"Project Runway," the hit A+E Networks Lifetime reality show and designer competition that is debuting in its ninth season Thursday, will encourage fans to use Twitter to vote on specific designers in a campaign dubbed "Fan Favorite."
The 20 designers have been assigned their own hashtag consisting of #PR and their first name. Mass Relevance will assist A+E Networks by compiling the tweets and the votes. At the season end, the designer whose hashtag has been tweeted the most will become the fan favorite and receive a $10,000 cash prize, explains Evan Silverman, senior vice president of digital media for A+E Networks.
"We were looking for a campaign that encourages fans to use social media in real time and in an open scalable platform that's visible to others that may, or may not, watch the show," he said.
A 15-second spot that outlines the Fan Favorite campaign will air in each episode. Designer hashtags are being incorporated into the show. Every time a designer is on camera, Bunim/Murray Productions, the production company, will incorporate their Twitter Fan Favorite tag into the shot. The Project Runway Twitter account will moderate a live chat with three or four former designers or fashion experts during each episode of the show.
The A+E digital group for the show is trying to understand the correlation between television ratings and social media conversation. Services such as Trendrr and Bluefin Labs are pioneering a new industry to measure social TV engagement, but they are clearly in the early stages with products and ability to draw exact correlations between the conversation and television ratings.
"When the social media engagement levels are high for our shows, we often see spikes in ratings -- correlated or not, it's unclear," he said. "With Fan Favorite, we're looking to provide our passionate 'Project Runway' audience one more reason to engage in the social media conversation around the show."
By tapping Twitter in a season-long, real-time voting contest, Silverman believes the show can increase the level of engagement significantly. When the social buzz increases the visibility and conversation around a show rises, it impacts television ratings.
The idea to bring real-time live tweeting to the show, however, has an ironic twist. "Project Runway" is taped months in advance, which makes it a bit tricky for tweets to determine the outcome.
Silverman said this is the first time "Project Runway" will stage a season-long voting competition to give fans a voice. Project Runway has done fan voting in the past, but this is the first time using Twitter to do so in real time. He said Twitter can't confirm whether this is the first campaign on the platform to leverage voting.