HBO ‘Imagines’ Teddy Bears, Mimes

NEW YORK 10,000 tiny teddy bears will be distributed around Manhattan this week as part of HBO’s new “Imagine” branding campaign from BBDO.

The bears — along with a Japanese businessman, a cheating husband and a mime — are just a few of the elements that comprise the dramatic story line driving BBDO’s highly anticipated follow-up to 2007’s award-winning “Voyeur” campaign.

Overall, the effort uses 41 different pieces of online content to illustrate the tagline, “It’s more than you imagined. It’s HBO.” The campaign kicks off this Thursday with a three-day outdoor video installation in downtown Manhattan. Two two-minute films will be projected on a large cube that will offer four different perspectives on the same story at the same time. The cube installation will take place in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., next month.

Like “Voyeur,” the campaign is centered on a multi-narrative story that viewers can piece together in non-linear fashion. Each piece of content is designed to challenge users’ perspectives about the events seen in each.

For example, one clip shows a close-up of two men in what appears to be an intimate setting, but when the camera turns it is ultimately revealed that they are trying to dismantle a bomb. Another film features a mime doing a trapped-in-a-glass-box skit — only he is actually trapped in a submerged car.

“The goal is to really build excitement about the HBO brand at large,” said Courteney Monroe, evp of consumer marketing at HBO. “Creatively the goal is to tap into the emotional connection that we know consumers have with our brand by developing a campaign that embodies the spirit of HBO.

 ”We wanted an expression of who and what we are,” she said. “We are a network that does things differently. We defy people’s expectations.”

David Lubars, chairman and chief creative officer of BBDO North America, said that “Imagine,” much like the earlier “Voyeur” campaign, was created to showcase the stellar storytelling found on HBO. “Their marketing has to be as equally dimensional as their programming,” Lubars said. “The more you dig into this marketing program the more you find it’s more than you imagined. You can look at each piece of content on its own or you can keep digging and digging and see how they connect to one greater story.”

Inspired by videogame narrative, the HBOimagine.com site, created by The Barbarian Group, includes a progress bar that keeps track of how much of the story has been pieced together by each returning visitor. “We designed the experience so you can drop in and explore at any point,” said Benjamin Palmer, CEO and co-founder of The Barbarian Group. “There is no start and no end.”

More than 40 minutes of video content directed by Noam Murro of Biscuit Filmworks is featured in the campaign. “It echoes the quality of what is going on at HBO on the programming side. It is the same depth of innovation,” said Murro of the “mind-bending” cube and the challenging campaign. “It is a three-dimensional puzzle.”

Consumers are invited to pass along the puzzle pieces via social media networking tools, and an upcoming user-generated push will invite people to submit their video interpretations of the “It’s more than you imagined” theme.