Fox's 'Fringe' Promos Leave Many Questions Unanswered

Campaign for Upcoming Series Teases Public With Spooky Hints

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LOS ANGELES (AdAge.com) -- The marketing for "Fringe" continues to live up to the show's name.

Fox began its promotion of J.J. Abrams' new drama in May, when -- in addition to running spots on its own air -- it staged a number of attention-getting stunts in conjunction with the network's upfront presentation in New York. Among the efforts: importing cows into the middle of Manhattan.
Fox has already started plastering promotional posters for the show -- so-called wild posters -- throughout New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco and Washington, D.C.
Fox has already started plastering promotional posters for the show -- so-called wild posters -- throughout New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco and Washington, D.C.

How does that grab you?
But TVWeek reports that the campaign is entering a more elaborate second phase this week as Fox begins unleashing paid media in 10 major markets, as well as a nationwide online campaign. The focus of the ads: a series of images -- such as a six-fingered hand -- designed to reflect the show's extreme-science theme.

As befits a show from Mr. Abrams ("Lost"), many of the promotions will carry an air of intrigue, with viewers and listeners having to do some searching in order to figure out just what it is they've seen or heard. The tagline for many of the promotions will be "Imagine the impossibilities."

"We love the mysterious aspects of what 'fringe science' means. We're trying to add some levels of mystery to the marketing," said Laurel Bernard, senior VP-marketing for Fox Broadcasting.

Ms. Bernard and her team are working closely with "Fringe" producers Warner Bros. Television and Bad Robot Television on the marketing. Indeed, Bad Robot is doing its own marketing on behalf of the show as well, Ms. Bernard said.

YouTube mystery
While she couldn't confirm the details of Bad Robot's efforts, the blogosphere has been buzzing about a YouTube video featuring a 12-fingered man. Fox's official website for "Fringe" features a hidden link to the video, something that appears to confirm a connection between the YouTube video and the show's producers.

As for Fox's paid campaign, the network has already started plastering promotional posters for the show -- so-called wild posters -- throughout New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. The posters will stay up through at least July 17.

Radio ads begin running this week in 10 major markets. But instead of the usual "Watch 'Fringe' this fall on Fox" spots, the net is running ads that don't mention the show at all.

Is there a pattern to all this?
One spot is for a fictional car dealership -- Abrams Auto, natch -- that's suddenly interrupted by static and a creepy voice that urges listeners to "find the pattern." Another ad will have listeners thinking they've tuned into a police scanner, with a cop mentioning an incident at "Abrams and Fourth." The cop suggests the incident might be linked to "the pattern." A third spot is a fictional news brief that makes mention of, yup, a "pattern."

While some of the spots do feature a quick mention of Fox, nothing else indicates they're promoting a TV show. Ms. Bernard said the network is betting listeners will start investigating -- and when they do so, Fox will be ready.

The network has struck agreements with major search engines so that when consumers type in words such as "pattern," Fox's website for "Fringe" will come up in the results.

"We're calling them disruptive ads, because they break up the usual pods of spots and make people say, 'What was that?'," Ms. Bernard said. "We're hopeful that if people are intrigued enough, they will start searching."

ABC has taken a similar approach to some of its marketing for "Lost," frequently sending viewers all over the internet in search of various marketing efforts for the show.

Seeding online impressions
Fox also hopes to generate more than 43 million online impressions via an extensive internet ad campaign on sites such as Facebook, MySpace and Gorilla Nation. The nontraditional spots will bleed into regular web pages and feature some of the same imagery used in the poster campaign.

Ms. Bernard calls it "wild online posting" and said it's something Fox has never done before. "Instead of an online unit that has a lot of information about the show, there will be [a banner that reads] 'Imagine the impossibilities.'" If users click through far enough, they'll eventually get to the "Fringe" website.

Fox's promo push for "Fringe" will get more specific -- e.g., "Watch 'Fringe'" -- as the show's September premiere date draws closer. Over the next few weeks, however, the network is planning to have some fun with the show's mysterious science theme.

"We're planning outbreaks of 'Fringe' in all sorts of interesting places," Ms. Bernard said.

Will there be more cow sightings?

"I can't confirm or deny anything," she said. "But we love the cows."

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Josef Adalian is a deputy editor and columnist at TVWeek.
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