Premium cable channel Cinemax is seeking to keep viewers buzzing online about its new show Banshee-- a dark thriller from True Blood creator Alan Ball that premiered on Friday-by offering entire episodes online as a series of animated GIF's, a format that enables a graphic image to move on a Web page.
Even before the show launched last week, viewers were able to watch the first episode of Banshee on news site Buzzfeed as a series of silent, cinematic short-form sequences that give a feel for the show, which revolves around Lucas Hood, an ex-con and thief who takes on the role of the sheriff of Banshee, PA to find the woman he loves.
Cinemax also launched a dedicated site on Tumblr to feature the GIFs and a "GIF Shop" where users can buy and personalize their favorite character or moment, as well as share them over social media. The campaign is also a nod to the opening title sequence of Banshee, which uses cinemagraphs, still photographs with elements of movement in them.
"The creators of Banshee have invented a really unique world filled with idiosyncratic characters and cinematic imagery. We were looking for a non-traditional way to build intrigue around that world and the GIF format allowed us to create dynamic, sharable moments that would give viewers a taste of the show, while retaining some of the mystery to the series," said Jason Mulderig, director of Cinemax brand marketing, in an email exchange with ClickZ.
Television programmers are increasingly looking for ways to build loyalty and enthusiasm for their shows via social media at a time when attention spans are short and viewers are often watching more than one screen simultaneously.
"The target is really an online and socially active viewer, one that engages with content in a more active and personal way than traditional media allows," said Mulderig.
Cinemax is also capitalizing on the popularity of GIFs among online users, which people like to feature on their social media sites. "GIFs have a certain language to them that allow viewers to relive, celebrate and personalize their favorite moments. By giving audiences these moments to rally around, we hope to create strong advocates for the show," Mulderig said. Cinemax is also partnering with fan sites to distribute custom edited GIF trailers and GIF animated collectable lobby cards.
And the show's creators have other digital tricks up their sleeve to keep on intriguing viewers. For example, those who carefully watch the opening credits of the show can learn a lock combination that, when applied to a safe on the Banshee website, unlocks secrets of the show's shadowy characters. Using interactive video technology, the vault will offer commentary from the show's creators on the meaning of the show's cryptic ongoing title sequences, for example.
Another digital offering is "Banshee Origins" a comic which gives the story of the show's characters 15 years before the show begins. It will be distributed free on digital platforms and at comic shops. There will also be a Twitter story extension featuring Carrie's teenage daughter, Deva.
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Mary Lisbeth D'Amico is a freelance writer based in Jersey City who frequently covers digital marketing, social media, tech startups, and venture capital. She has contributed to a wide range of publications including The Wall Street Journal, Business Week, Red Herring, and Real Deals. Find her on Twitter at @mldamico.
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