On September 2nd, Netflix releases the second season of “Narcos”. Based on real-life events, the drama follows the rise and reign of Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar and the Medellín drug cartel. To shorten fans’ waiting time for season 2, Netflix recently launched the Tumblr-based site ‘Narcopedia’, an interactive experience that takes viewers through the history of cocaine and provides in-depth information on the war on drugs. The whole experience draws parallels between the actual events and how they are portrayed in the series.

Narcopedia: A website takes viewers through the history of cocaine and the war on drugs portrayed in the series
A website takes viewers through the history of cocaine and the war on drugs portrayed in the series

With this comprehensive digital encyclopedia, which basically recaps the first season (it does not include the events depicted in season 2 yet), Netflix continues its overarching strategy to build awareness for “Narcos” by bringing the historical, true side of the show to life in the digital space. Although ‘Narcopedia’ does only include the 15 years of Pablo Escobar’s life that “Narcos” covered in season 1, Netflix is also very upfront about what will happen in the second season, claiming that “history is the biggest spoiler” anyway and promoting the show on social media with images bluntly declaring that “Pablo dies” in season 2.

Pablo Dies: Netflix is upfront about Pablo Escobar's fate
Netflix is upfront about Pablo Escobar’s fate

As the series is based on a true story about the wealthiest criminal in history, Netflix has no intention to change aspects of the true events to surprise fans or to keep Escobar alive for more seasons. The magnitude of Pablo Escobar’s life and the Medellín cartel’s wealth, spending and power is so staggering that it is enough to point out the extravagance of the cocaine trade to raise interest for the show.

Mistress, the Los Angeles-based agency responsible for introducing “Narcos” to the audience last year and running the show’s social media channels, therefore built awareness and anticipation for the show by phasing out key thematics and bringing the fascinating true story into perspective. Across Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, the official “Narcos” accounts shared visuals and infographics with compelling facts and figures of the Colombian cocaine trade. Titled ‘#Cokenomics’, the series of visuals featured contemporary and relatable comparisons to let fans truly fathom the wealth and influence of Escobar’s empire.


#Cokenomics presents the staggering numbers of the drug cartel against present-day relatable figures

The posts in the social series earned over 100k engagements and even inspired an interactive, branded content takeover on the website of Wall Street Journal. ‘Cocainenomics’ went live in September 2015, around one month after season 1 was released, and examines different aspects of the drug smuggling business while also incorporating images and clips from the Netflix show.

The same strategy of promoting the show by referring to true facts was also used in separate campaigns for the German and French market. In Germany, agency Kolle Rebbe created trailers, posters and stickers with real facts and quotes that showed the incredible dimensions of Pablo Escobar’s drug cartel.

Posters and stickers all across Germany stated facts and figures about the Medellín cartel
Posters and stickers all across Germany stated facts and figures about the Medellín cartel

To launch the series in France, Netflix and creative agency Darewin invited influencers to exclusive pre-premiere parties that held some creative surprises. All guests found 5€ bills in the back of the taxis that brought them to a secret location. When taking a picture of the bill with the flashlight on, the white imprint #Narcos became visible.

The initiative was a clever reference to the fact that 50% of the 5€ bills in France are contaminated by traces of cocaine. The cocaine bill stunt was accompanied by the release of a clip on YouTube, which explained the true facts about the cocaine contamination of bank notes. The outdoor experience became a social media hit with around 7.2 million impressions on Twitter.

Narcos bills showed that French people are already part of the cocaine business
Narcos bills showed that French people are already part of the cocaine business

The strategy to focus on the astounding truth behind the show in the marketing of “Narcos” pays off. Across social media, the show was the single most talked about Netflix Original in 2015 with 450k mentions (“House of Cards”, which came in second, was mentioned 225k times). Within three months, “Narcos” managed to amass a following of more than 2 million fans across Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and reached over 40 million people (according to Mistress). By continuously touching on the true story and various aspects of the show without necessarily phasing out plot points, “Narcos” can connect to the audience regardless of how much episodes of the show they have already seen. This strategy for “Narcos” makes sense considering that series on traditional television usually release information week-by-week and engage fans parallel to the show’s plot, whereas Netflix released all episodes at once.

To continue the conversation around the show and keep fans consistently engaged far past their initial binge, the “Narcos” channels also react to cultural moments. By creating easily shareable content as real time responses to events such as the September GOP debate, the release of the iPhone 6s or Kanye West’s debt, the show regularly capitalizes on existing social conversations.

Netflix seamlessly ties cultural moments back to Narcos
Netflix seamlessly ties cultural moments back to Narcos

Furthermore, fans of “Narcos” are also engaged in the context of Netflix’s other originals. At the Comic Con Experience 2015 in Brazil, fans could for example pose next to Pablo Escobar or “Orange Is The New Black’s” Alex Vause in a GIF booth by The Bosco.

In Brazil, fans could join Pablo Escobar and the Medellín cartel in a GIF booth
In Brazil, fans could join Pablo Escobar and the Medellín cartel in a GIF booth

In France, an outdoor print campaign by Darewin invited people to face swap with some of the most popular Netflix Original characters (among them was Pablo Escobar, of course). Just in time for season 2 of “Narcos”, fans can also practice their own cartel-running skills in a mobile game based on the show, which was developed by production company Gaumont Television and FTX Games.

Although “Narcos” is a retelling of Pablo Escobar’s life and his fate should be familiar to most people, the fascinating true story behind the show and the powerful writing attract viewers from all across the globe. Escobar’s death, which would normally be considered a major spoiler, is probably the most anticipated scene of the season. How the show will continue after that is still unknown. What is almost certain, however, is that Netflix will continue with the creative and engaging marketing for “Narcos”.

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