HBO: 'Wait and See’ for 'Voyeur’

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HBO churned up some buzz here recently by projecting onto the white wall of a Lower East Side apartment building its newest original … series? Music video? Multiplatform diorama ballet?

The precise category for Voyeur Project is unclear, although “peephole” might figure into it. In any case, it is original.

Directed by Jake Scott (son of director Ridley Scott), Voyeur’s premiere episode offers a fly-on-the-wall view into a four-story apartment building inhabited by characters engaged in multiple, interlaced story lines.

The five-minute episode is void of dialogue, instead relying on an ambient soundtrack and choreographed movements among the building’s eight apartments. Story themes range from murder to adultery to an unexpected discovery by two renovators. All intended to promote HBO and its reputation for unusual fare.

“It was absolutely conceived of and designed to be a marketing initiative,” said Courteney Monroe, HBO senior vice president of consumer marketing. “Breakthrough advertising these days is certainly no longer about the 30-second TV spot. It’s about creating an experience which enables consumers, particularly those consumers that are difficult to reach with traditional advertising, to engage with your brand in a very deep and unique way.”

The network hyped the initiative June 28 by luring press and public to a parking lot at Ludlow and Broome streets in New York, where the premiere episode was projected onto the wall of a building in a constant loop. The stunt coincided with the launch on mobile and broadband (www.hbovoyeur.com).

While Monroe wouldn’t reveal numbers of page hits or on-demand views, she did say the Web launch far exceeded network projections. On day one, traffic overran server capacity, a problem that has been corrected.

In addition to the first five-minute video — now available via HBO On Demand and online, with zoom features and soundtrack options — the network has made available through a multiplatform “breadcrumb approach” more than two hours of original content based on glimpses into other fictitious apartments around New York. Viewers can choose how much and how long to watch.

Some content is exclusive to particular platforms, such as “security-camera” clips for mobile.

“We’re sort of taking a wait-and-see approach,” said Monroe, regarding production of more Voyeur content. “This has been a really great learning experience and experiment for us. The idea certainly lends itself for stories to be added, and yet we may just decide, even if we deem it has been successful, to go on and do something else.”

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