Working with MySpace.com, HBO is looking for young adults to form their own online circle of friends as part of a "My Entourage" competition, which will reward the group of friends with the biggest entourage and most compelling profile page with a whole host of goodies.
It is thought to be the first time that News Corp.-backed MySpace has helped a marketer execute a viral promotion by using a group-profile device. HBO is not the first advertiser to attempt to harness the marketing prowess of the social-networking site, however: Paramount Pictures is also using My Space to promote the Al Gore movie, "An Inconvenient Truth."
'Putting networking to work'
"MySpace is really fun," said Courteney Munroe, HBO's senior VP-advertising. "This is designed to take the perks of the lifestyle and combine them for the first promotion that has co-opted the identity of the four friends putting networking to work."
For anyone who isn't familiar with the series, which returns to HBO on June 11 at 10 p.m., "Entourage" follows the Hollywood exploits of a young actor, Vince, who has just made it big. Season three follows Vince and his friends, who attempt to parlay his fame into their fortune. The season begins with the opening of Vince's first major movie, "Aquaman," and stars James Woods in a cameo role.
In a separate Web experiment, HBO explores one of the storylines involving Vince's cutthroat agent, Ari Gold, played by Jeremy Piven. At the end of season two, Ari had just been ejected from a major talent agency and is struggling to build his own independent shop. A Web site, interviewwithari.com, invites would-be talent agents to submit themselves to an online interview. The interactive streaming-media application sees interviewees ushered into Ari's office by long-suffering assistant Lloyd. To put them at ease, he tells participants to picture Ari in a red thong. The interviewee is then asked to respond to questions and Ari gives them his verdict on the performance. The Web site will be promoted through paid media placements on entertainment-industry sites such as Gawker.com and Defamer.
Play with Turtle
Microsoft's Xbox, which was an integral part of the storyline toward the end of the last season, will also be used as an advertising platform for "Entourage." Xbox 360 users will have the opportunity to play live against gaming fan Turtle, played by Jerry Ferrara. The Web site Xbox.com will also carry promotions for the show.
HBO will also use more traditional marketing tactics. The company is buying billboards on both sides of the highway outside the offices of William Morris. The billboards read: "Keep your friends close and your agent closer," and "In a town full of sharks, it's good to have a Turtle."
HBO is also running a mock trade-ad campaign in Variety announcing the debut of the $116 million opening of "Aquaman," and also promote the launch of Ari's new talent agency following episode four. A consumer campaign employs the tagline, "A lifestyle is a terrible thing to waste," and features the gang shot by famed Rolling Stone photographer Mark Seliger.