To combat Snooki's star power, USA Network crafted a mix of display ads, celebrity-driven social media, and guerilla tactics.
USA Network had never launched an original TV show in January before "Fairly Legal" premiered last week. That challenge was compounded by the fact that the program would share a time slot with MTV's "Jersey Shore."
To combat the star power of Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi, USA Network's marketing team crafted a mix of display advertising, celebrity-driven social media, and guerilla street tactics.
The NBC Universal-owned cable channel ran Facebook.com ads leading up to the debut, as well as banners and takeover ads on sites like TVGuide.com, HuffPost, Yahoo's "People" section, USMagazine.com, JustJared.com, IMDB.com, and SheKnows.com. The banners included three different :30 videos, showing clips from the show's first episode. Ads also appeared via Yahoo's Messenger platform and video networks such as BrightRoll and ScanScout.
The Facebook placements used straight-ahead copy mentioning Fairly Legal's time slot on USA Network. Click-throughs were asked to "like" the show before they could watch a six minute sneak preview of the show, which stars Sarah Shahi (pictured). The show's Facebook page had roughly 12,000 "likes" on its Jan. 20 premiere date.
Shahi authored 17 Facebook posts on Fairly Legal's page in the five days before the premiere, including one pushing a Twitter-based autograph contest. The contest required participants to follow Shahi on Twitter and send out the following tweet on Thursday: "I can't wait to watch the premiere of #FairlyLegal tonight with @OnlySarahShahi at 10/9c on USA!" From her account that has 16,000 followers, more than 40 tweets appeared in the two days leading up to the debut, most of them promoting the one-hour drama. Shahi also produced a series of 1-minute handheld videos that she used to communicate with Facebook "likers" and Twitter followers.
Colleen Mohan, VP of marketing for USA Network, said her company increasingly coordinates social media promotions with its TV stars. "I think from a marketing and publicity standpoint, we are very collaborative in our efforts," she said.
USA Network Leverages Facebook and Twitter for Guerilla Efforts
Facebook and Twitter were also used by the show to promote an offline guerilla marketing effort. A dozen street team members pretended to be picketers in New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. The events were dubbed "Fairly Legal Rally For Mediation" (pictured) and were held in each city on Jan. 19 and Jan. 20. One of the tweets that pushed a rally: "Good morning! The Fairly Legal Rally for Mediation is taking over Damen Station in Chicago! Come check us out!"
The street teamers handed out grey-and-white cookies to underscore how Shahi's character, "Kate Reed," believes that justice is not always black-and-white, Mohan explained. "And [we wanted] to communicate that this is not just another legal show."
Despite the aggressive promotional push, Jersey Shore's season 3 premiere easily dominated Fairly Legal. The latter garnered 3.9 million viewers compared to Jersey Shore's 8.9 million, which is the highest-rated season opener in MTV's history.
Hollywood rags and blogs depicted Fairly Legal's showing as, well, fairly good under the competitive circumstances. Ted Linhart, director of research for USA Network, agreed. "It came out of a tough, tough time slot with a tough night to face," he said. "Considering Jersey Shore hitting these crazy numbers and other competition on a Thursday night, to come out where we are is pretty impressive."
And USA Network's social media team has reason to smile. Without additional ad buys, the show's Facebook "likes" have almost tripled to 32,000 since the show's debut.
Mohan said online word-of-mouth is important to the growth of any television audience. With that in mind, the VP of marketing said Google AdWords keyword buys will be the only online paid media that will continue throughout the show's 10-episode run. She said Fairly Legal's Facebook page and Twitter account (1,200 followers) will be leveraged to tease out sneak previews and upcoming celebrity appearances on the show.
"Social channels give you a platform to create a conversation with the fans," Mohan said. "And it allows you a different type of access. It is not just still or something that's produced. It allows a dialogue to happen."
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Christopher Heine was a senior writer for ClickZ through June 2012. He covered social media, sports/entertainment marketing, retail, and more. Heine's work has also appeared via Mashable, Brandweek, DM News, MarketingSherpa, and other tech- and ad-centric publications. USA Today, Bloomberg Radio, and The Los Angeles Times have cited him as an expert journalist.
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