The ratings for the first installment of Frank Darabont’s new TNT serial Mob City aren’t due for another 48 hours, but the stylish exercise in L.A. noir is already a big hit with advertisers.
Set to premiere on Dec. 4 at 9 p.m., the six-part limited series sold like, well, gangbusters in the upfront. Among the more prominent Mob City sponsors are Acura, DirecTV and Sony Pictures, which is using the show as a launch pad for its upcoming theatrical American Hustle.
In conjunction with Turner’s integrated marketing unit, Acura has developed two 60-second vignettes designed to play off the elegant trappings of the Mob City milieu. But for a brief glimmer of the Acura logo at the beginning of each spot and a blink-and-you-missed it glamour shot of the 2014 MDX crossover SUV at the tail end, the content is wholly devoted to the show itself. Writer/director/producer Darabont (The Walking Dead) rhapsodizes about the snap-brim fedoras and Betty Foyle dresses of the era, while actors Ed Burns and Milo Ventimiglia talk about how their natty costumes helped them get into character.
While the executions are subtle, the thematic pairing of the Acura’s swooning contours and the Art Deco exuberance of Mob City’s wardrobe and set design are readily apparent. The spots have aired on TNT as a lead-in for Wednesday night’s premiere.
DirecTV and Sony Pictures also have gone beyond the 30-second spot buy, investing in co-branded tune-ins and billboards. American Hustle opens nationwide on Dec. 18, five days after its limited opening in New York and Los Angeles.
As both projects are period pieces (American Hustle is set in the mirror ball-and-cocaine era), Mob City offers a compelling contextual match with the film. It also promises to scare up a very different demographic for TNT, which boasts a stable of original dramas that tend to skew female. (Hit shows like the procedural Major Crimes and Rizzoli & Isles helped make TNT the No. 3 network among women 25-54 in the third quarter, trailing only USA Network and sibling channel TBS.)
“We’re targeting a new audience,” said Frank Sgrizzi, evp, Turner Entertainment ad sales and marketing. “With Mob City, we’re moving beyond the procedural and appealing to more of an action-adventure crowd.”
In looking to reach a greater compliment of men in their 30s and 40s, TNT is also drumming up business with marketers that traditionally have spent their ad dollars elsewhere. “We’re seeing a spectrum of different categories coming in—technology, telecom, auto,” Sgrizzi said, adding that seasonal retail and a number of other movie studios have bought time in Mob City.
While much of the inventory was claimed in the upfront, Sgrizzi said TNT held back some units for scatter. The six hours are completely sold out.
“Our move to program year-round has generated so many premium sponsorship opportunities, but Mob City is really special,” Sgrizzi said. “It’s a limited event so there’s built-in demand and it’s airing during the holiday interval, when so many networks go into repeats.”
Indeed, for those looking for a fresh helping of scripted drama Mob City on Wednesday night may be the only game in town. CBS is airing repeats of Criminal Minds and CSI from 9-11 p.m., while NBC’s Revolution is on hiatus until Jan. 8. On the cable front, USA is running back-to-back repeats of Law & Order: SVU and AMC is screening the 2007 theatrical Shooter. The only drama network to counterprogram Mob City is FX, which has an all-new episode of American Horror Story: Coven lined up in the Wednesday 10 p.m. time slot.
Mob City marks TNT’s most ambitious launch in recent memory, and the network is pulling out all the stops to market the show. Making no bones about the creator’s past associations, Turner has splashed the phrase “From The Walking Dead’s Frank Darabont” across its every billboard, kiosk and bus stop poster. Little wonder—the AMC apocalypse drama remains the No. 1 show in the demo across cable and broadcast TV.
In a more unconventional twist, the network is leaking the full script of the premiere (“Guy Walks Into a Bar”) via Twitter. The tweets, which include everything from stage directions to links to multimedia elements, began appearing yesterday and will continue until a half-hour before the show goes live.
Deutsch NY developed the @MobCityTNT feed for TNT, as well as the Mickey’s Haberdashery pop-up shop in New York’s Chelsea Market. (Fellas, you can still grab a shave and a shoe-shine until 8 p.m. tonight.)
For those who may be too impatient to access the script in dribs and drabs, TNT is archiving all Mob City script posts at MobScript.com.