Every year, Hollywood spends billions of dollars marketing their films. After awhile though, people get tired of seeing plain ol’ posters and movie trailers. Nowadays, if the studios want to get everyone’s attention, they have to think outside of the box. And social media and technology has made this feat easier than ever. Viral videos and interactive websites have become a simple way for movie companies to get noticed. Take a look at some of the most interesting campaign ideas we’ve seen over the years:
The Blair Witch Project (1999)
Now sixteen years old, The Blair Witch Project remains one of the best marketed movies of all time. On a budget of only 20,000 dollars, the producers saw a return of almost 250 million. How? By playing along with their own charade. The movie follows three filmmakers as they attempt to uncover the mystery of the “Blair Witch”; they enter the forest and are never heard from again. To create a sense of mystery around the film, the producers created a site, blairwitch.com, which featured childhood pictures of the missing actors as well as the tale’s backstory. Taking it a step further, IMDb listed the actors in the film as “presumed dead” on their site, fueling the speculation that the “found footage” film was actually real.
You wouldn’t think advertising Stephen King’s classic story Carrie would be too difficult (throw some fake pig’s blood on the ground and call it a day), but this 2013 was hard to sell, even with the wonderful Chloë Grace Moretz. People just don’t like remakes. Luckily, the film’s executives figured out a clever way to generate some positive buzz. In a hidden camera experiment, producers tested how NYC residents would react to an angry telekinetic girl in a coffee shop. If you’re thinking “with fear and confusion,” you might be right.
The Ring Two (2005)
There’s no better way to remind people of Samara and the killer VHS tape than to strike the fear of God/a dead girl into them by simulating the experience. In 2005, producers of this scary sequel created a website, www.7daysleft.com, that allowed users to enter the email and phone number of a friend or relative. When said person would view the mock videotape online, their phone would ring and a chilling voice on the other end would inform them that they had seven days left to live. Most people realized the campaign was a hoax when their selfies didn’t come out blurry a few minutes later, but it was still pretty interesting.
The Simpsons Movie (2007)
Many Simpsons fans got the surprise of their life when in 2007, Twentieth Century Fox converted a dozen 7-11 stores into Kwik-E-Marts, replacing many of the typical food products with items from the show like Duff Beer and Krusty O’s. Visitors could pose with any of the life-sized character displays placed around the stores or enter the instant win Simpsons game that offered a chance to become an animated character on the show.
Monsters University (2013)
To hype the release of the long-awaited Monsters Inc. sequel, the people over at Pixar constructed a fake university website. MonstersUniversity.com/edu (I guess they couldn’t convince the government that Monsters University deserved a real .edu address) was a multi-media site that, honestly, looked a lot better than half of the college websites I’ve seen. An events tab on the right-hand side advertised upcoming events like “Academic Seminar: Alternative Scream Energies,” while the left-hand tab showed student videos depicting life on campus. If I wasn’t a senior and a regular, non-monster human being, I would totally apply.
Toy Story 3 (2010)
Have I talked enough about how great Pixar is? No? Then lets talk about Toy Story 3. Nobody needed to advertise this movie. Nostalgia alone could’ve driven ticket sales, but Pixar, as usual, decided to go above and beyond anyway. Producers created a fake YouTube channel titled MrCrazyCommercials that featured real toy commercials from the 1980s. Thrown into the mix, though, was a commercial for the Lots-o’-Huggin’ Bear (AKA Lotso, the film’s villain). The clip was filmed in the style of the ’80s, even showing static marks on the side of the screen like a VHS tape would. The video’s description tried to make it even more convincing: I totally had one of these growing up. I don’t even know what happened to it. My mom probably put it in the attic. I don’t like going in there, so it’s as good as gone.