E! Thinks Big, Small and Viral with ‘The Royals’ Marketing Blitz

E! is giving its first scripted series “The Royals,” well, the royal treatment.

The NBCUniversal cabler is banking on the March 15 launch of the sexy soap about the British royal family (a fictional version) to reinvigorate its audience and bring E! into the business of adding series to the content pipeline that can generate big bucks in international and digital licensing.

The scope of the marketing effort that E! has mounted for “Royals” signals the property’s importance to NBCU, which has marshaled its “Symphony” cross-company promotional effort to spread the word about the show about a randy group of royals, led by Elizabeth Hurley as Queen Helena. In a sign of its commitment, E! gave the Lionsgate TV series a second season renewal two months ago.

“This is a scale larger than ever before,” Jen Neal, EVP, marketing for E!, told Variety of “The Royals'” multi-platform promotion. “NBCU has this strong culture of supporting properties within the company,” Neal said, adding that the “Symphony” support was a “great way for us to amplify the planning that we had in place,” which included billboards, buses, print ads and theatrical trailers.

The ensembler with the tagline “Anarchy in the monarchy” landed a Super Bowl spot this year on NBC, and was showcased in February during “Saturday Night Live’s” highly rated anniversary special, “SNL 40.”

The show’s exposure was enhanced by the addition of promos during “The Blacklist” on NBC.com, plus signage at Universal theme parks in Hollywood, California and Orlando, Fla. “Royals” trailers are even running on the Universal Studios tram ride that ferries guests around the parks. Neal says the cabler is also looking at opportunities to tie the series into NBC’s “The Voice.”

E! describes “The Royals” target audience as “scoop-seekers,” viewers who always want to be in the know and ahead of the pop culture curve, especially when it comes to celebrity, fashion and television.

“Our viewers have a great appetite for all things the real royal family,” Neal said, referring to the new wave of interest sparked by the youth appeal of Prince William, Kate Middleton and bachelor Harry’s mainstream popularity. “We know this is a show that really appeals to our audience.”

Still, introducing those viewers to the idea that E! is now offering an escapist scripted series will take some time, which is why “Royals” has been in the works for nearly two years. Social and digital platforms are crucial to grabbing attention. The first “Royals” trailer premiered back in August during E!’s red carpet coverage of the Emmy Awards.

“Every piece of creative, we look at how it will play digitally and really ‘eventize’ all of those aspects,” Neal said.

Case in point: E! presented a mock Queen’s speech (watch below) from star Hurley on the same day that the real Queen Elizabeth delivered her annual Christmas message.

“We launched that virally to coincide with the actual Queen’s Day,” Neal said, pointing out the efforts to align with British pop culture. The video, complete with a user-friendly hashtag, has garnered more than 1 million YouTube and Facebook views.

Further pushing digital and social platforms, Prince Liam (played by series regular William Moseley) took to Tinder to engage with his female suitors — also known as potential “Royals” viewers.

“On Valentine’s Day, we decided to capitalize on our Prince, ‘his royal hotness,’” Neal said, explaining that the women who were matched-up with the character were sent a personalized message, before the reveal that Liam was not truly asking them on a date but urging them to tune in.

Perhaps the biggest viral push came in the shape of a royal scandal — a king-size PR stunt.

The viral video of a naked man repelling from Buckingham Palace was all a hoax, thanks to E! The video starring a birthday-suit-clad escapee (watch below), which Neal chuckles had media outlets phoning into the palace to check on injuries, was all part of the net’s plan to launch the series’ very own tabloid, titled “D-Throned.”

The stunt — which is one element of the “The Royals” viral videos that together have racked in over eight million views online — was trending on Twitter for several days, exemplifying the social and digital connection the cable net is aiming for. To date, it’s amassed over 1.6 million hits on YouTube.

Though “D-Throned” is not a real publication, it is live on E!’s Tumblr, and will update fans with behind-the-scenes tips, extended story lines and “Royals” faux-pas (watch “D-Throned’s video below). The fake tabloid will be featured on the show, but off screen, it intends to “super-serve our fans in between seasons,” said Neal.

In addition to the “high profile” holistic press efforts at launch, the show will continue to be promoted episodically via social platforms including Instagram, YouTube and Facebook.

“Continuity is going to be important for us,” Neal said. “Through all the digital and social aspects, we’ve been building this great database so we understand who’s been targeted from early on…we’re creating like-minded matches for all the people who we’ve identified as our audience early on.”

Besides early “Royals” obsessees, E! plans to create and continually expand a network of binge-watchers, in hopes of bringing in new fans.

“We truly believe that this is the show that once your hearing about it and finding out about it, there are opportunities to push people back in and the get them to check it out,” Neal said. “We’re looking at everything that we can do to be innovative and remind people the urgency to tune in, but also the opportunity to catch-up throughout the season.”

Starting March 12, “The Royals” is teaming with Uber, giving riders a chance to cruise around like a real royal. Some randomly selected users of the service will find themselves picked up in a Rolls Royce and escorted by a security guard to a destination of their choosing.

“Every touchpoint, we want to make sure we’re breaking through in non-expectatant, innovative ways,” Neal explained of the Uber partnership. “We hope riders will take lots of selfies.”

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