×

‘Walking Dead’ Zombies Shamble Forward for Mountain Dew

Rick Grimes, Michonne and Daryl Dixon have killed dozens of flesh-eating zombies over the course of nearly 100 episodes of AMC’s apocalyptic drama “The Walking Dead.” Now PepsiCo hopes the trio and other characters from the hit drama can help do something else: Slay the thirst of millions of fans of the company’s citrus-y soda Mountain Dew.

Under the terms of a new marketing partnership, “Walking Dead” characters will appear on limited-edition Mountain Dew packaging this fall, while supplies last. Mountain Dew and AMC will also launch a new augmented-reality app that lets fans interact with some of the show’s best-known zombie “walkers” and then share those interactions via social media. The eighth season of “The Walking Dead” will start October 22.

“We are really rewarding people for engaging in our commercials,” says Kate Brady, director of media strategy and investment for PepsiCo’s North American beverages unit. “This gets them to use their smartphones, which we know they are likely already using, to actively seek out our commercial and rewards them for doing so.”

AMC will run a short-form video during the series’ eighth-season premiere alerting viewers to the new partnership and how they can play along with the app. Consumers who download the augmented reality app can “unlock” walkers by following Mountain Dew commercials that air during the series or by scanning limited edition “The Walking Dead” Mountain Dew packaging. Twenty different walkers – many of them from popular “Dead” storylines – will turn up as part of the game.

The partnership adds a new twist to what has become a regular challenge for marketers who want a closer-than-normal link with “Dead.” Simply put, weaving product into the show is difficult. In a world where humans have ceased creating new products and flashy contraptions, viewers likely would be distracted by the sight of the latest smartphone or car model, said Scott Collins, president of advertising sales for AMC Networks, in an interview.

Hyundai for several cycles placed a kiwi-green Hyundai Tucson in the show, but had to leave Rick Grimes and his band of survivors behind when the plot of the show called for them to start traveling on foot. Placing a new model from the company  into the show would not make sense. “We don’t have zombies building automobiles in the factory or out on the showroom floor,” said Collins. “It forces us to be creative.” In recent seasons, that has meant doing things like running ads from Microsoft and Hyundai that have zombie themes – and only make sense during an episode of “Dead” as opposed to running on multiple networks during an assortment of primetime programs.

More beverage companies are testing ways to use their packaging to link to pop-culture phenomena. As part of its advertising in the 2016 Super Bowl, Coca-Cola distributed “mini cans” festooned with characters from Marvel’s “Avengers” movies. Sometimes, bottles and cans are used to spark conversation, as Anheuser-Busch did when it renamed its flagship brew “America” for a period of time via its packaging.

But the deal between Mountain Dew and AMC burnishes the notion that advertisers continue to seek new ways to associate themselves with popular TV series that move beyond the traditional TV commercial. Pepsi’s Brady said the company is eager to find programming that generates a lot of social buzz, which can then be harnessed to get viewers to seek out commercials via mobile devices for more information. The key, she said, is finding ways to get customers “to actively engage with commercials.”

 

 

 

 

Popular on Variety

More TV

  • T.J. Dillashaw, right, kicks Cody Garbrandt

    Disney Plans UFC Broadcast for FX

    UFC matches will return to FX  – but not on a permanent basis. ESPN has been showing preliminary bouts to UFC pay-per-view events for the last while on ESPN and ESPN2, and then showing the main card on its ESPN+ subscription video service. In September, the early lineup will air on FX, which the UFC [...]

  • George RR Martin

    George R.R. Martin Says HBO's 'Game of Thrones' Ending Won't Influence Future Novels

    Geroge R.R. Martin is sticking to his original plan when it comes to the future of “Game of Thrones.” In an interview with The Observer, Martin claimed that HBO’s controversial ending for the series would have no affect on the endings of the last two novels. “No, it doesn’t. It doesn’t change anything at all,” [...]

  • Listen: 'Pennyworth' Producer Talks Delving into

    Listen: 'Pennyworth' Executive Producer Talks Delving into Alfred's Backstory

    Bruno Heller may have served as an executive producer on the Batman-inspired series “Gotham” for the past five years, but it’s actually real-life people (not superheroes) that intrigue the producer the most. It’s for that exact reason that Heller’s newest series finds him exploring the origin stories of Batman’s butler Alfred in the Epix drama [...]

  • "Trust Issues" - Dylan and Lizzie

    'Instinct' Canceled After Two Seasons

    CBS has canceled “Instinct” after two seasons. Series creator Michael Rauch announced the cancellation Friday on Twitter, writing, “I’m very sad to relay the news that @instinctcbs won’t be renewed for a 3rd season. We will double up this Sunday and our season/series finale will be Aug 25.” Rauch also thanked series stars Alan Cumming [...]

  • Maisel Day

    My Mostly OK Maisel Day (Column)

    When Amazon announced its first-ever Maisel Day, I was intrigued. For one day, Aug. 15, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” fans and Angelenos (fangelenos?) could hit up various restaurants, theaters and retailers throughout Los Angeles for special deals, all at 1959 prices. Among the gems: $2.50 makeovers, $0.99 pastrami sandwiches and $0.30 for a gallon of [...]

  • Nordisk Film & TV Fond Announces

    Nordisk Film & TV Fond Backs Joachim Trier, Ole Bornedal, Yellow Bird

    Nordisk Film & TV Fond has announced three features, two series and a documentary set to receive $1.4m in financing, as well as distribution, dubbing and cultural initiative support recipients. Doing so, it highlights some of the key titles moving forward in the Nordic region. Already backed by the Danish Film Institute’s largest ever grant [...]

  • TV News Roundup: 'Silicon Valley' Final

    TV News Roundup: 'Silicon Valley's' Final Season Sets October Premiere Date

    In today’s roundup, “Silicon Valley” returns to HBO on Oct. 27 and Quibi greenlights a new cooking competition show “Dismantled.” DATES The fifth season of Netflix‘s “Peaky Blinders” will premiere on the streamer Oct. 4. The newest season will continue to follow one gangster family in the lawless streets of Birmingham, UK during the midst [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content