'Dexter’ Runs for Cover

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Michael C. Hall, the Emmy-nominated star of Showtime’s Dexter, will grace several magazine covers this month — albeit fake ones — as part of an innovative marketing campaign to promote season three of the series.

Showtime has negotiated with magazines ranging from Rolling Stone and Wired to The New Yorker and the New York Times Magazine to use the design elements and style of the titles to create fake versions of September’s editions. Other magazine mock-ups include Us Weekly, GQ, Esquire, Interview, Vanity Fair, Los Angeles and Multichannel News (see back cover).

The Rolling Stone cover has Hall staring out at readers under half-lowered lids, wearing a necklace with a razor blade charm. Rather than the magazine’s name, the masthead reads Dexter in the font used in the magazine’s logo. The title of the “lead” article is “Dexter Morgan: He’s Got a Way with Murder”.

For an Us Weekly cover, Hall is seen in a coy semi-profile with the screaming headline “Serial Sexy! Dexter Morgan Spills his Guts on Living as America’s Hottest Bad Boy.” Another cover headline reads “He’s Drop Dead Gorgeous.”

The campaign was developed internally, said Showtime Networks executive vice president of creative, marketing, research and digital media Len Fogge. Marketers at first designed a generic magazine with Hall on the cover, then wondered if they could take it further, convincing magazines to let Showtime use real design elements.

The magazines were open to the campaign, Fogge said. That’s because as “old media,” magazines are having problems attracting and keeping readers and the publishers recognized their titles would get exposure beyond their own marketing efforts.

Showtime is compiling the fake magazine covers for outdoor billboards in major markets.

Each of the fake covers will appear as advertisements in the magazine titles they mimic. In addition, Showtime has negotiated to be the back cover in Rolling Stone and Us Weekly, with an eight-page advertorial on the series.

The real Details and Vanity Fair editions are already on newsstands; other titles will debut throughout the rest of the month until the new season starts on Sept. 28.

In addition to the magazine covers, Fogge said a version of the campaign will appear on the online portal Yahoo.

“We’ll be 'Dexter-izing’ their homepage,” he added. “A takeover will invade Yahoo” that will include Yahoo TV, the Web portal’s National Football League page and Yahoo Mail Experience.

Apparently, the magazine industry is taking notice of the marketing scheme: Showtime CEO Matt Blank has been invited to talk about the channel’s magazine-related promotional activities at the American Magazine Conference in San Francisco in October.

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