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Engineering a word-of-mouth recommendation for HBO.

HBO wanted to change the standard of steaming recommendations from empty algorithms to something with more meaning, essentially tasking Big Village with engineering a word-of-mouth recommendation campaign.

Our insights team ran a series of qualitative and quantitative research studies. The studies revealed two basic truths:

  1. Television streamers are tired big data and bad algorithmic recommendations, and;
  2. Television streamers’ favorite shows are generally those recommended by their peers
With these insights in mind, our agency team created the Recommended by Humans campaign. Collaborating with HBO and award-winning documentarian Alison Klayman, we developed 36 long-form video recommendations, as well as a human-powered recommendation engine. Streamers immediately gained access to hundreds of recommendations from real fans, with the opportunity to watch the first episode of every human-recommended show for free. We promoted these assets with paid and organic content, spurring fan participation across the globe.

As a bonus, we caught Netflix’s attention, who announced that, moving forward, they would use real humans to curate their recommendations.

The impact? As a result of our work, HBO experienced extensive media coverage from Variety, Wired, and The Verge.

It’s a smart ploy, positioning one of Netflix’s biggest (albeit flawed) strengths as a weakness, as a means to differentiate HBO.
Fast Company
HBO launches ‘Recommended by Humans’ tool to help you escape algorithm nightmares.
The Verge
HBO Launches ‘Recommended by Humans’ Streaming Site in Dig at Netflix.
Actual Humans are HBO’s Newest Recommendation.
HBO’s ‘Recommended by Humans’ Tool Enlists Real People, Not Robots, To Tell You What to Watch.