Fans of the serial killer drama are treated to an alternate reality experience that spans fictional websites, online classifieds, eBay, YouTube, and Twitter.
Showtime Digital Media has created a way to keep fans of its hit serial killer drama Dexter entertained in the off-season: By introducing another serial killer - one that might not be as benevolent - in an elaborate alternate reality game (ARG).
The point is to uncover the identity of the so-called "Infinity Killer," a serial murderer with a name reminiscent of John Lithgow's Emmy-winning turn as Season Four's Trinity Killer.
The game was unveiled during a street marketing effort at San Diego Comic-Con in July, where attendees were drawn to a faux crime scene, according to Marcelo Guerra, Showtime's VP of digital marketing. Guerra said the crime scene "served as what they call the 'rabbit hole.'" In it, someone had recently been killed.
Showtime used SCVNGR, a game platform with a location-based element, to draw attention at Comic-Con. "As a digital marketer, I'm interested in finding new ways [to provide] compelling experiences as audiences become savvier and savvier," Guerra said.
Once drawn in, fans could interact with the ARG on two main sites with fictional characters and content - Sleep Superbly and Serial Huntress. With the help of Boston-based agency Modernista!, Showtime extended the experience to a variety of other online platforms. For instance, the game has included ads on Craigslist, a classified ad in the Philadelphia Daily News, and a lost jacket in New York. At one point, a watch with a clue on it was listed on eBay and participants had to bid for access the clue. (Showtime did not charge the winner, but the watch was mailed to the winning player.) YouTube and Twitter were also employed.
A marketing campaign of this scope requires a great deal of content, which Guerra says resulted from collaboration among Showtime's marketing department, the show's writers, and Modernista.
"A couple of the writers have really been into this new kind of storytelling and they've been really helpful and supportive along the way," he said.
Dexter fans have so far discovered a connection between the Infinity Killer, the faux crime scene at Comic-Con, and the two fictional websites. Showtime promises an exciting conclusion in the next few weeks, or about a week before Season Five premieres on September 26.
"It takes a lot of time and effort [to create]," Guerra says. "But it's a rewarding experience. And I think as a result, we're going to give fans the kind of experience that will keep them talking about the series and deepen their connection with the brand."
Showtime declined to disclose the number of players who have engaged with the ARG. Guerra describes it as a success, in part thanks to support from alternate reality websites like unfiction.com and ARGNet.com, which verified it as genuine and pulled in alternate reality fans who had not necessarily watched Dexter before.
This is not the first elaborate Dexter marketing campaign from Showtime. Previously, the network dyed fountains red in various cities prior to a season premiere.
Showtime is a wholly owned subsidiary of CBS Corporation.
In addition to ClickZ and Search Engine Watch, Lisa's work has appeared in The Huffington Post, The Luxury Spot, LearnVest, MarthaStewart.com, GoodHousekeeping.com, amNewYork, and The Wall Street Journal. She's a graduate of Columbia's School of Journalism.
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