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Pibby and the New Aged Theme Week

By Ben Spaeth

Photo: ComicBook – Source

TV theme weeks are usually when a network decides they want each show to have the same theme for one episode. Those episodes are then aired together and the marketing team comes up with a fun name for the theme of the week. It’s a fun marketing gimmick that isn’t used much outside of holidays and kids television these days.

Recently, Adult Swim did their own version of a theme week on April Fool’s Day to hype the release of their new show Pibby: Apocalypse. In the show Pibby fights off glitched out and uncanny versions of famous Cartoon Network and Hanna-Barbera characters after her friend is kidnapped by black pixelated ooze. Unlike most theme weeks though, Adult Swim did not air new episodes with similar themes. Rather they slightly altered each episode to fit the uncanny theme. For instance, Adult Swim aired an episode of Rick and Morty that had previously aired. However, in the beginning, the black ooze can be seen outside the window of the Smith house. There’s also a moment in the episode where Morty stops talking and his eyes roll into the back of his head and then the same pixelated black ooze appears before quickly cutting back to the regular broadcast. Similar events happening in other shows including the non-animated ones. In the Eric Andre Show they have a glitched out Eric Andre to shoot Hannibal Buress.

This type of theme week is fitting for a network like Adult Swim. The effect is very surreal and simple enough to add into each episode. Each show only had one instance in which the characters interact with or become glitched out, but it still feels similar enough that they all feel cohesive. Adult Swim also posted the entire stream on YouTube, so that as many people as possible could view the uncanny moments as they originally aired. Perhaps in the future, other networks will be able to promote their new shows in a similar way. This way subtly slips advertising for their new show into their regular programming in an interesting way that doesn’t feel like an ad. Rather an expansion of the Adult Swim universe. What’s additionally great about this method is that Adult Swim had to produce very little new content to create this effect. All they had to do is add one short animated sequence to each episode of their regular lineup of shows. In a way, the characters not acknowledging the theme makes it even more creepy and effective.

I don’t know if this strategy would work necessarily for other networks and shows, but it works perfectly for Pibby: Apocalypse. If this was promoting a show that wasn’t as surreal or hair-raising as Pibby: Apocalypse I don’t think it would’ve been as effective and I think the insertions would’ve been more intrusive. With that being said though, I could see how a few changes in approach could make this technique work with marketing other shows on other networks. As long as the bits inserted into a show are both entertaining and directly connected to the show that is being marketed, the campaign will probably be a success and hailed as unique and creative just like the April Fool’s Day Pibby: Apocalypse broadcast. This would be a much cheaper way of doing a theme week and it promotes a new show at the same time. It is perhaps the most bang for your buck that you can get out of a theme week.

I hope networks utilize this crossover format more. Especially in animated shows where the barrier to crossover is lower. It doesn’t have to be on the scale of the Family Guy Simpsons crossover, but the subtle crossovers like in the Pibby: Apocalypse campaign can be used as effective marketing.


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