GLOW and Syfy's objective for The Expanse, a ten-episode drama set several hundred years in the future after mankind has colonized the solar system, was to develop an integrated, multi-platform marketing campaign that created a must-see level of buzz to drive awareness and tune-in for the inaugural season. Syfy wanted to use The Expanse to convey the network's return to premium sci-fi, space-based programming. The Expanse is a sprawling story with deep canon, including several novels and novellas, so though it came with a built-in fan base, we needed to reduce barriers to entry that might make it seem intimidating to more casual viewers who weren't familiar with the original content.
To achieve this, we launched a long-lead campaign to activate hardcore book series fans, hardcore sci-fi genre fans, fans of other niche Syfy programming, and potential viewers who don't necessarily identify as science fiction fans but are drawn to the genre's core features. The idea was to immerse all incoming fans into the universes of The Expanse in easy, entertaining, and fun ways for several months leading up to the premiere. With San Diego Comic-Con serving as the official launch of the consumer campaign, including an on-the-ground activation (the Expanse Café), a panel and a premiere screening, we started cultivating relationships with a leaned-in audience who would also be influencers to a wider viewership. Our multi-phased bridge plan from SDCC to the December 2015 premiere continued social conversation and hype.
To kick off the campaign, in January 2015, we released the long-lead trailer that was shown at TCAs on social. To indicate that Syfy and GLOW understood the material and its potential, the video was posted upside down with upside down copy informing viewers we "understand the gravity of this situation," as a wink to the gravity-related theme of the series and inspiring metaphorical interpretations by the audience.
In the spring, we began taking advantage of the real-world NASA Dawn spacecraft mission, including its orbit of Ceres, by designing custom creative that linked those and other celestial events with the world of The Expanse—one that is very much set in our reality (just in the future, when Ceres has been colonized). We continued to do so opportunistically throughout the year.
At San Diego Comic-Con, we supported on social all of Syfy's activations, including live-tweeting their panel, the series premiere screening, their show-branded café and a Google Cardboard giveaway to explore two exclusive videos of the show's primary spaceships. To amplify those efforts, we partnered with Facebook as one of the first programmers to launch a 360 video, which allowed users to interact with the video in stream. Facebook promoted on their 360 Video and Television pages.
In early November, we rolled out five unbranded interactive micro-sites representing each of the main organizations (called "factions") within the story of The Expanse, which rolled out in three phrases until the premiere in December. For Phase 1 we launched landing pages to capture user email addresses, which show talent promoted via Twitter. For Phase 2, we added photos and custom videos about each faction. To promote the second phase, we gave an exclusive peek to the top user on Reddit who voluntarily posted it to The Expanse fans. During Phase 3 on November 23, we launched ID-builders on each site so users could create their own credentials for their favorite faction as well as view the first episode three weeks ahead of its linear premiere, which we promoted wide on social. At the end of the season, the activation concluded with an exclusive sweepstakes on Twitter and Instagram to win a trip to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.
The series premiere was also launched in full across multiple sites and platforms, including Facebook and YouTube on November 23rd.
Since Syfy devised a unique linear premiere programming strategy, GLOW helped not only to promote that schedule but also to announce a major surprise for fans. Syfy scheduled a two-night premiere for the first two episodes on December 14th and 15th. As the second episode ended, we announced via social that the third and fourth episodes would be released for streaming on Syfy.com, immediately.
In addition, we partnered with Niche and WhoSay to leverage their influencers and with Twitter to leverage their new poll product to reach broader fans across Twitter, tying The Expanse's conspiracy to larger conspiracies in the zeitgeist.
As a result of the combined campaign efforts, 4.4 million people sampled the first episode of The Expanse across the non-linear pre-premiere platforms.
During the premiere of the first episode on Syfy on December 14th, The Expanse successfully garnered 502.3K impressions on Twitter.
In addition, thousands of people made ID's on the faction micro-sites.
With the television premiere of The Expanse, people talking about the series increased by 86.6%. Engagement rate was up by 36.8%. Fans were loving the show and were excited by the surprising opportunity to watch episodes 3 and 4 early. On both Niche and WhoSay, total engagements totaled over 632,000+ for their influencers.
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