ENGINE CREATIVE & CONTENT, New York / HBO / 2019
'The Sopranos.' Feels like just yesterday we were getting to know Paulie Walnuts, Junior, Sil, Bobby Bacala and Johnny Sack. But it wasn’t yesterday. It was 20 years ago. And on January 11, the anniversary of its original premiere, we wanted everyone to be talking about the show that changed TV forever.
But how do you get people talking about something that’s two decades old? How do you engage a fanbase that predates Facebook and Twitter? How do you get a show to trend that premiered before the invention of hashtags? How do you engage fans with content that lives up to the quality of a much-beloved series?
And how do you do it organically with zero media dollars?
You give them an offer they can’t refuse.
Our number one goal was to make the show feel alive again, to pull people back into the action and make them feel like the way they felt when the show was on. And for people who never saw the show, it was a chance to start a whole new conversation.
So we focused on the nuances and details that made the show feel special. It’s not a show about the mob, it’s a show about being in the mob. And everyone knows that the best part of being in the mob is getting a great nickname, and the Sopranos featured a lot of great nicknames.
So in honor of the anniversary, we wanted to give our fans a chance to get their very own Soprano-worthy nickname.
If you want to have a conversation, you do it in a place that is built for having conversations—Twitter. So we knew Twitter would be the ideal place to engage fans in a conversation about The Sopranos.
We also wanted to make sure the conversation was contained to a single, discoverable space without feeling promotional, so we opted for a thread rather than a hashtag.
For the prompt, we stuck with the established tone-of-voice and first-person singular approach that people have come to expect from HBO Twitter. This decision helped the prompt feel like a real exchange between two fans of the show, rather than a branded stunt.
And finally, we wanted to make sure everything felt personal, bespoke, and in-line with the quality people expect from HBO. So we shunned automation and generators and opted for real human writers, designers, and community managers.
At 1:10pm on January 10, HBO sent out a single tweet with a simple offer: reply to us and you might get a personalized, Soprano-worthy mob nickname.
As the replies poured in, a small team of writers, designers and community managers worked closely together to identify opportunities, write nicknames, get approvals, craft comms, and post the content… all within a 3-5 minute turnaround time.
We also kept a close eye on the responses to the posted nicknames, interacting with fans and brands who either thanked us for the nickname or had something to say about it.
After 24 hours of creating custom nicknames and interacting with fans, we “cut to black” in homage to the iconic final scene from the show.
Backed by zero media dollars, the tweet generated over 300,000,000 organic impressions.
Over 24,000 people replied to the original tweet, including Roger Federer, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Emily Nussbaum, Blake Griffin, Ben Schwartz, Laura Dern, and a big chunk of top brands on Twitter.
Press picked it up without any seeding, including Fast Company, the AV Club, Buzzfeed, Ad Age, Ad Week, Mashable, and the Daily Mail.
To quote the smart people at Fast Company: “Look, Brand Twitter rightfully gets a lot of flack. It tries too hard. It’s too gimmicky. It’s manufactured human interaction. But this? THIS. This was goooood.”