Late last winter, posters depicting two of the U.K.’s hottest TV stars, David Tennant and Olivia Coleman, standing on an idyllic beach that had become a crime scene were a common sight in the British capital.
The moody shot was part of a big marketing campaign to hype “Broadchurch,” one of the year’s most successful TV dramas and one that is being rebooted by series creator Chris Chibnall for Fox in the U.S. after making its debut on BBC America in August.
To some, the marketing of “Broadchurch” was another sign that in today’s uber-competitive TV market place, content owners are increasingly marketing their shows like feature films.
“With the rise of digital, people are watching more video overall, but it is harder to get big audiences for shows on terrestrial channels,” says Adam Skinner, client partner at U.K. marketing agency OMD. “British networks will always chose to spend more money to promote certain shows.”
Part of the objective behind ITV’s “Broadchurch” campaign was to draw more discriminating viewers who might make an exception for the complex, high-end drama produced by Kudos.
“We hoped to attract audiences that don’t normally come to ITV all that often,” says the company’s head of network marketing, Reemah Sakaan. “We wanted a younger, more upscale audience as well as the mass audience.”
The media campaign for “Broadchurch” used all the classic elements associated with marketing the latest installment of a Hollywood franchise, including TV and cinema ads, online and outdoor, but it would be wrong to assume that TV types are regularly emulating film companies.
“Only a limited number of individual TV shows have the kind of marketing support that ‘Broadchurch’ did in the U.K.,” Skinner says. “For certain shows, a feature-film style campaign makes sense, but it is not a new phenomenon. … Having star casting in a drama always helps.
“It is difficult to accurately assess the impact marketing had on ‘Broadchurch’s’ success. What really mattered was that it was a great show.”
The biggest difference, arguably, between hyping a movie and a TV series is that film studios want to get people into theaters for the picture’s crucial opening weekend. A TV campaign, on the other hand, is designed to keep people tuning in throughout an entire series and, ideally, build the audience.
Social media is a key element in any TV marketing blitz and has been for some time. When irreverent U.K. teen drama “Skins” bowed in 2007, Channel 4 for the first time used social media in the form of MySpace to create buzz around the skein.
What was innovative six years ago is now commonplace. Yet marketers still remain uncertain over precisely what effect trending on Twitter has on a show’s performance.
“All the research suggests that the No. 1 topic on Twitter is TV,” says Channel 4 marketing director Dan Brooke. “Everybody believes there is a relationship between social media and ratings. but it is not at all clear what it is. In the U.K., 5% of the population use social media to talk about TV in any month.”