I’ve been quite disappointed with the lack of creativity in viral movie marketing since the brilliance of the Blair Witch campaign.
The new Diane Lane thriller “Untraceable” about a killer who uses a web site to get his kicks is a good example of why. I went to the site expecting a great viral campaign — especially since it was created to appear as if it belongs to the murderer in the film — only to find it offers nothing more than memory games and word games like hangman.
However, I’m excited that the new movie campaign for “Cloverfield“ has really come through! Last year, as I sat in a theater waiting for “Transformers” to begin, a trailer played bearing no movie title, no actors’ names. Nothing. All it said was “JJ Abrams” and “1.18.08.” That’s it.
Trends Reporting for July 2007 (when that first trailer aired) shows that Google searches for “JJ Abrams” and “1.18.08” spiked sharply in the early part of the month. I admit, I was one of those curious Googlers.
Shortly after that title-less trailer aired, cryptic messages and seemingly random images began appearing on targeted movie message boards so fans (and film nerds like myself) would try to decode clues about the movie’s plot and title. Over the course of the next six months speculation about the film ran rampant on blogs and boards. A few years back I had a lot of fun and success conducting a similar movie campaign — I found the less information I put out there, the more conversation I could spark online.
One of the things I like so much about the Cloverfield campaign is that like, Blair Witch, the clues blended fiction and reality. Fake news clips began appearing on YouTube and sites popped up claiming the story is real, often providing “proof” in the form of more clues which kept people engaged and guessing.
Now, Cloverfield has opened at #1 (breaking Titanic’s record for biggest January opening). So, a great big kudos to these folks for a truly creative and effective campaign.
On a sad note, I’m sure you’ve all heard about the tragic death of the talented young actor, Heath Ledger. I’ve read that the promoters of the upcoming Batman movie, The Dark Knight were supposed to kick off a spectacular viral campaign involving direct communication from Heath’s character, the Joker. My pals in the Hollywood marketing world are telling me the strategy was completely original and would, as one of them said “really knock my socks off.” But, with Heath’s tragic death, there is talk of scrapping the planned campaign. We’ll see what happens with that. (Be sure to visit the Dark Knight link above in case they take it down to go in a different direction.) On a side note, the poster for this movie is one of the best I’ve ever seen. While I understand moving the campaign’s focus away from Heath’s character, man o man do I love that poster!