New HBO Campaign Offers Recommendations by Humans

In a subtle swipe against Netflix’s algorithm-based TV/movie recommendations, HBO unveiled “Recommended by Humans,” a new marketing site featuring 36 video and 150 Twitter recommendations from HBO fans enthusing over new series “Chernobyl,” “Game of Thrones” and “Succession,” as well as older shows such as “Sex and the City,” “The Sopranos,” “The Wire” and “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” HBO put out a call for viewers willing to go on camera to recommend their favorite shows. “The best recommendations come from real people,” said HBO.

Variety reports that “the participants were free to choose which program to recommend and what they wanted to say about it.” The fan recommendations are paired with trailers, “along with the series premiere episode or full film, available to stream for free.” In addition to HBO’s marketing team, agencies Engine and Resn developed the brand campaign. HBO is also “encouraging others to share their own recommendations on social media using the hashtag #HumanReco.”

Wired reports that “as of today, there are more than 50 free episodes and movies … [available] through the Recommended by Humans site.” It suggests that part of the impetus for the new marketing campaign is to “get people hooked before the launch of the streaming service HBO Max in spring 2020.” With only 150 tweets, it adds, HBO’s campaign “doesn’t compare to the digital hive mind of an algorithm like Netflix’s, but that doesn’t mean it won’t catch a few eyeballs.”

Wired suggests that HBO has launched the campaign with a sense of humor, pointing to the home screen, “a series of click-and-drag-able Kool-Aid-colored tiles” with the text that, “We paid [the fans] for their time because we’re not monsters.”

The impetus is that, “at some point, people will likely cap the number of services they’re willing to drop a few dollars on each month,” and that HBO Max “might be on the bubble,” with “high-quality programming but not quite the same amount of volume.”