Cannes Lions

Westworld Season 2: A Digital-First Story With Epic Pay-offs

HBO, New York / HBO / 2018


1 Shortlisted
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The Westworld Season 2 campaign continued narratives seen in the show—only instead of acting as passive viewers, fans were invited into dialogue with the series’ hosts. Messages were planted in broad marketing assets using binary and hexadecimal code, pieced-together passwords, an interactive chatbot, social media and an ever-expanding digital ecosystem of “in-world” websites. Fans worked together on Reddit and social media to deconstruct the messages, unlocking pay-offs with huge narrative implications. The community’s collaboration created a second wave of buzz and conversation around every key asset—conversation exploded as fans realized they were becoming part of the story.


The Season 2 campaign kicked off with a trailer during Super Bowl LII; within one video frame was a hidden binary code, which lead to a series of new websites that confirmed and stoked fan theories. Trained fans scoured all marketing assets, finding hidden codes in social media, digital key art, and several videos. A password, broken into pieces, was hidden in multiple markets of out-of-home key art, requiring a fans to collaborate in order to unlock a new site. The codes revealed videos with Season 2 footage, introductions to new characters and huge first looks at dramatic arcs of future episodes. Hosts, including former concierge chatbot Aeden, took control of and roadblocked more than 10 linear channels to further their agenda. Every step along the way, HBO planted new easter eggs for fans.


After Westworld defined itself as HBO’s most successful series debut ever, HBO’s Season 2 pre-premiere digital marketing efforts focused on growing the social community, engaging with fans on a deeper level, and converting casual fans to superfans. The Super Bowl trailer amassed 21 million views; and trended number 1 across YouTube and Reddit. Five new or revamped websites garnered a total of 1.6 million page views. Westworld’s social profiles also saw significant growth and engagement, with 50,000 new Facebook likes and 330,000 social conversations around the show. All this was before Season 2 even premiered — the episodes would provide the biggest pay-off of all, showing fans that marketing was not supplemental, but in fact rewarded fans by making them part of the story.

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