AUSTIN, TX: HBO, the cable network, is using experiential marketing to drive “quality impressions” and expand on its broadcast content in compelling ways.

Steven Cardwell, HBO’s Director/Program Marketing & Marketing Strategy, discussed this topic – including a recreation of the park from the network’s Western-themed sci-fi series Westworld outside Austin during SXSW 2018.

“We like to go beyond just the simple impression,” he said. (For more, read WARC’s in-depth report: HBO’s formula for experiential marketing.)

“We really want quality impressions: We want people to touch it, to taste it, to smell it. And by building out these worlds and this narrative, fans become part of it.”

HBO is famed for shows with sophisticated narratives, but marketing activities like its Westworld-themed activation at SXSW – held in anticipation of the show’s forthcoming second season – have advantages in terms of flexibility.

“An episode of television is linear; it’s finite. But marketing can go in all sorts of different directions, and take a lot of different paths,” Cardwell said.

HBO has used experiential marketing, of varying kinds, to promote everything from Game of Thrones, its iconic fantasy show, to The Babadook, a cult horror film.

And in determining the results of these efforts, Cardwell does not rely on the hard numbers that are usually applied to performance-based marketing.

“We get this question a lot: How do you measure success? What’s the ROI for this activation? Or this campaign? And it’s a feeling,” he said.

“For HBO, we’re not replicating what’s been done before. We like to be going in bold program directions, doing things that people haven’t done before. So, we like to think that we’re creating that zeitgeist moment.”

Given this philosophy, HBO’s experiential initiatives primarily seek to reach and excite various audiences. “I think what defines good experiences is how authentic they are to the property you’re trying to bring people into,” Cardwell said.

“That said, I think when we’re designing an experience, we want to make sure it’s speaking to the broadest possible audience, but, at the same time, still servicing who that core is.”

Sourced from WARC