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Fox sets ‘Fringe’ campaign

Viral marketing for Thursday show

Fox is plotting a major marketing push for “Fringe” this week, unleashing a viral promotional spree for the show via both on- and off-air efforts.

Campaign had been in the works for some time, tied to this week’s episode — which reveals the existence of (semi-spoiler alert here, if you haven’t seen Fox’s promos) multiple “observers,” the show’s mysterious bald white men who are witness to many of “Fringe’s” key events.

But it comes as “Fringe” could use a boost of some sort. Fox’s “Bones”-“Fringe” lineup has given the network its first solid scripted night on Thursdays in years — but “Fringe” has taken a hit in recent weeks vs. tough competition (“CSI,” “Grey’s Anatomy” and “The Office”).

Net execs believe a baseball preemption also took a bite out of the show’s performance.

“Thursdays at 9 p.m. are fiercely competitive,” said Fox marketing topper Joe Earley. “‘Fringe’ isn’t just up against well-performing shows, it’s up against shows with preexisting, fiercely loyal audiences. We can tell by the DVR numbers that people like ‘Fringe,’ it’s just their DVR choice.”

As a result, Earley said the network has zeroed in on “Fringe” to find ways to make the show feel like more of a major event.

“Observer Week,” as the campaign is dubbed internally, includes placing multiple actors playing “observers” in the crowd at live Fox telecasts — Sunday’s NFL game, as well as an episode of “So You Think You Can Dance.”

Fox did something similar last year on programs such as “American Idol” and NASCAR.

Fox will also send out street teams dressed as the observer (dark suits, bald heads, carrying briefcases) to various spots in Los Angeles, Atlanta, New York, Boston and Chicago. The characters will pass out Tabasco sauce (a nod to the fact that “Fringe’s” observers like spicy food).

Fast-pausing DVR users may also notice subliminal shots of “Fringe’s” observers popping up in primetime via hidden images in the net’s night opens, as well as via seven-frame graphics flashed throughout the evening.

“The hope is we get a few more viewers watching the show live,” Earley said. “Or at least watching it within three days of air. The show is too good, and we want to continue to support it.”

The Easter-egg approach of the campaign also plays well with the fans of mythology-based shows like “Fringe,” he said.

Fox is coming off another similarly viral campaign for “The Simpsons,” having planted references to Homer and company within some of its primetime shows last week.

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