Media & Entertainment
FOX Networks Group
That Lot Agency
DEEP STATE Pan-European Marketing Campaign
In April 2018, FOX Network Group Europe & Africa (FNG E&A) launched a new big budget drama, DEEP STATE. This was no ordinary premiere, however. As DEEP STATE was FNG E&A’s first regional commissioned drama and notably, the first time the company had created its own premium drama series outside of the US.
FOX had a lot riding on the original newcomer, both in terms of investment (£1.5-£3m per episode to produce) and
because the series success would act as a benchmark for future projects. Not only this, but being a screen-original
meant the advantage of previous shows adapted from existing material (The Walking Dead, Legion, Wayward Pines)
did not exist. Common advantages like pre-existing US awareness, or a prominent fan base waiting to be tapped
into, did not lend itself to the series. Without this, DEEP STATE did not boast an audience predisposition to liking the show premise and faced a brand awareness of nil.
The challenge heightened because the target audience was largely unfamiliar with the political term “deep state”. This was potentially a major obstacle as it was the very name of the programme the team were trying to promote and
central to its narrative.
For these reasons, in combination with pressure for prospective slates and financial investment, two key obstacles
faced the success of DEEP STATE; an absence of a pre-existing fan base and an unawareness of the meaning of Deep
State concept. Therefore, FNG E&A set these objectives:
• To educate viewers through a Pan-European campaign from October 2017 – April 2018; heightening awareness of
the Deep State concept, igniting conversation and encouraging engagement of the DEEP STATE brand.
• To match FNG E&A’s primetime channel average for DEEP STATE’s premiere episode with viewership of 850,000
across 16 countries on the April 2018 launch, with 30% being new-to-FOX viewers.
The Target Market
The target market for DEEP STATE was ABC1 adults, aged 35-54 with a 51% to 49% male to female split, who were
interested in the thriller film/TV genre. However, this target segment came with its challenges; this audience is
notoriously hard to reach, spending 37% less time per day watching TV compared to the average viewer (151
minutes v. 238 minutes). Not only this, but the audience was based in over 50 countries across two continents,
meaning a vast geographical and cultural spread.
An unconventional strategy
To overcome the obstacles identified for launching the newcomer and the challenges of targeting our chosen
audience, FNG E&A developed an unconventional strategy whereby hurdles were flipped to form an integral part of
our campaign. This meant that we focused upon the situational advantages of having a first-time European
production and the unawareness of the term ‘Deep State’ to form core pillars of a multi-phased campaign launched
across Europe and Africa.
FNG E&A sought to utilise the increased flexibility of having a European-Centric production to first educate the target audience on integral concepts of the series before teasing and building genuine interest in the narrative. See below:
• Phase 1 (Educate): From October 2017, in a bold move, FNG E&A delayed introducing its show to the audience and
instead focus on cultivating awareness of the little known term “deep state” itself. This was essential for ensuring our
target market became familiar with the expression. This was also timed to coincide with the launch of the new
season of FOX’s biggest show, The Walking Dead, maximising the opportunity to connect with one of the most hard
to reach audiences.
• Phase 2 (Ignite Interest): As it was clear that convincing this particular audience to commit their limited viewing time to DEEP STATE was going to be a challenge, as part of phase 2, from January 2018, FNG E&A began to connect the term “deep state” with its upcoming show. This helped to drive the genuine interest that had already been gained
towards the subject of ‘Deep State’ and ignite it in the programme itself.
• Phase 3 (Reveal): From 19th February the programme’s concept was fully introduced, building intrigue and inviting
the viewers to emotionally connect with the characters whilst engaging with the narrative. Ultimately, this aimed to
encourage the audience to tune-in to the premiere.
• $3.1m ATL marketing investment.
• Media buys across Europe were split: Press (23%); Outdoors (20%); Digital (22%); Social (15%); Radio (14%); TV (5%)
and Cinema (1%).
• The campaign was supplemented by $674k of affiliate platforms contribution
• The campaign received $1.2m in barter deals. Split – Belgium: $76k, Bulgaria: $17k, Croatia: $24k The Netherlands:
$631k, Italy: $172k, Germany: $168k, Portugal: $15k and Serbia: $53k, Slovenia: $25k.
Educate and Igniting Interest:
To combat lack of awareness and convince international audiences to commit limited viewing times, FNG E&A began by educating through revealing elements of the campaign online and encouraging them to question the ‘Deep State’. As part of this, FNG focused upon the ‘post truth era’, and impetus surrounding ‘alternative facts’ and ‘fake news’,
showcasing prominent “deep state” conspiracy theories.
Markets posted over seven days across social platforms with content that acquainted the audience with “Deep State”
conspiracy theories. Marketing departments across Europe and Africa kept to this theme whilst putting their own
twist on things, creating engaging and premium content to captivate the audience. This resulted in a vast range of engaging stunts, digital campaigns and commissions. Including high value posts hosted by the shows stars, targeted ad campaigns, and even an influencer polygraph stunt! Examples of activations that took place includes the UK’s, provocative ‘Video of lies’ which involved a series of intense hypothesis such as ‘Do not believe everything you read #DEEPSTATE’. In Holland, the Dutch team collaborated with leading video platform, Dumpert to release a series of anonymous videos featuring supermodel Kim Feenstra, themed around hacking and governmental control.
Across E&A, the campaign also largely focused on generating online conversation through ‘always on’ community
management. For instance, when trailers were released on Twitter with no explanation – FNG E&A responded to fan
comments across the territories with localised, on-brand messaged GIFs, heightening the intrigue.
Reveal: A Media First
In a FNG media first, marketing pitched and fought for complete autonomy of the creation of DEEP STATE’s title
sequence. Whilst it only reached viewers within the final ‘reveal’ phase of the campaign, it was created with the
intention of it being the starting point for the entire marketing strategy. This unusual move meant that the
marketing campaign itself was able to envelop its core messaging into the programme and vice versa.
The result? A relevant, resonant message direct to the target demographic, played out and harmonised on and off air.
The Pan-European campaign ran from October 2017 – April 2018; and was able to to successfully educate, ignite
interest in and engage a notoriously hard to reach audience. Heightening awareness of the Deep State concept,
creating conversation and most importantly, persuading audiences to watch the premiere episode.
On a local basis, in Holland, the aforementioned local stunt reached an astonishing 5 million video plays. In Poland,
influencers created native content surrounding popular Deep State concepts, generating 300k in views. In Italy,
political journalists posted a series of articles around related concepts and generated a huge 8.5 million hits.
Activations such as these helped educate our target audience and encourage them to relay common topics such as
government surveillance and fake news to the ‘Deep State’, creating the foundation for us to build interest.
In the next phase, to ignite interest, Germany, Switzerland and Austria created a ‘black out’ campaign whereby target
display ads placed in articles that could be tied to the deep state, including provocative banners encouraging readers
to question their realities and click-through to the programme site. The social campaign in total, reached 45m
impressions across an amazing 50 countries.
Ultimately, DEEP STATE way surpassed expectations; the premiere reached over 2.3 million people across 16
countries at a rate 37% higher than the FNG E&As primetime channel average, smashing our objective of 850,000
and achieving viewership numbers of 1,164,500. Perhaps most notably, 39% of the show’s episode one audience
were new to the channel and Deep State outperformed the average ratings delivery of several big-name US shows
including 9-1-1 Season 1, The X-Files, Legacy and Empire. This is particularly impressive given that it is an original
series with no pre-established fan base!
The show has been commissioned for a second season and continues to proudly be a European production…