Going into season 3, the most valuable tool Showtime had in its Penny Dreadful marketing strategy was the existing fanbase. They are sophisticated fans of horror, literature and period dramas, that are passionate, vocal and highly-engaged with the series and each other.
Following two critically-acclaimed seasons of the series, the fandom of Dreadfuls offered Showtime a rare opportunity to launch an extensive fan art campaign in season 3.
But, there was a catch. The strategy had to take into consideration knowledge that the three-season opus envisioned by creator John Logan would conclude with the death of a fan-favorite character, marking the end of the series - news that would be confirmed in the press the following day.
A fundamental objective of the campaign was to push the boundaries of traditional fan art contests through a strategy that would engage fans from season premiere through the series finale.
Showtime had a rare opportunity with Penny Dreadful to turn the dial up on an existing fan behavior by building upon the fandom's strong affinity for fan art. To differentiate from similar competitions, Showtime launched a season-long campaign, which offered exceptional prizing and incorporated the strengths of the series, notably its rich settings, to elevate it to a premium level.
Phase 1: Penny Dreadful Art of the Demimonde / Surprise & Demise
From character Dorian Gray's gallery to settings in the British Museum, Victorian galleries in the world of Penny Dreadful are "extraordinary places where incomparable beauty and unspeakable evil coexist." This made the Victorian gallery motif a fitting backdrop for the campaign. To fuel organic fan behavior, Showtime launched the competition on a fully redesigned tumblr with three categories of prizing.
Surprise & Demise
In an additional, unannounced surprise and delight layer, fans - regardless of the type of art and skill level - were also selected for the gallery and awarded high-value Penny Dreadful prize packs.
Grand prize winners were announced on the day of finale before fans were aware of the fate of their favorite character, Vanessa Ives, and the end of the series. Due to the number of incredible entries in the Comic Book Illustration category, two additional winners were chosen.
The winner of the Graphic Design category had been specifically chosen as the art that would represent the death of Vanessa and end of Penny Dreadrul, and was incorporated into the series finale campaign, It Was Foretold.
Phase 2: It Was Foretold
Upon revealing the news of the series finale, Showtime launched, "It Was Foretold," a multi-platform campaign designed to support the fanbase through the tragic end of Penny Dreadful. Profile creative was turned black (in mourning) and text based graphics featuring quotes from throughout the series were posted to show the end had always been part of the story.
The winning art in the Graphic Design category was the only visual creative posted during the campaign to represent the death of Vanessa and the end of Penny Dreadful.
The season 3 Penny Dreadful campaign drove:
+54% increase in fans across platforms
2M People Engaged and 3.3M Total Interactions on Facebook
21M impressions on Twitter and 200K interactions on Tweets
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