Emmys 2018: Peak TV Equals Peak FYC Campaigns

Each year brings more series than many thought possible. Most of them want Emmys. Some of them even deserve them. So, in the peakest of peak TV climates, who can blame the marketing teams behind them for getting creative with their For Your Consideration campaigns?

“I think that in this very crowded television landscape, you have to differentiate yourself and it’s always been about creative ideas and figuring out ways to trigger people with what you’re promoting,” says Rich Licata, the veteran awards campaigner who pioneered the idea of episode screeners when he was at HBO in the early 1990s. (Back then, he set them to be rented out from a video store in the Beverly Center.)

He says that strategies including boxed mailers and For Your Consideration Q&A nights are no longer enough — especially the latter, now that there’s such a demand to hold them at the TV Academy’s North Hollywood headquarters that the venue had to institute a lottery system.

“You have to have to get your shows out in enough time so that people can actually watch them,” Licata says. “You have to get your talent out there talking about the shows. And, before all of this happens — and this has been my battle cry — you have to launch a show in a very significant way in this environment. If it doesn’t make it into the zeitgeist from the get-go, it’s probably not going to make it into the awards world.”

For the most part, networks are heeding these warnings.

Licata says he’s impressed with what such outlets as Netflix and Amazon have done in renting out spaces for the (voting and non-voting) public to be immersed in the set design, costume and other artisans aspects that go into making a TV show pop.

This year Netflix has taken over part of Raleigh Studios with some behind-the-scenes looks at what goes into making their series, including featuring themed panel discussions — such as Scene Stealers and Rebels and Rulebreakers — rather than straight-forward series pushes. Amazon is back at the Hollywood Athletic Club for the second year, with a multi-room display that allows attendees to wander through “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” sets and lead a digital orchestra in honor of “Mozart in the Jungle,” to name a few exhibits.

Hulu, which went big last year by parading women in red dresses and white-winged bonnets around Los Angeles for “The Handmaid’s Tale,” has even more pressure to promote its dystopian drama now that it has to defend its best drama series crown.

Amazon has decked out the Hollywood Athletics Club with immersive sets, props and wardrobe from their series.
Todd Williamson/January Images/R

Meanwhile, FX added personal touches including letting participants at its FYC event for Pamela Adlon’s “Better Things” create personalized eulogies as a reference to one of the show’s most significant episodes this season. FX is also hosting a takeover of a Hollywood Arby’s for “Baskets” on May 29, bringing in the Frobot, televisions that will broadcast season 3, the clown car and sign-spinning.

ABC opted for a live table read and block party for a more laid-back vibe when swaying voters toward “Black-ish” this year.

And then sometimes there are Emmy campaigns that technically aren’t.

Both Netflix’s “Santa Clarita Diet” and HBO’s “Barry” released tongue-in-cheek bus ads around Los Angeles this spring that referenced their respective characters’ fictional businesses. They were meant to be promotional materials for their comedies’ return or premiere, but the networks may get a double win because the timing coincided with the FYC campaign window.

This wasn’t necessarily the case for Rachel Bloom, who already has a Golden Globe for starring in “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.” The CW’s musical dramedy’s star and co-creator famously made a viral video last year insisting that she doesn’t care about award shows and wouldn’t be doing an official Emmy campaign. The Academy was not interested in a lesson on reverse psychology.

Maybe that’s why this year she and other cast and crew created a live touring show of their more memorable routines.

While the Los Angeles stops weren’t technically FYC events — no Academy members were directly invited and these concerts were not officially sanctioned by the Academy — they did happen during that awards-season window and highlighted the work of staffers who aren’t seen on camera.

To date, “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” has won two Emmys; one for Kabir Akhtar’s work in single-camera picture editing and another for Kathryn Burns’ choreography. Burns happily hoofed with Bloom on stage.

Others are being even more blatant about it.

Megan Amram, a writer and supervising producer of the NBC comedy “The Good Place,” hedged her bets and — with the support of her boss, series creator Michael Schur — launched the web series “An Emmy for Megan.” While the series is her attempt to break into the short- form Emmy race with this new piece of original content, it inevitably shines a light on her work in general.

Of course, some shows allow for more creative and fun marketing than others.

Amazon isn’t letting anyone forget that its “Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” secured this year’s Golden Globe for best TV comedy series. In addition to its event space, there has been a partnership with Hearst for character-specific magazine covers and a billboard campaign supposedly written by Alex Borstein’s green and brash talent manager, Susie Myerson, to promote her one and only standup act, Rachel Brosnahan’s titular Midge Maisel. It includes a phone number and an encouragement for fans and the curious to call in and learn more. Among those who left messages? Borstein’s dad.

“I think that in this very crowded television landscape you have to differentiate yourself.”
Rich Licata

“I think that you’ve got to really dig deep and look in every single show and look at what makes the program connect with audiences in certain ways,” says Mike Benson, Amazon’s head of marketing. “In many cases, it’s individual characters and the character relationships.”

He says it also helps that Amy Sherman-Palladino, “Maisel’s” creator, came with her own opinions for the campaign.

“Every showrunner is different and, in many cases, we’ll get a showrunner who will be passively involved,” Benson says. “In other cases, you’ll get someone like Amy, who’s really involved. Because of her involvement, we really think that we just nailed the tone and voice of the show that I think is very particular.”

But is there a chance of overexposure and cannibalizing oneself in an attempt to gain attention? The consensus seems to be that you have to make as much noise as possible to ensure attention at all these days.

“I think that this has just scratched the tip of the iceberg,” Amram says. “And, I think that if I had had a little more time and money to put behind the series, I would have done some more action genre stuff. I would have had stunts. I would have had CG. Maybe a motion-capture suit. Depending on the traction that I get with this season, I think next year can really, really expand the universe.”

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