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Listen: How MTV Found New Gold in ‘The Hills’

Everything old is new again in television. So how do you get the word out about a reboot when viewers are inundated with options?

MTV assembled a “swat team” that worked for nearly a year on the development, marketing and promotion for the successful relaunch of “The Hills” reality franchise. Jacqueline Parkes, chief marketing officer and executive VP of digital studios for Viacom’s MTV, VH1, CMT and Logo Group, was a key member of the team that carefully plotted the rollout of social media teases, weekend marathons of the original 2006-2010 series and a host of tie-ins with partners including Amazon and Drybar.

In the latest episode of Variety podcast “Strictly Business,” Parkes details the process that began with social media teases and other bread crumbs for fans in the spring of 2018, well before MTV announced the show was coming back. She describes a coordinated effort across the group’s development, marketing, scheduling, communications and advertising sales units that culminated in the June 24 premiere of “The Hills: New Beginnings.”

“We created over 200 pieces of content (for ‘The Hills: New Beginnings’) before we even got to the launch campaign,” Parkes says of the collective effort. The long lead time allowed Parkes’ marketing team to target three distinct groups of viewers: fans of the original series, fans of reality TV in general and regular viewers of MTV.

Listen to this week’s podcast below:

“We developed content across all platforms to reach each one of those fanbases (and) to fuel their fandom,” Parkes says. Throughout the process “social listening” to fans of the show was key. So were test drives of “Hills”-related content and promo material that went up on MTV’s YouTube channel and social platforms.

The campaign focused on generating nostalgia for the original series and curiosity about checking in a decade later with characters who were recent high school graduates when “Hills” first aired. Parkes realized that content related to “Hills” needed to be ubiquitous for the target audience well beyond MTV’s linear airwaves. That led to the promotion with Drybar that called for “The Hills” to take over all the TV screens in the salon chain for a month leading up to the June 24 debut. When the seven-day countdown to premiere began, MTV sponsored a promotional stunt that gave away free blowouts in New York and Los Angeles.

“We needed to connect with people where they were in their lifecycle,” Parkes says.

“Strictly Business” is Variety‘s weekly podcast featuring conversations with industry leaders about the business of entertainment. A new episode debuts each Tuesday and can be downloaded on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, Stitcher, and SoundCloud.

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