If you’re ever in Los Angeles and suddenly see every wall, billboard and flat surface plastered with posters of various television shows including the letters “FYC” on it — don’t panic. It’s just Emmys season. Los Angeles is the city of made-up industry seasons, such as “Oscars season” and “pilot season.” So it makes sense that the city also has a designated time of year for networks to aggressively tout their television shows to the 25,000 Academy of Television Arts & Sciences members, hoping to gain recognition at the prestigious Emmys ceremony.
Campaigning for awards has been around since the Emmys began. It wasn’t until HBO stepped up and began heavily funding their campaigns in the 1990s, however, that lobbying for nominations and votes became an integral part of the race. With the arrival of wealthy streaming giants such as Netflix and Amazon in the early 2010s, “For Your Consideration,” or FYC, campaigns became popular spectacles to dazzle Emmy voters.
Although there is tentative proof as to whether high-budget awards campaigning correlates to the number of golden statues won, there is something to be said about the new type of publicity shows get with viral campaigns. While at its core the season is about appealing to the awards’ voters, Emmy campaigns have now turned into niches of publicity appealing to the general public as well. Let’s take a look at some of the most memorable Emmy campaigns of all time:
“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”
On Aug.15 this year, Amazon broke Los Angeles by introducing yet another made-up holiday: Maisel Day. In honor of the show’s 20 nominations (and to remind Angelenos in the academy to vote for the show), the online retail company turned streaming giant transported Los Angeles back to 1959 when “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” takes place. Amazon even offered products from various retailers, but with 1959 prices. Get $0.99 sandwiches or $2 blowouts! Spend a night at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel for $40! The $0.30 gallon of gas deal caused such a traffic jam, in fact, that police had to intervene and shut the Chevron event down. Only in Los Angeles!
CBS darling “Mom” made headlines in 2017 when producers and stars announced plans to donate their entire FYC budget toward Planned Parenthood. It was a generous move and a great political statement against the current sociopolitical climate, but also a brilliant PR stunt that kept this show starring Anna Faris relevant in the news longer than an actual Emmys campaign might have.
“The Handmaid’s Tale”
After releasing its terrifying first season, this Hulu heavyweight opted for a viral FYC campaign strategy. One dystopian weekend in June, the show had 38 women dress up as handmaids and solemnly infiltrate Los Angeles streets and hot spots. Angelenos looked on in bewilderment as handmaids, in their iconic red and white outfits, strolled around the Sunset Strip and lounged at LACMA. With social media doing all the work for Hulu, photos and videos of these handmaids quickly spread across the internet — sneakily becoming a memorable campaign.
Netflix’s annual “FYSEE” event
Leave it to Netflix to take a simple concept like campaigning and turn it up to 1,000. Although not a campaign for a specific show, in an annual event called “FYSEE,” during Emmy nomination season, Netflix rents a warehouse and fills it with exhibits and panels of its contenders. Those lucky enough to be invited can enter Netflix’s professional party and mingle with the “Stranger Things” cast, play with the interactive “Black Mirror: Bandersnatch” game and take Instagram-worthy photos at the “Queer Eye” booth.
In the age of peak television, it makes sense that the Emmys race has become increasingly competitive. The recent surge of elevated campaign strategies has become an attraction itself — you don’t even have to know what the “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” is about to enjoy a $0.30 gallon of gas. As subscription channels and streaming services up the ante on catching the eyes of the voting members, broadcast networks fall behind, only gaining the same amount of headlines as HBO and Netflix peers with something radical, like a Planned Parenthood donation à la “Mom.” Regardless of whether or not the campaigns make a real impact on the awards, Emmy season in Los Angeles is always a treat to watch — as Hollywood transforms into a television bonanza.
Julie Lim covers film. Contact her at [email protected].