Friday, January 18, 2008

The good virus

I'm normally not one for viral marketing campaigns. They just seem like a waste of time to me.

But (there's always a 'but'), the one for the J.J. Abrams movie, 'Cloverfield', is pretty cool. It's releasing today.

IGN Movies has an done a fine job encapsulating the viral campaign components.

What's a viral campaign? Well, without 'ask'ing the internet, I'm going to give you my erudite (or lamebrained) definition. With the advent of embedded and prolific technology coupled with the explosion of social networking, the viral campaign is one that is a cheap and interactive way to increase brand awareness. I also like to think that they're a cousin of mememails and sibling to viral videos.

For example, a game studio is launching a huge Halo 2. They drop little packets of seemingly unrelated information (like some bizarrely named ''), and people go to that URL and find that its content is either deliberately obfuscate or shares some peripheral relationship with the title and provides additional background information.

Whatever the method, the delivery vector (a website, email notifications, or 'secure access' [those requiring a password obtained after completing some other task on another related website] sites) is designed to engage the consumer. An example of a successful iteration of a slightly older, but cult film of the early 2000s is the Flash site of Richard Kelly's 'Donnie Darko'.

Entertainment viral campaigns (those for movies and games) have been extremely successful in generating buzz. The hype for 'Snakes on a Plane' was primarily driven by its viral marketing and from the incorporation of suggestions from bloggers into the actual script. Of course, the movie was a disaster, but did showcase the awesome power of Samuel L 'Muthafuckin' Jackson, but I digress.

'Cloverfield' is shot in the Blair Witch style, which means that when we see it, the movie plays out like we're watching documentary content. Except this mockumetary is about a monster attack on NYC, and we see it through the eyes of some hip 20 somethings who could never afford to live in the places that they do in real life. In reality, they'd be sharing a couch in Brooklyn.

The movie's campaign is pretty cool because 1) it's not bizarrely obscure, and 2) because it fleshes out some back-story details. Kinda cool. It's like backstory that was left out of the movie, and I happen to like sci-fi/monster films.

You can actually infer quite a bit from the various viral components, although the film I find myself making in my head after checking out these viral vectors could be in polar opposite of the desires of production and creative team.

Regardless, the fact that there's deep-sea drilling, a mysterious substance that appears to infect/mutate people, satellite imaging, and an origin unknown skyscraper-sized creature running amok is good movie times for me!

If you're curious to see more on the viral aspects of the fime, consider this: according to the plot, there's a fictional Japanese company that does deep-sea drilling. One station is located in the Atlantic, relatively close to NY. A 'press release' on the company's website provides a phone number (+81-3-5403-6318) to call if you have more questions about the 'incident'. Hmm...want to call Japan?

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