Showtime has an open house. Gossip Girl lets you into their neighborhood. But, Nine Inch Nails gives followers an entire new universe.

By Lindsay Gilbert

With seemingly endless choices in television, music and online selections, brands are having a difficult time standing out from the crowd. For Showtime, The CW, and Nine Inch Nails, using one form of advertising just isn’t enough. Hitting their audience from multiple angles, they invite viewers to engage in the world of the characters for a full immersion branding tactic that is successfully grabbing people’s attention.

Showtime and Metropolitan Home took an entire townhouse and made it their own. Gossip Girl was integrated into Second Life, and Nine Inch Nails turned the launch of their new album into a role playing game. In all of these cases, the lines are successfully blurred between brands and entertainment.

Showtime and Metropolitan Home

In a city overflowing with advertisements, Metropolitan Home put together a New York City promotion design to show a different side of Showtime television, with an innovative marketing idea geared for the home—but not your home.

A 19th Century Gramercy Park townhouse was transformed into a “beacon of modernism” with each room inspired by one of six original Showtime series: Californication, Dexter, The L Word, The Tudors, United States of Tara and Weeds. Entertainment merged with style for a hybrid branding tactic that brought together some of design’s top stars, including Jamie Drake, Tori Golub, Laura Kirar, Johnny Grey, Amy Lau, Frank Webb and Matthew White of White Webb and Vicente Wolf.

Working on a living room based on Weeds character Nancy Botwin, White Webb designed a swank living space that embodied the character’s sex appeal, confidence and famous green thumb—featuring grasscloth, hemp carpeting and towering trees.

“Although ‘ticky tacky’ houses feature prominently in Weeds, we figured it was time for Nancy to upgrade. Fortunately, she’s now running a successful enterprise, she’s left Agrestic behind, and her horizons have been broadened thanks to a variety of multi-cultural experiences,” say White and Webb about their inspiration. Fellow designer Vincent Wolf created a gorgeous master bedroom, representing the hit show, The L Word. With a color scheme of blues, greens and gray, the bedroom gives off a calm aura, accented with rich, sophisticated gold. The room is a classy design statement, with features like hand-made glass bathroom tiles.

Amy Lau took on the challenge of designing a dining room for the forensic scientist character of Dexter, who doubles as a serial killer by night. Appropriately, the walls were painted a glossy, sterile white, with accented blood-red art. Lau accessorized the space with stretched red yarn, representing Dexter’s technique for analyzing blood splatters. In contrast, Johnny Grey worked on a retro kitchen design, also inspired by Dexter, for a more artsy approach to the show. One of the most modern rooms in the house, the kitchen played with unconventional design ideas, forming an almost sculpture feel.

“People, in general, have felt that the concept is really unique–using design to interpret television–and have embraced it enthusiastically,” say Frank and Matthew. “Amongst the design community, the reaction has been uniformly positive. In addition to differentiating it from the hundreds of other show houses out there, the concept seems to have prompted all of the designers to think outside of the box and raise their game. As a result, the house feels fresh, and the design world is taking notice.”

The doors were open to public view for the price of $25, all proceeds going to the charity Happy Hearts Fund. The project can also be found in print and online for behind-the-scenes footage, room galleries, designer secrets and tips on recreating the styles—though it may be wise to stay away from Dexter’s blood-splattered dining room when bringing these looks into your own home.

CW Gossip Girl and Second Life

Since opening in 2003, the 3-D virtual world Second Life has grown to inhabit over 8 million people from all around the globe. Residents of the game create their surroundings, with the ability of buying, selling and trading property with other users. In 2007, The Gossip Girl Upper East Side virtual world was created in conjunction with the show’s initial launch “to give fans an engaging way to immerse themselves into the world of Gossip Girl and deepen their connection with the show,” says Paul Hewitt, vice president of corporate communications at The CW network.

Since the television series is based on an anonymous female blogger who calls out all the school gossip via a website, e-mail blasts and text messages, the digitized Upper East Side neighborhood seems quite appropriate. Participants can have a dance party with friends, play show-related games, watch past Gossip Girl episodes and hang out with show characters like Serena, Blair and Jenny. Once the Second Life software is installed on a computer, members can create and customize their own avatar.

In an effort to intertwine the show with the site even further, the network started filming what they call “machinisodes” inside the virtual world. The Upper East Side neighborhood serves as a digital set that directly mimics the show down to minute details like street names. The mini-episodes are then shot using the game’s avatars, following a script outline written by the Gossip Girl writers. The network even invited fans to participate in the digital filming as extras. Using virtual actors and locations has its upside—during the recent writers’ strike, the machinisodes continued the plot of the show, taking the characters on Spring Break.

Events are posted on the CW website for the week’s schedule. Theme parties, fishing tournaments and coffee dates are all on the agenda. “Virtually every week, we plan events inside the Upper East Side virtual world that are directly connected to the episode that aired on The CW,” says Hewitt. “It’s been extremely positive. The Gossip Girl virtual world is the second most popular corporate site in Second Life.”

To read more of Total Immersion, pick up the latest copy of one.a magazine.

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