Creativity is what it’s all about when it comes to For Your Consideration campaigns, but this year’s crowded Emmy race is forcing strategists to take things to even greater heights with special events, guerrilla tactics and ever more panel discussions.
Streaming services like Amazon, Netflix and Hulu have brought more contenders to the forefront, making cutting through the clutter to bring attention to a series even harder, whether clamoring for Emmy votes or just marketing a new show. And just as with the granddaddy of campaign targets—the Oscars—Emmy consultants and marketing teams are digging deep for inventive ways to grab some attention.
“Everybody does the TV Academy panels,” says an industry marketer. “We want to take a fresh approach to reaching out into the community and remind people to watch the great content out there, encourage people to educate themselves.”
One of those fresh approaches is moving outside the revolving door of the TV Academy and Pacific Design Center theaters to tap a new venue in Los Angeles: The Upright Citizens Brigade’s Sunset Boulevard theater, which opened last winter. The June “FYC @ UCB” program included panels from three of NBCU’s comedies: Fox’s Brooklyn Nine-Nine and The Mindy Project and Netflix’s The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, which also happens to star one of UCB’s famous alumni, Ellie Kemper. Through a series of streetlight banners on the Westside and near The Grove, NBCU invited TV Academy members and the public to attend. The $5 admission fee benefitted NBCU’s community-outreach charity, NBCUniversal Foundation.
IFC took its Portlandia Emmy campaign to the people by sending street teams to voter-population centers to tack flyers on streetlamp poles and walls. One version that looks handwritten rails against pasteurization; another appears to be a wanted poster for goth characters Vince and Jacqulin, with the tag, “Wanted For Your Consideration.”
IFC svp of public relations Marie Moore says the network tapped the show’s art director to help design the pieces.
“Portlandia isn’t on the air during Emmy season, so we’re always trying to reengage the voters and remind them of how funny it is in a way that captures the tone of the show,” Moore says.
And in true Portlandia fashion, “We obviously do take them down so people don’t think we’re littering,” Moore adds.
Finding inexpensive ways to campaign is also a consideration for IFC, among others, which is where the idea for its May showrunners panel came from. IFC reached out to Fox’s The Last Man on Earth and HBO’s Togetherness to put together multihyphenate showrunners.
“It was super-serving the voter because they could come to one event and interact with three shows,” Moore says. “It also led to a really rich conversation from all of these different perspectives. We’re constantly looking at ways to do things for less, to share in the cost, because those events can be expensive. All boats rise when you work together.”
A quick look around Hollywood and Beverly Hills alone makes it clear that campaigning is in the air. Aside from the overloaded mail carriers and FedEx trucks packed with elaborate screeners, L.A. voters can’t help but notice that things are heating up. For Your Consideration billboards started going up in late May for series like AMC’s Breaking Bad prequel Better Call Saul (which, incidentally, has a plotline surrounding a strategically placed billboard); Fox’s soapy drama Empire took over The Grove for a screening under the stars, followed by a production team panel and a live concert; Amazon’s Transparent launched its first Emmy campaign with billboards at busy intersections and gender-neutral stickers on bathroom stalls; Showtime is pushing its entire lineup on buses around town; and AMC’s Mad Men is tapping into voters’ nostalgia with print campaigns for the final season as well as for its star Jon Hamm, who has never won an Emmy for his iconic role as Don Draper.
SundanceTV, which has its own Emmy hopes for the drama Rectify and limited series The Honorable Woman, is capitalizing on The Paley Center’s Emmy-season precursor PaleyFest, which takes place in March, with its newly launched Behind the Story with the Paley Center. The six-episode show started with NBC’s Parks and Recreation and The Mindy Project in April with footage from past PaleyFest panels. May’s lineup had Mad Men and CBS’ The Big Bang Theory, while this month features Netflix’s Orange Is the New Black and Showtime’s Masters of Sex.
Emmy campaigning wasn’t really a consideration for Behind the Story’s schedule, but SundanceTV’s Nicole DeFusco admits that it’s good timing.
“Viewers’ interests are piqued surrounding shows’ finales or premieres,” says DeFusco, vp of nonfiction programming and development. “So the same time frame that works for Emmys also works for these shows wrapping up and being relevant in the cultural conversation.”
With so many more high-caliber shows from new players it’s no wonder this season feels busier than previous years. At Netflix’s recent Kimmy Schmidt screening and panel at Pacific Design Center, a TV Academy member lamented arriving to the crowded event too late to see the panel, which included showrunners Robert Carlock and Tina Fey, as well as stars Kemper, Jane Krakowski, Carol Kane, Lauren Adams and Sol Miranda. She did, however, get a chance to enjoy the reception afterwards, which also showcased costumes from Kimmy Schmidt as well as Netflix’s other hopefuls, Orange Is the New Black, Marco Polo, Peaky Blinders and House of Cards. Over mini corn dogs, fluffernutter sandwiches and abundant candy, this voter marveled at the sheer number of Emmy functions taking place this season.
“There are a lot more of these events than I remember in previous years,” she says, adding that she finds the “curated” content of trade publications helpful in deciding which shows to watch among the screeners she’s received. “I have Time Warner, Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime—everything—just to keep up with the shows.”