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Emmy Awards Madness: Laundry Machines, Free Juices and Piles of Screeners

A single FYC billboard is just so … 2017.

With Emmy voting officially underway (the two-week nomination period, which kicked off yesterday, runs through June 25), studios and networks are going to ever more creative extremes to grab the attention of Emmy voters.

Though, yes, the streets of Los Angeles are still filled with FYC billboards — egos must still be served, after all — marketers have been feverishly stepping up their game.

Amazon Studios is putting considerable muscle behind its top contender, “Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” the period comedy from Amy Sherman-Palladino and Dan Palladino, which already has two Golden Globes to its credit. Eleven sets of eight-foot-tall “Marvelous” block letters are being installed in L.A. and New York to celebrate women-led companies, like newsletter the Skimm, dating site Bumble, and nonprofit Girls Who Code.

“The character Midge Maisel is a strong, talented woman, who strikes out on her own to forge a new path, and in the spirit of ‘The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,’ we are excited to shine a light on other fantastic, entrepreneurial women,” said Amazon’s head of marketing, Mike Benson. “We hope that this campaign will inspire others to find their unique voice.”

Hulu is no stranger to the live activation game — last year, the streamer dispatched an army of red-robe clad handmaids to events like SXSW. This time, Hulu sent a costumed crew to organic eatery Kreation, in an embrace of the show’s famous tagline “Blessed be the Fruit.” Customers who said that phrase got a free juice at one of 14 locations across L.A.

And Netflix, never one to sit back quietly during awards season, blanketed city walls and streets with a glitter trail leading into glitter bomb wall art, for its ’80s-set wrestling comedy “GLOW” — and erected laundry machines filled with cash across the city in support of money-laundering drama “Ozark.”

Ozark FYC Live Activation
CREDIT: Courtesyof Netflix

These outre stunts cap off a months-long run of FYC screenings, panels, and events that have jammed the calendar — and kept Emmy voters very well-fed.

This year’s schedule boasts a 50% increase in the number of FYC events over last year. In fact, the jockeying for dates on the TV Academy’s calendar was so tight that official events are now sanctioned at locations other than the North Hollywood campus — with two or even three competing events scheduled on the same night for the first time. And yet the panels are still playing to packed houses, with voters eager to snap selfies with their favorite stars and showrunners.

Both Amazon and Netflix expanded their experiential spaces beyond what they did last year. Amazon invited the public to their Hollywood Athletic Club digs, while Netflix went from 24,000 square feet to 30,000 — taking over Raleigh Studios, and adding yet another week of panels (for a total of five) above last year’s packed schedule.

And then there’s the matter of the screeners. 2018 had barely begun when the first FYC screener arrived — thanks again, “Mr. Mercedes.” Now voters are being buried under stacks of boxes (pity the overworked postal carriers).

A typical Oscar season brings in about 100 or so individual movies — surely more than any one person can watch, but a critical part of the process simply to bring awareness to under-recognized titles. But a rough estimate of this year’s Emmy screener haul — depending on how you want to count (studio box sets? complete show screeners? individual episodes?) — is easily double that total.

Simply put, this season broke the scale. There’s simply no way for any voter to watch them all — and the irony of the streaming services sending out physical screeners is hard to ignore. But to sit out the screener scrum just isn’t a viable option. Yet. The Academy does offer an online viewing platform, and rumor has it next season will be the last for physical screeners, until everyone agrees to a mutual detente and the process moves entirely online.

But until then, it’s all about the boxes. Most networks and studios opt to send out a few select episodes as a sampler, handpicked by the showrunner, to highlight the best of a given series. The Academy charges per episode, per peer group — which effectively means that each episode costs $2,000. A mailer with three episodes, then, racks up to $6,000 — before even factoring in packaging and mailing costs.

“Mrs. Maisel,” for example, got its own full-season set — as well as a separate three-episode sleeve in Amazon’s package. Ditto “Handmaid’s Tale,” at least, all the episodes that have aired to date. (No spoilers allowed, even for Emmy voters.)

Netflix alone sent out multiple mailers, providing samples of their eligible programming across all of its verticals — comedy, drama, reality, and documentary — but also singling out shows like “The Crown,” “Stranger Things,” and “Ozark” for the full-season treatment. The Academy has an elaborate set of rules about screeners detailing the size and shape of packages and flash drives. That limits how creative you can get — booklets are allowed, for example, as long as they’re not more than 10 pages. So Netflix tucked its DVDs for David Fincher’s serial killer drama “Mindhunter” into a FBI file folder, filled with 9 pages of faux memos.

There’s also plenty of overlap given the many behind-the-scenes players who want to prove their support for a given series: a show produced by 20th Century Fox for NBC, for example, or ABC Studios for Showtime, was included in both companies’ mailers.

And, finally, there’s the swag — the themed, branded tchotchkes handed out at events. Not content to simply offer the usual ho-hum array of water bottles and notebooks, studios have conceived of everything from a “Goldbergs” lunchbox filled with ’80s candies to basketball socks emblazoned with the word “SMILF.”

Leave it to Netflix to up the ante here, too — sending out size 16 black pumps. If you’ve seen “Mindhunter,” be afraid. Be very afraid.

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