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    Post-pandemic ‘desperation’ for reality is driving TV brands to experiential marketing

    TV and film marketing is failing to reach vital gen Z audiences. Top media brands Disney, Netflix and FX believe experiential marketing is the key to winning over younger audiences – especially after the last few years of pandemic disruption.

    AV entertainment has historically ramped up the excitement flywheel through a long-established chain of critics, newspapers, magazines, TV chat shows and talent press junkets. But in the peak streaming era – where there’s more clamor than ever – brands are aware they must cut through to where gen Z is.

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    Why TV brands are banking on experiential marketing

    Disney is going big with a multi-sensory experience in 2023 called ‘The Wonder of Friendship,’ an announcement that comes made soon after Netflix and FX both opened immersive retail experiences. Furthermore, Channel 4 revealed to The Drum a strategy shift towards experiential. The real world is becoming a canvas to spark our TV fantasies. 

    James Herring, chief executive of the creative PR agency Taylor Herring, recently worked on the House of the Dragon throne tour and Channel 4’s interactive Make Me Prime Minster campaign. He says the competitiveness of the streaming market means TV companies “cannot rest on their laurels” and market content the traditional way.

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    “You are not going to reach gen Z with a double spread in The Radio Times or by putting your talent on The Graham Norton Show,” he says.

    That’s where these unusual experiences come in. Disney’s ‘The Wonder of Friendship’ experience opens in May 2023 and is pitched as an ode to best friends, bringing to life characters including Lilo and Stitch, Mickey and his pals and The Lion King’s Simba and Pumbaa. The family-friendly event will stand alone, but also excite audiences about Disney+’s upcoming originals. 

    Meanwhile this month Netflix opened ‘Netflix at The Grove,’ an immersive retail experience in LA. The 10,000-square-foot space is stuffed with life-sized versions of features from Netflix shows, including Vecna from Stranger Things, a throne from Bridgerton and the doll from Squid Game.  

    Post-pandemic ‘desperation’ for reality is driving TV brands to experiential marketing
     
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    And that’s not mentioning FX debuting an immersive fan experience earlier this month to promote the 11th installment of American Horror Story. The over-18-only AHS: NYC Shop was pegged as an immersive horror-inspired boutique filled with props and items from the new series. 

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    Herring explains as newspaper sales dwindle and the importance of red-carpet events dulls, these types of activations will become “borderline essential” for TV and film brands. He urges brands to create more “tactile and personal experiences for audiences, build a stronger relationship with the show and drive more word of mouth and bragging rights.”

    It’s worth noting that each of these new experiential sites includes elements for photo ops, as well as exclusive access for influencers to foster organic promotion.

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    Sarah Fox, vice-president marketing and communications for Disney Consumer Products Games and Publishing EMEA, tells The Drum the post-pandemic “desperation” for in-person events drove the creation of ‘The Wonder of Friendship.’

    While pushing the in-person experience, Disney has added a hybrid digital element to ensure it’s an inclusive event. “We know there is huge value in hosting in-person experiences and bringing people together, but we do also want to ensure that people who are unable to attend can connect with the storytelling too,” Fox says.

    Disney tied with TikTok and Snapchat to run quizzes and challenges, as well as develop filters and drop social ads. To further promote the event, Disney will run an integrated campaign leveraging paid media and influencer marketing.

    Fox explains the focus of the campaign is to “build awareness and relationships with [Disney’s] target audience of gen Zs and young adults.” Fox’s team will measure the campaign through attendance rates, mentions and engagement across social, earned media reach and sentiment and microsite visitors.

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