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The Terrifying Way Warner Bros. Promoted Supernatural

Over a staggering 15 seasons, "Supernatural" went from an oddity of late night network television to become a fan-driven success. Following Sam and Dean Winchester (Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles), two brothers who hunt things that go bump in the night, the show drew on inspiration ranging from the horrific to the biblical, carefully weaving a rich lore around its heroes. In its heyday, "Supernatural" gained a zealously passionate fan base, many of whom remain dedicated, even now that the show has ended for good.

Though the monster hunting series found its longest-running home on The CW, it initially aired on the now-defunct WB network. And in a time before streaming, with network television still the king of the small screen landscape, there was often fierce competition between networks to keep as many eyes as possible locked to one's particular station. Often, networks pioneered new methods in guerrilla marketing to help ensure their shows remained buzzworthy, spending millions of dollars on promotional stunts in the process.

This was certainly the case for "Supernatural," which debuted its first season in 2005. With high hopes for their new monsters and demons drama, Warner Bros. cooked up a truly terrifying promotional campaign.

Supernatural deployed specialized mirrors to scare up potential fans

To drive curiosity and viewership for "Supernatural" during its first season, The WB leaned heavily on one of the pilot episode's most shocking images — that of Mary Winchester (Samantha Smith) being pinned to the ceiling by flames (a fate that also befalls one more woman by the episode's end). 

As The Los Angeles Times reported, the network distributed coffee cup sleeves to about 500 coffee shops across the country which, when heated, revealed that image. On top of that, however, specialized mirrors were installed at roughly 200 nightclubs. To anyone looking in those mirrors, it would appear that a woman was pinned to the ceiling behind them. One can only imagine the shock of a person heading to a club bathroom to fix their makeup, only to see a terrified woman stuck to the ceiling above them in a fiery blaze.

While these promotional efforts were certainly eye-catching, it's hard to determine how effective they were. The long shelf life of "Supernatural" alone proves that there was always a built-in segment of viewers who wanted to keep up with the paranormal dealings of the Winchester brothers. 

However, as noted by The Hollywood Reporter, the series pilot garnered 5.69 million same day viewers when it aired on September 10, 2005, and, in terms of all WB and CW shows, it held an average ranking of 4.2 in total views when averaging across all seasons, never falling below 1 million viewers until its fifteenth and final season. Clearly, even now, "Supernatural" fans still have an appetite for more, as evidenced by the fact that The CW has produced a prequel series called "The Winchesters," which will begin airing on October 11.