Inside BBC America’s Mugshot Yourself

BBC America wants to take you back to New York circa 1864 in its first original drama series “Copper” (as in slang for police officer), and with its promotional app for the series “Mugshot Yourself.”

In an effort to create buzz and promote the recently premiered 19th-century “Five Points” drama, BBC America in collaboration with social media agency Socialbomb and Kevin Slavin (co-founder of social game company Area/Code) created the Mugshot Yourself app, which allows you to take or upload a picture that is then blended with likenesses of real old-time criminals. The result is a creepy and cool look at what your old-timey criminal self would look like. It’s your own vintage mugshot. The real vintage mugshots that the app uses come from artist Mark Michaelson’s “Least Wanted” collection.

“We knew that one of the most unique things about ‘Copper’ was its strong sense of time and place – New York in the Civil War era is a fascinating period — and there’s no one out there more adept at creating immersive digital experiences about place than Kevin Slavin,” said Rachel Garcia, associate vp of marketing at BBC Worldwide Americas. “We talked about a number of concepts with him, but the mugshot idea was always a standout, and then bringing in Mark Michaelson’s amazing images brought it to another level that hit on all the touch-points and themes of ‘Copper’ in an interesting way.”

BBC America isn’t new to social media marketing efforts. Its Tumblr page for its show “Doctor Who” won a Shorty Award for “Best Overall Brand Presence on Tumblr.” The “Doctor Who” Tumblr features GIFs, photos and editorial content that connects fans to the show beyond the TV screen. For its new show “Copper,” BBC America wanted to do something different, and as Adam Simon, chief creative officer of Socialbomb, explained, they wanted to make something that was easy to use and fun to share.

Clearly, the “___ Yourself” approach to branded apps has been a popular and successful one (like “Elf Yourself” and “Mad Men Yourself”). People like when they can personalize things and share them.

A challenge was that this format usually works best with shows people already know and love, such as “The Simpsons,” “Mad Men,” and “Copper” wasn’t out yet. So we really had to focus on people’s fascination with New York City, with history, and with true crime — all great subjects — and combine those things in a compelling way.

“We wanted to take that formula in a classier direction,” explained Simon. “When it is an interesting take on your face, your friends naturally want to see that. It’s a valuable object to share.”

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