HBO Breaks New Ground With New Jersey Map Pointing to Fictional Events

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- HBO may have unearthed a new branding platform, Google Maps. The Time Warner unit is out promoting the return of “The Sopranos” through a variety of mediums but is likely to be the first advertiser to have paid the search giant to use its map technology for promotional purposes.
The Google Maps promotion celebrates the New Jersey sites of some of the Sopranos' most infamous deeds.

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HBO is creating a map of New Jersey to remind viewers about some of the story lines -- the series has been off air since May 2004. Working through interactive agency Deep Focus, HBO is buying search terms such as “Sopranos Map” to push viewers to the site.

“The Google thing, we are really excited about,” said Courtney Monroe, senior VP-advertising, HBO. “It is a geo-visual tour of the TV series, a very interactive way to get people caught up. We love doing things that haven’t been done before, and the notion of super-imposing fictional events of the show on to real-life locations gave us a huge kick.” Ian Schafer, CEO of New York-based Deep Focus, the maps will go live Feb. 27.

Seeking influencers
In keeping with its tradition of targeting media-savvy influencers, HBO is also planning a significant online presence for its "Sopranos" ad campaign at sites such as Gawker and The Smoking Gun. A giant Super Bowl promotion already ran on Time Warner sibling AOL. HBO.com will also be carrying a new interactive game, “Whack a Soprano.”

Separately, HBO is using the logo from mob boss Tony Soprano's strip club, the Bada Bing, in ads running on Playboy.com. Ms. Monroe said that while the company would buy outdoor ads around nightclubs, there are no ads at actual strip clubs. This week’s Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition also features a pop-up of the club logo. (SI's publisher is another Time Warner sibling, Time Inc.)

HBO has been forced to come up with inventive creative since it is excluded from advertising on the main broadcast networks for competitive reasons. However, “The Sopranos” campaign will air during CBS’s NCAA basketball coverage in March, since the network made an exception for HBO in this particular case.

"For the most part we are confined to buying locally," Ms. Monroe said.

The network has also sponsored a car for the upcoming UAW-DaimlerChrysler 400 at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The Nascar event is airing on Fox on March 12, the same night the series returns.

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