Skip to main content

Catching Emmy's Eye

“Hey, Academy! Pack a bag and head on up to PORTLANDIA,
Fred Armisen & Carrie Brownstein’s dreamy and romanticized rendering
of Portland, Oregon. Don’t forget to pack your pickles, custom
knots, bike helmets, birds and Emmys …”

So began the spring pitch in IFC’s “For Your Consideration” mailer
to Academy of Television Arts and Sciences members for its Peabody
Award-winning variety series, Portlandia.

The kitschy marketing campaign —
complete with a pop-up travel map —
created some buzz for the sophomore
comedy, and it ultimately landed Emmy
nominations for Outstanding Directing
and Outstanding Writing in the varietyseries

“We needed something that would also stand out creatively — something that
felt a little slightly off, which is what IFC is all about,” IFC senior vice president of
marketing Blake Callaway said of the campaign. “We knew we couldn’t spend millions
of dollars, so we wanted to come up with something that was perhaps unique
to talk about beyond a glossy mailer.”

That’s been the talk among most marketing and publicity executives: how to get
Academy voters’ attention in an original-programming landscape that is more competitive
now than it was even a year ago.


The growing number of critically lauded and fan-applauded originals is indeed staggering,
as networks such as IFC, AMC, Starz, History and BBC America have joined such perennial
contenders as HBO as competitive forces in the battle for awards nominations.

Not only have digital and social media have become key components of these campaigns, but
there is an increase in trade and consumer advertising and a flurry of out-of-home ads on billboards
and “shuttle wraps” that blare FYC messaging from buses and trains in Los Angeles and New York.

Getting noticed early seems to be increasing as a strategy, according to Juan Morales, director
of membership publications and editor in chief of emmy, the Academy’s official magazine.

Typically, most channels pull out all the stops in issue No. 3, the June “FYC” issue. But this year,
issue No. 2, published in April, “was a busier FYC space than ever before,” Morales said. It featured a
Showtime DVD for House of Lies poly-wrapped with each magazine, along with an early FYC ad purchase
for the freshman series.

More studios and production companies were involved in FYC campaigns this year, backing up the
networks, Sheri Ebner, director of the Primetime Emmy Awards, said.

Showtime teamed with studio Fox 21 on its FYC promotion for Homeland, helping the drama series land nine nominations, including
nods for stars Claire Danes and
Damian Lewis. Showtime had 22 nominations
altogether and the most lead-actor
nods (five) of any network.

Showtime took advantage of the Academy’s online
video-streaming microsite ( a popular vehicle
for many networks this season) to post its shows and
performers. But it also teamed up with DirecTV and
Time Warner Cable on a free weekend at-home
screening, so that voters in Los Angeles and New
York could watch episode marathons of the network’s
Emmy contenders.

“People are watching all over, but if you’re watching
a marathon and catching up on 12 episodes
back to back, you want to watch them on your television,”
Trisha Cardoso, executive vice president of
communications for Showtime, said. “That’s why
hitting every single place was key for us this year.”


“Meet the cast” events and event screenings were
on the increase this voting season, Vicki Campobasso,
manager of theater operations at the Academy,
said. That included events away from the
Academy’s North Hollywood venue.

Starz hired legendary awards campaign strategist
Murray Weissman of Weissman/Markovitz
Communications to execute a series of elaborate
events. One of them showcased freshman series
Boss and its Golden Globe Award-winning star —
and perennial Emmy favorite — Kelsey Grammer.

Two others spotlighted newcomer Magic City
and the second season of Spartacus, the latter of
which featured a special appearance by 95-year-old
Honorary Academy Award winner Kirk Douglas,
who starred in the original 1960 film
on which the popular Starz series is
based. Douglas signed copies of his recently
published book on Spartacus and
appeared on-stage with the character’s
new-millennium actor, Liam McIntyre.

“There wasn’t a dry eye in the house,”
Weissman said.

Still, Starz garnered only one nomination:
Outstanding Main Title Design
for Magic City.

“You want to give people more so they
can want to get immersed in the series
more,” Theano Apostolou, senior vice
president of corporate communications
and programming publicity for Starz Entertainment,
said. “But if you step back,
[Emmy campaigns are] not just show-specific. All of this is really brand-defining.”

In 2011, USA Network conducted an
out-of-the-box out-of-home campaign
for its beach-themed Royal Pains, flying
planes with banner ads over beach communities
in Los Angeles’ South Bay.

This year, the focus (and dollars) shifted to billboard messaging in the North Hollywood
and West Hollywood areas (where more Academy
members live and work), along with print and digital
trade ads, cinema buys and social media largely
touting Suits, Necessary Roughness and White Collar.

USA came away with just one nomination, for
Outstanding Creative Achievement in Interactive
Media/Original Interactive Television Programming,
for Psych Hash Tag Killer.

“In the end, it’s all about getting noticed,”
Alexandra Shapiro, executive vice president of
marketing and digital at USA Network, said.


An unlikely success story of the campaign season was
History’s Hatfields & McCoys. The miniseries, starring
Kevin Costner and Bill Paxton, now has 16 nominations
— the most in the channel’s history — to go
along with the viewing records it set this spring.

Nancy Dubuc, president and general manager
of History and Lifetime Networks, said the show’s
out-of-home and consumer marketing seamlessly
flowed into a “For Your Consideration” campaign.
Beyond FYC ads in Los Angeles and New York,
History sent an individual mailing for Hatfields &
that reached Academy members two days
after the miniseries premiered on Memorial Day to
a record 13.9 million viewers.

“Not only did it do well, but it broke significant records,
so there was a lot of unquantifiable buzz surrounding
the airing of it,” Dubuc said.

BBC America set a personal best with five nominations
for the series under its “Dramaville” banner.
Christine Black, vice president of communications
at BBC Worldwide Americas, said: “It all goes back to
the program and the combination of the critics keeping
it out there and writing fantastic things about
the shows, and keeping it top of mind, so that people
may be more inclined to pop the DVD into the
player. Then it’s up to the program to do the wooing.”

Then again, maybe a dozen of Portland’s famous
Voodoo Doughnuts wouldn’t hurt.


Networks say
Emmy Award campaigning is
part of building the brand —
win or lose.