It was certainly a Texas-size way to get attention: On February 24 TNT took over a Manhattan gas station to celebrate the Season 3 premiere of Dallas, offering to fill up cars for just $1.98 a gallon. Designed to create a real-life moment for the infamous Ewing family and engage consumers, the activation conceived by marketing and ad agency Grey rebranded a spot near the Lincoln Tunnel and brought in star Josh Henderson to help man the pumps.
“We are always interested in bringing the mythology of the Ewing family to life in new and unique ways. Launching a flagship Ewing Energies gas station in the middle of Manhattan delivers on both fronts,” said Tricia Melton, senior vice president of entertainment marketing and branding for TNT, TBS, and Turner Classic Movies. “And we chose Manhattan because the Ewings's reach and power extend beyond Texas, and their motto is 'go big or go home.'”
For Grey, it was a big undertaking with a lot of moving parts. “This was an exciting initiative built around the notion of blurring lines between fact and fiction. To achieve that, not only did we decide to undercut the competition with affordable gas, but we produced a rich multimedia campaign,” said Claudia Strauss, C.E.O. of Grey's activation and PR division. That included creative development for an entire gas station takeover, a New York Times ad announcing the price cut, and a Facebook sweepstakes for fans to have a chance to win a Black Gold gas card with a $50 balance. For the station itself, Strauss said: “There were permits and permission from the city that were needed, but I wouldn't say it was challenging. They were very supportive of the event from the beginning and worked with us to ensure proper security was in place for the event.”
The promotion proved effective: the Ewing Energies gas station sold about 10,000 gallons of gas in a 12-hour period and serviced around 800 to 1,000 cars. Online, posts about the activation reached 11 million people and generated a total of 193,000 likes, 14,000 shares, and 9,000 comments. A video of Henderson as Ewing promoting the flagship station received 105,000 views between Facebook and YouTube.