'Marvelous Mrs. Maisel' 1950s Carnegie Deli pop-up goes gangbusters

The diner, used as a tool to promote the show, served more than 11,000 people.

Actress Rachel Brosnahan, who plays the character of Miriam Maisel, stops by the deli.
Actress Rachel Brosnahan, who plays the character of Miriam Maisel, stops by the deli.

Company: Amazon
Campaign: Marvelous Mrs. Maisel Carnegie Deli pop-up
Agency mix: Tool of North America (strategy, production, media relations), ASTRSK PR (media outreach, PR), in-house (strategy)
Duration: December 1-8, 2018

To celebrate the Emmy award-winning first season of Amazon Prime Video's "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel" and promote the show’s second season, which dropped on December 5, Amazon recreated a functional 1950s-era Carnegie Deli in New York City.

Amazon reached out to Tool of North America in February for ideas on how to promote the show, which takes places in 1950s Manhattan. Early on, the team got excited about the idea of reviving iconic Jewish delicatessen Carnegie Deli as it existed in 1958. Founded in 1937, the deli closed its doors in 2016.

"We knew there would be a lot of nostalgia for [Carnegie Deli], and we also knew there would be this natural connection with the comedy aspect of the show," said Tool of North America communications manager Helen Grossman. "Carnegie Deli was a haven for comedians in the 1950s; they got their pictures on the wall."

The project was awarded in October 2018, after which Tool worked quickly to set up the fully-operational pop-up restaurant. The goal was to recreate the marvelous, whimsical world of the series’ star Miriam "Midge" Maisel, Grossman said.

"The show itself really transports you," she explained. "We wanted to recreate that for New Yorkers to experience, and also to find a way to bring new audience members into the fold."

Located in Manhattan’s Nolita district, the pop-up deli opened to the public on December 1 and closed December 8. Before that, Amazon hosted a series of VIP events at the deli for the press, which were attended by the show’s cast. It also sent sandwiches and black and white cookies to media outlets in the days leading up to the opening via a delivery boy dressed in "full 1950s regalia," Grossman said. Fully committed to his character, "he was screaming about how he was making 10 cents an hour."

The deli itself, which sat 30 people at a time, was also staffed by actors, who served sandwiches and New York cheesecake in character, complete with the appropriate 1950s slang -- the food was "gangbusters." Although they found smartphones "baffling," servers could be coaxed to take photos with them. Amazon also rented out the storefront next door, outfitting it black-and-white televisions that played President Dwight Eisenhower’s 1958 address. Vintage cars and cabs lined the streets outside the pop-up.

While the sandwiches were advertised as costing an era-appropriate 99 cents, the meals were actually free -- courtesy of Midge, according to the checks received by diners.

Over its seven-day run, the deli served 11,047 people, with a line consistently wrapping around the block. Wait times frequently hit the three-hour mark. The vintage cars gave fans something to look at and photograph as they waited, which drove engagement on social media. The week-long event generated 1,735 posts across platforms.

The event was also extensively covered by the press, garnering articles in BuzzFeed, Food & Wine, Forbes, The New York Times, and Vogue, among others, along with broadcast coverage, including spots on "Entertainment Tonight," and the "Today" show.

"A lot of these brand activations are truly geared towards taking a photo, tagging it, and then leaving," Grossman said. "But you could see that people were actually getting super into it. That’s what we wanted: to set a new standard for a pop-up."

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