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Special Project

Special Project
From the 15th Annual Shorty Awards

The Staircase

Finalist in Integrated Campaign


Our objective was to significantly drive views and positive critical reviews of The Staircase, a true crime drama on streaming service HBO Max, with the hope that it could become HBO Max’s first award-winning original Limited Series.

To ensure overall success, we needed to:

  1. Drive (critical) conversation about the show, leveraging the acclaimed cast, to position the show as a ‘must-watch’ and grow views throughout the season.
  2. Ensure people knew it was on HBO Max, driving linkage while beating previous CPV benchmarks.

Launching in 2022, and starring Colin Firth and Toni Collette, The Staircase centers around the tragic, real-life events of the Peterson family. In the eight-part true crime drama, Firth plays Michael Peterson, the writer convicted of murdering his wife Kathleen Peterson (Collette), who was found dead at the foot of the staircase in their home.

Despite the show’s mega star power, success was not guaranteed for two reasons:

Firstly, as the topic had already been covered in a Netflix documentary of the same name in 2018, there was a danger viewers would not associate the series with HBO Max.

Secondly, as the original documentary had explained how the case was resolved, we needed a compelling reason to watch our dramatized retelling of the same story.

Critics aside, our primary viewing targets were 25-54-year-old (female) adults. They are true crime fans and spend more time than anyone else consuming related audio and digital content. What’s more, they enjoy watching shows with others and chatting about them online.

Strategy and Execution

While usually HBO Max and other streaming providers would promote shows heavily online, for The Staircase we decided to widen the scope - launching a cross-channel strategy, extending digital teasers and promos with critical acclaim ads, articles and physical activities.

We’d give the show a ‘movie makeover’, getting people excited about The Staircase with the added suspense and impact you’d usually only get with a big screen premiere. We’d promote the show like a movie, premiering it in select theaters across America - a first for an HBO Max Original - putting some viewers into cinema seats before streaming the show on HBO Max. We’d support screenings with movie-style billboards in New York and LA. Plus, in some markets, we’d create the ultimate premiere experience, with in-person, cast and crew Q&A sessions.

Pre-premiere, we’d push show teasers and trailers via HBO Max’s digital and social channels, highlighting plot points and cliffhangers.

We’d also reach potential viewers through traditional outlets – creating custom content programs with their favorite publishers: Vanity Fair and The New York Times.

Supporting this, we’d seed audio ads into the true-crime podcasts that our targets devour weekly.

In all messaging, we’d highlight show times and dates and clarify that the show is available to stream exclusively on HBO Max.

Finally, a few days ahead of the show premiere, we’d make the biggest splash possible – with a major shared viewing experience designed to drive interest and social chatter: HBO Max’s first cinematic pre-release of a streaming series.

Supporting all activity, we’d leverage additional traditional channels, like OOH and print ads.

We launched our campaign by seeding short and long-form trailers across Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter, targeting true crime fans and like-minded HBO Docuseries viewers.

We placed audio ads in true crime series, Wondery’s My Favorite Murder and Audacy’s True Crime collection, and segments on local radio and The NY Times podcast, The Daily.

On, we launched a custom interactive landing page, profiling the Peterson family plus information viewers could reference throughout the season.

Significantly, we partnered with The NY Times - creating a custom-branded online crossword puzzle, with all clues showcasing the talent and key themes of the series.

Three days before the official premiere, in an industry first, we showed the premiere episode of The Staircase in 11 Alamo Drafthouse theaters across America, including in New York, LA, San Francisco and Austin.

We also extended our OOH presence in NYC and LA, with high-impact units on Tall Wall and Times Square.

On premiere day, we engaged Connected TV (CTV) streamers with high-impact, awareness-driven tactics across Google (CTV Masthead), LG TVs, and Tremor CTV app viewers (targeting Netflix The Staircase engagers).

Plus, we launched takeovers on Vanity Fair, Variety, NY Times, and TikTok, placing ads in key linear TV properties during premiere week: NBA Semi-Finals, Saturday Night Live, and Law & Order SVU.

Finally, we supplemented our TV buy with like-minded news programming, addressable TV, and ROS across top-indexing entertainment networks for further frequency amongst prospective viewers.


The Staircase was one of the most talked-about shows of 2022.

Our ads were seen over 475MM+ times, and video views hit 85MM, generating 717K clicks to

Detailed results:

Thanks to this expossure:

Thanks to the awareness generated by our movie-style makeover, The Staircase was a hit with viewers in cinemas and at home and has since received multiple Emmy nominations, attracting praise from viewers and critics alike.


Video for The Staircase

Entrant Company / Organization Name

Hearts & Science, HBO Max