How Disney Plus & National Geographic Launched the Show “Edge of the Unknown”
Purpose of This Research
To identify the content and marketing strategy that contributed to the successful rollouts of Disney Plus’ “Edge of the Unknown” by:
- Assessing the launch timeline for the show
- Identifying key players in the distribution of content
- Highlighting factors that helped create a successful campaign
Rather than focusing on Pre-Season advertising, National Geographic and Disney Plus focused all their organic and paid promotional efforts during September, the month of the documentary launch.
- Actionable Recommendations
Promoting during the On Air season is key, especially on a limited budget. Focus a significant portion of your ad budget on the "On Air" phase to generate buzz during the launch period and maximize impact. It's a good move for optimal engagement and results.
Disney Plus focused its entire advertising budget on Display ads, specifically targeting News & Information websites like Yahoo and MSN, as well as Health and Fitness websites such as Men's Health.
- Actionable Recommendations
Disney Plus is targeting a very broad audience by advertising on general News & Information websites. Take advantage of this white space opportunity and advertise your display ads on niche websites relevant to your core audience.
- Actionable Recommendations
Tailor your promo videos to fit the platform and target audience preferences more effectively. For Instagram, go for short-form videos that highlight the show's best moments. On YouTube, create a captivating trailer specifically designed for the platform's longer video format.
Disney Plus collaborated with the Instagram account "People Are Awesome," boasting 1.2M followers, as they both cater to thrill seekers and adventurists, making it a perfect match. This influencer generated the highest engagement for the brand.
- Actionable Recommendations
Identify influential social media accounts or platforms that cater to the same target audience and explore partnership opportunities to expand your reach.
National Geographic took the stories of the athletes featured in the documentary and transformed them into bite-sized clips, perfect for sharing on social media.
- Actionable Recommendations
National Geographic created 4 unique video assets featuring athletes’ stories. Create unique video assets using snippets from the documentary that capture the essence of the athletes' journeys in a concise and engaging format.
“Edge of the Unknown” is a National Geographic documentary series that is featured on Disney Plus.
- Premiering September 2022, the show goes inside the minds of elite adventurers as they share stories of confronting fear, loss, and Mother Nature at her harshest.
- The show is directed by Jimmy Chin, a professional mountain athlete and film director, and contains 10 episodes spanning over 1 season.
- Edge of the Unknown is a cross-disciplinary series that features athletes in sports ranging from climbing, surfing, kayaking and more.
Andor received the highest ad spend budget, followed by The Mandalorian and The Falcon & The Winter Soldier.
On average, it spent $5.5M on each show.
*Between July 2022 - April 2023
Worldwide Search Interest for “Edge of the Unknown” & “Jimmy Chin”
*A value of 100 is the peak popularity for the term. A value of 50 means that the term is half as popular. A score of 0 means there was not enough data for this term.
When the series launched in September 2022, the term “Edge of the Unknown” & “Jimmy Chin” saw a +425% and +240% increase in average interest.
Disney Plus’ “Edge of the Unknown” website saw an average of 1.9K monthly organic unique website visitors.
National Geographic's “Edge of the Unknown” website saw an average of 6.8K monthly organic unique website visitors.
This does not correspond to the number of individuals streaming the show, but rather those who visit the website's main page to gather additional information.
“Edge of the Unknown” has two main segments to their production and release schedule: Pre-Season and On Air.
Pre-Season saw very little promotion, totaling only 6 organic posts and 3 paid ads from Disney Plus and National Geographic.
On Air season saw the greatest amount of posts, totaling 8 organic posts and 14 paid ads from both Disney Plus and National Geographic.
Disney Plus published only 3 posts each during Pre-Launch & On Air periods. One post was made on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for each period.
Posts made on Instagram performed the best, totaling 138K views and engagements between Pre-Season and On Air season.
Disney Plus featured 2 pieces of content posted across 3 platforms.
- On August 5, 2022, one month before the Edge of the Unknown season premiered, 3 posts were made on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook that generated 101.5K views in total. The posts all utilized the same creative asset and caption, featuring Edge of the Unknown’s trailer (94 seconds).
- On September 7, 2022, the official release date for Edge of the Unknown, 3 posts were made on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook that generated 72.4K views in total. The posts were all identical and utilized a more condensed version (18 seconds) of Edge of the Unknown’s trailer.
- Captions were used throughout the entire video for both posts.
Instagram | Views 71.8K
Twitter | Views 20.1K
Facebook | Views 9.6K
Instagram | Views 42.2K
Twitter | Views 24.5K
Facebook | Views 5.7K
National Geographic published 8 organic posts about “Edge of the Unknown” from Aug. to Sep. 2022.
The Edge of the Unknown trailer on YouTube garnered 82% (268K) of the total views and engagements during Pre-Season.
National Geographic featured 2 pieces of content in August 2022.
- On August 4, 2022, one month before the Edge of the Unknown season premiered, 2 posts were made on YouTube and Twitter that generated 311.4K views in total. Both posts featured Edge of the Unknown’s trailer (94 seconds).
- On August 26, 2022, a week before the official release date for Edge of the Unknown, 1 post featuring clips of Alex Honnold, a famous rock climbing athlete featured in Edge of the Unknown, was shared on YouTube generating 10.4K views in total.
- Captions and video audio utilizes copy that speaks to an adrenaline junkie by utilizing words such as “stare down fear”, “risk it all”, and “push limits of human potential”.
Twitter | Views 47.4K
Athletes’ stories in the documentary were edited for promotion pieces.
- Throughout September 2022, 4 posts were made on TikTok, Twitter, and YouTube that generated 187.2K views in total.
- All of the posts featured snippets of an athlete’s story that were filmed for the documentary. By featuring famous athletes such as Jimmy Chin, Alex Honnold, Justine Dupont, and Conrad Anker, the posts entice the viewer to learn more about the athlete’s story by watching the documentary series.
TikTok | Views 68.5K
Twitter | Views 53.3K
YouTube | Views 31K
Twitter | Views 34.4K
Digital Advertising Attribution
- Top Spends. Edge of the Unknown ads saw top spends in the On Air Season period in alignment with the documentary’s September 2022 launch, while the Pre-Season saw the lowest investment.
- On Air Season. Display dominates On Air Season ad formats at a spend of $123K from Disney Plus. TikTok comes in second at a spend of $84.3K from National Geographic.
During the month of launch, National Geographic spent $108K on 3 ads. 78% of the ad spend was attributed towards TikTok.
$84.3K on TikTok, $23.3K on Instagram, and $400 on Twitter.
The campaign only ran for one week during the season premiere.
- All ads were promoted between September 1-7, 2022, during the week of the premier and the initial launch date of the documentary.
- The ad promoted on TikTok & Instagram utilized the same 18-second video but sized in different formats for each platform.
- The ad promoted on Twitter was a retweet from famous athlete, Alex Honnold. Promoting an ad that features his profile adds to the credibility of the documentary and entices the interest of more viewers.
Spend: $23.3K |Imp.: 3.1M | CPM: $7.5
Spend: $400 |Imp.: 60.6M | CPM: $6.6
Between Aug. ‘22 and Sep. ‘22, Disney Plus spent a total of $123K on 14 display ads.
95% of the total ad spend budget was attributed to the month of launch (September 2022).
Disney Plus only used one visual creative for display ads that was modified for different formats to increase ad recognition.
- All the ads featured Jimmy Chin’s name and were posted between August 29 to September 11, 2022.
- All the ads contained the same creative, in different sizing formats.
- Ads featured both the logos of Disney Plus and National Geographic.
- The weekly episode release date and time were centrally displayed in the ad.
- All ads contained a bright yellow call-to-action button asking viewers to “watch now”.
Disney Plus mainly promotes their ads on News and Information websites.
Partnerships featured news channels, athletes & sports accounts.
- In September 2022, 31 influencer posts were shared on Instagram using the hashtag #edgeoftheunknown.
- The influencer partnerships featured multiple ABC news channels such as: ABC LA, ABC NY, ABC Houston, ABC Bay Area.
- The influencer partnership that had the most views and engagements came from an account called People Are Awesome, which features videos of people performing extreme sports or unique hobbies.
- 35% of the influencer posts used the same caption.
- Athletes such as Justine Dupont, Alex Honnold, and Sarah Mcnair, who were featured in the documentary, posted on their profiles about the launch date.
Featured athletes used the same creative with different captions for promotion.
National Geographic sent one email that promoted Edge of the Unknown.
- Subject Line: What to Watch: Go on a nail-biting journey to some of the harshest, most spectacular corners of the world with “Epic Adventures with Bertie Gregory”
- National Geographic sent one email that mainly promoted explorer, Bertie Gregory, and his new show and podcast episode. At the end of the email, National Geographic adds in a small promotion for Edge of the Unknown.
- The email contained a short description of the show, calling out Jimmy Chin and the different disciplines of sport that would be featured within the documentary (i.e: big wave surfing, polar explorers, etc.).
- Email was sent on September 8, 2023, three days after the official episode launch date.
Blog promotions of Jimmy Chin increased website referrals to Edge of the Unknown landing pages.
- Between September to November 2022, National Geographic (164 referring domains) and Disney Plus's (20 referring domains) Edge of the Unknown landing pages were referred to by 184 different domains.
- Blog promotions that only featured a specific athlete such as Jimmy Chin (1) or Angel Collinson (2), always mentions the Edge of the Unknown documentary in the initial paragraph of the blog. These referring links to the Edge of the Unknown landing pages have helped refer new audiences to the documentary.
- Being featured on a "what to watch" list, on Glamour, expanded the show's reach beyond its core audience, reaching new and diverse viewers.
Timeline is a visual representation and is not to scale.
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