Of course, Polygarol (Poli-Garolafil) is not a real drug, but the print ad created for it by Seattle's Creature agency is so authentic, it made me do a double take. Only when I saw the three smiling wives, sunlight shining off their hair and bright smiles, posed around their strapping husband, did I think of the similar family dynamic presented on HBO's original series about a polygamist family, "Big Love." Then, looking towards the bottom of the ad, I saw the "For more information, visit hbo.com/biglove" identifier.
Over in The New York Times' Styles section, an ad for a new fragrance, Eau de Polygamie, declaring, "Set yourself apart from his other wives," ran adjacent to the iconic wedding announcements. What better way for a new bride to get an edge over her sister wives than to wear this distinctive fragrance that provides you with "a scent that's all your own?"
TV spots for Polygarol and Eau de Polygamie were created as well. The spots, directed by Academy Award-winning cinematographer John Toll, were released during the last week of May with strategic placement in YouTube's Directors video section as well as a paid ad placement on the YouTube home page to kick-start a viral campaign. They then aired online at hbo.com as fake sponsors of the web site, Chris Spadaccini, VP/advertising at HBO, tells me, and then went wide across sites like iFilm, Revver and Google Video.
Two other print ads ran, in the real estate section of The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times advertising Polybrook Haven, "Where plural marriage meets the American dream," and in the travel section of the same newspapers, advertising the PolygaWorld Travel Group, which "caters to your plural marriage needs."
All the products advertised highlighted the needs of polygamists, real and imagined and, in doing so, extended the brand of "Big Love" itself. In particular, Polygarol (i.e. the male enhancement aid) plays on a story line from the series' first episode in which husband of three wives Bill Henrickson is seen popping Viagra as he jumps from wife to wife, struggling to keep up with the demands of his plural marriage lifestyle.
"The ads are targeting polygamists with products that would benefit their lifestyle," Spadaccini says. "The fun of the campaign is that the humor arises after you look at the spots. The spots are so contextual to the medium. Only after, do you realize it's an ad for "Big Love," so you see the brand later and are driven to "Big Love."
HBO is hoping that its creative tactics will drive viewers to "Big Love" en masse when its second season premieres tonight. The series has moved from HBO's premium Sunday night lineup to Monday night and also airs a day after "The Sopranos" finale, which creates a void in the HBO lineup for a headlining original series.
"As a premium TV network, HBO is always looking to differentiate our brand and break through the media clutter to differentiate our strategy and our programming," Spadaccini says. "The ads draw people into something that on the surface seems normal but on second glance seems anything but ... just like "Big Love."