Pretty Little Liars and Audi Test Real-Time Snapchat Content

And PLL gets sixth and seventh seasons

Fans of Pretty Little Liars should be stoked right about now: Hours ago, the ABC Family show got renewed for a sixth and seventh season, and the Season 5 premiere is tonight.

And in terms of the latter, the show's scores of millennial viewers may want to have their phones fully charged and Snapchat app open. Official social media sponsor Audi will be Snapchatting exclusive bonus content from the ABC Family program and the show's stars in real time. 

"The PLL audience is always looking for exclusive content to help get more information about the show," said Mark Rejtig, svp of national sales for ABC Family. "The nature of Snapchat will create the sense of urgency since the images appear quickly. It's an interesting way to deploy content to our rabid fans."

Rejtig said each message—or "snap," in the mobile-social platform's vernacular—will connect directly with the scene that is airing to help foster chatter about the teen drama, marking the first time concurrent Snapchat content will be lined up with a TV program. The campaign will also be pushed through the program's official Twitter handle and via the social media accounts of Ian Harding, who plays Ezra on the show and has 1.34 million Twitter followers. 

Gartner research director Julie Hopkins said that the marriage between PLL and Snapchat seems perfect given their matching audiences, but what surprised her was the Audi sponsorship. Most teens who watch the show probably aren't in the market to buy a car, let alone a luxury vehicle, she pointed out.

However, what Audi could stand to gain is that by activating around Snapchat, it can be seen as a younger brand, similar to the reputation Acura garnered after running its Snapchat campaign last year around its NSX prototype. "It sells the brand and builds buzz that Audi is a forward-thinking contemporary brand," she explained.

Audi execs echoed the sentiment, saying the integration allowed them to introduce themselves to novel eyes.

"Partnering with a show that is a phenomenon amongst [a young] audience was a natural fit for us to continue to increase brand awareness and perception," Loren Angelo, director of marketing for Audi of America, said in a press release.

Though this marks the first time a Snapchat campaign has been activated to correspond directly with show content, other TV programs have utilized the fleeting nature of the app. HBO's Girls recently snapped content to its followers. And NBC's The Voice announced in March that Chris Martin of Coldplay was going to be an advisor via the app.

Hopkins believes that brands are going to be more fluid with mixing how they use innovative social experiences and traditional spots to present their products. However, with the growth of the so-called second-screen experiences, marketers will have to carefully navigate the effect of adding content, she warned. Audi will have to learn if its investment into bonus materials is helping its brand resonate with fans, or if all the extra media is splitting their attention so much that it doesn't drive the message home.

"It's a balance of adding content to help viewers remain engaged throughout the program but not to the point where you're getting disengagement during some of the additional experiences," Hopkins said.

Meanwhile, PLL's renewals suggest that ABC Family has high hopes for the show. And by contractually locking down the talent through 2016, the Disney-owned cable channel seems to believe the program's roster of young actors is only going to get more expensive.

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