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5 Clever Viral Campaigns from Big Movie Studios

2012 June 8

We live in a time where technology has made our movie and television viewing experiences convenience based. In a world of TiVo and DVRs, most Americans are not harnessed down by TV and programming schedules, they watch what they want, when they want, and generally this does not include commercials. When the average viewer is quick to fast forward through these sometimes lengthy and always expensive marketing tools, companies have had to begin to think outside the box and develop campaigns that get their product out there in different ways.

The newest, most popular and most effective strategy today is one that can be achieved using a comparatively smaller budget and relies on the consumers to distribute the intended message. This method is called viral marketing and everyone is using it. The idea is to create such a buzz with a video or picture of your product that people begin to share it with everyone they know, using social media, email and word of mouth, spreading it like wildfire. Studio executives are probably the best equipped, with their endless supply of equipment and filming resources, to create amazing viral marketing campaigns. Thus has been born the relatively modern movie marketing technique. Studios are banking on these viral campaigns to draw big numbers at the box office. Here’s a look at a few of the best and most successful ones.

Warner Brothers/ The Dark Knight Rises

The campaign for The Dark Knight Rises by Warner Brothers was nothing short of interactive viral genius. The strategy was to make a sort of game out of “un-locking” pieces of a trailer for the film. On the first day of the campaign a fictional press release was posted on the movies website, stating that batman had left graffiti all over the world and the only way to view the trailer was to un-lock it by finding and posting pictures of the graffiti on social media sites. They provided the locations of the tags in countries all over the world, and fans found them, took pictures and shared them on the web unlocking the corresponding frames in the trailer. The fans had the whole trailer unlocked in a matter of hours and the campaign was a huge success.

Paramount/Iron Man 2

Paramount released a series of newspaper articles with images of Iron Man and text to go along with the pictures. These articles were meant to serve as clues, or “puzzle pieces to some bigger picture; some speculated that they were leading up to a big announcement about a possible Iron Man 3. The idea behind this campaign was to keep people guessing and coming back to the site to see what was new and passing it along to their friends. The studio definitely seemed to peak interest in the film with their choice of marketing technique.

Paramount/ Cloverfield

Paramount created an intricate web of websites on the internet all associated in some way with the film Cloverfield. The campaign started with a simple trailer, shot in the hand held camera style of the film, yet it had no description of the film whatsoever, just a date. Not long after the release of the trailer, the date became its own website containing different pictures of party goers and events surrounding the Cloverfield attack. From the trailer and pictures on that website sprang new websites dealing with more specific elements of the film and its characters. A website containing back-story on where the “monster” may have come from, and MySpace pages for the main characters. The brilliant layers of marketing kept people searching and sharing always wanting to find out more, needless to say, it was a success.

20th Century Fox/ Prometheus

Ridley Scott in conjunction with 20th Century Fox has chosen a viral campaign that continues to create a great deal of buzz leading up to Prometheus’ release in June. Scott has chosen to create a website for the company featured in the movie, Weyland Enterprises, where the main characters work. He has had stars from the film release videos in character on the site, creating a feeling of reality by expanding the world he has created for the film. Recently, there was a statement released on the website that was addressed to “share holders” of the company. The idea behind the campaign is to draw people into the world of the film and create a reality within its world.

Sony/ Resident Evil

The studio followed the popular method to promote this film by creating a website associated with the Umbrella Corporation, a company central to the world within the film. The producers then released a series of films with some of the stars from the film, in character, on the website. What created the really big buzz, however, was when they announced that the company was doing a recruiting tour looking for new recruits. This sparked interest among fans worldwide and left them searching for more in anticipation for the film’s release.

Craig Roberts writes articles for online publications about the way the film industry behaves online. When not researching his latest topic he follows the latest entertainment news and gossip.

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