To retain and attract new subscribers, HBO NOW, the standalone streaming service from HBO, regularly showcases the breadth of programming available each month. In October, as part of the month-long #laughNOW comedy activation celebrating the myriad comedy programs available," the HBO NOW digital and social media team closed out the month with an activation celebrating the 40th Anniversary of The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
The campaign aimed to adapt the RHPS Midnight Screening tradition, in which Rocky Horror fanatics gather on Halloween to celebrate their love for the cult classic film by dressing up in costumes and acting along with the drama on screen, for a new digital audience timed to the 40th anniversary.
Common practice for the cult classic is to act along with the movie. When the characters on screen throw rice, the audience interacts in a theatre and throws rice at the screen. For RHPS fans who couldn't get to a midnight screening theatre Halloween night, HBO NOW set out to host an Emoji-filled "midnight streaming" via social media, using specific Emoji to interact with the movie in real time.
The final day of the #laughNOW comedy month activation, the HBO NOW social media team celebrated with a Halloween night, 40th anniversary, live, participatory midnight streaming of the cult classic film, The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
The HBO Creative Marketing team worked with Lou Adler and the official Rocky Horror Picture Show Fan Club to ensure the campaign's authenticity. Custom promotional video assets were created in-house to announce the midnight streaming event, complete with Emoji tweet-a-long encouragement. Using snippets from the original soundtrack, the videos assisted in instructing viewers to partake at home with their Emoji keyboard, instead of bothering to fetch physical rice, gloves, newspapers, and toast to participate in the traditional real-world components of a midnight screening.
Beginning at midnight, @HBONOW live-emoji-tweeted along with the movie. Fans started streaming The Rocky Horror Picture Show on HBO NOW, and as each movie milestone hit (Ralph and Betty's wedding, using a newspaper as shelter from the rain "a toast to absent friends," "you're a hot dog"), @HBONOW and live-streaming subscribers translated popular calls-to-action such as throwing rice, wearing a newspaper, slapping on gloves or throwing toast into a more modern digital language by , tweeting the Emoji translation of the appropriate interaction, elevating the visual language to bridge the physical and digital worlds.
Our instructional, fun Emoji music videos accumulated 50k views across digital platforms. Bravolebrity Jenni Pulos and fashion influencers Tom and Lorenzo were excited to join along, while RHPS star Susan Sarandon herself shared the video to fans who wanted to use Emoji to touch-a her character "Janet."
Fans immediately joined in on the Emoji fun, excited that they could participate in the popular Rocky Horror Picture Show tradition without the hassle of gathering all the physical, real-world components of a fan screening Show.
On Halloween, RHPS fans Emoji-tweeted along with the movie to help make The Rocky Horror Picture Show the most-watched program on HBO NOW. 1.2k mentions of the #RHPS40 hashtag and 2.1k tweets during the live midnight streaming led buzz about the movie to peak during the window of the streaming. Press pickup of the Halloween midnight streaming activation began with exclusive Entertainment Weekly placement of our custom emoji promotion videos and continued all Halloween weekend, including the New York Times noting the Emoji event in their "What's Streaming Now" section.