‘Twin Peaks’: When David Lynch Killed Showtime’s Marketing Campaign, Here’s How The Network Improvised

Showtime had to figure out some crafty ways to promote "Twin Peaks" after Lynch refused to release any early footage or images.
'Twin Peaks': How David Lynch Killed Showtime's Marketing Campaign
'Twin Peaks': How David Lynch Killed Showtime's Marketing Campaign
'Twin Peaks': How David Lynch Killed Showtime's Marketing Campaign
'Twin Peaks': How David Lynch Killed Showtime's Marketing Campaign
'Twin Peaks': How David Lynch Killed Showtime's Marketing Campaign
13 Images

There are marketing challenges, and then there is what Showtime faced in getting the word out about the “Twin Peaks” revival.

Reboots like “Twin Peaks” promote themselves to some degree, as fans eagerly await any tidbit of information about what has transpired in the years since their favorite show went off the air. But networks will generally have the ability to start teasing the reunion via photos, clips and other teases. With “Twin Peaks,” creator David Lynch kept a firm lid on anything appearing anywhere before the show’s actual premiere on Showtime.

READ MORE: David Lynch Orchestrated Showtime’s Unusual ‘Twin Peaks’ Press Releases

But that wasn’t originally going to be the case. Don Buckley, Showtime’s chief marketing officer, told us Tuesday at the Variety TV Summit that he and his team had actually created a substantial marketing campaign featuring robust print and video materials from the show.

“We visited him and came with a stack of print solutions and pretty creative video solutions,” Buckley said. “And he served donuts as he does. In the middle of it all, he interrupted the presentation, which included some of my colleagues, and said, ‘I think Don and Eric have done a great job!’ And he started applauding, and everybody joined in on the applause.”

Kyle MacLachlan and Naomi Watts in a still from Twin Peaks. Photo: Suzanne Tenner/SHOWTIME
Kyle MacLachlan and Naomi Watts, “Twin Peaks”Suzanne Tenner/SHOWTIME

But wait, there’s more: “And two days later he killed everything we had showed him. The donuts were good though.”

One idea did manage to escape that meeting and come into being, however – perhaps because it didn’t include any actual footage from the show. “It was just an overhead shot of a cherry pie with a piece missing,” Buckley said. “We put that on some billboards in some appropriate locations around the country that had something to do with the story or the mythology of ‘Twin Peaks.'”

READ MORE: ‘Twin Peaks’ Mysterious Cherry Pie Billboards Appear Across the Country

With very little to work with, Buckley said Showtime’s marketing team instead relied heavily on the show’s original Seasons 1 and 2, from 27 years ago. “We had free rein of those materials like the Red Room and the Black Lodge, the bar, the sheriff’s office, the exterior shots,” he said, “and of course, the iconic high school graduation shot of Laura Palmer which we just beat to death in advertising.”

Ultimately, Buckley said the restrictive nature of what Showtime could use in marketing the show “created this blizzard of creativity in our social team.” And he thinks the cone of silence surrounding the show ultimately paid off.

“I think we did it,” he said. “‘Twin Peaks’ broke all kinds of records for us for single-night subscriber acquisition. I think it helped cement the brand quite a bit. We still have 12 parts to go. We’ll see what happens then. It was a challenge and a negotiation.”

The marketing challenge is similar to what the network’s press team faced in promoting the show to press (including the unusual press releases announcing the entire cast and crew, which was orchestrated by Lynch). And it was Lynch himself who orchestrated the “Twin Peaks” revival’s appearance at this year’s Cannes Film Festival – something very few people inside Showtime even knew about until it was announced.

But now “Twin Peaks” is live, the early secrets are out and Showtime marketing execs can go ahead and have another piece of pie.

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