HBO has already created influencer kits supporting Black-owned businesses and launched a virtual reality series to build buzz for Lovecraft Country, which was named Hottest New Show in Adweek’s 2020 Hot List issue. The network rounded out its months-long promotion of the supernatural drama series with an in-person drive-in experience for the Season 1 finale.
The network invited some 500 fans, influencers, celebrities and press to view the episode, titled Full Circle, at the Lovecraft Country Drive-In, held Oct. 15 at the Paramount Drive-In Theatres in Los Angeles. The experience followed smaller viewing events for Episodes 1, 6 and 8 at drive-in theaters in Washington, D.C., Chicago and Newark, New Jersey.
HBO tapped one of its go-to experiential partners, Giant Spoon—the agency responsible for elaborate activations for Game of Thrones and Westworld—to create an experience designed to immerse guests in Lovecraft Country’s eerie, mysterious 1950s setting. But there was one obvious caveat: Due to the pandemic, the teams had to determine how to best build a world that guests could only experience from the safety of their vehicles, and seamlessly fit design elements into a contactless environment.
Giant Spoon co-founder Trevor Guthrie said the agency actually pitched the spooky drive-in concept in 2019 because it aligned with the series’ 1950s road trip story. This meant the design and live entertainment elements didn’t require a major pivot, but the challenge was figuring out how to deliver the experience with restrictions to attendees in a way that was still entertaining and interactive.
“The original idea for the drive-in was going to be built around the question: Will you be able to drive out of it? It made sense for the show and we thought it would be the right vessel to transport audiences to Lovecraft Country,” Guthrie said. “Because of Covid-19, we had to think through other ways to continue building on the original concept, but bring more of the world into people’s cars so they could actually experience it.”
To do this, Giant Spoon ensured the journey for fans began outside of the venue. The agency erected 1950s-style faux billboards promoting fake businesses such as Folk soda and the Lovecraft Tourism Bureau. The teams also created a fictional Lovecraft Country Safety Commission OOH campaign, which informed guests to remain in their vehicles and wear their masks.
Audio had a major role in immersing guests into the show’s narrative. Guthrie said the agency created more than 160 minutes of faux radio programming for the Lovecraft Country FM frequency, a real radio station that guests could access in their cars. The station broadcast fake ads inspired by the 1950s, songs from the decade and a live set by DJ Moonlight.
Guthrie said the radio station was designed to “set the scene of the world we created.”
After checking into the venue, staff directed guests to stop at an “abandoned” concession kiosk where they could grab bottles of Folk (which was actually black cherry soda) and lunch boxes filled with treats and show-themed swag.