How One Drink Bottle Could Revolutionise Your Publicity!

Releasing promotional photos is a fantastic way to stir up discussion and encourage fan hypothesising about upcoming television shows and movies. Doctor Who, Grey’s Anatomy and Downton Abbey have all recently released these preview shots to inspire discussion and create word-of-mouth promotion. However, Downton Abbey’s publicity attempt didn’t quite go as expected!

Downton Abbey Photo

In the lead up to their highly anticipated fifth season, television heavyweight Downton Abbey released a range of promotional pictures to their social media pages. These photos certainly managed to carry out their aim of creating buzz about the upcoming season, they just achieved that goal in a slightly different way.

While shooting these promotional images, somebody accidentally left a 21st century water bottle on the mantle behind two of the leading characters. This interesting addition has been grasped by online communities across the world creating the foundation for a huge number of Downton Abbey-inspired jokes.

There have been jokes about the show time travelling to another era, Photoshop efforts to place other incongruous items on the mantelpiece including cordless phones as well as many fans simply sharing the photo to have a laugh at the rather obvious oversight.

While it may not have achieved the style of buzz that producer’s anticipated, it has certainly done its job in alerting people to the impending season. And I would hypothesise that it has created even more media coverage, social media sharing and water cooler discussion than releasing the intended historically-correct images would have achieved.

Not only have fans been alerted to the new season, they have also engaged with the brand and spent time thinking about the show in order to come up with funny jokes and memes. They have then actively shared these jokes and Photoshopped pictures to encourage other friends (probably with similar entertainment tastes) to engage with the funny gaffe. Ultimately, it has created a much more powerful bond with the public.

However, there are two things that bug me about these photos.

Firstly, the drink bottle is a pretty significant oversight. It isn’t really hidden away in the picture and is rather close to the focal point. Surely plenty of people were looking at these photos in minute detail to check for blurring or imperfections and it is a bit hard to believe that no one noticed the product that was invented 50 years after the show’s setting.

Secondly, why not just Photoshop the drink bottle out of the picture and put it back up online? By removing it all together, interested fans are forced to actively search for it coming across more information about the show.

I am not saying that it was a setup, but I am not ruling it out either.

Regardless, this unintentional (or intentional) gaffe suggests an interesting method for audience engagement. By providing online audiences with the possibility of having some fun with a brand, it dramatically increases the saturation and interaction rate with interested parties. Pulling off this strategy intentionally does walk a rather dangerous line where a reputation could be destroyed, but in the spirit of television, Downton Abbey has managed to gain much more benefit from the drink bottle than they would have received had it gone to plan!