“First and foremost, authenticity is really important. We always want to make sure that we are honoring the IP and the universe that we are trying to recreate… When you’re dealing with a franchise as iconic as ‘Grease,’ that means a lot to a lot of different people.”
-Shawn Silverman, SVP-Marketing at Paramount+
The stakes are high for entertainment brands bold enough to build on iconic IP, particularly when that content is brought to life through a live experience. Every detail has to be just right for superfans, but at the same time, newcomers shouldn’t feel alienated. Paramount+ and media partner POPSUGAR expertly struck that balance for the debut of the streamer’s original musical series, “Grease: Rise of the Pink Ladies,” with a recreation of the Frosty Palace diner originally found in the 1978 film “Grease” and throughout the new show’s first season.
Fans in Los Angeles who registered ahead of time could snag a booth at the 1950s-inspired restaurant April 6-7 for a throwback experience spanning customization stations, photo moments, specialty milkshakes and, in one lucky group’s case, a drive-in-themed screening of the series’ first episode. For Paramount+, teaming up with POPSUGAR on the program was a no-brainer. “Rise of the Pink Ladies” centers around themes of female empowerment and friendship, which align well with the media company’s female-skewing audience of pop-culture lovers.
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Adding another layer of authenticity was the fact that women were the “driving force behind this campaign,” according to Shawn Silverman, svp-marketing at Paramount+. “There are so many incredible women across Paramount+ on our marketing team, creative team, press team, events team, social team and so on that really drove this. They’re all big fans of the original iconic film, and their passion for the ‘Grease’ franchise really came through.”
The Frosty Palace experience kicked off outside the restaurant, where attendees encountered the classic T-Birds vehicle from the film and show, as well as a pink vintage car, both of which had fans snapping and sharing photos from the get-go. Once inside the diner, they were assigned a booth and invited to order from the menu, which included classic diner fare, like french fries, and a selection of four custom milkshakes, each representing one of the Pink Ladies featured in the series.
Curated photo ops abounded. Among them: a recreation of a Rydell High School wall peppered with pennants, along with letterman jackets and Pink Ladies jackets for fans to sport while posing in front of the backdrop. Attendees could also have a scarf embroidered with their name and the “Grease: Rise of the Pink Ladies” logo, and build their own version of ’50s-era sunglasses. Those who scored a reservation for the final slot on the second evening of the activation were treated to a drive-in-themed screening of the premiere episode in the restaurant’s back parking lot, where they chilled on Adirondack chairs, bean bags and outdoor sofas.
Nailing the activation’s retro vibe was essential to creating an authentic, and shareable, environment, which made experience design another critical piece of the experiential strategy. Paramount+ wrapped the exterior of the Frosty Palace (actually Mel’s Diner) in custom graphics, installed a giant sign and snowman atop the venue, vinyl-wrapped all of the diner’s counters and leveraged its media team to secure a takeover of the billboard just above Mel’s—a true brand immersion from top to bottom.
“First and foremost, we always want to make sure that we are honoring the IP and the universe that we are trying to recreate so that fans aren’t disappointed when they get there, and they step in and have a really great time,” says Silverman. “Then we look at the overall impact, meaning: Were tickets sold out? Yes. Were people having a good time when they got there? Absolutely. Were there lots of photos posted and social buzz and press coverage? Yes. So, all in all, looking through those lenses, we couldn’t have been happier with how this experience turned out.” Agencies: POPSUGAR, Poolside Etiquette, Proud Robinson & Partners (production); PBZ (design and fabrication); PR DEPT (p.r.).
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Photo credit: Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images