TV’s New Viral Tool: Construction Sites

Networks launch covert campaigns for Dirty Sexy Money , The Ex List .

The next hotbed for viral television-marketing campaigns may be the urban construction site. At least that’s what ABC and CBS hope is the case with new outdoor campaigns for Dirty Sexy Money and The Ex Listin cities including New York and Los Angeles.

Both networks are using signage on fences around empty lots or construction sites to promote their shows as part of their campaigns. Neither execution directly promotes the show’s title, network or time.

ABC wrapped sites in New York and Los Angeles with signage promising the Oct. 1 opening of a new residency, “Darling Tower.” The signage also reads, “We do all the dirty work. The city’s sexy new address where money can buy everything.”

The words “dirty,” “sexy” and “money” are bolded within the signage, but there is no more information than a Web site, That brings users to a Web site ABC built to promote the faux building, part of the show’s storyline.

ABC marketing chief Mike Benson said the strategy is meant to add some supplemental buzz to a larger and more direct campaign for the sophomore drama.

“We really have to look at how we are going to not only reach an audience, but generate things people will talk about,” he added. “If we can just surprise someone once in a while and get them to notice it, that’s the cherry on the sundae of our campaign.”

Benson said the network -- along with its media-buying and planning agency, Wieden and Kennedy -- considered not having the show’s title appear at all, even embedded within the fake description, but executives changed their minds. They have done blind promos before, such as fake public-service announcements for the Hanso Foundation from Lost, but embedded the name since Dirty Sexy Money is still relatively new.

“We thought it was almost a little too blind,” he said.

CBS is going completely blind with a campaign for The Ex List, a rookie drama premiering Oct. 3. The viral campaign, part of a larger overall strategic push, includes construction-site signage that doesn’t mention anything about the show.

One version is simply a poster with a photo of Ex List star and Grey’s Anatomy alum Elizabeth Reaser, with a Web site: The site brings you to a video on

Another part of the campaign runs on fliers with tear-out phone numbers. Dialing 1-877-7-BELLA-1 (Bella is the title character’s name) brings people to an audio promotion.

CBS marketing head George Schweitzer said the decision not to include anything else in the ads was key to the strategy. “We find that if we put the CBS eye on that thing, we don’t get a lot of calls,” he added. “The viral nature and the mystery of it is part of the attraction.”

He also said that since the show is about a woman reconnecting with people she has dated in the past, the viral aspect to the campaign fits, adding, “We only do them where it would be organic. You have a photo of an attractive woman who some people might recognize. And we’re now at a time where people are savvy to these things, so they may check it out.”