How social TV agency Darewin launched ‘The Walking Dead’ in France with a contagious campaign

By Natan Edelsburg 

Executing a social TV is challenging enough with a brand new season that hasn’t yet been released before in the U.S. Darewin, France’s premiere social TV agency had to deal with launching The Walking Dead in France, at a late time zone, two years after the U.S. launch where probably pirating meant that many had already seen the episodes. We spoke with Darewin founder and CEO Wale Gbadamosi Oyekanmi about launching the first Zombie attack on Twitter, with network NT1.

Lost Remote: What were the challenges with launching this campaign?
Wale Gbadamosi Oyekanmi: There were a lot of challenges: Walking Dead is an explosively popular show in the US and abroad, and it was already two years late in France, so it’s heavily pirated. Because of its content, it was forbidden to users under 16 and put in a late timeslot (past primetime), in competition with several shows that are already very popular for older age groups. Additionally, NT1 was a minor network at the time with little renown for our target.

Faced with all this, we were tasked with producing a campaign that needed to have a contagious effect from the moment it launched.

LR: How does your audience consume TV differently?
WGO: The French audience, like any other audience, is evolving. People are more distracted and have more options for how to spend their time. One of the major challenges to pushing the premiere of Walking Dead was getting fans excited about watching something they probably already pirated — in addition to attracting new fans. We had to make the act of watching the show an event: more about being part of a community than about consuming fresh content. Before social media and dual-screen TV, this kind of possibility didn’t even exist.

LR: What were the major social activations?
WGO: The primary social activation, leading up to the premiere, was our hashtag campaign. By telling people not to tweet, Facebook or blog #WalkingDeadNT1, we leveraged reverse psychology to create excitement for Walking Dead and promote it across other people’s networks. When people did the opposite of what we asked, they were suddenly attacked by dozens of zombies — wherever they were online. On Twitter, zombies followed them and replied to their messages. On Facebook, zombies added them as friends and Poked them. And on blogs, zombies left comments.

One fun story we like to tell: it didn’t take long for Twitter to start shutting down the zombie accounts because it believed them to be spam. This only added to the realism of the campaign: zombies followed you, died, and more zombies took their place! Over a handful of days we created over 300 zombie accounts and monitored their “lives” hour by hour, measuring how fast it took Twitter to kill them.

After the premiere, NT1 held a Walking Dead marathon. We got people to stay up by hosting a Facebook-based live quiz; questions were released as the marathon progressed, and people could share their “survivor” status on Twitter. Viewership for the marathon turned out to be even higher than the premiere, which was among the most-tweeted premieres in France.

LR: Were you worried about people who had already downloaded and seen the season?
WGO: Yes! But as we said, we knew we had to make the show a community event. This is what’s great about our work: in social TV, we get to give content a larger lifespan, and a bigger reason to exist, than mere consumption of what’s fresh. People got into the excitement: they dressed as zombies, encouraged other people to get “bitten”, playfully fought back, and watched the premiere to show their “Walking Dead” community spirit. In addition to attracting the curiosity of new watchers (some felt they couldn’t miss the premiere because of everything happening on social media), we got existing fans excited about “showing up” to watch something they’d already seen.