April 25, 2002
When HBO's 'Band of Brothers' premiered last fall, almost 59 million viewers tuned in, making it HBO's "most watched original show" ever. How do you beat 'The Sopranos' and 'Sex in the City?' A highly compelling online advertising campaign definitely helps. This Case Study is a must-read for all fans of rich media ads. Yes, a link to a live-action sample is included.
By John Gaffney, Contributing Writer
On the surface, it seemed easy. HBO's original 'Band
of Brothers' mini-series had two big Hollywood names behind it,
namely Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg.
If you are planning an ad campaign, there is your hook, right? No,
Instead of leaning on big names, HBO wanted America to become
involved in the characters of the company that was fighting and
dying in the aftermath of D-Day. However, the actors playing
them were relatively unknown, so something different was needed
to grab the potential viewer’s attention.
The series needed a campaign that would communicate the action,
intrigue and danger of the series. Although HBO booked a
standard print and outdoor campaign for the series through BBDO,
the truly exciting arm of the campaign was online.
The online campaign, created by Earthquake Media, had to
integrate and echo the key components from BBDO's offline
creative, while using the Internet to add impact.
First, Jes Santoro, Earthquake's VP Integrated Media,
focused on defining the target audience as precisely as possible.
HBO's consumer research, based on the viewership for similar
programming as well as purchase patterns for books and movies in
the WWII genre, revealed that potential 'Band of Brothers'
viewers were older males who travel a lot for business.
"The psychology of that audience was important too," Santoro
says. "We needed to figure out a good way to achieve maximum
impact for guys aged 35 and over." The creative team had
decided to run a rich media campaign that would dominate the home
page of whatever site the media buyers chose.
HBO had three criteria for the website it would place 'Band of
Brothers' media on.
1. The site had to reach the targeted audience
2. The site had to be willing to run rich media creative that broke the mold.
3. The site had to provide the right graphic environment for the main elements of the campaign.
Although several sites that Earthquake researched using @plan
tools presented a strong profile for both males 35-plus as well
as business travelers, just one site fit the interaction of both
requirements perfectly -- Weather.com.
Weather.com had a reach of over 50 percent among males 35 and
over. It also had a 28.3 percent reach among HBO subscribers and
a 29 percent reach among users had recently seen a WWII movie on
video or in theatres.
Weather.com had already run an unusual rich media campaign
for another advertiser. (This was a campaign for AstraZeneca’s
Rhinocort brand that showed a bottle of the nasal spray landing
on the home page, which opened to release butterflies across the
screen and gave users an opportunity to click on a partial screen
ad to learn more.)
Bottom line -- Earthquake liked Weather.com’s total package so
much that it decided to place the campaign exclusively on
Next the creative team began researching rich media formats to
decide which one they'd use for the campaign. They ended up
choosing a relatively new format 'Shoshkele' from United
Virtualities, which works with all browsers and all platforms,
Shoshkele is different than other rich media executions because with
it you can introduce several different creative elements onto a
Web page, and then bring those together into a coherent message.
(Example: Users who visited to The New York Times home page in
March saw several little red lobsters crawling up the page. Click
on one, and the user is taken to a microsite that describes Shell
Oil’s new environmental effort to fight oil pollution in the
The creative team made several ads, including banners and buttons
reminding viewers to tune into the show’s premier during the week
of September 15th which appeared on every Weather.com page. But
the real showstopper was saved for Weather.com's home page.
Here’s what it looked like to the user: (link to sample below)
As soon as Weather.com's home page loads, you see and hear black
planes flying in formation in the cloud-like top border of the
page. Then black parachutes appear from these clouds and float
down the page. Eventually, the page fills full of graphics of the
soldiers, and then information on the premiere of 'Band of
Brothers' appears on the screen. Next visitors can click on a
link to go offsite to visit 'Band of Brothers' microsite if they
A full 1% of the seven million ad impressions run resulted in a click through to HBO's microsite. (Note typical
banners are very lucky to get a quarter of this response.)
Aside from clicks, this campaign also helped raise general
awareness so much that it contributed significantly to making
'Band of Brothers' the "most watched original program" in HBO's
history. (That is right -- it beat 'The Sopranos' and 'Sex in the
According to HBO, more than 58.8 million viewers watched at least
one episode of 'Band of Brothers' during its Fall 2001 debut.
Sample of Weather.com home page creative
Current Band of Brothers Landing Page
Info on the Shoshkele format http://www.unitedvirtualities.com
Earthquake Media http://www.earthquakemedia.com