Secret Sofa

Building a communal cinematic experience during lockdown


The world stopped. Live events died a death. Budgets slashed. Brands retreated.

When the pandemic hit, experiential marketing was facing down the barrel of the unknown and Häagen-Dazs planned summer collaboration with Secret Cinema was over in a heartbeat.

To save their summer, Häagen-Dazs had to act remotely, and fast. The challenge was posed – how could we retain a communal cinematic experience, whilst remaining apart?

Introducing Secret Sofa, Presented by Häagen-Dazs.

In just three weeks, we virtualised a communal experience in a completely new way by bringing real life immersive cinema into our homes. Mirroring a rapid shift in social media behaviour brought on by the pandemic, we drew audiences into the worlds and stories around some of our best-loved films through a multi-channel social experience.

Film is cultural common ground for Häagen-Dazs and, with readily available streaming platforms, entirely accessible for UK audiences at home. Secret Cinema has a world-famous track record of creating immersive real-life 360* experiences around film, encouraging the audience to participate in the storytelling itself. It’s an environment where people are encouraged to let go, and ‘Don’t Hold Back’ – a key mantra of Häagen-Dazs’ communications.

So, for eight Fridays in 2020, the rejuvenated partnership culminated in a layered weekly event across Facebook Live, Instagram, TikTok and email.

Our strategy sought to mobilise existing communities from Secret Cinema events and extend our reach through a rapid increase in social media use. Vital to the concept was building excitement through a shared experience. It needed to step beyond just watching and commenting. To make this happen, fans would join the story every week as it unfolded via influencers and participants across multiple platforms. Very quickly, the campaign tapped into different aspects of lockdown life in a way audiences felt connected to as we sought real-life connection through digital platforms

Deepening the immersive aspects, an Amazon Prime partnership brought rotating ice cream flavours based around cinematic themes and challenges that unfolded each week.

With social channels drawing participants into movie-inspired stories and content each week, fans united over thematic roles, interactive character narratives, ice cream pairings via Amazon and surprise live performances, all culminating in a Facebook Live pre-event and shared film screening.

Including a TikTok debut for the brand, the work achieved unprecedented positive sentiment and a dramatic sales uplift, creating new ‘cultural moments’ that brought communities together. Secret Sofa was born from an agile partnership, a supportive ethos and unified vision to keep creating moments of joy that will last.