Last December, Netflix subscribers got their first tease when fake pages for fake TV shows from “Arrested Development” began appearing on the service. Among the phony shows: “Caged Wisdom: Musings From Prison” (“Based on his book Musings From Prison, George Bluth presents his latest collection of motivational discourses on the Jewish faith.”)

Mock Trial with J. Reinhold, from a memorable third-season episode. (“All rise for host Judge Reinhold in this reality courtroom show, with music by American Idol’s William Hung, as he puts families through mock trials.”)

Wrench is the (Rob Corddry-starring) action show about detective Frank Wrench.

Ready, Aim, Marry Me! is the episode of old-timey Western show, Bullet (played by Martin Short), that an Arrested Development episode took its name from.

In January, another subtle Arrested reference appeared on Netflix. Anytime you searched the word “blue” (“Blue Velvet,” “Blue Valentine”), bright blue handprints and smudges appeared on the screen, in reference to the scene featuring a blue-painted Tobias.

The first teaser posters served up more intrigue. The first one featured a bright orange shipping container with the words: “The Final Countdown Begins,” a reference to GOB Bluth’s illusionist theme song.

Then came posters with props related to characters on Arrested Development that, again, could only be truly appreciated by fans. A pair of Never Nude Tobias jean shorts (“Never Say Never”). A lone banana with a “Mr. Manager” name card (“Back in Business”)--a nod to the episode in which George-Michael Bluth (Michael Cera) is put in charge of the family banana stand. A brown paper bag with “Dead Dove. Do Not Eat!!” written on the side (“Hungry For More”), in reference to the time GOB (Will Arnett) stored a dead dove in the refrigerator, hoping he could return it to the pet store where he bought it.

Here we see that Maeby has continued her fraudulent movie career.

The hook-handed Buster loves his juice.

Lucille is still far from lucid.

Lucille is still far from lucid.

Lucille is still far from lucid.

In May, a frozen banana stand hit cities like London, New York, and Los Angeles, where fans waited up to half an hour in line to get a free frozen banana dipped in chocolate. The pop-up stunt included surprise visits--in New York, Ron Howard, the show’s producer and narrator, along with cast member Terry Crews, handed out bananas. And when the stand hit Yankee Stadium, the first 20 visitors received free tickets to the game.

In May, a frozen banana stand hit cities like London, New York, and Los Angeles, where fans waited up to half an hour in line to get a free frozen banana dipped in chocolate. The pop-up stunt included surprise visits--in New York, Ron Howard, the show’s producer and narrator, along with cast member Terry Crews, handed out bananas. And when the stand hit Yankee Stadium, the first 20 visitors received free tickets to the game.

In late May, members of the media were emailed a link to "Insert Me Anywhere." The home page shows a video of Tobias auditioning for James Cameron (“I’m a huge fan. I’ve seen all your work, with the exception of Avatar and Titanic and the Terminator movies. But I did see you on Entourage--so from one actor to another!”) The site then allows you to download a video of Tobias showing off various “styles” in front of a green screen which you can then insert into your own homemade video.

Even the fake advertising on the site is a Tobias-related inside joke: “ManGo! Juice--It’s like having a mango in your mouth!”

People looking to order food on Seamless.com recently may have been surprised to stumble on a page on the site for Bluth’s Original Frozen Banana. Although the fine print did explain that “This restaurant isn’t real,” the joke was taken to great lengths. On the menu were corn balls (a Bluth family tradition) and Prison’s Best Ice Cream Sandwich (a George Bluth favorite).

The Money is In The Banana… #ChickenDance by @origiful

Season four

Season one

Co.Create

From Blue Man To Everyman: Marketing "Arrested Development" For Fans And Newbies

Spanning easy-to-miss Easter eggs on Netflix to banana stands on every street corner, the slow burning, appropriately weird marketing effort for Arrested Development made both hard-core fans and those who missed the show the first time itch for May 26.

It would be hard not to know that on May 26, Netflix will stream a new season of the cultishly beloved TV series Arrested Development. After all, for the past several months Netflix has been building up to the event with a culturally ubiquitous, clever advertising campaign that’s got superfans, the Bluth-curious, and the media buzzing.

From a touring frozen banana stand to blue handprints popping up on Netflix’s search page, the company has engineered a long-running, multi-platform, and fan-delighting campaign. Most interesting, Netflix has managed to create the sense of a mass must-see event while also keeping things incredibly insidery. Most of the promotions, after all, make absolutely no sense to anyone who hasn’t watched the show. Those blue handprints? To get the joke you’d have to know about Tobias Fünke’s (David Cross) Blue Man Group escapades. And the frozen banana stand--which fans know as the place there is always money--is a Bluth family side business throughout the series.

Netflix would not comment on the rollout, but the campaign was created in-house working with vendors such as Brigade Marketing. Then again, the company doesn’t really need to talk--the media is doing that for them. All across the digital and broadcast media, reporters and observers have been weighing in on elements of the Arrested Development countdown. And, according to research company NetBase, the show has generated three times the social buzz as Netflix hit House of Cards. As Ira Kalb, a professor of clinical marketing at the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business, explained, Netflix is “using the media to blow up the publicity and the communications.”

“It’s a lot like what Nike does,” said Kalb. “When they create an ad, it might not necessarily be a brilliant ad, but they make sure it’s a newsworthy thing.” (He referred to the controversial ad that Nike ran earlier this year after disgraced Tiger Woods regained his No. 1 ranking: “Winning Takes Care of Everything.")

Ultimately, Kalb said, Netflix is appealing to core Arrested Development fans through insider references, but it’s betting that strong word of mouth, as well as the “intrigue” factor--created by stunts like the frozen banana stand--will draw in new fans.

“They’re using the frozen banana stand, which is a branding element of the show, like a hook to drag people in. It gets people saying, ‘What is this? Why are people lined up for frozen bananas?’ It’s pulling them in in a way that’s not intrusive.”

In the slide show above, a highlights reel of the months-long campaign.

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