Plastered up and down the streets of Austin, TX, during SXSW—on light posts, walls and columns—were hundreds of red and pink posters featuring a defiant-looking nun in a blue habit. The posters, ranging from small to giant prints, asked, “Have you seen this nun?” and invited passersby to “Accept this quest from Mrs. Davis” and “Tag your nun sightings. Earn your wings.”
These cryptic posters were one of SXSW attendees’ first introductions to Peacock’s upcoming show “Mrs. Davis.” (We happened upon them within seconds of strolling through Austin.) Premiering April 20, the drama series takes place in a reality where a sentient AI named Mrs. Davis, claiming to be benevolent and solve all the world’s problems, has taken over society. Simone, the nun depicted in the posters, embarks on a quest to destroy it.
To start building hype for Simone’s mission, Peacock created a roaming four-day activation that brought the futuristic show’s setting to Austin.
“We wanted to capture the timely AI conversation and transport fans into the in-world experience of tech and entertainment. On top of that, we wanted to bring the show to the attendees of SXSW through this sort of irreverent and eye-catching guerrilla stunt,” says Jo Fox, svp-consumer and content marketing at Peacock. “Also, in a sort of more traditional marketing sense, it was about getting people to come to us. We wanted to be out in the crowd and having them experience what the show is all about.”
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From March 11-14, a crowd of 20 nuns appeared at various SXSW hotspots and local businesses to immerse attendees in the series’ central battle of faith versus technology. Attendees could stop and talk with the nuns, who were fully in character to give their take on Mrs. Davis. Like the AI-propaganda posters said, those who came across the nuns were encouraged to snap a photo, post it on social media and tag @Peacock and #MrsDavisGiveaway for a chance to win prizes, including Uber codes and AirPods, which were a big part of the show’s teaser trailer.
Kicking off at Darwin’s Piano Bar with a “divinely-inspired performance” from the nuns, the interactive quest visited Allens Boots, Revolucion Coffee + Juice and Voodoo Doughnut. Fox says it was important to have the nuns pop up at unlikely locations for unconventional activities, such as singing Madonna’s “Like a Virgin” at the piano bar or riding a mechanical bull at Buck Wild, to spark conversation and drive attention to the show.
The nuns infiltrated One Taco on March 14 when we stopped for lunch, and brand ambassadors outside the restaurant passed out promotional flyers redeemable for a free taco. The women traveled around the city in an “I’ll Be Zap!” Exterminator van with a huge, realistic-looking cockroach on the roof—a photo op in itself.
The quest officially ended at the Stateside Theatre for the world premiere of “Mrs. Davis” with an at-capacity screening of the first two episodes followed by a Q&A with the cast, showrunner and executive producer. Before the cast headed into the theater, they posed for a photo with a few of the nuns in front of the exterminator van, bringing the activation full circle.
“There are two ways you can activate. One is to try and pull people toward you with a sort of locked piece of ground, but then you have to get so many people to come in. And then there’s the ultimate strategy, which is to take the show out in the streets to people,” Fox says. “For the right piece of content, in the right place like a SXSW, we would definitely look at trying this technique out again.” Agency: Civic Entertainment Group; concept and scripting: Ralph Creative; pr: Civic Entertainment Group PR; van fabrication: Turtle Transit.
Photo credit: Rebecca Brenneman/Peacock