FXX wants to make sure you have plenty of "D'oh!" on hand this Thanksgiving.
To promote its Simpsons 600 Marathon, which features the first 600 episodes of The Simpsons and kicks off Thanksgiving Day at noon, the network has created a clever, holiday-themed marketing campaign. The marathon's key art, which appears on billboards and bus stops, features images of Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie Simpson made out of traditional Thanksgiving food like corn, potatoes and pie.
The holiday theme extends to Snapchat-themed filters and promos throughout the 13-day event. The marathon—which ends on Thursday, Dec. 7 at 12 a.m.—will include 600 episodes of the show (27 seasons, 300 hours) airing in chronological order. It concludes with the first four episodes of the current season, the show's 28th, and ends with Episode 600, "Treehouse of Horror XXVII." (Unlike FXX's first Simpsons marathon in 2014, it won't include the 2007 film The Simpsons Movie.)
"For us, this is a continued celebration of a franchise that's been an icon in American society for 27 seasons," said Lance Reiss, svp of marketing with FX Networks.
The network has a lot to live up to: The first Simpsons marathon (Every. Simpsons. Ever.), which aired in 2014, was a rousing success, catapulting FXX all the way to cable's No. 1 network in among 18- to 49-year-olds and 18- to 34-year-olds during prime time for the duration of the 12-day marathon.
It helped save the fledgling FXX, and justified the company's estimated $750 million investment in long-term syndication rights to The Simpsons.
"I was really nervous about it. If it hadn't worked, it would have been a financial drain on the company's competitive abilities and resources for the better part of a decade. … There was a lot of sticker shock associated with the price we paid," FX Networks CEO John Landgraf told Adweek after the first marathon.
Now, the network has to get casual and die-hard Simpsons fans excited for a second, even longer marathon. Once Reiss and his team were told the marathon would begin on Thanksgiving, they knew the holiday season was a "natural tie-in," said Reiss, who wanted to tap into the "shared communal experience" of both Thanksgiving and a Simpsons marathon.
They achieved that with the key art in which common Thanksgiving foods were repurposed to look like the Simpsons family.
"It was another way that we continue our tradition of deconstructing the art and putting the FXX filter on it," said Reiss. "It's obviously different than Fox Broadcasting and their spin over the years."
The team also partnered with Snapchat to promote the show and will launch three Snapchat filters on Wednesday to build interest in Thursday's marathon.
But that's only the first part of the Snapchat partnership. During the marathon, FXX will feature on-screen Snapcodes, which Snapchat users can snap to unlock four additional exclusive Simpsons filters, for a total of seven filters. It's following in the footsteps of Fox's The Rocky Horror Picture Show, which was the first TV show to feature on-air Snapcodes last month.
The company is staying quiet about exactly when the Snapcodes will pop up during the marathon in order to drive engagement. "It's just like having a fun Easter egg and carrot throughout, so we're going to mix that throughout the schedule," said Ethan Adelman, vp of on-air promotions at FX Networks.
Not all of the marathon's holiday marketing materials are Thanksgiving-themed. One of FX's promos, shared exclusively with Adweek, features a handbell choir unlike any you've ever seen:
"The scope of 600 episodes is so huge, we really wanted a campaign that matched it," said Adelman. "So have unique over 50 unique pieces of content dedicated to the campaign." That includes a "mini campaign" during the marathon called "Donut Experiment," following a man who will consume a donut for every episode of The Simpsons.
"That touches on the ideas of binging and gluttony that seem to resonate with the Simpsons and also parallel the idea of Thanksgiving," said Adelman. "We're going to lock a guy in a laboratory and watch him as he consumes a donut for every episode of The Simpsons. It will be on-air and social, and throughout the marathon, we'll check in for glimpses of our test subject to see how he's progressing."
Between the Snapcodes, donut-eating man, live tweeting from the FX Network social team, other video surprises and, of course, the 600 episodes of the show, Reiss hopes to replicate the engagement and ratings of the first marathon.
"I think that combination of having all these arrows in our quiver is what has kept the fans engaged," he said.