With live experiential campaigns still put on hold, HBO delivered another “immersive” idea to the doors of viewers for its new show “The Nevers.” Joss Whedon’s latest sci-fi drama takes place in Victorian-era London and centers on a group of women, known as “The Touched,” who are mysteriously endowed with superhuman abilities. One of the key protagonists, Amalia True (Laura Donnelly), can see moments into the future. Her partner in crime, Penance Adair (Ann Skelly), can sense potential energy, which she channels into her steampunk creations.
Adair’s talent for invention comes to life in HBO’s latest in-home experiential extravaganza, a chest of curious objects that pulls viewers further into the fantasy world of “The Nevers.” The elaborate wooden box, officially dubbed “Penance’s Curiosities and Cocktail Compendium,” begins as a puzzle. Its compartments can only be opened with a bit of ingenuity—the first requires a screwdriver, which comes packaged with the box in a leather-wrapped toolkit.
Inside the first compartment are various bits and bobs, including a blue light, a magnifying glass, a bird skull brooch, an ornate dressmaker's measuring tape and Penance’s leather-bound notebook, which holds clues as to how the rest of the box can be unlocked.
Thanks to a partnership with Hendrick's Gin, the spirits brand also plays a key role in the kit. It's accompanied by a custom tea set, a bar’s worth of mixers, tools, high-end teas and accoutrements that can be used to create a variety of Victorian-inspired cocktails.
A custom tarot card deck also introduces characters found in the show. Hidden within is an Easter Egg for one who will not appear until later in the series. A hovering lightbulb lamp pays homage to the talents of Penance and character Beth Cassini, who can make objects float.
Kathryn Rogan, HBO’s director of program marketing, says the idea of Penance’s compendium “was born out of the show’s celebration of invention and otherness.” Ultimately, the goal was to create an experience that could stand out after “an entire year of virtual events and gifting experiences,” she says. “At-home gifting experiences have obviously become increasingly more important when trying to directly connect with fans when we can’t do so in person.”
With the kit itself, the team wanted to create something that both told the story of the show but also offered some utility to the recipients. HBO once again worked with RQ Agency, the firm behind the “Perry Mason” dining experience, to conceive the kit. “RQ has been a trusted partner of ours throughout the pandemic,” Rogan says. “We knew they had the right team and capabilities to put together a premium campaign during these logistically cumbersome times.”
Rogan says the agency’s strategic approach helped to bring the right influencer partners while the RQ’s team’s attention to detail was palpable throughout, as in the pages of narrative copy that fill Penance’s journal.
Along with the compendium, the campaign includes related social content from mixologist Bad Birdy, TikTok designer Sarah Hambley and tarot therapist Tatianna Tarot and others.
As for the campaign’s spirits partner, Rogan says that Hendrick's was a perfect match given that its “unusual” and “peculiar” qualities fall right in line with “The Touched” characters in the show. “There was so much already in sync—a quirky and inviting tone, a sense of Victorian flair, a spirit of invention—it felt natural from the start.”