National Geographic’s new limited series, Valley of the Boom, tells several insanely true stories of the ‘90s internet boom in Silicon Valley, including the battle between Netscape and Microsoft for web browser dominance and the attempt by a company nobody has ever heard of called Pixelon to bring live video streaming to the masses—a task that people thought impossible at the time.
It comes from Matthew Carnahan, who also created Showtime’sHouse of Lies and FX’s Dirt, and is also executive produced by Arianna Huffington. In the vein of movies such asThe Big Short and Vice, uses snappy dialogue, quick pacing and fourth-wall breaks to draw viewers in.
“These are the rebels that stood on the shoulders of others and saw a way forward,” said Tyler Korba, VP, creative, at Nat Geo and a writer, along with Senior Producer Sarah Lavoie, on this campaign. “’Exploration’ means a lot of different things. A comedic take on the internet in the ‘90s might not be the first thing you’d expect to see from Nat Geo, but it’s a story about innovation, and that’s very much in our wheelhouse.”
To promote the show, Nat Geo’s creative team, led by CMO Jill Cress and EVP Chris Spencer, pulled every stop they could think of from cross-platform promotions to partnerships to an elaborate social media campaigns.
First up, was a series of long-lead teases, including a #fail spot that aired during the broadcast of Yellowstone Live on the network.
The network also got the opportunity to shoot spots with stars Bradley Whitford, Steve Zahn and others in a series of “pitch” spots that featured the actors addressing the camera in character.
One idea that started as key art (below) evolved into a social campaign. Design studio Motion 504 gave Nat Geo the design for a pop-up window that just wouldn’t close, which in the key art campaign obscures the faces of the talent.
Nat Geo thought the idea was clever enough to turn it into an interactive campaign where the viewer tries to close the window—just like we all spent a lot of time trying to do in the ‘90s—and it just won’t close.
Over the Christmas holiday, Nat Geo offered a sneak peek of the first two episodes for free for viewers as an early Christmas gift. To promote that offer, the network recruited star Morris to do a special Yule Log spot.
“Lamorne Morris is one of the secret weapons of the show—he’s hysterical in it,” said Korba. “The idea came up to have Lamorne tell the Silicon Valley story as if it were The Night Before Christmas. It was one of those things that was ridiculous enough that we thought we would get shut down and never did. Before we knew it, we were on set in Los Angeles with him in a house in a terrible Christmas sweater.”
The team also created several marketing partnerships to promote the show, one of which was with WeWork, now We Company.
On Dec. 3 at select WeWork locations in Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco, the two companies turned four locations in each market into “Valley of the Boom internet cafes,” transforming each space into an office from the early ‘90s, including such desktop computer games from the era as Oregon Trail, Doom and Tetris. It wasn’t all fun and games though—they also offered practical and relevant career development and networking opportunities, including on-site consultations with LinkedIn experts and professional headshots.
In January prior to the series premiere, WeWork hosted exclusive screenings of the first two episodes, followed by curated discussions with series talent and experts.
“This campaign presented us with a lot of fun opportunities and we really went after it,” said Korba. “We really got to flex muscles we don’t usually flex and dove into places we don’t usually get to go.”
Valley of the Boom premieres Sunday, Jan. 13 on National Geographic.
Network: National Geographic
CMO: Jill Cress
EVP Creative: Chris Spencer
VP Design: Brian Everett
Writer/VP Creative: Tyler Korba
Writer/Sr Producer: Sarah Lavoie
Writer: Sheila Hayes
EVP Strategy & Consumer Marketing: Dennis Camlek
VP Strategy & Consumer Marketing : Skye Earls
Sr Directors Strategy & Consumer Marketing: Katie Morrow, Nikki Newman
Sr Manager Strategy & Consumer Marketing: Brandon Kessler
Coordinator Strategy & Consumer Marketing: Natalie Garagiola
Sr Director Digital/Social Media: Alison Walsh
Sr Managers Digital/Social Media: Meghan Gleason, Darren Knabe
Manager Digital/Social Media: Aiman Ahmed
Coordinator Digital/Social Media: Sydney Gallimore
Digital/Social Media Editors: Ryan Fouss, Murugi Thande
Project Manager: Maricruz Merlo
Prodigal Pictures: Design, Shoot, Edit and Post
Motion 504: Design, Edit and Post
IKA Collective: Shoot, Edit and Post
Ignition: Edit, Post, IGTV Series
Ultrabland: Edit, Post
South District Films: Edit, Post
Trailer Park: BTS/EPK/Digital Shoot, Edit and Post
Refinery: Key Art Design
Justin Stephens: Key Art Photography
Premiere TV: Digital Shoot
INSYNCPLUS: Digital Writing, Edit and Post
Tongal: Digital Concept, Writing, Edit and Post