FX’s ambitious new Middle Eastern-set drama Tyrant hasn’t just been a hard show to produce, it’s also been a hard one to appropriately market.
Through research, FX discovered that the potential audience was mainly skeptical and split into three groups: Islamophobes, Islamaphiles worried about a negative portrayal, and a neutral group without pre-conceived notions. The point of the marketing campaign was to get the first two groups onboard. Without a star-studded cast, the campaign relied on the natural beauty of the show’s setting to create dramatic posters and key art.
“It’s not that you can never show something that looks like a street riot a la Tahrir Square,” FX CEO John Landgraf tells The Hollywood Reporter. “It’s that, generally speaking, all of it has to have this kind of formalistic exotic beauty to it, because if we can’t seduce people into this world, then we fail.”
The main campaign shows star Adam Rayner dressed in a Western business suit and standing atop a luxurious Persian carpet, set against the backdrop of the sand dunes of Tunisia. “We put him in a desert because we wanted it to be rooted in a landscape that was very mutable and that has a bit of surrealism to it, because power at that level is inherently surreal,” FX marketing president Stephanie Gibbons says. “The rug points to the way to power, but at the same time, it’s on a surface that’s highly unstable.”
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