After dusk on July 26-28, Discovery and its media agency, Omnicom Group's PHD, will bring a mobile projection of a shark fin to the buildings of New York. The companies are using new technology that will make the shark fin appear larger -- and thus closer to jumping out and, um, biting possible viewers -- the faster the car attached to the projection unit goes. As the vehicle slows, the image will get smaller. When the car comes to a stop, the projector is programmed to run a plug for Shark Week.
It is all part of the "immersive" experience of Discovery's annual ode to all things shark-related. By projecting a shark on buildings throughout Manhattan in the final nights before the special programming begins, Discovery intends to create "the sensation of being in the ocean, though one's feet are firmly planted on Madison Avenue," said Andy Von Kennel, VP-account director, PHD. "[This promotion] will come at you out of nowhere. It's totally unexpected." Sort of like a shark.
The idea for the roaming shark projection came from a PHD immersion day, when the agency gathered technology vendors and clients together to look at new possibilities in media planning and marketing.
"We have always asked PHD and our internal [marketing] group to push the envelope," said Chris Schembri, senior VP-media planning and partnerships, Discovery Networks. "[Immersion days] keep us innovative, give us a fresh look at the market, help us stay ahead of the curve and let us showcase our abilities in the media landscape."
In the 20 years that Discovery has been airing Shark Week, the buildup has become as much of an event as the programming itself, particularly in key markets such as New York and Los Angeles, where most of the nontraditional out-of-home experiences take place.
"Shark Week itself has become a self-sustaining brand," Mr. Von Kennel said. "Very few companies have the ability to flip the switch in people's minds year after year the way that Discovery has. In fact, with all of the different marketing options, it just gets more entertaining for us and for consumers."
Entertaining? Yes. Easy? Not so much. PHD has been working with Discovery for more than three years now, and the pressure to outdo previous years is intense -- especially for a major anniversary.
'A new twist'
"With this being their 20th, we need to do something different and bigger than we have in the past," said Matt Grosse, associate director of PHD's outdoor media group, OMA. "We like to take traditional forms of media and put a new twist on them and throw them in the mix with new media."
In its pre-PHD days, Discovery floated a giant shark fin along the beaches of Long Island. This year will include the usual blend of TV and print plugs, as well as taxi wraps, customized instant-messaging boxes and a mobile-phone shark-tracking experience.
Discovery spends roughly $5 million to $10 million each year to promote Shark Week and has drawn an average audience of 20 million in each of the past five years.