The lack of new footage is always a hurdle in promoting live TV, but A&E has cleared that hurdle with the variety of spots the network’s marketing team creates for its live police series Live PD. The series, hosted by ABC legal affairs anchor Dan Abrams, airs six hours of live coverage a week—three hours on Friday nights, and another three on Saturday nights.

“One of the things that became really important to us, initially, was almost a fast-follow approach in trying to create a conversation, and that reflected back moments that were significant in the show,” says Jonathan Davis, VP, brand creative, A&E.

Fans quickly dubbed themselves #LivePDNation.

“It sparked something for us. We needed to talk directly to them,” Davis says. “It’s less about trying to do what you’ll see with award shows, sporting events, or anything live like that where you’re using old footage to try to look like new things are happening. It’s much more a dialog with the audience, which is more fruitful and can be much more exciting and take on different tonalities—humor, seriousness, earnestness, urgency, action, community—in a way that’s much more real.”

To keep things fresh, A&E unveils three or four new spots every eight weeks.

“Because of the live nature of Live PD, there is going to be a relatively faster wear-out for some of the spots we create than we would necessarily see with other series,” says Sabrina Malik, VP, marketing strategy, A&E. “We have different spots and different creative that we promote, but they’re all in service of this dialog that [Davis] mentioned.”

Compelling viewers to watch live led to FOMO – also known as “fear of missing out”—spots.

“We call it FOMO internally, but you’ll see the spots end with the tag line ‘You should have watched it live.’ It’s creating a sense of urgency,” Malik says. “It’s really about trying to drive that relevancy, that urgency, and the topical nature of it. It’s finding little ways to make being live work for you.”

Not all spots focus on the FOMO. Some reference the show’s ratings, some target a specific demographic, others center on the fans themselves.

Early on, Davis, Malik, and their team noticed hardcore fans mentioning viewing parties on social media and decided to tap into that excitement.

“We asked them to send videos of their watch parties, and the number of submissions—and the number of watch parties—grew exponentially,” Davis says. “Submissions are now into the thousands per month, which is great.”

Popular watch party promos include one of a viewer’s dog howling along with a siren on the show, and another with a group erupting in cheers after an officer guides some displaced ducklings to a pond.

“We’ve had fun with a couple of watch party spots we’ve put on air,” Davis says. “It serves to make the show more real and remind people that there are real people living it, watching it, appearing on it, and that it’s really steeped in reality.”

Malik says on-air spots and social media efforts are rounded out with editorial content created for Live PD’s website—profiles of officers featured on the show, pieces on the interaction between police and their communities, even articles about legal issues.

Promoting a live series that follows police on patrol involves legal and privacy issues, so the marketing team works hand-in-hand with the show’s legal advisors. “Many people on the legal team are honorary creatives,” Davis says.

“The spots are fun, and there’s a ton of work that goes into them because of all of the various interests and hurdles, but the reality is everyone—from programming, to legal, to insights, to the marketing team—is invested in the show,” Davis says. “It becomes less of an ego endeavor and more about how we can make the show live and breathe, and how we make the marketing live and breathe.”

Later this month, stay tuned for a new batch of Live PD promos, including a longer “hero spot” called “Time to Ride.”

[Images courtesy of A&E]

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