This Instagram Account Recruiting for a Moon Mission Is Actually a Showtime Stunt

Network promotes comedy series Moonbase 8 with an in-world, interactive social campaign

Showtime created animated intros for the fictional crew. Showtime
Headshot of Ian Zelaya

There’s a new Instagram account run by astronauts at a NASA training center in Winslow, Arizona, asking followers to prepare for a lunar mission. But the astronauts, to put it mildly, don’t seem competent for the job. 

Obviously, the facility isn’t real. The account is actually a clever new social campaign from Showtime to celebrate the comedy series Moonbase 8. 

The A24-produced series, which premiered Nov. 8, stars Fred Armisen, Tim Heidecker and John C. Reilly as subpar astronauts assigned to a training facility, each vying for a chance to travel to NASA’s actual moon base. 

Rather than creating a standard promotional account, the network opted for an interactive, in-world campaign to build buzz for the show’s six-episode first season. Puja Vohra, Showtime’s evp of marketing and strategy, told Adweek that Moonbase 8’s absurdist humor prompted her team to develop a marketing push in tune with the show’s voice and characters. 

“We wanted to reach fans of the talent and potential new fans of the comedy, and create something that would give them a laugh. It also felt like this is something the characters would do ” Vohra said. “They would launch an Instagram handle to talk about what they were going through and how their work was going. It felt like the perfect extension for the show.”

Showtime kicked off the promotion last week by rolling out content in small nuggets, beginning with recruitment videos and intros for each astronaut as if they were real NASA employees. The network also posted stills from the series with humorous captions about life at the training center.  

Instagram posts relate to plot developments around show characters including Travis Kelce. The Kansas City Chiefs tight end guest stars as himself in the series premiere, assigned to the base as part of a NASA-NFL cross promotion.Showtime

To further engage fans, the handle has posted interactive events via Instagram Stories, including spaced-themed trivia questions based on scenes from the show. Showtime followed this up by gifting 10 fans who answered questions correctly with real deeds to plots of land on the Moon. 

Vohra said her team plans to regularly post new content on the Moonbase 8 handle as it airs new episodes weekly through Dec. 13 (All six episodes of Season 1 are also available to stream on-demand for Showtime subscribers). New content includes do’s and don’ts during a moon base water shortage and how to prepare for emergency “suit-up” situations.

Based on consumer response and engagement rates so far, Vohra said she views the campaign as a success for Showtime. The network reports that the account’s engagement rate is 50% higher than the average engagement rate of a brand on Instagram, and more than half of its 2,760 followers are within Showtime’s target demographic of people aged 18-34.

Vohra pointed out that as the pandemic continues, the network wants to avoid a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to marketing other upcoming programming such as Season 11 of Shameless and limited series Your Honor. 

“We’re trying to think about what makes each show unique and who the target audience for that show might be,” she said, noting that the network has opted for a drive-in screening event to promote Your Honor. 

If Moonbase 8’s premiere hadn’t occurred during the pandemic, Vohra said it’s possible the marketing push would’ve included an in-person consumer activation. Concurrently, she said the Instagram campaign still makes sense with the show’s narrative and leverages how fans are consuming content during the pandemic. Ian Zelaya is an Adweek reporter covering how brands engage with consumers in the modern world, ranging from experiential marketing and social media to email marketing and customer experience.