How much do you think viral marketing affects the success of smaller budget films? What films, small or bigger, have you specifically seen because of their viral campaign? When were you aware, when were you interested and when did you finally decide to go see the film based on its viral campaign?
The Blair Witch Project often gets credit for being the first motion picture to exploit the possibilities of the Internet and viral marketing. Since the movie was made on a nothing budget, this free advertising is likely the reason a mediocre horror flick popped a $100 million box office. Blair Witch created a mythos — total bullshit of course — surrounding the titular witch and had gullible people actually thinking they would be seeing a documentary. They would have been better served by bringing a bopttle of Dramamine to the theater.
These types of viral marketing tricks only work a few times before people catch on and shrug their shoulders.
I’d say a viral marketing campaign would have to be someting unique and genuinely original to gain much traction today. But 13 years ago, when Blair Witch was released, the game was different.
“These types of viral marketing tricks only work a few times before people catch on and shrug their shoulders.”
The thing to learn, and what even studios fail to recognize, is that if one person found a backdoor into success, they have typically closed that door behind them by the mere fact of passing through it. What I mean by that is that these isolated cases of surprise hits, as popular and news-hyped as they end up being, are rare and then quickly oversaturated by imitators.
Viral marketing requires a creativity and unique approach that also at the same time somehow manages to hit the (incredibly vacillating, arbitrary) current interests of ‘The Internet’ at the right point and then doesn’t overstay its welcome before the feature is presented and racks up its cash and runs with it. However there are some pretty standard things one should do no matter what the viral marketing campaign, such as updating often and giving away free content and generally keeping a dialog going with those who are interested.
“I have an actor friend who is in a low-budget zombie film shot in Ireland. Shot two years ago, actually. Despite all the hype on Facebook and othr social media sites, the picture has yet to find a distributor and seems destined for a direct-to-DVD release.”
Hardly the worst thing that could happen to the movie. An actor should be proud to be in a feature length movie that managed to be released on DVD. But best of luck to him and the movie.
Certainly wasn’t trying to belittle my friend or his movie, nor do I think that was implied.
The point was that the producer/director’s viral marketing efforts, while extensive, have failed to ingite the sort of interest that might prompt a distributor to pick up the film. Some viral marketing efforts attempt to pre-sell a wee-budget film with the hopes of finding distribution. Other viral efforts involve the distributor, who typically has some money to put behind the campaign.
I think viral marketing can affect the success of all type of films not only small budget ones. In my opinion it has been most successful in the horror genre with the Blair Witch Project and more recently Paranormal Activity. I really liked how paranormal activity was released it was like a roadshow movie where movie goers requested the film to come to their town via their website.
@cinematic cteve In relation to marketing tricks. Here’s the best rick I know. A.I. poster included the credit Jeanine Salla “sentient machine therapist” What the fuck does a sentient machine therapist do??? Every nerd including myself googled it and before we knew it we were involved in a murder mystery set in the year 2122. Clues were scattered everywhere on billboards print ads in the paper etc. I went to see AI because of that.
The AI marketing tricks sound entertaining. I do not personally have time any more to follow up threads and “clews” but certainly recall a time in my life when that would have been fun as a puzzle-solving exercise. Now I barely have time to watch all the films I want to see (sadly, 10 unwatched Criterions on the shelf at this very moment), or read books about them.
That said, I would enjoy reading any studies or research (and, I suppose, good luck in getting a studio to give up that information) on the success of these types of marketing campaigns.
It would be fun to average the cost of the marketing effort against the number of people who bought tickets so you could gauge some sort of ROI. I know politicans do similar metrics in calculating their campaign expenditures on a per-vote basis. I know one shmuck who ran for US Senate some years back and spent $37 and change on every vote he ultimately received in the general election. He still lost.
There is a pretty good book on marketing called Tuned In which discusses the use of user interaction in marketing campaigns, which by extension you can apply to viral marketing. The book uses the case study of the Gold Box on, I believe, TV Guides. The TV Guides mentioned looking for the Gold Box on their magazines and in television shows to win prizes, and that interactive aspect got people to pay more attention to the TV Guides and ultimately saved the magazine. At least, that is what I recall from memory as I read it about two years ago.
However, again like any other form of marketing ploy, you gotta be careful and proceed with caution. Whereas ‘captive audience’ still has a relatively neutral connotation along the marketing aspect (and negative connotation along the criticism of commercialism), lately people have been wondering about ‘captive audiences’ as a privacy violation — for instance, cellphone ads that lock your touch screen until you answer questions accurately related to the information presented by the ad. This is an actual invention that has an actual patent by Apple. They haven’t used it…. yet. But the point I am trying to make here is that if user interaction is your idea for approaching marketing, you still nevertheless have to let the audience decide on its own to interact and/or discover the interactive elements themselves, or else you may frustrate them by impeding their own choice on the matter.
@cinematic cteve what are the 10 Criterions on your shelf? I just watched Criterion’s blu-ray transfer of Bigger Than Life, it looked great. I love Nicholas Ray. Has anyone seen Party Girl? Criminally unseen. One of his best.
@Honest Abe Loved Bigger than Life haven’t heard of Party Girl til I just checked the mubi page.A minor Nicholas Ray sounds appealing,
The cinematography/production design in Party Girl all reminded me a little of Elmer Gantry somehow.
@ Honest Abe.
I buy them on sale and occasionally find Criterions at used bookstores, but they sit on the shelf for months before I watch ’em. Sad.
Still in the shrinkwrap:
Letter Never Sent
The Exterminating Angel
Night and Fog
Make Way for Tomorrow
The Honymoon Killers
For all Mankind
Funny thing is, I found time to update my online collection at Criterion:
@cinematic cteve – I have been meaning to watch Make Way for Tomorrow for a long time now and didn’t realize it was given the Criterion treatment. Thanks for the heads up…I didn’t know “My Criterion” pages existed? Very impressive collection!
I remember when a friend e-mailed me a teaser trailer for There Will Be Blood, that was uploaded to youtube without the studio’s knowledge or permission but they did it anyway and it was great. That’s how I first became aware of the film. My interest was whet as soon as I saw the aforementioned teaser, because unlike most trailers today that near give away the whole plot, this one told me nothing… it just gave me a taste. The way a trailer should be. I followed the campaign right up until the release date and needless to say, saw it opening day and a further 11 more times after that during it’s theatrical run.
@George Gardner – He did the same time again a couple of days ago, releasing a self cut teaser trailer for his new movie The Master:
@honest abe – I’ve seen it, and so it starts again..!
re: the marketing tricks discussed earlier with A.I. and how no detail too small gets past the nerds: The Master teaser was uploaded to youtube by user AlRosePromotions, with this in the description of the video:
“Al Rose Promotions is proud to present our Encore Presentation…..”
…for anyone who doesn’t know, Al Rose was the old-timey estate agent in There Will Be Blood. Very cool. There is only one more video on his channel promoting midnight shows for There Will Be Blood around the time of its release in 2007.
I completely missed that, George – well spotted! I like the suggestion and idea that this film takes place in the same universe as There Will Be Blood.
@Patrick Taylor – In many ways, they did roll Paranormal Activity out like a roadshow movie. I would like to see this method diversified and used for more movies, other than this. Although I am sure studios are studying and constantly trying to replicate that films method to success. After all, it was made for just $15,000 and has so far grossed over $64 million.
Paramount’s main focus was social network sites, twitter/facebook/etc. They told the people that already saw it during it’s tight limited release to “Tweet Their Screams”…ie, write a review of the movie in 140 characters, most of which were positive, letting the audience do a huge part of the viral marketing, in its raw definition, advertising the film through word-of-mouth (not limited to just twitter, mind you). This led to a larger limited release, primarily focused on college towns. After the movie played well in those towns, it was time to roll it out on a bigger, nationwide scale. Their next move was to allow users the choice to demand the film to come to their town, now giving the audience the power to decided where the film will play next (the roadshow aspect, it’s a movie on wheels now). Paramount said that if they reaches 1 million “demands” they would release their hyped up, Blair Witch-esque horror nationally. And the rest is history…
…but going back to the conversation about Al Rose Promotions (!) here’s that other trailer posted to that same youtube channel, asking “Do You Live in….” followed by a list of US cities where, if you lived in one of them, could go see a midnight sneak peak of the film…which almost falls into the same scheme that Paranormal Activity did. Making the movie an event, something special. You, the audience, make the movie come to you. Or go see a midnight sneak preview of a long awaited film before anyone else. Anyway, here’s that trailer below:
This playlist was released on 8tracks.com today: Music of New Penzance Summer 1965 with this in the description:
It is the summer of 1965 on the Island of New Penzance. Music Supervisor Randall Poster has curated a selection of some of the favorite songs of the denizens of the island, all characters in Wes Anderson’s new film, Moonrise Kingdom – in select theatres May 25th.
This is an interesting viral marketing move, and will be the first of many to do this. However, for fans of Wes Anderson (who’s movies are famous for their use of music), this is tailored viral marketing at its best.
Also, on the Moonrise Kingdom 8tracks profile page individual characters from the film have their own playlists. This is genius, especially for a movie like this. I’m interacting with a movie I haven’t seen yet in a completely different way than ever before, while listening to good tunes I get to put a face to the character name.
Suddenly Im very interested in moon rise kingdom really like the 8 track profile page.
@Cinematic Cteve — I went out and bought Make Way For Tomorrow today after you told me it was on Criterion. Superb and heartbreaking movie. I recommend you get it off your shelf and stick it in the DVD player!
very cool thread going on here guys.
Right now I think the Prometheus viral videos are setting the bar quite high. Even if you aren’t a cinephile they play very well at setting up an interesting universe that you want to know more about.
Before that I must admit I though viral marketing of Tropic Thunder was amazing. All of it is on the dvd and blu ray. Releasing the fake trailer for Reign of Madness online before the film hit was genius.