Starz stepped into the experiential marketing scene at SXSW this year with a different strategy than it has in the past. Instead of building on an already established property like the network did for American Gods last year, the premium cable channel set its sights on creating buzz for two new shows directed to both a diverse and female audience.
To introduce Vida and Sweetbitter to culturally savvy females at SXSW, the network took over Rainey Street in Austin with the Starz Sensory House. The space is designed to introduce each show tonally by igniting the five senses and leaving attendees inspired to tune into the premiere of each series in May.
Starz leaned into the unique environments of each show and partnered with mostly local female vendors, which included an onsite candy, wine, perfume and nail bar as well as a T-shirt and tote printing station.
Tiffany Gabrus, executive director of originals marketing for Starz, told AListDaily that the network is looking to skew away from its primarily old and male audience by greenlighting shows that serve females and women of color. Such is the case of Vida, which is for Latinas.
“There is so much competition right now and programming is saturated, but it’s important for us to be at events like SXSW,” said Gabrus. “When we go to market with these shows, we believe it’s going to be unique because it’s for an underserved audience. It a big part of our marketing strategy.”
The scheduling of the two shows also coincides with the Times Up and Me Too movement, but Gabrus said that was more of a coincidence. She did, however, anticipate that Starz should benefit of the timing because that demographic is looking for programming that represents them better.
“It will hopefully only help and not hurt,” she said, adding that Starz has enjoyed similar success in the past with Power, a show with a predominantly African-American cast.
Gabrus said since the network is trying to seize a new audience, they are also mixing their marketing strategy by testing and purchasing new ad channels.
“Whether it’s TV or out of home, we’re buying things that we haven’t bought before to better reach females and women of color,” she said.
In addition to drawing attention to the shows, SXSW served as a spot for Starz to immediately build the social media following for each series. Both are still currently in its social infancy, but according to the preliminary report from SXSW, Gabrus said the fan engagement has been “fantastic.”