Our task was to catapult Hulu into the competitive era of original content by making their new series, The Handmaid’s Tale, “the most discussed new streaming original” at launch, driving both awareness of the show and new subscribers.
Based on Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel, The Handmaid’s Tale, the narrative is set in a dystopian near-future United States, renamed Gilead, where a religious fundamentalist group has taken control to create an oppressive regime where women have no rights and are subjugated into forced reproduction.
Amidst a wave of socio-political relevancy in early 2017, Hulu was counting on The Handmaid’s Tale to be their breakout show, solidifying their position as a premium content producer.
Hulu was competing not only with other subscription-video-on-demand (SVOD) companies, but all of Hollywood. With a 71% increase in total scripted television shows released - from 266 in 2011 to a record 455 shows in 2016 – viewers have too many options with too little time to watch.
To successfully launch the show, we needed to get to the top of the content queue, which is largely driven by word of mouth.
So first, we listened to what women were saying in social media.
Conversation analysis led to our crucial insight:
Amidst the 2017 Women’s Marches, many activists were already comparing today’s socio-political climate to the laws of Gilead.
We had a true role in the women’s rights conversation, but we needed to tread carefully. To stay authentic, the discussion had to be led by women, not Hulu.
Armed with this insight, we worked with female-centric partners to create a campaign using their voices to drive conversation about the laws of Gilead.
To ensure authenticity, we worked with these partners to create more than 20 custom content pieces and experiences across multiple touch points.
We juxtaposed the shocking rules of the dystopian world while also leaning into the message of hope and perseverance, personified by the show’s protagonist, Offred.
Since the story chronicles Offred’s survival in this authoritarian world, our goal was to contextualize Gilead’s restrictions in the context of today.
We focused on three laws of Gilead to activate our partnerships:
• Law #1 - Women do not have a voice in society.
• Law #2 - Women are not allowed to read.
• Law #3 - Women must wear the color of their caste.
To ensure authenticity, we chose partners most relevant to each law and asked them to illustrate the impact for their audiences.
We maintained conversation and top-of-mind awareness throughout the three month episodic release by boosting visibility each Wednesday before new episodes dropped with high impact digital, outdoor, and video placements.
Law #1: Women do not have a voice in society.
We sought partners that give women a voice in culture.
At SXSW, an annual entertainment festival in the U.S., female street teams quietly roamed the grounds dressed as handmaids wearing long red cloaks, creating a stark visual of a culture where women are powerless.
Partnering with pop-culture powerhouse NYLON Magazine, we hosted an empowerment party at SXSW with female performers and lifted women’s voices through an interactive tweet wall and custom women’s rights editorial.
Law #2: Women are not allowed to read.
Ironically, The Handmaid’s Tale was once-banned, so we put 6,000 copies into the hands of New Yorkers. We provoked intellectuals and fans of Atwood’s novel through geo-targeted social and local DJ promotions, which encouraged visitors to take a free book from an art installation located in Times Square.
Ozy, the digital magazine of the ‘Change Generation,’ explored the world’s most infamous banned books and projected what America would be like if women weren’t allowed to read.
Law #3: Women must wear the color of their caste.
In Gilead, clothing colors have symbolism. We went to fashion front-runner, Vogue, to host an immersive costume exhibit.
Industry bloggers were invited to take a closer look at the show’s evocative costumes, followed by a discussion with costume designer, Ane Crabtree, about the symbolism tied to each color.
We engaged Vanity Fair to create custom editorial revealing the symbolism of the color red and explored fashion being used as a political statement.
Creative Agency: Arsenol
Experiential & Event Agency: Civic Entertainment Group
Social Agency: Social Code