Campaign of the Week

Contagious I/O

5 January 2021

Streaming platform broadcasts cliffhanger episode on the underground 

French TV channel seeds original content on underground digital billboards and YouTube pre-roll, increases subscriptions 35%

Challenge / French TV channel 13ème Rue wanted to boost subscriptions of its online streaming platform with the launch of its first original series, Trauma.

With a limited budget and low brand awareness, the TV channel faced the challenge of drawing attention to this flagship series in a market dominated by Netflix, HBO and Amazon Prime.

13ème Rue reasoned that if audiences could sample Trauma’s first episode – with its dramatic cliffhanger climax – they would crave the rest of the season and subscribe to its online platform.

Solution / Key elements of the original series’ storyline take place below ground. Taking inspiration from this, 13ème Rue planted parts of the first episode on digital billboards in Paris’ deepest metro stations – by scanning a QR code on the billboards, commuters were able to watch portions of the series’ first episode for free on their smartphones.

Every metre below ground equalled a free minute of the show – the deeper the metro station’s billboard, the more viewers could watch. This meant that people had to visit several metro stations to catch the whole episode. The billboards themselves attracted viewers with striking images from the series, such as a woman being held captive in a basement. 

13ème Rue reasoned that if audiences discovered and watched its dark thriller in murky metro stations then the impression would be more profound. Created by agency BETC Paris, the Underground Premiere campaign ran during the week prior to the official release of the series.

Following the live release of the series, 13ème Rue put the entire 45-minute-long first episode as a YouTube pre-roll ad, specifically targeting film fans searching for new film and TV show trailers on the video platform.

Results / According to BETC Paris, the digital billboards received 33 million views from commuters who unlocked a total of 5 million minutes of the first episode. The agency also said that the pre-roll ads resulted in 5 million views of the first episode. Subscriptions to 13ème Rue’s online streaming platform increased by 35% following the campaign.

Contagious Insight 

Film fanatics / Find your target audience and then give them something of value while letting them know what you do and who you are. It sounds simple, but many brands get this wrong. Not so in the case of the Underground Premiere campaign, which smartly targets film fans on YouTube. It did this by placing its pre-roll before trailer videos of TV shows and movies that are generally consumed by an audience actively looking for new watchable content. This audience is likely to be receptive to a new TV series even if they’ve never heard of Trauma or 13ème Rue. The placement of the first episode in the Paris metro also invited people to follow the trail around the transportation network, drawing them into the murky world of the series and all the while building anticipation for the next instalment of content.

First-time watch / 13ème Rue couldn’t make too much of its new TV series free, which would cheapen its offer and fail to make the channel a profit. But giving away the first episode was enough to introduce its audience to the series’ cast of characters, running themes and visual language. The campaign also managed to do this in a cinematic environment in line with the theme of the dark storyline – underground metro stations in Paris. The first episode – or pilot – of any TV series is crucial for drawing in audiences, and in this case, it was enough to get them hooked. 13ème Rue also specialises in action and suspense shows so having its audience take part in their very own thriller (of sorts) is very on-brand.

The show must go / The campaign also taps into people’s changing media consumption habits. Advances in technology and increasing internet access have allowed people to consume TV content practically whenever and wherever they like. According to a recent survey by Ofcom, more than a third of people in the UK watch TV on the move – on holiday (24%), while commuting (16%) or even in the pub (7%).

13ème Rue took advantage of the recently installed 4G network which covers the entirety of the Paris metro as well as people’s increasing propensity to use smartphones to watch video content. With this technological insight and foundation, 13ème Rue’s campaign successfully turned people’s boring metro commutes into an exclusive premiere.