Netflix is becoming a pro at creating online experiences for fans that go beyond streaming its original hits.
Take season two of 13 Reasons Why: In the weeks leading up to the release, showrunners created finstas for each of the show's characters as a way to drop spoilers and clues about the episodes ahead. These aren't low effort promotional stunts, either: Each account has at lease twelve posts complete with captions and tags, saved Stories, and an aesthetic carefully crafted to match the character.
Type "TalkToTheReasons.com" into your search bar on your phone (you need to have the most up-to-date version of Android Chrome or Safari), and you're taken to a mock iPhone home screen, complete with Instagram, Houseparty, and, yes, Netflix. You don't have complete control over the screen: Incoming notifications from Instagram and iMessage prompt you to tap to move through the experience.
Even though it is undoubtedly a promotional play, the site is an immersive experience that is even more accessible than the ones other companies have tried to create with augmented reality. That's because the experience is built for you to take part and interact with the characters: You can accept a FaceTime call from Tony and, when the microphone icon turns green, "talk" to the character with your answer determining what he says next, à la a choose your own adventure story. When you join a Houseparty chat, your responses become a vital part of the conversation. All the while, you're getting texts from different characters, making for a bizarre out-of-the-phone experience as your screen starts to feel like the iPhone of a "real" classmate at Liberty High.
The only downside of the site is that if you leave and go back at a later point, you start at the beginning of the experience. You need to go through the same calls and Instagram notifications to catch up to the point where you left off, making the experience seem less realistic, and more automated. Still, for a promo stunt, this is one that manages to move beyond the screen.