A Hyper-Relevant CGM Campaign for HBO’s ‘The Wire’

HBO is presenting a CGM spoken word competition on urban site Blastro to promote the fourth season of its hit series “The Wire.” The contest invites users to submit three minutes of video recorded spoken word about their own personal education.

The campaign, created by Deep Focus, captures a gritty, honest and real mode of expression that’s in line with the show’s setting in inner city Baltimore. “The biggest thing for us in developing this campaign was trying to be true to the spirit of the show,” Sabrina Caluori, account director at Deep Focus, told ClickZ News. “We were trying to come up with a way to approach it that was new and interesting.”

The result is “The Wire Spoken Word Battle,” a competition for slam poets and hip-hop and freestyle artists hosted on Blastro.com. Users were asked to submit their experiences and views about how they were educated in a three-minute video. The theme of education is consistent with the emphasis of the current season.

Previous campaigns Deep Focus worked on for this year’s crop of HBO shows include “Big Love,” “The Sopranos” and “Entourage.” Each one arguably pushed boundaries, though the CGM-based aspect of the campaign for “The Wire” was perhaps the most risky.

“I think there’s always a little fear by a big marketer with a user-generated contest,” said Caluori. “In this case, the show itself doesn’t have a lot of fear, that’s what we wanted to put forward with this promotion. We wanted people to talk about their lives and education in inner cities.”

One of the actresses on the show, Sonja Sohn, who plays Detective Shakima “Kima” Gregg, hosts the contest. She herself is a slam poetess and appeared in the film “Slam.”

The venue for the contest — where winners will be featured on Blastro and potentially have their submissions shown on HBO’s on demand channel — already hosts similar content.

“We really wanted to partner with a site that had the portion of this audience, and have a built-in system where users were used to watching video content and used to going to the site as a destination for similar content,” said Caluori.

Deep Focus and Blastro worked together to drive traffic to the site. HBO put its media spend into blogs and BlackPlanet.com. Both parties also worked on media outreach and grass roots efforts at events like the National Poetry Slam and online via community sites and blogs. Blastro also sought an audience on video sharing sites.

“[We drove viewers from] YouTube, MySpace, TagWorld and all the places where you can find niche [interest],” said Blastro’s site director, Jesse Brede. “We reached out to them in a soft, hand-touch way, not so much this hard promotion with banner ads.”

Early promotions on Blastro have included a Pepsi-sponsored survey, but nothing on the scale of “The Wire Spoken World Battle.” The urban site, and it’s rock- and pop-focused partner site Roxwel.com, hopes to attract future campaigns with a similar scope.

“We found that one of our strengths is leveraging our delivery platform and framework,” said Casey Charvet, technical director and project manager at Blastro.

Related reading