Welcome Back to Hawkins

November 6, 2017 Ophelie Zalcmanis-Lai

As Torontonians head out on their daily commutes, ads in the TTC are simply a fixture of the background.

Sometimes brands even buy out entire stations targeted at a certain demographic (like St. Andrew Station being plastered with ads for scotch for all the Bay Streeters).

Still, every once and awhile, there are particularly clever ads that catch our eyes for more than a moment’s glance. This week, it was this one:

Seems pretty standard, right? It’s an ad for a power company with a fairly unremarkable line that quips about making things “brighter.” But, what’s Hawkins?

In Toronto, we all get our power from one source: Toronto Hydro.

Hawkins… Hawkins… Sound familiar?

Yup. That’s Hawkins, as in Stranger Things. And its infamous Hawkins labs, where children with special gifts (think telepathy) were trained to be weapons.

The upside down has entered Toronto.

This is what captured our minutes this week.

Here’s why:

1. This ad is a lesson in the art of subtlety.

There’s no Netflix wordmark. No show logo. Nothing. It just looks like a plain ad.

However, since it’s locally placed, people know there’s no such thing as an energy company called Hawkins Power and Light.

That means that for both fans and non-fans alike, it’s something that immediately piques interest because it makes people curious. While this kind of subtlety can have the opposite effect and be looked over because it’s not obvious enough, it works well here because of how it makes people wonder.

For hard core fans, the fictional universe they love so much becomes that much more real. Those who are less familiar with the Netflix original series begin to engage with a CTA to find out more.

Truthfully, it’s not necessary to always put the brand imaging front and center. That’s the obvious choice and feels typical to consumers because it’s all they see, all day.  

Sometimes the best ads are counter-intuitive.

2. Marketing for Stranger Things has been consistently immersive.

This is so important because it helps tell the story, even when people aren’t actively streaming the show. Hence, keeping it top of mind.

From an AR tour of Joyce Beyer’s house to an AR Demogorgon ready to attack, a lot of the show’s marketing has been focused on creating interactive experiences as opposed to static images or video clips.

By creating a sign that makes Hawkins just a little bit more real, viewers get to interact with the story in a slightly different way than just seeing another preview.

Different stands out.

Not to mention we’re sure that this will help generate further social mentions and conversation, which any brand is a fan of for obvious reason. Though truthfully, looks like it doesn’t need much help in that department. Forbes reported that Stranger things got over a million mentions on social media, with the potential of reaching 1.4 billion people 2 days after the show’s season 1 premiere.

3. Every point in the ad serves a purpose (specifically, the phone number).

We’ve already gone over the well-carried out subtlety. But the other great thing about this ad that helps bring the story to life is that the phone number is real.

Yup. Give it a call. See what happens. Be sure to listen for some vegetation updates…

This isn’t just fun (in comparison to another stale “555” number). It also adds depth to the ad. Because now it’s not just a picture in a frame. It’s a real-life thing where people who call in actually get to interact with Dr. Sam Owens (or, at least a recording of him).

We don’t have any great marketing jargon to throw behind this. It’s just awesome.

Congratulations to Stranger Things 2 on a strong start to season 2 (all 15.8 million viewers of the first episode within 3 days of the premiere). Toronto is embracing The Upside Down (but only theoretically speaking – no crazy tunnels under our roads please).

At the end of the day, people engage with content by lending their minutes. Content is successful when its battery is fully charged with attention.

What will win this week?


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