The category may not be sufficiently robust to offset a soft TV ad market, but the artificial intelligence sector is beginning to make its presence felt on cable.
Viewers who tuned in to AMC shortly before Sunday night's season premiere of "Halt and Catch Fire" were treated to a glimpse of a brave new world, courtesy of a 30-second spot from the robotics company Persona Synthetics. The ad, which aired at the tail end of the channel's airing of "Jurassic Park III," introduced "Sally," a lifelike android housekeeper/companion designed to seamlessly integrate into the family unit.
To put her in the context of her TV forebears, Sally is basically Rosie from "The Jetsons" but with a more posh accent and higher cheekbones. And as you've probably already deduced, she's also about as unreal as the Hanna-Barbera robot maid.
While the Persona Synthetics spot may have freaked out more than a few viewers, it's actually a cleverly disguised promo for AMC's upcoming drama series "Humans." Your first hint might have been Sally's unsettling jade eyes, which give off a palpable the-lights-are-on-and-too-many-people-are-home vibe. Clue No. 2: The hashtag #Humans that appears at the very end of the spot.
The teaser was created by the UK's Channel 4, which co-produced "Humans" alongside AMC.
According to AMC's Exec VP-Marketing Linda Schupack, the Sally spot is "a fun little tease that's set in a parallel present, where there's a market for selling robots as consumer products." Sunday marked the first time AMC aired the promo, and while it will pop up again between now and the June 28 premiere of "Humans," the promo campaign cuts much deeper.
"For us, the real hook for the series is the human drama and the moral questions that arise when you bring a robot that looks just like a human into your life," Ms. Schupack said. She said the primary campaign includes a cinema spot that will arrive in theaters in mid-June; a TV buy kicks in about a week before the premiere.
An out-of-home component targeting New York and Los Angeles will include bus signage and billboards splashed with the show's key art and the tag "Made in Our Image. Out of Our Control."
AMC has ordered eight episodes of "Humans," which features William Hurt and a cast of British actors. Mr. Hurt plays Dr. George Millican, a widower who treats his out-of-date robot (or "synth," in "Humans" parlance) like a son.
A second storyline focuses on a suburban family who discover that their refurbished synth Anita (Gemma Chan) is capable of deception, disobedience and other decidedly human traits.
"Humans" joins the AMC lineup during a particularly busy summer for the network, which last month said goodbye to its first-ever original drama series, "Mad Men." Among the scripted shows vying to fill the gap left by the SC&P gang are the zombie apocalypse spinoff "Fear the Walking Dead" and the martial-arts drama "Into the Badlands."
In the more immediate future (premiere dates for "Fear" and "Badlands" have not been disclosed), AMC on June 15 will go to the mattresses with the eight-part docudrama "The Making of the Mob: New York." The show, which interweaves archival footage of gangland Gotham and scripted drama, examines the rise of proto-mobsters Bugsy Siegel, Lucky Luciano, Albert Anastasia and Meyer Lansky.