‘Mob City’ Uses Twitter to Build Suspense for a Premiere
MEDIA|ADVERTISING December 2, 2013
POPULAR shows like “The Walking Dead,” “The Voice” and “Scandal” have consistently figured in the weekly top 10 list for Nielsen Twitter TV Ratings, a new statistic that professes to measure not just the number of Twitter posts about shows but also the number of followers who read them. Now “Mob City,” a new TNT series about Los Angeles mobsters in the 1940s, has a stunt that hopes to build fans on Twitter before its premiere on Wednesday.
Beginning Monday morning, the script of the first episode, written by the show’s creator, Frank Darabont, who developed “The Walking Dead” for AMC, will be released in a stream of Twitter messages in its entirety — except for the surprise ending. Issued from the Twitter handle @MobCityTNT (#MobScript), the final cliffhanger message will be posted 30 minutes before the show airs at 9 p.m. on Wednesday.
Much has been serialized over Twitter’s 140 characters (or fewer) at a time, including a short story, “Black Box,” by the Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jennifer Egan, which The New Yorker trickled out over 10 days on the social network in 2012. But the new TNT promotion makes use of a feature called Twitter Cards, which enables embedding short videos, photographs or other elements within a post, rather than requiring users to click a link to view them elsewhere. About three-quarters of the more than 400 tweets that make up the script will include an element in addition to the text.
For example, text for the second “Mob City” tweet, “SCENE ONE — Open on the exterior of a New York City street at night,” will be accompanied by about 12 seconds of video that opens the series. Often a photograph will be included, like one of an actress pushing a baby carriage paired with the text, “A well-dressed young woman comes around the corner pushing a baby carriage. Thug 1 checks her out. She’s a looker.”
A website, MobScript.com, will post the Twitter messages as they are sent.
The “adaptweetion,” as the network calls it, is by Deutsch New York, part of the Deutsch division of the Interpublic Group of Companies.
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Kerry Keenan, chief creative officer at Deutsch New York, said that along with previewing the show, the promotion is meant to build interest in the creative and technical challenges of capturing another era.
“This goes deeper and deeper into the show,” Ms. Keenan said. “It’s not just the dialogue — it’s the making of the show and all the attention to details.”
Mr. Darabont is expected to add commentary on Twitter as the script is released, as are some of the actors on the show, who include Edward Burns, Jon Bernthal and Simon Pegg, along with crew members like costume designers and set designers.
Tricia Melton, senior vice president for entertainment marketing and branding at TNT, TBS and Turner Classic Movies, said the term adaptweetion was apt, because the alchemy of the script, clips, images and commentary constituted a unique form.
“Bringing the script to life in a different medium is designed to intrigue you so that you want to watch the premiere,” Ms. Melton said. “But this brings a different level of context and I think that it elevates Twitter as a platform because it takes it to a different level of storytelling experience.”
Rohit Bhargava, a social media strategist and the author of “Likeonomics,” reviewed the “Mob City” promotion and said it was a wise use of Twitter.
“What tends to work on social media is context, because we want to connect on a deeper level beyond just liking what we watch,” Mr. Bhargava said. “We want the back story that we can’t get anywhere else.”
The campaign should be evaluated not on the sheer number of Twitter followers it garners, but whether those followers are really passionate, perhaps because they hold previous work of the director or actors in high regard, Mr. Bhargava said.
“If they’re trying to become another ‘Scandal’ right out of the gate and hit everybody, it won’t work,” he said. “But if they’re doing it as an influencer campaign, where they connect with even only a thousand superfans who are going to tell everyone else, it will do well.”
“The Spoils of Babylon,” a spoof of the historical mini-series genre that will premiere on IFC on Jan. 9, also has taken an unusual approach to promotion. Displays at Hudson News stores for a novel, also titled “The Spoils of Babylon,” say it is “now an epic television event on IFC” — but the displays are always empty, as if the book has sold out, because the book does not exist.
Citing viewers’ binge-watching tendencies in the Netflix era, TNT will air the six-part “Mob City” series in three weeks, with two consecutive hourlong episodes each Wednesday.
Passengers flying into Los Angeles International Airport have been greeted for the last two weeks by a message emblazoned in block letters on the roofs of three side-by-side hangars, “Welcome to Mob City,” along with the premiere date. Benches along the Sunset Strip have featured, along with the show’s logo, sayings like “Bugsy owned this city,” a reference to the real-life mobster Bugsy Siegel, who is played by Mr. Burns in the series.
On Monday, TNT will open a pop-up store in New York’s Chelsea Market called Mickey’s Haberdashery, which is modeled after a men’s clothing store that Mickey Cohen, another Los Angeles gangster of the era depicted in the show, once owned in the Sunset Strip. Along with stocking clothing and accessories reminiscent of the 1940s, the store, which will be open for only three days, will offer hot shaves for a throwback price of 35 cents and shoe shines for a dime.