HBO is promoting the return of Lena Dunham's series "Girls" on Jan. 13 by planting itself where the "real" girls are -- working with youth and female-oriented brands like Soul Cycle, Drybar and Urban Outfitters.
Flagship Urban Outfitters stores, for example, will include "Girls" displays with character-inspired nail art appliques and codes to download episodes from the first season. HBO is running a social-media campaign over Instagram and Twitter is offering winners free rent for a year and gift cards to Urban Outfitters.
SoulCycle will run a series of "Free Girls" events in New York and Los Angeles leading up to the second-season premiere, using the show's theme song in the classes. And Drybar will offer free blowouts, champagne and giveaways at its 25 shops during HBO "Happy Hours" Jan. 11-13.
Viewers may frequent the campaign's venues but they may have some trouble imagining the "Girls" crew themselves shopping at, for example, Urban Outfitters. Jemima Kirke's character, Jessa Johansson, is about as free-spirited and bohemian as they come; she wouldn't be caught dead in anything but kaftans or bell bottoms plucked from Paris flea markets or bartered directly off a fellow hippie. Ms. Dunham's character, Hannah Horvath, seems perpetually out of work and too broke to buy many new clothes. And then there's Marnie Michaels (portrayed by Allison Williams, daughter of NBC's Brian Williams), who's decidedly more upmarket than upcycled and would prefer pearls and headbands to the studded converse and feather earrings at Urban.
It's not that easy to picture Ms. Dunham's Hannah at SoulCycle, either, but at least Ms. Dunham herself seems to be a devotee: Her 26th birthday party last spring included a SoulCycle spin class.
The campaign is hardly the last we can expect of "Girls"-related marketing. The show's stars are also likely to be approached for individual branded partnerships. Retailer American Eagle has already tapped the costume designer for "Girls," Jenn Rogien, as a style expert to work on its Aerie lingerie brand.