AMC’s “Mad Men” has come a long way since suspending the Twitter accounts of fans who were tweeting from the perspective of the show’s characters. In the lead up to the third season of the show, “Mad Men Yourself” avatars were an unavoidable presence in social media and elsewhere online.

Ian Schafer, CEO of Deep Focus, led the campaign and spoke at the Social Ad Summit today in New York about how the campaign came together and exactly how much traction it received.

For starters, they learned a lot last year. During the second season of “Mad Men,” fans of the show created fake Twitter accounts that created great word of mouth and good will about the show, but misunderstanding the new medium of Twitter, AMC shut down those accounts.

In the ensuing months, the network started to realize exactly how powerful that sort of evangelism can be for a brand. During the first two seasons, AMC depended on the striking graphics from the show as promotional materials. But the popularity of the show has continued to grow among fans who shared information about the show on social networks and blogs. Teaming up with Deep Focus, AMC decided to leverage the fan base already out there — from the creative to increasing word of mouth.

Illustrator Dyna Moe was a superfan who started creating digital
illustrations of scenes from the show called Mad Men Illustrated. AMC and Deep
Focus liked the images so much that they started wondering — if the
characters in this show were getting this kind of treatment, what if
the fans could too?

They approached Moe to do personalized images for fan and let them insert themselves in cartoon scenes from the show. 

Deep Focus knew that getting to viewers before the show’s
premiere was key. Viewers were twice as likely to watch the show if
they engaged before the premiere.

According to Schafer: “We knew we had to get people engaged with the show before the first
episode of the season. One way, was to create this highly engaging
experience not connected to the show itself, but around the show.”

In addition, creating a cool new app isn’t as important as getting people to share it. Deep Focus knew that 56% of people who looked for info before a show were twice as likely to watch the show when it aired, and 70% of people who watched a show after looking for info before a premiere end up watching the show regularly.

Getting viewers to share information about the new season could have huge implications for viewership numbers. According to Schafer:

“It doesn’t mean anything if it’s only seen between a person and their screen.”

To encourage users to share the experience, they worked with Moe to create a large array of customizable variables to encourage stickiness. Once users created their own avatars, Deep Focus made sure that every image could be shared through the specific metrics of different platforms, whether it be a Twitter icon, a Facebook profile photo or a desktop srcreensaver.

The results were impressive. If you use Twitter at all, you saw people promoting the app through links and through their Twitter icons. It was also shared on blogs and populated much of Facebook. The campaign started in August, and many Twitter users still have “Mad Men” branded Twitter icons. One of those is Andrew Stanton, a Pixar illustrator and director who directed “Finding Nemo” and “Wall-e.” Other influencers who shared info on Mad Men Yourself ranged from Kevin Smith to New York Magazine and Entertainment Weekly.

But it was also the engagement that the campaign resulted in that worked so well for the show. 1 million unique visitors came to the site and 600,000 visitors created avatars. That’s an impressive 60% conversion rate. The campaign also helped contribute to the 3.3 million viewers who tuned in for the first episode.

In the end, AMC and Deep Focus worked to leverage the show’s strengths — engagement in social media, an active fan base and subject matter in the field of advertising — and engaged these people already involved in sharing with an interesting new toy integrated into platforms that are again all about sharing content.

Ultimately, according to Schafer, they “created a reason for even non-fans to promote the experience and, in turn, the series”.