Last year, National Geographic went all out in promoting "Genius," its first original scripted series, starring Geoffrey Rush as the renowned physicist Albert Einstein. Now, it's preparing to debut season two, which focuses on another brilliant mind, artist Pablo Picasso.
Another big-name celebrity, Antonio Banderas, takes on the title role of the sophomore effort. It centers on the idea of "the man behind the brush" and depicts the artist as the punk rocker of his time The marketing around it--showing the dramatic portraits of the show's various stars, gorgeously "defaced" by thickly-applied strokes of paint, cements the idea.
According to National Geographic Partners EVP-Creative Chris Spencer the key art suggests multiple themes, "from the grace of being touched by art to the downside of being around a genius--the toll it takes and the mark it leaves," he says. "If you were around Pablo, you were going to get some on you--nobody got out unscathed."
Nat Geo worked in partnership with Arsonal on the campaign design, with photography by Kurt Iswarienko.
Spencer wasn't with Nat Geo when season one was greenlit, but he says the network always had the ambition for "Genius" to be a franchise series. "As we continue to push into premium content, a signature scripted franchise was always part of the plan." The success of the first season---it was the network's No. 1 most viewed show in 2017, seen by 86 million people globally and earned 10 Emmy nominations--was incentive enough to have a round two.
This time, however, the show branched out into the realm of art. "It was ... extremely important for us to show the breadth of opportunity this franchise can embrace, so we purposefully did not select another scientist for season two," Spencer says. " I hope that by selecting an artist, we show that Genius can encompass many disciplines--science, art, music, who knows?"
The marketing rollout of season one was incredibly ambitious and included everything from a Super Bowl spot to a film festival. When asked if NatGeo will be going as big in the "Genius" marketing this year, Spencer says, "If anything, we're pushing further. Taking a programming franchise into its second season is the most important moment in the life of the show after its premiere. It has to be bigger, bolder--you must let the audience know that a successful season one was no fluke." He says his team is working with multiple agencies, and forthcoming work will include a Picasso-inspired interactive gallery in New York City, created in partnership with Radical Media.
"Genius: Picasso" debuts on National Geographic on April 24 at 9 p.m. ET/8 Central.