- HBO Max’s “Gossip Girl” revival had the streamer’s most successful original premiere yet.
- The show’s marketing exec told Insider about the campaign, including why it’s running year-round.
- The campaign could be a blueprint for HBO Max’s future show marketing.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Six weeks before
‘s “Gossip Girl” revival premiered in July, a Manhattan cellphone number appeared on the show’s Instagram account.
A text to the number invited fans to receive updates on the show that looked like they were sent by Gossip Girl.
It kicked off a robust marketing effort that helped drive HBO Max’s biggest original series premiere since the service launched a year ago.
HBO Max said “Gossip Girl” was the most-watched original series during its first weekend out.
A larger share of new subscribers also chose to watch “Gossip Girl” after signing up than any of HBO Max’s other original series, the company said. Streamers including Amazon Prime Video use metrics like that to evaluate how good their programming is at attracting new subscribers.
HBO Max originals including its “Friends” reunion special have driven lots of sign ups, but WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar also said in March that movies such as those from sister studio Warner Bros. are often the first titles viewed among new subscribers.
With “Gossip Girl,” HBO Max’s marketing team wanted to make the original series a marquee moment. HBO Max spent a “tentpole-level budget” to promote “Gossip Girl,” Pia Chaozon Barlow, the SVP of programming marketing who led the campaign, told Insider.
The campaign included traditional TV promos, banners flown over beaches, a fashion show with the brand Monse, and a comprehensive social push that spanned platforms including TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and more.
The challenge was winning back fans of the original show while crafting an identity for the new series that could appeal to a younger generation.
“What we wanted to do and ensure was that our marketing campaign honored what made the OG ‘Gossip Girl’ such an iconic cultural phenomenon, but also recognize this new ‘Gossip Girl’ is its own unique show,” Chaozon Barlow said.
The ‘Gossip Girl’ campaign is year-round since TV release dates don’t mean much in the streaming era
The “Gossip Girl” campaign will run year-round, even when the show isn’t dropping new episodes.
The strategy acknowledges that TV release dates don’t mean as much in the streaming era.
“Our goal is to surround ourselves and drive culture, and not be married to when the season is on,” Chaozon Barlow said. “With streaming, premieres are really when somebody discovers the show on the platform.”
The team mapped out a calendar of iconic cultural events and moments that they imagined the characters would be at, and that the show should be part of.
The most aggressive push was during the six to eight weeks leading up to the premiere.
“We debated internally quite a bit because its younger YA and streaming audience has been trained for immediacy,” Chaozon Barlow said. “The idea of promoting something a year or even six months in advance, you might as well scream into the void and be forgotten by the time July rolled around.”
It could be a blueprint for HBO Max’s show marketing
The marketing team’s takeaways from the “Gossip Girl” campaign could create a blueprint for HBO Max’s future show marketing, including working closely with show creators and listening to fans on social media.
Chaozon Barlow said working closely with the show’s creators was crucial to the campaign’s success.
For example, costume designer Eric Daman used pieces from Monse in the series and introduced the marketing team to the brand. That led to the fashion show that became the show’s launch event. Monse also created a collection inspired by “Gossip Girl.”
HBO Max also paid close attention to social media to learn what made the original “Gossip Girl” work, and tailored the campaign creative to what people were saying about the revival.
Characters Luna La and Monet de Haan immediately resonated with fans on social media, for instance, so the team double down on “Lunet” content.
“We ended up over time making sure that we were not only using the tone of voice, but teasing them in the right way and bringing them along and co-creating the marketing with us,” Chaozon Barlow said.