This Elaborate Escape Room in a Box Helps Hype HBO’s New Fantasy Series The Nevers
Agency RQ’s kits play off the past but hint at the future of influencer outreach.
Like it’s namesake character in HBO’s latest fantasy action series, there’s more to the network promotio for The Nevers than first meets the eye.
A “gifting experience” with a tongue-twister of a title – Penance’s Curiosities + Cocktail Compendium – takes branded swag to a new level, essentially providing superfans and influencers with an escape room in an ornate box, delivered directly to their doors.
In a partnership with Hendrick’s Gin, HBO and agency RQ pulled together a collection of Victorian-era props that represent the whip-smart young scientist Penance Adair’s “peculiar inventions, experiments and elixirs.” Also included: the makings of a perfect gimlet.
The tchotchkes aren’t actual antiques, but they are inspired by trinkets and trends from the 1890s, the setting of the supernatural drama that follows characters, mostly women, who have been “touched” during a paranormal event and end up with special abilities as a result.
As befitting the mysterious theme, the compendium is housed in a hefty 2-foot-tall wooden cabinet that won’t open unless fans follow a series of clues and use the provided gadgets and tools.
I planning the promo giveaway – with contents ranging from show-specific Tarot cards and a custom-created tea set to cocktail ingredients, a “bird skull” brooch and hand-written letters from major characters – HBO wanted to immerse fans in the florid world of The Nevers.
“It had to be more than a box of goodies,” Kathryn Rogan, HBO’s director of program marketing, told Adweek. “The compendium was born out of the show’s celebration of invention and otherness, two points of inspiration that drove us to ‘go big’ in both story and utility.”
The competitive landscape of experiential by mail.
While the network has a long history of standout experiential marketing and dropping home-delivered promos to media and others, execs have added more layers to each project during the Covid-19 public health crisis.
And since HBO isn’t the only brand trying to reach consumers as vestiges of lockdown linger, creators aimed to “overcome the deluge of mailers arriving outside people’s doors,” said RQ’s Carl Stevens, account and creative director on the project.
Tailored to sci-fi, comic and adventure aficionados, the cabinet is stuffed with Easter eggs that reference the show’s pilot and later episodes. It’s intended to pique the interest of fans who like to peel back layers, exploring and discovering as the series unfolds, execs said.
“These niche audiences want to unlock worlds and don’t shy away from complexity,” said RQ’s Jordan Reynolds, head producer. “They do the opposite and cling to it.”
The team brainstormed by combing through source material like unit photography from the elaborate production, while reading The Nevers’ scripts and culling details from the lavish sets They also leaned heavily into the specific traits and skills of Penanace Adair (played by Ann Skelly), who can see and sense energy.
That’s how creators came up with the idea for a “levitating hoverbulb,” which doubles as a functional desk light in modern times, a giant magnifying glass and an aged-looking copy of Penance’s notebook, complete with sketches and blueprints for her inventions.
A targeted strategy with long-term benefits
Choosing the right hands in which to put Penance’s treasures was part of the strategy, Rogan said, noting that influencers have been creating about six posts, on average, about the compendium.
“You know it’s a hit when someone literally makes a 52-panel Instagram Story of their unboxing experience,” Rogan said. (A smaller version of the compendium went via mail to press, talent and influences. And though the box was slightly scaled down, it kept the theme alive with features like a false bottom with hidden keepsakes).
Even when conditions in the U.S. return to some semblance of post-Covid normalcy, HBO may continue to latch onto this kind of experiential marketing rather than relying so heavily on in-person parties and events.
“We get to reach a targeted set of influencers without being tied to a coast or city,” Rogan said. “There’s a lot of freedom in that.”
These tastemakers are now accustomed to experiences that seek them out and come to them in a contactless way.
“Particularly with how a lot of taken and influencers have moved out of the major metropolitan areas,” Reynolds said, “at-home experiences will remain an important part of marketing programs to reach those people that aren’t living in urban centers like New York and Los Angeles.”
The series, meantime, already has a following that likely cuts across geographic areas. The Nevers logged 1.4 million viewers for its premiere across linear and digital channels, beating recent HBO hits like Lovecraft County and The Undoing and become the most-watched original debut on HBO Max.
Original article at Adweek.
This article has been reproduced for archive purposes.