Case Study of the Month | August 2023 | Editor’s pick

HBO’s clever and simple approach is an excellent example of the increased relevance of messaging made possible by leveraging zero-party data, and the impact that can have on engagement and results.”

— Rose Keen, Senior Analyst, Econsultancy


HBO Max (subsequently rebranded as Max) wanted to maximise viewing of the film Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore when it premiered on the streaming platform, by driving excitement among existing fans of the Harry Potter/Wizarding World universe in the USA. Using customer engagement tool Braze Canvas, the brand conducted an interactive direct messaging campaign, providing users with content recommendations based on a single survey question. The campaign helped HBO Max beat benchmarks for the launch of the film including viewership, session starts and in-app message click rate.

Objectives and aims

HBO Max wanted to drive engagement and viewership. It aimed to exceed a series of controls and benchmarks for session starts and message click rates for the new film.

Implementation, execution and tactics

HBO Max placed a strong emphasis on zero-party data, defined as first-party data provided proactively by users. This could be gathered through optional user profile sections and through interactive content that tailors experiences and recommendations by asking users for information, avoiding many of the pitfalls of other forms of data.

HBO Max saw an opportunity to use zero-party data for the launch of the third Fantastic Beasts film, by tapping into the widespread popularity and familiarity of the broader Harry Potter franchise. It implemented a single question survey in its app, asking users to name their Hogwarts House – a reference to the system in the Harry Potter stories that divides students into school houses based on their personality characteristics. The survey also offered a ‘choose for me’ option.

Based on the user’s choice, they received either an email or push notification curated for their choice of house. An email was sent if the user was the primary profile on the account and opted in, with a push notification sent otherwise. These messages featured a personalised image with the user’s name and five curated recommendations for titles available on HBO Max, based on the traits of the user’s house.

Because so many Harry Potter fans already ‘knew’ what their Hogwarts House was, little effort was required for them to participate in the survey, helping HBO Max to achieve a click rate for the in-app message 500% higher than the benchmark. The campaign also boosted both session starts and viewership for Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore.


  • Viewership of the title up 3.4% compared to control
  • Session starts (number of people entering the app) increased by 3.1% compared to control
  • Click rate of in-app message up 500% compared to benchmark