AMC's 'BAD' Ambition

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AMC had a surprise hit last year with the original series Mad Men. The edgy drama about Madison Avenue ad executives in 1960 drew critical raves and averaged 1.1 million viewers for the Rainbow Media Holdings-owned channel, according to Nielsen Media Research data.

Now AMC hopes to build on that success with a multitiered marketing campaign luring viewers into its next dramatic series, Breaking Bad.

The bulk of the promotion will be a TV-ad blitz the week before the show's Jan. 20 premiere. But AMC also has created some unique elements, such as a game application accessible to members of the social-networking Web site Facebook.

Reaching the demographic category dubbed “non-conformists” will be key to building an audience for the new show, AMC found in vetting research on identifying social groups.

TERMINAL BEHAVIOR

Breaking Bad is a nine-episode series starring Bryan Cranston (Malcolm in the Middle) as a middle-aged chemist who has never really caught a break in his life. When he receives a terminal-disease diagnosis, he decides to “go bad” in order to earn cash to support his family after he's gone. The series is produced by Vince Gilligan (X-Files).

The “non-conformist” demo likes action and is tech-savvy. “Breaking Bad is right in their sweet spot,” said AMC senior vice president for marketing Linda Schupack. “The audience we're trying to attract lives online.”

The promotional game “Breaking Bad: Chemical Codebreaker” requires Facebook members to guess the number of drops of different colors needed to come up with a specified shade. In each round, players are informed of the colors and amounts they guessed right, and which color compounds need to be changed. For the correct solution, a player is awarded a “token” that will allow Facebook members a peek at a clip of the series in advance of its debut.

“We believe players will become engaged so they'll pass the word about the series,” Schupack said.

Another microsite, www.breakingbad.com, will offer “a more impressionistic” view of the upcoming series, providing site visitors with its “moody and evocative” tone. Surfers can click through to AMC's main site for program information.

Schupack said the promotional tonnage will be similar to the effort behind Mad Men, noting that AMC runs one original series at a time, so executives can focus on each show.

STRIKING TALE

The Writers Guild of America strike provides both an opportunity and a challenge for this new entry. AMC ordered nine episodes, but only seven are completed. That's the challenge — starting a series and potentially being unable to deliver its finale to viewers.

On the other hand, in promoting the series, the network won't need to literally say, “Yes, we have something new,” Schupack said, because audiences will readily recognize a new choice in a universe currently weak in fresh scripted dramas.

Breaking Bad will premiere commercial-free and be available on demand the next day (Jan. 21). AMC also is providing affiliates with behind-the-scenes content for use on VOD platforms.

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