Showtime’s "Dexter" Targets His Viewers Much Like His Victims: Successfully

I was in L.A. last October walking with some friends near Hollywood Boulevard and a billboard actually caught my attention (I am usually engaged by GPS or friends). The billboard had the picture of a man smiling covered in blood splatter with the caption, "America’s Favorite Serial Killer." I turned to my friend and asked, "Who is Dexter?" From that point on, I have not missed an episode of the award-winning series "Dexter" and I am excited Showtime has decided to pick up two additional seasons.

For those who don’t know the series, Dexter Morgan is a blood spatter analyst for the Miami Police Department who stalks and kills murderers that have fallen through the cracks of the justice system. Showtime (affiliated with CBS) has hit a home run with this series and season three had the largest premiere audience in Showtime’s history, with 1.2 million viewers.

What is most interesting about Showtime is their use of online search marketing, continued investment in search words from Google and Yahoo! and application of online media to their overall marketing. They have had success and controversy with viral videos, especially the "hit list"campaign where you scare a friend into thinking they are next on a serial killer’s list with a phony news broadcast.

The success of "Dexter" is multifaceted and can be broken down into three categories:

  • Creating Interest – The series has compelling characters, an award-winning storyline and acting that is coupled with creative marketing and a strong multi-media / marketing mix
  • Sustaining Interest – DVD launches before premieres may contribute to increases in website activity during premieres and re-invest viewers in the series
  • Broadening Accessibility – Airing the first season on CBS in February of 2008 increased exposure significantly with a 136% increase in web traffic from season 2 to season 3 premieres

The upward trend of website exposure indicates that the move to fill the gap in the writers’ strike slump with the CBS airing and current marketing efforts were solid moves. Since inception, "Dexter" has won 17 awards (including 2 Emmys and 6 IGN’s) and had 22 nominations (including 6 Emmys and 4 Golden Globes) and, with season three ending in December, I believe 2009 will be another year of accolades for the cast and crew. Showtime gaining exposure on CBS and multi-tiered marketing efforts have prepared "Dexter" for success, I only hope the series maintains its integrity and quality. Season 4 is anticipated to start filming in the spring of 2009 and continue to air in its current time slot on Showtime. The airing of season two on CBS has not been scheduled at this time and I am interested to see how much will be edited out to show on network television – it’s pretty intense.

Side Opinion: The greatest television travesty in my generation was the poor marketing management of Arrested Development by Fox. If Fox had utilized a similar marketing strategy as Showtime, Arrested Development (with its multiple awards) would have had the same commercial success.