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Black Mirror Season Three: Unblockable Ads

Netflix invests $6B+ each year in original content to be the best streaming service in the world. So when Net ix promotes an original title, the bar is high to create a media campaign that sparks the same joy and cultural conversation created by the content itself.

It was no different for Season Three of Black Mirror on Netflix. Black Mirror was not a tier-one priority and lacked a substantial budget, but our goal still remained: to create an idea so novel that it would offset our modest budget with a disproportionate volume of social conversation.

There was a catch. Now, more than ever, consumers know exactly how to avoid advertising and our target (25–34 tech-savvy, hard-core sci- fans) is highly skilled in this practice. More than two thirds of them had ad blockers installed on one or more devices, making our challenge even tougher. We needed this discerning group of ad haters to not only notice our campaign, but love it enough to become advocates and share it.

Our solution was to reach this unreachable audience with a first-to-market media hack that circumvented ad-blocking software. We selected three of our target’s favorite destinations as our partners: Mashable, The Next Web and Slate, sites that indexed disproportionately high against our target, had scalable audiences and are known for featuring content that gets shared across the web. We worked with each publisher to build our creative directly into their CMS so it wouldn’t be flagged by ad blockers upon page load. The result was a piece of native content reading “HELLO AD BLOCKER USER. YOU CANNOT SEE THE AD. BUT THE AD CAN SEE YOU. WHAT’S ON THE OTHER SIDE OF YOUR BLACK MIRROR?”, a message as unsettling as the series itself.

Social conversation was a testament to our success in creating a moment of joy for these discerning advertising haters, who instantly ocked to social media to share their love for the Black Mirror ads. Our efforts culminated in more than 1MM posts about the series, 30 times more conversation than Season Two. And the conversation spilled into entertainment publications with more than 20 sites globally covering the ad-blocking campaign, directly creating pop culture relevancy and a tremendous amount of earned media.

Season Three also garnered five times more search volume than S2, providing explicit data showing that people were intrigued and wanted to know more. Finally, Black Mirror Season Three made it into the top 15 original shows streamed in 2016 (Source: Symphony Advanced Media).