This week, after a 7 year hiatus, the Bluth family will return. “Arrested Development” will debut 15 new episodes on Netflix on May 26th. For fans of the short-lived, under-appreciated show, this is a very welcome return. To help generate buzz around the new episodes, Netflix, The Hurwitz Company, and Imagine Entertainment could have done nothing but a few good press releases. The show has gathered such a cult following in the age of DVDs and online binge watching. The fan base was already excited. But they wanted to have a grand kick-off. Celebrate the show, welcome back it’s fans, and bring in a new audience at the same time.
Thus began the #ADWorldTour. Pieces of the show would make scheduled appearances in London, New York, Los Angeles, and more (the scheduling has been kept as a semi-secret). This included the Stair-Car, and the pride of the family, Bluth’s Frozen Banana Stand. The plan is brilliant. The social media integration is perfect.
I stopped by the Culver City location on May 20th at 1:30pm. The line was long and when you think about it on the surface, all you’re waiting for is a free frozen chocolate dipped banana and a sticker with a quote from the show. If you are not a fan of the show, it seems a bit…odd. But for the fans of the show (like myself), it was an opportunity that could not be missed.
As cars pulled up to the stop light next to us, we were continually asked the same question. “What is all this?” To explain to a passerby that we were all waiting for a frozen banana because of a show that went off the air in 2006 and was now coming back was generally met with the reaction of, “Interesting.”
As we got closer to the front, we looked back to see that the line was expanding rapidly. More questions from pedestrians and confused drivers. Camera crews began to show up to report on the action and interview those who had waited in line.
Once at the front of the line, you were given a photo-opportunity (taken by a man in a banana costume), a name tag sticker stating “Mr. Manager,” and your free Bluth Frozen Banana. The signage around the stand was a mixture of replica props from the show and promotional tools. A picture of George, Sr. graced the inside of the stand, looking after the employees, while a man in an orange prison jumpsuit continually restocked the stand.
In New York and London, cast members had shown up to work their shift at the banana stand, and LA was no different. Judy Greer, who played Bluth Company assistant and accomplice Kitty, was set to appear at 3pm, while Mae Whitman, who played George Michael’s girlfriend Anne (who…I mean….her?), was set to appear later in the day.
When I stopped to think about everything, I really started to appreciate how well the marketing promotions were put together for this. The show was brought back because of the fans. The producers recognized this and wanted to reward them by placing these set pieces in highly populated areas for all to see. They activated all of their social media tools, creating a highly interactive fan experience via Facebook, Twitter, Vine, Instagram, and Foursquare. By selecting locations in high density areas, the passerby’s who may not know of the show would suddenly have exposure, (hopefully) leading them to go out and watch the show. The stickers placed on everyone as they received their Bluth Banana was another tip to non-viewers. As I walked towards by car, a woman stopped me to ask what the sticker meant. “I’ve seen everyone wearing them around here. What is that?” I explained everything to her, to which she responded: “How cool! I’ll have to check out the show online! How long will they be out there serving the bananas?” (It sounds ridiculous, but that’s because it is. In the world of Arrested Development, all is ridiculous.) Even if that woman is the only one who becomes a new viewer because of the event, the marketing team has done their job. And all of this is being exposed and spread solely through social media outlets.
The #ADWorldTour will continue through the week leading up to Sunday’s launch. The Banana Stand will appear in more locations. The Stair-Car will be seen driving through Hollywood and Santa Monica. More stickers and bananas will be given out. More lines will form. The Arrested Development Facebook and Twitter will continue to post locations, Foursquare will make them a check-in, Instagram will be filled with pictures of “The Big Yellow Joint,” and fanatics will post their version of the Chicken Dance to Vine.
This is an example of Social Media Marketing at its finest. A hearty round of applause to the “AD2013” team! You may not be making a dime off of the bananas everyone is waiting in line for, but between the exposure and social media presence, there is ALWAYS money in the banana stand.