Downton Abbey has enjoyed tremendous attention and affection from its fans and the media over the four seasons the British-bred period costume drama has aired here on PBS’s Masterpiece Theatre. But as with any TV series poised to again compete for viewers against a myriad programming choices across big screens and small, the show needed a publicity pop to put it back on the radar.
The antidote to series complacency arrived this week in the form of a Where’s Waldo-like production photo of the show’s stars dressed in their period attire. The framers of the photo fortuitously missed one minor detail. (I’ll let you find it.)
I saw the water bottle in the â€œDownton Abbeyâ€ photo, but Iâ€™m surprised no one noticed the underwear. pic.twitter.com/ZQu6749OAF
â€” Ellen DeGeneres (@TheEllenShow) August 15, 2014
Now we’ve all heard of musicians and actors doing crazy things just as their next production was about to break. I suppose Miley Cyrus’s X-rated performance on the VMAs a few years back offers the prime example of an artist testing the limits of taste to reap the rewards of broad media attention — good, bad or ugly.
Something tells me, however, that the producers of Downton Abbey would resist anything that would be deemed improper for the sake of some ill-gotten publicity. Whatever stunt they conjure up would have to conform to the show’s staid decorum.
I’m not suggesting that the show’s producers or its PR team purposely planted that 21st century cultural artifact into an official photo promoting the fifth season. But what if they had? That would be some kind of PR genius!
Denizens of social media went bonkers – see Ellen’s tweet above — and late yesterday the show itself jumped onto the buzzwagon to pump up the volume.
Knowing a good thing when they see it, the show added a philanthropic element:
“The cast and crew came up with the idea of turning some of this attention towards an issue around water that really matters,” a statement said.
“They hope that by posing for this picture they will be able to raise awareness and amplify the work of international charity WaterAid.”
How smart are they to give this inadvertent publicity pop some longer legs on the eve of their new season? I’m sure PR people everywhere are now thinking what they can do replicate this PR bonanza. Do I spy an iPhone in the photo below?