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Inside HBO’s Ice-Cold True Detective Marketing Stunts



True Detective: Night Country is giving viewers marketing that’ll make them stop cold.

Premiering almost 10 years to the day of Season 1’s debut, the fourth season of True Detective has revitalized the franchise thanks to increasing viewership and marketing stunts that continue to capture fans’ imagination.

Starring Jodie Foster and Kali Reis, the series follows a central mystery of missing scientists who are discovered frozen in a block of ice. And that core storyline inspired several elements behind the campaign for the show, as HBO partnered with New York-based agency Map360 for OOH stunts on both coasts, as well as creative agency Arsonal for the campaign creative.

“This season, in many ways, is closest to Season 1 in terms of the themes, the narrative tiebacks, there’s a lot of Easter eggs,” Alex Diamond, vp of global originals marketing for HBO and Max, told ADWEEK. “We knew right off the bat there was an opportunity to bring the show back into the zeitgeist, and that was definitely one of the top goals for us.”

As a “mirror” of Season 1, HBO decided on activations in Los Angeles and New York, promoting the show with interactive ice billboards, which then melted to expose messages around the new season of the series.

“We definitely wanted to make sure that our creative materials, our marketing, had this distinct Arctic aesthetic,” said Diamond. “We came up with doing these out-of-the-box, IRL, stunty billboards where you really felt like you were set in Alaska, almost as if you were stepping into the crime scene.”

The stunts drew high attendance and earned media, with 89,800 impressions at the LA billboard and 242,500 impressions in New York. For total media, LA’s hand-painted mural saw 768,260 impressions from Jan. 7 through Jan. 21, and the New York billboard space and window takeover earned 428,812 impressions, according to the company.

Additionally, the company debuted a 360-level marketing campaign that included high-impact paid media, such as TV spots in NFL playoff games, billboards, OOH frequency media, digital, social and print.

For Diamond, it was all about “crossing into the cultural zeitgeist” in the age of streaming TV as the series did in Season 1.

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