Unique Ad Relationships Boost "The Walking Dead" Series-Verse

By AMC Networks InSites Archives
Cover image for  article: Unique Ad Relationships Boost "The Walking Dead" Series-Verse

For AMC's The Walking Dead, the afterlife era is underway following the finale of one of the longest-running primetime scripted dramas in cable television history. Credit goes to parent AMC Networks' ability to turn this zombie apocalypse survival tale -- 177 episodes played out over 12 years (2010-22) -- into a multi-series franchise

Initial spinoff Fear the Walking Dead will enter its eighth season next year, with at least three new series or miniseries on the way for 2023 and beyond, starting with The Walking Dead: Dead City (formerlyIsle of the Dead) in April, followed by The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon, and a yet-to-be-titled series following Rick and Michonne’s characters. Still to be determined: a second season of episodic anthology Tales of The Walking Dead, which premiered this past summer.

AMC and sister service AMC+ gave The Walking Dead finale a huge sendoff November 20 with a 30-minute pre-show, a 90-minute final episode and a 90-minute Talking Dead follow-up special live from the Orpheum Theatre in Los Angeles. (TD host Chris Hardwick and TWD cast members are pictured above and below.) Participating advertisers on the night included Procter & Gamble, Volkswagen, Doordash, Taco Bell, Apple Computer, Canva and The Sexton Single Malt whiskey.

Canva and The Sexton, along with Microsoft, Mountain Dew and other key sponsors, supplemented their commercial buys throughout The Walking Dead's run with cutting-edge campaigns prepared in association with AMC Networks' integrated marketing unit, Content Room. In The Sexton's case, there was extensive use of in-store retail and social media. Canva put together a Walking Dead graphics collection and an art contest for fans, with a trip to the Orpheum Theater event as top prize.

What role did these campaigns have on The Walking Dead's phenomenal success? What impact will they continue to have on this franchise and other AMC ventures, such as the Anne Rice series Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampireand, coming in January,Anne Rice’s Mayfair Witches? Shaun Hammond, Vice President of Integrated Marketing at AMC Networks, offered answers and insights through the following interview, conducted by e-mail.

MediaVillage: When did the idea of branded entertainment/advertising partnerships tied to The Walking Dead enter the picture?

Shaun Hammond: Given the early success of The Walking Dead's first season, conversations with advertisers pertaining to custom partnerships and branded content for season two took place rather quickly. For season two, which expanded from six to 13 episodes, we had three significant partnerships with Microsoft, Hyundai and Pizza Hut. Microsoft's partnership centered around the creation of custom content that highlighted a "Stagger-On Role" sweepstakes for fans. Hyundai integrated within the series itself, and that fan-favorite green Tucson, which coincided with a sweepstakes for one lucky fan to win the same vehicle featured in the show. Lastly, Pizza Hut and AMC partnered for a custom trailer mash-up contest, where fans could use clips from the series to create their own trailers.

MediaVillage: How did the final season deals (Canva and Sexton) come about?

Hammond:Many of our advertising partners are also fans of the show, and this was true with our amazing friends at Canva and The Sexton. These are two brands that were perfectly aligned withThe Walking Dead universe and its fanbase. Honestly, it's been a pleasure collaborating with these two amazing partners.

MediaVillage: What worked best among the various elements of Sexton's participation?

Hammond:What stands out the most about partnership with The Sexton is its commitment to authenticity with the fans in mind. Right from the start, The Sexton understood how savvy the fanbase is and never once tried to sell them on something that felt unauthentic to the show. The limited-edition TWD bottle is incredible, garnished with iconic quotes and homages to the series. It's at the center of the campaign and is something we are very proud to have launched to celebrate the final season. And as The Walking Dead universe continues to expand, you just might see some more collaborations in the future.

MediaVillage: What are the results so far of Canva's participation?

Hammond:We have had an incredible, multipronged partnership with Canva around the final season. Not only did we co-create a custom graphics collection inspired by imagery, art and iconography from The Walking Dead in Canva (available through mid-December at canva.me/twd), we also ran a fan art contest where our fans used elements from the collection to create some stellar TWD designs for the chance to win a trip to the finale event. Fan art has been such a massive part of The Walking Dead universe since the first season, and of course, Canva is all about making it easy for users to design and get creative in their platform, so this partnership was really the perfect marriage of the two. We're excited to start talking about where we go from here and how we can continue to expand for future partnerships beyond The Walking Dead universe's mothership series.

MediaVillage: What lessons have been learned from using this approach to build multi-series AMC franchises like The Walking Dead and Anne Rice?

Hammond: The recent success of Content Room has provided us with [insights into] how to blend our advertising partners with AMC Networks' incredible slate of IP. Simply stated, there is no playbook … we build each and every campaign from the ground up in collaboration with our partners. There is no rinse, lather, repeat. It's this boutique approach that our partners have come to expect from Content Room. And as The Walking Dead universe expands, we'll be sure to use this winning formula to blend advertisers into the immortal universe of Anne Rice and its rich, captivating world. Together we'll give fans of the franchises something to really sink their teeth into.

MediaVillage: Are there any current or upcoming AMC series that with these ad relationships, could become multi-series success stories like The Walking Dead?

Hammond:We are very excited about acquiring Anne Rice's major literary works, The Vampire Chronicles series and The Lives of the Mayfair Witches series, encompassing a total of 18 titles that have captivated millions of fans around the world. With the enormous success of the first season of Anne Rice's Interview with the Vampire,we can'twait to share with the world Anne Rice's Mayfair Witches, premiering January 8 on AMC and AMC+.

MediaVillage: Did any unique advertiser relationships fall through because of objections to TWD's ultra-violent content?

Hammond:Our TWD advertiser partners have always been fully aware of the potential violence that may occur in this apocalyptic world. But, as we've seen the story unfold throughout the years, it's so much more than a show about zombies. Central themes of family, togetherness and survival have been at the core of what The Walking Dead is all about, and there are subjects that all audiences and advertisers can relate to. It also didn't hurt that TWD was the No. 1 show on cable all these years!

MediaVillage: How have customized ads evolved over TWD's run? WE understand that in the first few seasons some major advertisers featured messages with zombies.

Hammond:The depth of the storytelling within The Walking Dead provided us with the flexibility to tap into a variety of different themes and genres. Particularly, the juxtaposition of humor against the show's backdrop has made for some really fun creative and has allowed us to work with a wide mix of advertising categories. Our branded content has covered everything from important tips on home-buying in the apocalypse to throwing a killer watch party with friends, not to mention how to express fandom through creating and sharing fan art. And while a lot of our custom content over the years did indeed feature zombies (a.k.a. walkers), we didn't create content with walkers for the sake of doing so. At the heart of all custom content for The Walking Dead were the fans. The fans have been our everything. The Walking Dead universe wouldn't be what it is without them. So, for all custom content, it was important for us to always acknowledge and celebrate them.

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