Campaign Analysis Leaking out the Quirky: Fox Launches New Girl Pilot Early Fall Pilot season is a crazy time for television. There are dozens of new shows vying forviewers, advertising dollars and loyal fan followings. Separating a show from the crowd is noeasy feat and in Fall 2011, Fox released the entire pilot episode of their newest quirky comedysitcom early. New Girl’s premiere episode was available one month early on flights, OnDemandprogramming in select hotels and at screenings in “taste-maker” cities. Fox also released thepilot episode one week early to online platforms include Hulu, iTunes, Fox.com and New Girlstar Zooey Deschanel’s blog. While it may have been risky, Fox’s early release of New Girl’spilot was carefully engineered and strategically executed and lead to high viewership numbersand the ultimate success of the show.Background and Campaign Overview Home to sitcom hits including the OC, 24, Bones and Arrested Development, Fox haslaunched successful sitcoms in the past. In recent years, the network has risen to the top of thecharts with advertising goldmines including American Idol and Glee. However, their most recentline-up of half-hour sitcoms such as Running Wilde and Lone Star, received lackluster reviewsand early cancellations. They needed an exceptional, well-marketed sitcom to separatethemselves from the masses and restore their sitcom credibility.Strengths Fox chose to release the pilot on four distinct but equally effective online platforms sothey could target specific niche markets. To target devoted Zooey Deschanel fans, Fox choseDeschanel’s successful HelloGiggles blog as one of its platforms. Because Deschanel alreadyhas such a strong following and social media presence, this was a smart decision because thisplatform effectively reaches members of this market and gave them a space to expressexcitement and create more conversation. Fox reached their loyal Glee following by pre-releasing the show on iTunes, the platform of choice for fans to purchase episodes and albums.
Fox reinforced this connection by airing New Girl on Tuesday nights at 9PM, immediately afterGlee’s one-hour episode. According to Mashable, 83% of viewers under 25 watch “some, most or all” of their TVprogramming online. This is not wildly surprising given the amount of time that Gen Y alreadyspends on the web, however, the survey revealed that 64% of all Americans get at least someof their TV content online. Given this digital climate, it made sense for Fox to release theepisode on the ad-supported streaming site, Hulu. Fox targeted potential viewers in a spacewhere they spend ample amounts of time. Instead of aggressively pushing members of thismarket away from the platforms they already use, Fox brought the content to them with hopesthat they would like the programming so much that they would come back to the network towatch live episodes. Fox also hosted the episode on their own site to capture already loyal Foxfans. By choosing platforms that made sense, Fox insured that their strategy would gain theright viewers – the ones that were more likely to evolve into loyal fans. Fox knew that New Girlpilot was buzz-worthy and memorable enough to leave viewers wanting more. Instead of tryingto target a broad demographic, Fox effectively focused on niche markets to create a coreaudience that was passionate about the show and willing to share. By releasing the show “early” relative to other fall pilot premieres, Fox gave viewers afeeling of exclusivity. Similar to luxury sale site Gilt’s “invite-only” launch, Fox personalized theNew Girl experience and invested time in relationship marketing. However, there is oneimportant caveat: all of these strategies would be counterproductive if New Girl’s content wasnot strong enough to sustain viewership and lead to positive feedback. If the content had beenpoor or even mediocre, this early release strategy would have evoked harsh criticism before theshow even launched and jeopardized viewership during the live premiere.
Weaknesses While the early-release campaign gave New Girl momentum and more engagement than other fall pilots, it did come dangerously close to overexposure and dilution of the show itself. Online channels and social media platforms were not the only medium where New Girl footage was aired. Fox aired several 30 second and 1-minute TV spots and trailers during prime time day parts. This abundance of promotion ran could have made viewers sick of the show before it had even started. By releasing the pilot early, Fox could have eliminated members of their live viewing audience because they would have already seen the episode. In terms of content, some critics argued that the character development in the first episode happened too quickly and did not give viewers the chance to genuinely get to know the show’s stars. New Girl’s branding limited its overall reach because of its bright colors, hipster-chic images and kitschy patterns (See Figure 1). Although much the show’s writing, plot lines and characters are targeted towards a male-oriented audience, Fox’s girly promotions discouraged male viewers from watching. This campaign will make it even more difficult for Fox to engage the elusive 18 – 24 male age bracket in the future.Figure 1: New Girl’s ‘cutesy’ branding Opportunities New Girl’s leading lady Zooey Deschanel has a millions of loyal fans, a robust online presence and a huge social media following. Deschanel is co-founder of HelloGiggles; a highly successful entertainment and lifestyle blog geared toward girls aged 13 – 35. Positioned as a
“safe place” for girls and women on the Internet, HelloGiggles is widely popular and has highreader engagement among New Girl’s target audience. Fox already used the blog as leverageby releasing New Girl’s pilot episode on the site, but the collaboration does not have to endthere. To further engage this fan base, Fox should continue to partner with HelloGiggles andpost content and clips on the site and host other New Girl contests and promotions.HelloGiggles and Zooey Deschanel’s personal social media following are valuable assets and ifused effectively, can rapidly build an online presence for New Girl. In terms of product placement and merchandizing opportunities, Fox can take advantageof Deschanel’s reputation as a young, Hollywood trendsetter and also as a musician in the indieband ‘She & Him’. Because of this image, Fox could partner with sites like Gilt or RueLaLa andlaunch New Girl themed collections curated by Deschanel or give viewers the option topurchase the clothing and accessories she wears on the show. Deschanel also hasendorsement deals with Cotton and Rimmel cosmetics. Fox could partner with these brandsthrough product placement, a branded content viral video-esque campaign or just continue to airthese commercials during New Girl’s half-hour spot. Fox could create a more seamless interactive experience and launch a site like HBO’ssuccessful social TV platform, HBO Connect. On the site, viewers could interact with the show,its actors and other fans all in one place in real time. This would be a powerful tool to more fullyengage passionate fans and would also establish Fox as an innovative and digitally savvynetwork.Threats Given the volume of sitcoms launching pilots during the fall, New Girl is in a vulnerableposition and must market itself aggressively to earn viewers and share of HUT’s. Several showswith very similar target markets launched during Fall 2011, including CBS’s Two Broke Girls,NBC’s The Playboy Club, and CW’s Ringer. These new shows aside, there is also anabundance of successful already-existing prime time programming. New Girl is more
susceptible to failure because Deschanel is its only big-name star, whereas; many of thesecompeting fall shows have casts full of well-known celebrities. Fox’s early release strategy makes any show that has yet to leak its pilot a potentialcompetitor because some viewers will be seeking new content. Although Fox partnered withHulu during the early release of the episode, online streaming services serve as a threatbecause many viewers do not own a TV and do not consume content anywhere else besidesthe web. Because Fox already launched the show online, these individuals may only be willingto watch from their computers. Short attention spans and an emerging ‘everyone-thinks-their-famous’ mentality has leadto the rise in popularity of reality programming. This becomes a threat to New Girl becauseviewers may spend their precious leisure time watching popular reality shows like the RealHouse Wives series, Kim and Kourtney Take New York or The Biggest Loser. Specifically, NewGirl will be competing with several shows during its 9PM spot including NBC’s Biggest Loser,ABC’s Ringer, and CW’s Ringer. This is significant because there are huge overlaps in NewGirl’s target market and that of these programs. New Girl airs during the prime day part (8PM –11PM) when the rate of Households using TV’s is the highest. While this can be an opportunity,it can also be a threat with so many others vying for viewer’s attention.Conclusion Fox took a chance with its early release strategy but launched a campaign that wascarefully executed with attention to detail, niche marketing and clever manipulation of specificonline platforms. If Fox and New Girl continue to design new and creative ways of reaching andengaging with their audience, the show will gain a passionate, loyal and interactive fan base.Fox can increase their audience with branding that is more targeted towards men and already-interested Deschanel fans. Partnerships with brands, online retailers and the companies thatDeschanel is already endorsing will contribute to this success. The combination of thesestrategic decisions will increase their Nielson ratings, their share of households watching and
open up more opportunities for Fox. Ultimately, these successes will increase the likelihood thatFox gets the advertising dollars it needs to make a profit and continue to produce New Girl.
ReferencesErickson, Christine. How HelloGiggles Creates a Positive Online Community for Young Women. Mashable. 21 February 2012. http://mashable.com/2012/02/21/hellogiggles/Gorman, Bill. Fox Gives “New Girl” a Full-Season Pickup. TV By the Numbers. 28 September 2011. http://tvbythenumbers.zap2it.com/2011/09/28/fox-gives-%E2%80%9Cnew- girl%E2%80%9D-a-full-season-pickup/105348/Hibberd, James. Fall 2011–12 Primetime TV Schedule Chart. Entertainment Weekly.com. 18 May 2011. http://insidetv.ew.com/2011/05/18/primetime-tv-schedule-chart/O’Dell, Jolie. TV Viewing’s Shift to the Web. Mashable. 12 April 2010. http://mashable.com/2010/04/12/tv-online/Porter, Nicki. What Fox’s Promotion Strategy for “New Girl” Can Teach You About Promoting Your Content. Copy Press. http://www.copypress.com/?p=1335Rose, Lacey. Foxs New Girl Gets Early Push on iTunes, Hulu and Fox.com. The Hollywood Reporter. 5 September 2011. http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/foxs-new-girl-gets-early-231452Rose, Lacey. HRTS Panelists Answer: Is Twitter Helpful for Showrunners? The Hollywood Reporter. 19 January 2012. http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/twitter-showrunners-hrts-panel-283419