Why HBO threw an 'over-the-top drag extravaganza' to celebrate the return of 'Big Little Lies'

The show is a hit with LGBTQ viewers.

Company: HBO
Campaign: Amabella’s birthday party
Agency partner: RQ Agency
Duration: June 2019

To celebrate the return of the hit series "Big Little Lies," HBO recreated character Amabella’s 6th birthday party. However, it featured something a bit different than the party on the show did: a "Big Little Lies"-themed drag show.

The first season of "Big Little Lies," an HBO drama that focuses on the lives of five women who hold dark secrets, was a hit with LGBTQ viewers in particular, despite the show having no gay or lesbian plot lines, explained Kate Wolff, SVP of client services at RQ Agency and a member of the LGBTQ community.

"[HBO] wanted to celebrate that," she said.

The network first approached RQ Agency about designing an LGBTQ-focused campaign in November 2018.

"We went back to season one to see where the tension with [the show’s leading female characters] comes from,’" said Wolff.

Turns out, it all went down at character Amabella’s 6th birthday party, which Wolff described as an event that "tore the group apart and brought them together."

From there, the campaign centered around re-creating the party, which in the show is essentially "a 6-year-old party for adults," Wolff said.

"Our main objective was to celebrate and give back to a community in a fun way," she continued. "We wanted to throw a super over-the-top drag extravaganza in the form of a birthday party."

Every detail of the party was meticulously planned. The team rented a Los Angeles mansion, which was decorated to mirror character Renata’s house on the show, complete with business cards and Photoshopped pictures of Laura Dern (who plays Renata) with Steve Jobs and Elizabeth Holmes. 

In advance of the event, which was held on June 1, 25 high-profile guests were sent elaborate invitations that included a tiara, scroll and satin pillow.

Lifestyle and LGBTQ-focused outlets were pitched two weeks before the event, although the drag element was kept a surprise.

The highlight of the party, the show featured drag queens including Morgan McMichaels, Delta Work, Sonique and Alyssa Edwards, who each impersonated one of the show’s five protagonists, plus birthday girl Amabella.

In addition to the party, HBO sent a three-part series of 50 total kits, featuring wigs and mug shots, among various other items associated with the show’s central characters, to LGBTQ influencers including Trevor Moran, Troye Sivan and Lauren Elizabeth. 

The party was attended by 220 people, including a number of prominent LGBTQ influencers and journalists, and generated 43 earned media placements, including write-ups in Logo, Pride Magazine, The Daily Mail, Haute Living and People.com.

On social media, the party received a collective 428 unique and organic user-generated posts.

Interest about the party was driven in large part by influencers, including Kelly Oxford and Andrew Lowe, who posted about the party’s elaborate invitations on Instagram stories. 

The "Big Little Lies"-themed kits were also a hit on social, with influencers such as Troye Sivan (10.5 million followers), Trevor Moran (1.5 million followers) and Matthew Patrick (1.1 million followers) posting about them on Instagram. 

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