For ‘Rocky Horror Picture Show,’ Fox Asks Fans to ‘Transcend Their Expectations’
Campaign to promote live reimagining of cult classic started with the original’s many fervent fans.
by Sasha Orman
To promote The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Let’s Do the Time Warp Again, an all-new reimagining of the 1975 cult classic, Fox is asking one thing of its longtime fans and newcomers alike: transcend your expectations.
Fox’s “Transcend Your Expectations” marketing campaign was conceived with duel objectives.
“One, we are going to deliver on what you love about this show — therefore, how do we capture the nostalgic fun and scandalous, rebellious moments that were so key to the film when it first came out?” said Angela Courtin, executive vice president and chief marketing officer at Fox. “Also, that there’s something new even for existing fans and new for fans who have seen Rocky Horror Picture Show but never really partaken in the experience — how do we make it feel fresh and contemporary and fun?”
Success on those terms requires larger-than-life tactics, and a fundamental understanding of what makes Rocky Horror such a unique and beloved entity. To achieve that, director and choreographer Kenny Ortega and the Fox team did their homework, working with the Rocky Horror Picture Show fan club and partnering with Verve Mobile to geofence midnight screenings of the film and gain insight into theRocky Horror community.
“What really came through is there were friends that would come from the same neighborhood and would travel to major cities to be a part of the experience — some of them every Friday,” said Courtin. “So how could we replicate that online in a more digital community fashion?”
Audience participation, centered around weekly midnight showings of the film, has been a cornerstone of Rocky Horror culture throughout the film’s history. To replicate the community and interactive aspects of Rocky Horror culture, Fox turned to social media.
One digital campaign, launched in September over Twitter, pairs midnight screenings on Hulu and Fox Now with exclusive content from clips to cast Q&As every Thursday at 11:59 P.M. EST.
Elsewhere, the #DontDreamItBeIt campaign calls fans to contribute user-generated content focused around themes such as hope and transformation, while the Virgin’s Guide provides an entry point into the rituals and motions of midnight viewings.
“This is all about fan participation,” said Courtin. “We’ve really worked with the Rocky Horror Picture Show Fan Club to dig out those elements that were so rich in terms of participation. Our social team has been creating all the elements — GIFs as well as video and graphic tutorials — that teach a newbie what to expect and how to participate and further amplify the enjoyment of the event.”
To ensure that this Rocky Horror revamp exceeds expectations for even longtime fans, Fox went straight to the source.
“This is a rich IP with 40 years of legacy behind it, and obviously one of the most active fan bases still today,” explained Courtin. “So one, it was just making sure that the people who loved it would know that we were honoring it, then it was about how do we build out from there.”
This meant working hand-in-hand with original and current producer Lou Adler as well as the president of the Rocky Horror fan club. This bridging of past and present productions culminated with the casting of Tim Curry, the original Dr. Frank-N-Furter, in the role of the Criminologist Narrator.
“That stamp of approval from them was so important,” said Courtin. “Tim Curry being a part of the show was a tip of the hat to our fans, and his endorsement was so great.”
Even buildings and billboards were challenged to go above and beyond in service of this campaign. In Times Square, a billboard installation rotates from showcasing the cast to giving onlookers a step-by-step lesson on doing the Time Warp.
Meanwhile, Adler’s own Roxy Theatre in Hollywood underwent its own transformation for the production’s world premiere on October 13, painted entirely red in honor of the release.
“It was a big day for us,” Courtin noted. “The city of West Hollywood proclaimed it Rocky Horror Picture Show Day, and we used the screening and event to pay homage to Lou Adler and his beautifully-conceived film from the Broadway show, and brought [as many of] the cast and characters back as were able to travel and be a part of the reimagination. It was a really great confluence of past and present elements.”
Through its immersive campaign, Fox aims to give seasoned fans and virgins alike something new to love about Rocky Horror.
“We’re really honored to be a part of this show,” added Courtin. “and to have a house and a home at Fox.”
Rocky Horror Picture Show: Let’s Do the Time Warp Again stars Laverne Cox, Victoria Justice, and Ryan McCartan, and premieres Thursday, October 20, at 8/7c.
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