Sometimes the secret to a successful, viral marketing campaign is—well, a secret. By being compelling both visually and mentally, clever mysterious promotional campaigns show just enough information to intrigue viewers.
When interest is piqued, human beings have a desire to know and the curiosity to find out what they don’t—which means that withholding information can be a very powerful marketing tactic. FX took the concept of mysterious marketing to the next level with its recent teaser campaign for Season 6 of its anthology horror series “American Horror Story.”
“AHS” has taken viewers to a lot of creepy places in its five seasons: a haunted house, a corrupt insane asylum, a witch coven in crisis, a struggling carnival sideshow and a macabre hotel. Creator Ryan Murphy has said before that he has some kind of master plan that will link all of the show’s seasons together.
And so naturally, with Season 6’s Sept. 14 premiere on the horizon, fans were eager to know where the next story will take place. But FX wasn’t willing to give up the goods that easily.
The network managed to stump everyone this summer when it first began launching creative in late July—posters, out-of-home and on-air promos depicted rattling chains, spiders crawling from human orifices and demonic dolls. There were mysterious vintage swamp monsters, crop circles, shadowy figures and creepy children.
There were a total of 24 different on-air teasers for “AHS” Season 6, an overarching “Anthology” spot, 17 different print finishes (OOH and print) and eight social-based teasers, each with it’s own flavor. Every teaser included a “?6” logo, which was rendered differently in each piece of creative. FX was taunting fans with one blood-chilling red herring after another—and it only made them more excited.
Part of why this risky campaign worked is that everyone at FX was on board for its execution.
Aside from a Sept. 14 premiere date, everything else about Season 6 was kept under wraps. No information about the season’s theme. No casting announcements. No looks at behind-the-scenes photos. Nothing.
The premiere was shrouded in so much mystery that prior to the premiere, many fans took to social media to speculate with others about what the new season would bring. It can all be summed up with “I can’t wait,” which is ultimately what a good marketing campaign is always trying to achieve.
In Nielsen live-plus-three numbers—live ratings plus three days of delayed viewing—the “Roanoke” premiere drew 8.3 million total viewers, as well as 5.6 million viewers ages 18-49, and 3.4 million 18-34. By those measures, it ranks behind only the premieres of “American Horror Story: Freak Show” — the FX anthology’s highest rated episode — and “American Horror Story: Hotel” among other episodes in the series.
According to FX’s own multiplatform numbers, the premiere has drawn 10.9 million total viewers to date. It was the third best numbers in total viewers and key demos of any episode in the franchise’s history. Obviously, its risky marketing gambit proved very effective.