Showtime lets fans access ‘Shameless’ family group chat with SMS play

Dive Brief:

  • Showtime partnered with messaging platform Community on an integration promoting the eleventh and final season of “Shameless,” per details shared with Marketing Dive.
  • U.S. fans 18 and older can text +1 (708) 578-7099 to enter the group chat of the Gallaghers, a dysfunctional family of Chicagoans at the center of the series. Once the text is sent, a prompt dares the receiver to enter the chat through a link to Community featuring the official Gallagher page. Visitors must register for Community to enable the conversation.
  • Showtime is sharing the phone number across its social media channels, with the push expected to last through the “Shameless” series finale in March. The partnership marks the first time Community has run a real-world text exchange with fictional characters, showing how the platform can enable fan experiences in the absence of in-person events.

Dive Insight:

Showtime is turning to SMS to engage the “Shameless” fan community and give the long-running series a proper send-off. Networks typically promote major developments for their shows at gatherings like Comic-Con, but in-person events remain on hold as the pandemic nears the one-year milestone in the U.S. Meanwhile, mobile channels have seen a spike in engagement as homebound consumers look to stay connected.

Community to date has largely been used as a means for celebrities and brands to plan and manage conversations with their fans via text messaging. Clients can share a number that opens access to a larger chat once people register. The platform does not sell ads or personal data, according to its website. It positions its service as a category of communications called “social messaging,” described as the ability to “pair the simplicity of a text message with the scale of a social network.”

Showtime is looking to create a feeling of authenticity with the Gallagher group chat. Sample texts show conversations replete with the family’s excessive swearing and cattiness, hence the 18-plus age gate on the campaign.

Other brands have put more resources toward SMS promotions as the pandemic keeps people glued to smartphone screens. For National Avocado Day last July, Chipotle gave mobile users a chance to win free guacamole for a year by guessing secret passwords in text messages.

Community is among a number of chat apps experiencing newfound traction due to COVID-19. Discord, a similar service that’s more closely linked to gaming, last summer secured a $100 million round of funding that boosted its overall valuation to $3.5 billion, according to TechCrunch. WhatsApp has also seen usage climb, but parent company Facebook’s attempts to implement new privacy policies have led some users to chat elsewhere. Facebook recently delayed WhatsApp changes that were supposed to go into effect Feb. 8 to iron out confusion over data sharing between its platforms.

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