Portlandia Gets Social Boost From Battlestar Galactica

Independent Film Channel has increased Facebook fans/likes for the comedy show Portlandia from 85,000 to 191,000 in less than two months. And with one episode of the show’s new season now in the books, Nielsen ratings show viewership among the target demo is up 81 percent compared to last year.

While different components of an integrated campaign produced those stellar numbers, IFC’s targeting of Battlestar Galatica’s Facebook fans/likes is likely the most interesting. The 2000s-era science fiction show is a central topic to the second episode of Portlandia, which airs on TV Jan. 13.

In the weeks leading up to Portlandia’s second season premiere on Jan. 6, the company practiced what many marketers consider to be a golden rule for Facebook engagement – pitch exclusive content. During the lead up, the IFC marketing team had been running Facebook ads and posting short clips from the new season in a campaign called, “More Likes, More Portlandia.” Then, from Jan. 1 through Jan. 5, it offered the full Battlestar Galatica-themed episode, dubbed “One Moore Episode,” on its Facebook page and at IFC.com. People who wanted to watch the episode had to first “like” Portlandia’s Facebook page.

“At first, the message we were putting out there was very much in the vein of, ‘Hey, the more likes we get, the more stuff we are going to give you,'” Craig Parks, VP of digital media at New York-based IFC, told ClickZ News. “We knew where it was ultimately going…that we’d premiere an entire episode on Facebook from season 2 before it aired on TV.”

portlandia2“One Moore Episode” centers on the program’s main characters watching nearly an endless stream of Battlestar Galatica episodes. The characters become infatuated with the science fiction show and then determined to convince its creator, Ronald Moore, to produce one more episode.

IFC, part of AMC Networks, asked Battlestar Galatica’s camp to post sneak peek videos of the Portlandia episode on its Facebook page. The science fiction program obliged with two clips and promotional copy on Dec. 19.

Meanwhile Parks and his team targeted Facebook ads at Battlestar Galatica’s 775,000 fans/likes on the social site. Other targets included Facebook users aged between 18 and 35 who had already “liked” another IFC show. And Sponsored Stories ads in particular zeroed in on the same age demo for people who were not connected to Portlandia on the social site but whose Facebook friends were.

Though Parks characterized the Facebook ad buy as modest, he also said that “the Battlestar Galatica partnership really gave the whole thing a viral lift. The likes just started increasing dramatically.”

Portlandia’s Target Demo Viewership Up 81 Percent

During the broadcast of the show’s premiere on Jan. 6, co-stars Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein live chatted with viewers on IFC.com. Thirty-nine percent more people watched the first episode over the three-day weekend compared to 2011’s season premiere, according to Nielsen ratings. For Portlandia’s target demo of consumers aged 18 to 49, Nielsen reveals that viewership was up 81 percent.

In addition to Facebook ads, media buys included site homepage takeovers on Pandora, Spin, Yelp New York, The Onion, Vice, Pitchfork, and Pace on Jan. 6. Banners also ran on publisher networks while promotions appeared via Apple iTunes in exchange for product placement on the TV show. Print and other offline ads also contributed.

Interactive agency Morpheus Media led the digital efforts. While social media learnings will be vigorously applied to marketing IFC’s other 2012 original programs, Parks said, Portlandia represented the channel’s greatest success in the space so far – especially on Facebook.

“It eclipses the other shows by a long shot,” he said, while speaking to the number of likes/fans Portlandia has accrued. “Going forward, I think Facebook is going to be a much bigger part of our efforts.”

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