When it comes to engrossing television, we’re living in a golden age of must-see series. From praying our favourite characters don’t get killed in Game of Thrones, to watching Brummies take on the Mafia in Peaky Blinders, we’ve come to expect our emotions being toyed with on a regular basis. Streaming services like Netflix provide us with access to shows that people are raving about, so it’s little wonder the weekend is spent binging on an entire series.
When a show becomes popular enough, there’s always the risk of having it spoiled. Anyone who read the A Song of Ice and Fire book series had a good idea where Game of Thrones was heading up until a couple of seasons ago. We might say we don’t like a show being spoiled, but it doesn’t stop people speculating on the future of a story or information from being leaked.
The need to be in the know creates a buzz and it got me thinking about how spoilers can be leveraged from a marketing perspective. Westworld is a prime example of how spoilers can be used for good.
How to get people talking
For those who’re unfamiliar with the show, Westworld is set in a fictional park that’s based on the wild west and explores themes of morality and the nature of being alive. On April 9th, the creators Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy held a Reddit AMA and announced they would spoil the entire second season, with Nolan going into detail:
“We thought about this long and hard, and came to a difficult (and potentially highly controversial) decision. If you guys agree, we’re going to post a video that lays out the plot (and twists and turns) of season 2. Everything. The whole sordid thing. Up front. That way the members of the community here who want the season spoiled for them can watch ahead, and then protect the rest of the community, and help to distinguish between what’s ‘theory’ and what’s spoiler.”
“It’s a new age, and a new world in terms of the relationship between the folks making shows and the community watching them. And trust is a big part of that. We’ve made our cast part of the decision, and they’re fully supportive. We’re so excited to be in this with you guys together. So if this post reaches a 1000 upvotes we’ll deliver the goods.”
Never gonna give you up, never gonna let you down
Naturally, this caused a debate about whether full spoilers could be a positive or negative thing. The Reddit post got a thousand upvotes, prompting Westworld creators to unveil a 25-minute video called ‘A Primer.’ The video starts off with a shot from the trailers. Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) appears on a beach and everything seems suitably mysterious until the infamous chords of Rick Astley’s ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’ begins to play. Evan Rachel Wood, who plays Dolores, covers the song. That’s right. It’s Westworld’s own version of a Rick Roll.
The video was met with good humour from viewers and demonstrated how passionate the fan base is about the show. It was meant to highlight how people can become carried away in their pursuit of knowledge and the Westworld creators capitalised on the phenomenon.
Leveraging spoilers in the right way
From a marketing standpoint, the campaign is effective because it got viewers talking and generated more interest for the show. By tapping into the spoiler culture, Westworld was able to create a divide between theories and concrete information. The video can be linked with the fear of missing out factor, as fans felt compelled to watch in case they missed out on any key details.
Spoilers and controversy often go hand in hand, which is why the campaign helped to protect the narrative of a show that people will continue to come back to. When used in the right way, spoilers can be a fruitful marketing technique.