Irvington, New York-based House Party has turned the idea of gathering a group of friends around the TV to watch a fave show on its head. The company transforms these casual get-togethers into opportunities to generate big grassroots buzz for TV series before they even hit the airwaves. And so far, Nickelodeon’s Avatar: The Last Airbender and NBC’s adult-skewing The Biggest Loser are just two series that have benefited from the non-traditional marketing tactic.
It works like this: about two weeks before a program debuts, approximately 1,000 specially selected party hosts in the U.S. receive a DVD containing a copy of an episode. Each host then holds an event, plugging the ‘world premiere’ of the series as the main draw. The hosts are encouraged to post blogs, pictures and videos from the party on a dedicated website that’s created and managed by the House Party team, getting an on-line community and word-of-mouth campaign rolling. The website showcasing the Avatar parties held last February features kids dressed up as the characters and drawing pictures based on the series, and there’s even video footage of kid partygoers dancing to the theme song.
In the first 30 days of the three-month contract, House Party will get to work on creating a branded website for the party and wade through host applications to select appropriate candidates from marketing lists or enrollment sites that are advertised by the partner. To qualify, party hosts must own a digital camera, be web savvy, know how to upload images and be able to guarantee a minimum number of attendees.
Although House Party has so far only created events around television programs, its co-founder and president Parker Reilly says he’s eager to get into other kid-targeted arenas such as video games or toys. It can cost about US$100,000 for 1,000 cross-country parties (not including the costs of incidentals, such as providing DVDs) but it varies depending on the number of party attendees and hosts.
Reilly stresses these parties aren’t focus groups, but the wee revelers are encouraged to fill out a questionnaire after watching the show. The partner determines what type of questions will be asked, and House Party will then collect and share the data with its partner during the last week of the contract cycle.