Fall TV's Odd Marketing Stunts: Blood Drives, Tiffany and More

Sleepy Hollow Experience - H 2013

Digital ads, Comic-Con pushes and social media may be the norm for marketing a fall series. But in order to break through the clutter of an increasingly crowded landscape, the broadcast networks are being forced to go big or watch as their new dramas and comedies are sent home early.

Cemetery screenings, bowling alley and yogurt-shop takeovers, and cold hard cash are just a few of the strategies being employed to draw eyeballs to the 27 new shows set to bow in the coming weeks.

"It's crazy competitive out there, and viewers have more choices than ever now, so we've tried to create some buzzy stunts and events that have real impact -- that draw attention, generate press and create social chatter in an effort to hopefully cut through all the clutter and noise and drive tune-in," said Shannon Ryan, executive vp marketing and communications/publicity at Fox.

NBC is betting on more traditional avenues: online, mobile, radio and print. The network notes it became the first-ever entertainment advertiser to be featured on Vanity Fair's back-cover position, with a six-page promo. NBC also looked to take advantage of Ryan Seacrest's media presence with an exclusive monthlong deal during his KIIS-FM morning show (which also served to promote Million Second Quiz).

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CBS turned to aspiring advertising students in a unique tie-in with The Crazy Ones, which follows stars Robin Williams and Sarah Michelle Gellar as they look to save their struggling advertising firm. "In our business, there is no more box," CBS Marketing Group president George Schweitzer said. "Viewers are getting bombarded with messages in so many different ways from so many different platforms. We have to be everywhere."

ABC, meanwhile, is literally giving $100,000 away to get the word out about lottery drama Lucky 7, in addition to teaming with '80s pop princess Tiffany to promote The Goldbergs. "In this crowded marketplace, we continually push ourselves to find new ways to stand out and make noise. And with our slate of shows this season, we have many wonderful sources of inspiration," said Marla Provencio exec vp and chief marketing officer at ABC Entertainment Group. "We're always looking for ways to innovate that are still organic to the programming."

The CW teamed with the American Red Cross for a blood drive tied to The Vampire Diaries spinoff The Originals. "Each year the creative content of the new shows provide us with the challenge of finding new and different media vehicles that fit the personality of the show and at the same time allow us to reach our viewers in all the ways they consume media," says Rick Haskins, exec vp digital media at The CW.

Here are a few innovative efforts the broadcast networks have employed heading into the fall season.

The Goldbergs (ABC)
The network is going all-out for Adam F. Goldberg's 1980s-set comedy The Goldbergs, launching a dedicated website re-creating the family's living room, a Pandora playlist, decade-appropriate customized video game and more. A faux floppy disc with a jump drive to the pilot was also mailed to nearly 7,000 people named Goldberg ages 18-49 across the country (this reporter included). Others may have received custom Goldbergs lunch boxes containing a Rubik's cube, Simon, iTunes gift cards pushing '80s hits and a mini iPad with content from the series. Also, movie theaters in select cities will unspool classic '80s movies (i.e. Pretty in Pink) to pair with the pilot. But the biggest push came in the form of a New York concert with '80s phenom Tiffany. 

Lucky 7 (ABC)
Taking advantage of Lucky 7's lottery theme, ABC is also running a $100,000 sweepstakes that offers fans a chance at the jackpot. The winning numbers will naturally be announced onscreen during the series' Sept. 24 premiere.

Back in the Game (ABC)
In a baseball-themed marketing swing to promote Maggie Lawson-James Caan family comedy Back in the Game, the network created custom digital bobble heads featuring the cast along with the opportunity for fans to become part of the Angles (Angels, haplessly misspelled) team featured on the series.

The network also held an outdoor screening in August to promote new comedies Back in the Game, The Goldbergs and Trophy Wife.

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Agents of SHIELD (ABC)
In addition to cryptic billboards and a Facebook page that popped up before the pilot was even ordered to series, the network is teaming with Xbox to promote big swing Agents of SHIELD, Marvel's first primetime scripted series. The three-phase promo includes exclusive content from the series premiere. In addition to an early website with enigmatic teasers for the top-secret pilot (which has been kept under wraps for months), the network also recently debuted a source offering access to the mysterious Level 7 clearance in a nod to Agent Coulson's (Clark Gregg) unexplained resurrection.

Once Upon a Time in Wonderland (ABC)
For its Once Upon a Time spinoff, eight giant mushrooms will be placed around New York, with one life-sized rabbit making its way around the city.

Super Fun Night (ABC)
Billboards for the Rebel Wilson comedy will become super fun when they come alive at night and feature the Bridesmaids star's Kimmie offering recommendations for where to go out and what to do through an integration with Yelp.

The Crazy Ones (CBS)
The first-place network is screening its Williams and Gellar starrer at colleges featuring some of the top TV and advertising curricula. Students at USC, Boston University, Northwestern and Ithaca can win a summer internship with CBS Marketing with their pitches.

The Millers (CBS)
CBS is teaming with Survivor winner-turned-writer John Cochran -- who landed the gig after fan/series creator Greg Garcia handed him the job -- to promote the series. The network followed Cochran for a week in the writers room, at table reads, during rehearsals and at the taping as he began his new career. CBS will release web videos featuring his experiences in a bid to tap into Survivor's loyal fan base.

The Millers and The Crazy Ones are also part of a major fall comedy push for new and returning series with promotional partner Yogurtland, where eight of CBS' half-hours have received special flavors specifically created for the campaign. Sheldon's Bazinga Blueberry will push The Big Bang Theory, for example, at select Yogurtland locations from Sept. 13 through Sept. 30. On premiere night, the select locations will offer free yogurt from noon to 6 p.m.

The Tomorrow People (The CW)
The youth-skewing network is teaming with Spotify to create an app called the Music of Tomorrow, recommending new music based on users' existing playlists. A microsite on Xbox will promote the series, a remake of the 1970s effort from Greg Berlanti and Julie Plec, with a telekinesis game that using Kinect technology to move objects around on the screen.

The Originals (The CW)
To push its spinoff of The Vampire Diaries, the network is working with the American Red Cross to hold a blood drive featuring images from the series. There's also "Mikaelson's blood cleanse" -- a juice cleanse for sale on Gilt City that hails from Joulebody.

Reign (The CW)
A handful of younger-skewing websites will feature a "Royal Fakeover," an online ad that will make the dot-com appear like a 16th century scroll before reverting to its typical appearance. Beauty bloggers will also produce vlogs (titled Reign in Style) to re-create the hairstyles featured on the period drama about Mary, Queen of Scots.

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Brooklyn Nine-Nine (Fox)
Fox teamed with a Brooklyn bowling alley for a week, capped off with a live performance featuring Twin Sister and The Roots' Questlove and a screening of the rookie comedy. Additionally, Fox has taken over the Jay Street/Metro Tech subway station, the biggest takeover yet in Brooklyn. Timed to its Sept. 17 premiere, street teams will distribute MetroCards preloaded with free rides from 7-9 a.m. and free food from a branded food truck. Ten more food trucks will be in top markets across the country offering free food, sunglasses and photo ops with stars, including Andy Samberg, Andre Braugher and Terry Crews. (Check out a video from the Brooklyn Bowl event below.)

Dads (Fox)
To promote the comedy from the producers behind Ted, Fox offered free golf -- and Dads-branded balls -- for fathers and sons at courses in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, Houston and Washington, D.C., tied to Father's Day.

Sleepy Hollow (Fox)
Fox re-created a scene from the well-known legend for a three-day fan experience in the middle of New York where passers-by could pose with a creepy 7-foot-tall Headless Horseman, make custom GIFs and flip books as well as tour an old bridge, featuring period costumes and props from the drama. The Headless Horseman first popped up at Comic-Con in July and will tour New York on Sept. 16, the day of the premiere. Not to be outdone, Fox also screened the pilot for 3,000 curious moviegoers at Hollywood Forever cemetery. There, castmembers including Orlando Jones and Katia Winter were joined by producers (and more Headless Horsemen) to introduce the series and pose for photos. (Check out a video of the Sleepy Hollow experience below.)

The Blacklist (NBC)
Following a cross-company promotion for live game show Million Second Quiz, the network has employed the same approach to push James Spader drama The Blacklist, which will air on Mondays following The Voice (the latter of which also received the full-court press effort). A transmedia social tie-in put fans on the "blacklist" and pulled them into the world of the series.

The Michael J. Fox Show (NBC)
To promote Fox's return to NBC, the network teamed with the Michael J. Fox Foundation to offer prizes for 2,000 house parties taking place on the night of the show's premiere, in addition to promoting the beloved actor's storied onscreen career with "five degrees of separation" infographics.

Sean Saves the World (NBC)
In addition to a series of Instagram videos featuring star Sean Hayes saving the day, the network made the LGBT community a priority in pushing its comedy about a gay single father, with a presence at New York and L.A. Gay Pride events in June and at Fire Island Pines over Labor Day weekend.

Dracula (NBC)
Animated webisodes serve as a prequel to the Jonathan Rhys Meyers drama, which also used an episodic web series with the cast, creators and writers, providing insight into the Friday night companion to Grimm.

E-mail: Lesley.Goldberg@THR.com
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