Is the traditional TV launch an endangered species? A new dawn of experiential media activations looms

Is the traditional television launch event, comprising a red carpet, a media wall, some cheap sparkling wine and a sit-down screening, becoming a thing of the past?

Streaming services are increasingly adopting a different tack to promote their content, moving towards interactive and experiential activations that deliver far more bang for their buck.

Josh Heuston, who plays Dusty in Netflix’s Heartbreak High, at the show’s promo activation.

Guests attending one of these new types of launches, often described as ‘content stops’, are invited to take part in photoshoots, immersive meet-and-greets or even intricately choreographed action scenes, which all aim to drive conversation and engagement.

Netflix’s first content stop was at the premiere part for Heartbreak High in September last year, Alecia Vagulans, head of publicity, said.

“We had a traditional media wall at the event, but we also worked with incredible stylists and the photographer @femmeasfuck to recreate the vibe of the show in an elevated, editorial way; a kooky school-photo setup with a blue backdrop, fluffy clouds, and lots of fab props,” Vagulans said.

“Everyone really got into their portraits and we loved seeing the results sitting front and centre on people’s main grid, and since then we’ve continued to evolve the concept.

“It’s fun to partner with lots of different local creatives, and make each beat feel fresh and exciting,” she said.

Netflix has leant into the experiential activations to do something “outside the ordinary”, aiming to engage guests in a more meaningful way.

The media activation for Wellmania.

Similar activations have been executed for the original series Queen Charlotte, Wellmania and Breakpoint.

“For us, it’s about bringing the vibe of the Netflix film or series we are promoting to life, and giving our guests a little piece of content that they will love and want to share,” Vagulans said.

“We want the content stops to feel editorial and not super branded, to drive conversation, and have a bit of chic fun that is outside the ordinary event or screening.”

The event for Netflix’s Queen Charlotte.

Amber Giles, editorial director or entertainment (TV Week, Who) at Are Media, said the post-Covid era had prompted streamers and free-to-air networks to “get back into their fun era”.

“There was a time where screeners would only happen in the middle of the day in a quiet cinema, or perhaps a network board room, but that’s not the case any more,” Giles said.

“In recent months we have seen Netflix create a fun and interactive launch for Queen Charlotte, which included getting a photo with fun costume dressing – not to mention the decadent grazing table on offer before the screening – or in the case of Paramount+ and The Last King of The Cross launch, a bar in King Cross that was recreated to emulate that nightclub feel – with details such a star of the show Lincoln Younes’ face being printed on fake money that was scattered across the floor.”

For social media influencers, the events provide free content for their platforms and priceless promotion for the network or streamer. And for entertainment and television writers, it’s a break from the norm.

“All these elements make it fun and interactive on the night, and instantly makes attendees want to capture the footage for social media,” Giles said.

Netflix’s latest release, the Chris Hemsworth film Extraction 2, includes an epic 21-minute action sequence. It inspired a world-first activation, Vagulans said.

“Extraction 2 is definitely our biggest and most ambitious content stop yet. In the first film, everyone was talking about the epic 12-minute ‘oner’ that director Sam Hargrave pulled off. For Extraction 2, they have upped the stakes with an amazing 21-minute action sequence, so we wanted to bring the gritty action of the film and the stress of an action one-shot to life.

“Working with a full scale production team and a brilliantly robust group of stunt actors, we had close to 70 guests run through a series of five continuous scenes, traversing snow, wind and prison fights, scale a helipad, and escape to safety on a helicopter for their hero moment.”

Each participant walked away with a clip of the once-in-a-lifetime experience.


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