An ambitious activation across Austin warned SXSW attendees of the oncoming apocalypse, which coincidentally just happens to tie in to the upcoming series Good Omens.
Over 10,000 festival attendees visited the Garden of Earthly Delights promoting the six episode Amazon Prime limited series, which will debut on May 31.
SXSW was a good fit as a launch pad for the show because it represents both “an oasis on earth and an ominous dwelling,” says Dan Mannix, CEO of CSM North America and founder of LeadDog Marketing Group, who worked with Amazon to create the activation.
The 1990 novel by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman on which the series is based—Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch—is a beloved cult classic. The activation aimed to connect with not the book’s intense fanbase but festival-goers in search of the next big thing.
“We always strive to create marketing and promotional activities that are authentic and genuine to the IP of the series,” says Mike Benson, head of marketing for Amazon Studios. “We realize that Neil Gaiman and the book have a rabid following and it’s critical that we find ways to engage in a way that will provide the best possible experience that’s true to the story, its characters and the tone/style that the fans have come to know and love.”
Set on the brink of the apocalypse, Good Omens tells the story of a fussy angel, Aziraphale (played by Michael Sheen), and a loose-living demon, Crowley (played by David Tennant). The unlikely duo are frenemies who have grown quite fond of their lives on Earth and have formed an alliance to stop the world from ending.
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Gaiman—the author behind bestsellers such as Coraline and American Gods—worked with the team to help design activities for the SXSW activation, which ran March 9-11. This resulted in attractions that seems pulled from the pages of the book, such as a “Hellhound Puppy Pen,” where visitors could play with and even adopt a dog; a recreation of A.Z. Fell & Co., the bookstore from the story; and a replica of Crowley’s 1926 Bentley.
“Our goal with space is to create a comfortable, Instagram-worthy space that allows fans and new audiences to experience the world of Good Omens,” says Benson, noting the positioning was to create a space that could be an oasis from the business of the festival, and the looming (and we hope fictional) apocalypse of the series.
While there have already been a few Good Omens-related events, such as appearances at last fall’s New York Comic Con, the SXSW activation was designed to “mark the beginning of the end of the world,” says Benson. Street teams roamed Austin garbed as a variety of characters, such as the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, angels and demons, who warned passersby of the oncoming doom.
Fans who visited the activation were treated to swag such as pins, umbrellas, journals and totes, and some lucky attendees even found signed books hidden in the garden. At the center of the garden was a 20-foot tree fitted with taps offering free wine and beer for all. Attendees were tempted to pick apples from the tree to receive a unique prophecy from the show and possibly win a prize. Also in the garden, guests could treat themselves to a bit of pampering with a manicure or a hairstyle touch-up.
Programming at the event included a Q&A with Gaiman, a panel featuring cast members such as Tennant, Sheen and Jon Hamm, and a performance by a Queen cover band, to celebrate the music of Crowley’s love of Freddie Mercury. The garden was also the site of two invite-only parties with Entertainment Weekly and Buzzfeed.