SXSWestworld's Immersive Experience Promotes Season 2

The Challenge

More people tuned in to the premiere of “Westworld” premiere than any other series in HBO’s history. But with a 16-month hiatus between seasons, HBO needed to reignite the fan base in the lead-up to season two. 

The Execution

To build momentum, Giant Spoon transported guests to the center of the story. “Westworld” is a luxury theme park where guests live out their wildest fantasies. So, it replicated that experience by recreating “Westworld” at a secret location 30 minutes outside of Austin, Texas, during SXSW. 

The campaign promoted the event not as an HBO activation but as a real-life trip to “Westworld.” Whether arriving at SXSWestworld via an exclusive Delta flight, Lyft partnership, or luxury buses, no two consumers received the same experience. 

The narrative of a 444-page script brought the park to life. Guests entered the park through the actual train from the series and were free to explore 16 structures — including iconic establishments from the show — and hidden season-two clues across 90,000 square feet of space. The park became a massive content generator where thousands of guests could share their unique experiences with the outside world. 

While the artificially intelligent hosts were armed with guns, the guests were armed with cameras, creating advocates who provided reach at a global scale.

Similar to the series, technology worked behind the scenes to provide a personalized experience for guests. Each received a personally addressed letter at the post office, a personalized “Wanted” poster, and an “Old West” photo GIF that glitched to reveal season-two clues. 

The Results

  • SXSWestworld became the most ambitious promotion in HBO’s history. 
  • “Westworld” became the most discussed TV show on Twitter during the conference.
  • Social impressions reached 1.9 billion. 
  • Nearly 500 stories were published from sources spanning the globe, with some touting SXSWestworld as "one of the best publicity stunts of the 21st century.”

Key Takeaways

Emphasize immersive, tangible experiences to make your event the hottest ticket in town.

Give your guests cameras so they can become global influencers.

Personalize the experience to create an emotional connection to your event.

This won the Branded Entertainment: Contests/Events/Experience category in MediaPost’s 2018 Creative Media Awards.

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