TV Upfronts

CBS' Summer Campaign for Ghosts Keeps Spirit of Show Alive During Hiatus

Promotion includes a musical number, in-person activations and a metaverse experience to die for

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Ghosts’ freshman season may have ended in April, but CBS is keeping the show’s spirit alive throughout its hiatus. The network will celebrate the breakout sitcom with several activations, stunts and online experiences throughout the summer.

And though a summer campaign may seem odd for a show that won’t air new episodes until fall, there’s a method behind CBS’ ghoulish madness.

“What you’re seeing over the summer is a continuation of what we’ve been doing with the show all season long. And that’s continuing to engage the fans with content that they love about the show more deeply. But then also find ways to bring people in, so it’s using that momentum to continue to bring new audiences into the program,” Mike Benson, president and chief marketing officer at CBS, told Adweek. “We haven’t taken our foot off the gas since the show launched.”

The “Summer of Ghosts” campaign honors the dearly departed first season and upcoming Season 2, which will move to a new time slot this fall, in a series of multi-city in-person events and metaverse experiences, including allowing fans to access the haunted grounds of a virtual Woodstone Mansion. It also gives fans a Web 3 experience, providing QR codes that lead to limited-edition NFTs of the characters; collecting all 10 NFTs unlocks more adventures in the metaverse.

CBS kicked off the campaign during Paramount’s upfront presentation last week, when the cast performed a comedic song, Ghosts: The Musical, onstage at Carnegie Hall. The network had been looking for an opportunity to create a musical since Brandon Scott Jones’ militiaman character, Isaac, mentioned wanting a Hamilton-like show for himself in the series last fall.

“We thought, well, we’re at Carnegie Hall. Why couldn’t we do the musical onstage at Carnegie and use that as a kickoff? When Isaac started to bring it up in the show about having a musical, we’ve got to figure out a way to do it. We thought that was a natural place for us—and then it dovetailed into our consumer campaign,” Benson said.

Following the live performance, Paramount made the song available on more than 150 music streaming services, including Apple Music, Spotify and Pandora. And, while Isaac may not get an entire musical, he’ll be able to one-up Alexander Hamilton by appearing on a special 11-dollar bill that will appear on the streets of New York during the campaign.

The events showcasing each character will continue from June through August, though specific timing for them is still being determined. Among the planned activations: Rebecca Wisocky’s Gilded Age socialite character, Hetty, will have a launch party for her book of social “Hetty-quette” in Los Angeles; Danielle Pinnock’s Alberta, a 1920’s Prohibition-era jazz singer, gets her own pop-up museum filled with Ghosts Easter eggs in her hometown of Altoona, Pa.; and Román Zaragoza’s Native American character, Sasappis, will hold a storytelling event in New York.

Richie Moriarty’s deceased scout troop leader, Pete, will get a Pinecone Trooper-themed Friend Zone activation during 2022 San Diego Comic-Con, which will take place July 21-24.

Additionally, Devan Long’s Thorfinn gets a Viking launch at sea in California; Sheila Carrasco’s character, Flower, has a flower-filled L.A. experience; and Asher Grodman’s finance bro, Trevor, receives a ’90s-themed Hamptons party. The campaign then culminates with the world premiere Season 2 screening event, featuring the show’s living characters, Rose McIver’s Sam and Utkarsh Ambudkar’s Jay.

Those who can’t attend the events live can participate and follow along through the @GhostsCBS social channels on Twitter, Instagram and TikTok and use the hashtag #SummerOfGhosts.

Crossing over to the metaverse

The Metaverse Woodstone Mansion will launch at the same time as the Comic-Con activation, bringing several of the NFTs and experiences with it.

“We had this idea of ‘let’s bring ghosts to life’. It was this idea of not only bringing the show to life but bringing the characters to life as well. And how can we do that creatively? The other thing that we kept seeing in the data was how much people love the individual characters. They really love these very different unique characters and the relationships that they had with each other,” Benson said. “So we continue to lean into that. And the idea was to elevate each of these characters, but the continuation of the campaign for us is really about audience development.”

Fans can virtually access the haunted grounds of Woodstone Mansion.CBS

Ghosts was a breakout hit for CBS in its first season, averaging 8.4 million viewers in live-plus-7, which made it the most-watched freshman comedy. It helped CBS win the season in total viewers for the 14th consecutive year.

But the campaign is not just about reaching linear viewers, but also those on Paramount+, which earlier this month landed exclusive U.S. SVOD streaming rights to the series.

Benson explained that Ghosts is uniquely positioned to reach several different audiences. For instance, while some audience members can simply enjoy the in-person activations, other technically-savvy fans can explore the mansion in the metaverse.

“Ghosts provides us with a unique opportunity because the characters are so different. What we’re seeing already in the data, there are very different audiences who come to the show, but they all seem to love the characters. That’s where we find these common threads,” Benson said.

‘We are playing the long game’

The campaign is also an effort to position CBS, which is known as a linear broadcast network, as more of a content brand.

“Whether it’s FBI, Survivor, 60 Minutes, NCIS, we want to do everything we can to get people to watch on our linear network. But there’s an audience who may not watch on linear, so we want to make sure that we are reaching and engaging those audiences and enticing them to watch our programs, wherever that might be, as long as we can bring them into the ecosystem,” Benson said.

For the CMO, the Summer of Ghosts campaign is about creating meaningful experiences with fans rather than simply saturating the market with clips and promos. After all, viewer behaviors have changed. Though some people are early show adopters, watching right when a new series comes out, many fans may not come to a show until it has a full season—or multiple ones—under its belt.

“We are playing the long game on a show like this. This is not about, ‘Let’s get it launched and depend on the momentum.’ Let’s continue to build on this, knowing that there’s a lot of audiences out there who may not start watching until after they know this show is going to come back,” Benson said. “There’s so much that we’re competing with. They don’t want to waste their time watching something that’s going to be gone in two seasons. That’s why we continue to build and lean into what we’re doing.”