To promote season two of its turn-of-the-century crime drama, The Alienist, TNT partnered with several organizations whose legacies reach all the way back to the show’s setting of 1897 Manhattan in the Gilded Age.
The show, which is based on the best-selling books by Caleb Carr, stars Daniel Brühl (Rush), Dakota Fanning and Luke Evans as an unlikely trio who become a team of criminal investigators assembled by Theodore Roosevelt, who at the time served as police commissioner of New York City. Brühl plays brilliant criminal psychologist Dr. Lazlo Kreizler, who attended Harvard with Roosevelt and newspaper illustrator John Moore (Evans), who helps Kreizler with the investigation. Roosevelt also offers them the assistance of his secretary, Sara Howard (Fanning), who has known both Roosevelt and Moore since she was a child. In season one, the three work to track down a serial killer who is murdering street children.
In season two, Angel of Darkness, Howard has opened her own detective agency and she seeks the aid of Kreizler and Moore, now a New York Times reporter, after the infant daughter of the Spanish consular is kidnapped.
When it came time to promote season two, team TNT knew they wanted to focus on a few of the show’s key topics: it’s location in Manhattan as well as its emphasis on the era’s fashion and fine dining.
“Everybody’s getting food delivered now, so we thought about partnering with a New York institute and delivering food to consumers in New York City,” said Telmo Tabuas, senior vice president of brand marketing, TNT, TBS and truTV.
One of the trio’s frequent haunts in the series is Delmonico’s Steakhouse in the Financial District, which opened in 1837. The restaurant still exists today, even though it’s been closed for indoor dining since quarantine due to coronavirus started in March.
“Delmonico’s felt like it was the perfect partner because it’s a key character in the show,” said Tabuas.
After some thought, TNT decided that rather than deliver food to random but lucky recipients in New York, it would prefer to turn the activation into a pro-social campaign. On the night of season-two’s premiere, July 19, TNT and Delmonico’s delivered 500 meals to doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers at three New York City hospitals: Manhattan VA, Mt. Sinai West and Bellevue.
Working with experiential marketing firm Mirrored Media, the team delivered branded bags, stuffed with pencils, napkins and meals to those hospitals. Inside of the bags were classic Delmonico’s steak dinners including a wedge salad, steak, fried potatoes and rice-pudding cake. A vegetarian option of pasta primavera also was provided.
“The Delmonico’s activation started more as a curbside pickup but as we spoke more and more to the client and went over the goals, we realized that it was all about celebrating the city and the people that inspired the show,” said Justin Lefkovitch, founder and CEO of Mirrored Media. “If we were doing that, pulling these frontline workers out of their life-saving efforts to come wait online on a curb didn’t make sense. So we thought about how we could reach frontline workers where they were working.”
Although the activation was pro-social, healthcare workers from the sites posted about it on social media, garnering some very positive earned media for both the network and the series.
Sticking with the theme of partnering with a New York institution, TNT also reached out to department store of Bergdorf Goodman to do a multi-faceted activation around the show’s turn-of-the-century fashion, which includes highly tailored clothes and such details as puffy sleeves, high collars and lace.
Fans can browse clothing inspired by the series on Bergdorf Goodman’s website.
Working with Mirrored Media, TNT and Bergdorf Goodman also were able to pull off a streetside window display dedicated to The Alienist, although whether this could be done was in question for a while with much of Bergdorf’s staff furloughed and not many people walking by the store during quarantine. But with New York City opening up a little and staff returning, the team accomplished it.
Bergdorf Goodman also took the team on a virtual shopping trip through the store to help it assemble a box of goodies for select influencers, which included a gift from Bergdorf Goodman and other goodies.
“We worked through a lot of hardships to make this happen. The marketing director at Delmonico’s was working for free to get this done because she wasn’t even fully employed at this time ” said Lefkovitch. “These were authentic partnerships where it was a win-win for everyone.”
Finally, the team announced the debut of season two with a virtual premiere that included actors from the show participating in an online murder mystery.
“Attendees to the virtual premiere were first escorted online to a digital hub where press, talent and producers gathered to watch the first episode, which led into an original murder mystery rooted in 1890s New York,” said Tabuas. “Folks could go from room to room online interviewing suspects to learn more about the case.”
Something that TNT could do with a virtual premiere that would have been harder and more expensive to do with an in-person premiere is run it again. So on the night of the show’s actual premiere, Sunday, July 19, TNT reran the murder mystery game for consumers.
“If you open the virtual space, that [allows] more consumers to partake,” said Tabuas. “COVID has been a hurdle but it’s also created an opportunity. We’ve gotten so much better about what can be done digitally and people are more open to that now.”
The Alienist: Angel of Darkness premiered on TNT on Sunday, July 19.
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