guide in October and a further 145 in November.

Second Opinion

Phil Hall, Chairman, PHA MediaPhil Hall

Fearnhurst PR achieved a great deal on a small budget. It should be commended for energy and commitment to a client that wanted a big result for little reward. The subject matter also meant it was high-risk because the window of opportunity was relatively short.

Getting the News of the World to cover the campaign was obviously a big coup. The difficulty with social media is buzz tends to build over a long period of time. With such a short campaign, the agency was clearly up against it. Again it delivered.

Another difficulty with such a campaign is the warning time. With months to plan, it would have been possible to build a relationship with one big media partner that guaranteed several pieces in that publication.

It would also have been possible to recruit a celebrity face or insist the client provided a cast member, even for a limited time. But time was not in great supply, and that makes the agency's success all the more commendable in the circumstances.

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