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By The Drum, Editorial

June 6, 2024 | 5 min read

Winning Experience Gold in The Drum Awards for Marketing Americas is PBS. Here is the award-winning case study.

PBS launched an experiential campaign at VidCon Baltimore to promote its NATURE miniseries, Spy in the Ocean. The series follows more than 30 animatronic Spy creatures like Spy Octopus and Spy Pufferfish that take on underwater adventures to meet the real-life animals who call coral reefs, golden beaches, rocky coasts, and open oceans home.

Each episode hosts a new generation of hyperreal Spies that explore a different aspect of the oceans’ animals – from intelligence to relationships, extraordinary abilities, and bad behavior. They venture into the unexpected emotional realm of some of the ocean’s most peculiar inhabitants, something rarely explored, bringing their stories to life in a completely fresh and unique way. As the Spies push the boundaries of what they can do, there will be near-misses, unexpected encounters, and the occasional casualty in their ocean-breaking quest.

PBS chose to elevate the Spy in the Ocean miniseries at VidCon to bridge a generational gap between audiences. Since PBS often sees a significant age gap between PBS KIDS viewers and General Audiences viewers, PBS created an immersive experience to remind tweens, teens, and young adults that the brand offers exciting programming for all ages. To engage new viewers, PBS met younger audiences in the VidCon environment where they were already searching for original content to experience.

With a sprawling LED exhibit featuring entrancing footage from the series, the PBS booth provided an immersive experience for attendees that mimicked the show’s underwater adventures. The PBS booth showcased the actual robotic “Spies” where attendees had the opportunity to navigate and play with the animatronics. Fans used the controls to make Spy Manatee wave, Spy Pufferfish swim, and Spy Octopus waddle across large saltwater tanks. While interacting with the Spies, attendees asked the producers questions about their experience diving around the world to film exotic sea creatures.

CBS Baltimore attended the activation for a special broadcast news feature about the show and spotlighted the behind the scenes action of the robots and exciting moments at the booth. The press buzz generated further traffic as people appeared at the activation after watching the news promo that morning.

Influencers such as Mamadou Ndiaye, Joe Hanson, and Trash Caulin (with a collective following of over 18M across platforms) arrived to discuss wildlife facts and ocean conservation with attendees at the booth. The additional insight helped to amplify the new miniseries and sparked curiosity about nature content on PBS. Families walked away downloading the app and reengaging with the PBS brand on social media.

On TikTok, a video of Spy Octopus at VidCon generated over 10 million views and ten thousand comments as the clip went viral. Bionic Buzz and Event Marketer also covered the activation and emphasized attendee’s interest in how the robots worked.

Capitalizing on the press from VidCon Baltimore, PBS launched a paid media campaign to drive episode streams. PBS tailored its marketing strategy to reach young adult audiences and saw a significant increase in engagement on TikTok and YouTube than with other campaigns.

PBS saw almost 23 million views and 2 million likes in total on TikTok for Spy in the Ocean clips. Influencer Mamadou Ndiaye’s VidCon post, especially, increased show anticipation with over 150,000 shares, comments, and engagements. The Spy Pufferfish clip also reached over 7 million views with over half of these views coming from users under the age of 35.

The PBS Nature YouTube channel garnered 4.6 million views and nearly 300,000 total streaming hours in November, with hours growing 87% compared to October. Performance was largely driven by "Spy Octopus Helps Friend Hide from Shark" with nearly 900,000 views throughout the month. Further, the PBS YouTube account was up 16% in views during November with total hours viewed growing 94% compared to October. Performance was led by the trailer for Spy in the Ocean which received over 400,000 views in November.

PBS also ran display ads for Spy in the Ocean across CTV, which converted into over 8,000 app installs across both platforms.

With all of this buzz, Spy in the Ocean received 300% more streams than the average nature or science show on PBS within a 30 day benchmark using this strategy.

PBS succeeded in connecting with multi-generational audiences at Baltimore VidCon and used this experience to direct younger audiences to watch nature content. With the promise of new discoveries, Spy in the Ocean drove viewers to re-engage with PBS as a brand and remember the exciting educational content the service has to offer for all ages.

Ready to get your work recognized on a global stage? Enter The Drum Awards today. Need more inspiration, read our Award Winning Case Studies.

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