Creative Marketing | 26/05/2015

What Marketers can learn from the True Detective Phenomena

Posted by Lawrence Greenlee

So we’re half way through one of the most talked about TV shows of the decade, and this highly anticipated second series has got every loyal fan’s tongues wagging.

I want to take a look back at the successes of this much loved series’ digital marketing tactics, and analyse how this has helped to create a ‘McConaissance’ of an online campaign.

Stunning Visuals

I’m sure like many others, my favorite part of the show isn’t actually the show, it’s the Emmy award winning title sequence. The artistic merit behind the mesmeric intro is second to none. The last title sequence I can recall gathering so much momentum would have to be the synonymous Star Wars opening text ‘crawl’.

The inspiring project is a collaborative effort by Elastic and Antibody. Their process described as ‘revealing character through location’ came to fruition with the main characters internal struggles being reflected by their landscapes in a double exposure format.

Series 1’s title imagery is a combination of evocative and strangely beautiful shots of pollution, prostitution, and wildlife across the Gulf Coast. The stunning and enigmatic imagery has continued to haunt us into Series 2’s chilling, maroon Leonard Cohen fueled animation.


Don’t be afraid of being bold! Understanding the basic raw message of what you are trying to convey is crucial when choosing adjoining visuals. Remember this is how your concept will be perceived first and foremost.

Social Media

HBO were uber prepared when contemplating how they would first go about this campaign. Each show’s episode has its own unique name, which is utilised with hashtags and cross pollinated via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Assumptions were made by HBO that fans would automatically use #TrueDetective when referencing the show, and they were correct. With this method in place the show lends itself to giving away hints and clues in the lead up to the next episode airings, during this time users can generate conversations with others about their own theories or realisations. You can also protect the fans wanting to avoid stumbling across any pesky spoilers by dodging the hashtag assigned to a particular episode, such as #NightFindsYou.

The Season Finale of Series 1, which aired on March 9th, was the most-tweeted show of the week. This is no mean feat especially with shows such as The Walking Dead to contend with.

Unlike innumerable other TV shows, especially only half way through it’s second series, True Detective boasts over 2 Million Facebook Fans, 85K Twitter followers and almost 100K Instagram followers. Impressive.


Choose your social channels carefully, Instagram was a daring choice for True Detective, but their aspiration has paid off with a highly engaged following that has beaten Twitter. Another factor to be noted here is the thoroughly researched and perfectly executed strategy staying true to the shows investigative intentions.

Unique Offering

Series 1’s Darkness Becomes You has it’s own dedicated website, giving fans an insight into the mind of a real working detective. Each week a new page would swiftly be added with a digital case file, leaving you to put the clues together and come to your own conclusions. This is an original and inventive concept, ringing true to it’s thought provoking script. Weekly newsletters added to this intrigue and kept fans in the loop of all the show’s news and current content.

Series 2’s We Get The World We Deserve has opted to put an emphasis on a video based technique. There have been regular updates on HBO’s Youtube channel giving glimpses into the dark and gritty Californian fictional ‘City of Vinci’ – Each video hailing over 50,000 views.


Do something different! This is your time to think outside the box, we’ve seen a huge digital takeover in the last few years, from Marc Jacobs Twitter Pop Up Shop creating it’s own currency to Oreo’s real time marketing take on the Superbowl Power Cut #YouCanStillDunkInTheDark . Leave your mark on the online world by harnessing your creative powers to create something explosive.

Regardless of whether you think this season is as good as the first, or whether you think Colin Farrell’s mustache is actually the star of the show, you have to agree that HBO have constructed a pretty incredible digital campaign here for the marketing world to take inspiration from.

In the words of Rust Cohle – ‘Vision is meaning. Meaning is historical.’ What will your next vision be?