Six lessons from the Netflix PR playbook

By on Monday, March 19, 2018

The most successful communications strategies are not played entirely safe.

Few companies are prepared to stick their necks out and risk offending the killjoys in order get their hands on a bigger prize.

Netflix have re-written the corporate rulebook on risk – and have pulled of some of the most engaging and memorable marketing campaigns of late – by going where others would fear to tread.

Here’s some of the key lessons from their PR playbook.

1. Context Is Everything 

Cocaine drama Narcos promoted season three with a contextual out-of-home campaign that featured a rolled up dollar bill and line of Coke in toilets in cities across America.

“Here in the ’90s? There’s an 80% chance this power came from the Cali Cartel,” reads stickers placed on urinals and towel units.

The Crown is inspired by the life of Queen Elizabeth II.

To promote the new series in Singapore they gave the audience a glimpse of who she really is – taking facts about her life and brought them to life in a variety of unorthodox OOH ways.

2. Billboards Don’t Have To Be Boring 

A billboard, featuring a plastic-wrapped, nude mannequin attracted a lot of attention from passers-by.

Appearing at a bus stop in West Hollywood, the creepy being which looks like a human body trapped inside plastic bag, appears to be breathing.

via The Sun

The sculpture was erected to promote Altered Carbon which focuses on a reality where humans can live forever by transferring their consciousness into a new body.

Ahead of Stranger Things 2 they deployed 20 ‘Dustins’ on branded rickshaws throughout New York who rode through the streets blasting ’80s music to drum up nostalgia.

via Trend Hunter

Meanwhile they celebrated Stranger Things’ other world (‘the Upside Down’) by inverting bus wraps.

3. Fake Advertising Can Be More Effective Than Real Advertising 

Their science fiction series Black Mirror resides in darkly twisted dystopian world.

In the run up to the latest season the company released a fake ad for Netflix Vista  – new technology that would enable customers to watch the service via a chip implanted in their brain.

The Independent hailed the advert as “basically a new mini-episode,” and encouraged readers to “get out and watch it”.

Netflix also designed a cool campaign to target ad-blockers – in a creative that echoed the dark spirit of the show.

The company partnered with a handful of publishing partners to pull of an audacious execution surprising readers who are used to enjoying an ad-free internet.

The creepy ad read “Hello ad blocker user. You cannot see the ad. But the ad can see you.”

The ad leads visitors to Netflix where they can watch the series.

4. Turns Threats Into Opportunities 

The standard response to intellectual property theft is a heavy-handed legal letter threatening an astronomical fine and a prison sentence to perpetrators.

Not so with this Netflix response to a couple of fans who had planned to launch a Stranger Things themed pop up bar.

This beautifully crafted cease and desist letter proved to be not only an astute PR move, but also a shrewd business decision that drummed up a wave of free publicity ahead of the second season.

5. Enable Creative Brand Partnerships

The service have worked with all manner of third-party partners to bring their brands to life.

The music featured in Stranger Things is a huge part of the experience – so for season 2 a partnership was formed with Spotify to create bespoke 80’s playlists for each character.

For Narcos  – the platform teamed up with language app Babbel to create an app to teach users Spanish phrases and learn to speak like El Patron.


In the run up to Halloween Netflix partnered with taxi service Lyft to promote Stranger Things (Season 2) in order to create a prank video – giving members of the public the journey from hell as cab drivers started vomiting slugs.

Over here in the UK they teamed up with High Street retailer Top Shop releasing a Stanger Things collection of 28 retro inspired pieces, including eighties graphics and all of the favourite characters.

The promotion delivered plenty of column inches and a queue round the block.

source: Evening Standard

5. Enable Fans To Become Advocates

Netflix introduced a new mobile app called “OITNA” (Orange is the New App) to promote the network’s original show Orange is the New Black.

OITNA is a photo-sharing application, which lets you upload you own pictures to create meme-ready expressions and images from the show – to unleash on Twitter, Instagram or any other social platform of choice.

The initiative hands the viral marketing of the programme brand to its super fans to spread the word.

6. Provide Thoughtful Solutions To Customer Problems

Ahead of the launches of Breaking Bad and House Of Cards the studio provided a thoughtful solution to fans who were concerned they might stumble into spoilers on twitter

Netflix launched the “Spoiler Foiler”  – a site designed to block out any tweet that might ruin viewer enjoyment.

Fans could log into the website and view their twitter timelines with any show mentions duly redacted.

It’s not the only problem the streaming service have fixed.

Falling asleep during a Netflix binge can be highly annoying.

Thankfully Netflix socks will read your body to understand when you fall asleep, and then automatically pause your favourite show.

Netflix continue to build incredible word of mouth for their show brands through smart, PR-able marketing.

Comments are closed.

Get the best creative brand campaigns directly to your inbox, every Friday!

Hide forever...