“I always say about event marketing and experiential, it’s not so much about what you do there for the thousand people who go through the activation, it’s about how you turn your fans into your ambassadors.”
–Amy Wigler, VP-Multiplatform Content and Marketing, PBS
France’s last queen, Marie Antoinette—known for her style, excess and scandal—is the focus of PBS’s new period drama series, telling the story of how she navigated royal life in Versailles. While the controversial queen ultimately didn’t get a happy ending, “Marie Antoinette” honors her status as a fashion icon and plays up the elegance of 18th century France, which PBS brought to the streets of downtown Santa Monica, CA, last month in a three-day pop-up.
Ahead of the premiere, March 17-19, the brand activated an Airstream trailer branded with key visuals from the show and ornamented with floral arrangements on the Third Street Promenade (an outdoor shopping district). Passersby had the opportunity to take photos in a gold-accented plush chair, surrounded by grand bouquets and portraits of the show’s main characters, Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI, as well as in front of a backdrop made up of hundreds of pink and white flowers. Props like fans, mirrors and more flowers, completed the scene. The #MarieAntoinettePBS photo booth generated 565 prints throughout the weekend.
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Inside the trailer—decorated with period-themed vanities, mirrors and fabric—stylists were on hand to deck out participants with “Marie Antoinette”-inspired hair and makeup looks. Even though “Let them eat cake” is a quote often misattributed to Marie Antoinette, attendees enjoyed branded cake pops and cookies as giveaways (with nearly 3,000 distributed), while a gold-framed TV played clips from the series.
“I personally think there is no better way to fall in love with a brand than to experience it,” says Amy Wigler, vp-multiplatform content and marketing at PBS. “We do a lot on social media and on our site. Our stations do a lot of events as well, but there’s something about building something for a specific show that allows you to dive deeper into the characters, the fashion, the music, the sound, and I don’t think anything does that better than an experiential activation.”
Wigler describes the pop-up’s objectives as threefold: Tap into the engaged community of PBS SoCal, the broadcaster’s home for the Greater Los Angeles area and Southern California; bring in micro- and macro-influencers to amplify the show organically among their followers; and drive attention to a new, unexpected show for the brand.
“It’s sexy, glamorous and modern, and I really thought the best way for viewers to see that was to experience it on the ground,” she says.
Trying to recreate a pre-French Revolution era experience in downtown Santa Monica was not going to be an easy task, so PBS leaned into developing a pop-up inspired by the glamour of the show’s time period. Since hair and makeup are key aspects of “Marie Antoinette,” they stood out as experiences the brand could offer to give fans the royal treatment, Wigler says. Across three days, the activation site generated 90,554 pedestrian impressions, with the largest pedestrian turnout on Saturday, March 18, totaling 44,144 impressions.
“I always say about event marketing and experiential, it’s not so much about what you do there for the thousand people who go through the activation, it’s about how you turn your fans into your ambassadors,” Wigler says. “The best way for us to do that in a modern age is through their social media fans and followers, so the whole nature of the event was designed for Instagram. It was designed for people to showcase themselves in the ‘Marie Antoinette’ experience, and they could bring their fans and friends along for the ride.” Agency: MAP360 Collective.
Photo credit: MAP360 Collective