"Killing Kennedy" captures record ratings and engagement with TV ad targeting


How do you get people to care about a story that’s been told and re-told for 50 years? One network relied on the power of TV x Twitter.

The TV moment

The National Geographic Channel premiered its film Killing Kennedy to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the President’s assassination. The television event traced the parallel trajectory of John F. Kennedy’s presidency and the life of Lee Harvey Oswald, culminating on the day when the paths of the two men crossed. Given the film’s broad appeal and buzz surrounding the anniversary, Nat Geo Channel wanted to pique the interest of new audiences beyond its usual non-fiction watchers.


Twitter campaigns – both paid and organic – are a typical way that Nat Geo Channel builds the online buzz that leads to tune in. But with Killing Kennedy, the network added TV ad targeting to the mix for the first time, extending the reach of its TV ads and connecting with the most receptive Twitter audience at the most relevant moment.

The engaged audience on Twitter

With TV ad targeting, the network delivered Promoted Tweets to Twitter users likely to have seen its Killing Kennedy TV promos across channels and during programs like NFL and college football games.


Nat Geo Channel and its agency Mediahub/Mullen focused on teasing out content from its website kennedyandoswald.com. Provocative images, infographics and video embedded in Promoted Tweets brought a moment in history to life in new ways.


The network also gave Twitter users unique access behind the scenes of the film by promoting Tweets from the social media savvy stars of the film including Rob Lowe, Ginnifer Goodwin and Michelle Trachtenberg.


Mediahub/Mullen actively monitored performance and optimized content based on what Tweets were generating the best engagement. “With TV ad targeting, we can see what messages are resonating most with Twitter users in real time and create Promoted Tweets that keep buzz and campaign performance going strong,” said Laurel Boyd, VP digital media director at Mediahub/Mullen. “The Promoted Tweets with rich media drove strong engagement but Tweets from the cast were a particularly engaging way to draw Twitter users in and invite them to re-examine the story they thought they already knew.”

The ratings success

On the day of its premiere, 3.354 million viewers watched Killing Kennedy, capturing a 1.1 rating among adults between the ages of 25-54 and making it the network’s most-watched program ever. During the telecast, the hashtag #KillingKennedy was the No. 1 trending topic on Twitter in the U.S. and the network’s website experienced record traffic.

With TV ad targeting, Nat Geo Channel averaged a 10% engagement rate on Promoted Tweets (some Tweets by the film’s stars reaching as high as 20%). That’s a 110% increase over the network’s historical average engagement rate. Even more impressive, the network was able to create this lift with an 82% decrease in cost.

“For our network, what is always unique and powerful about Twitter is the open environment: Anyone can participate in the conversation,” says Katy Anadale, Director Digital Marketing at National Geographic Channel. “With TV ad targeting, we can now connect with people who are watching certain programs and seeing our ads. We are now able to reach the exact viewers we want in the exact moment that our programs are top of mind. This drives phenomenal engagement and efficiency.”