Viral marketing which began in 1996 is now a surefire method for turning Internet advertising into box office gold. (Caldwell, 2005) This is because through viral marketing, movie studios are able to build anticipation in millions of Internet users over a film with little to no costs at all. Here are a few examples of films that became box office smash hits through the use of viral marketing.
References to the viral marketing were also made in the film itself. For instance, a flashback sequence at the end of Cloverfield shows an object falling from the sky and crashing in the ocean. This was a reference to an article made on Tagruato Corp. reporting that their satellite was damaged and crashed in Conney Island. (Tagruato, 2008) J.J Abrams later revealed that the satellite crash was what woke the monster, thus leading to the events depicted in Cloverfield. (Bloody Disgusting, 2008)
The viral marketing of Cloverfield; a monster movie by J.J Abrams, began a year before its release with the screening of its trailer during the premiere of Transformers in 2007. The trailer did not reveal the title of the movie, nor any promotional website for the film. It only revealed the release date of the movie, 1-18-08. When Googled, the date lead to a website of time-coded photos for visitors to piece together and interpret their meanings. If the website had been accessed for more than 6 minutes, the roar of the monster heard in the trailer will play.
When the photos are flipped over, they reveal more fake websites such as Tagruato Corp., Slusho! and jammieandteddy.com giving a background story to the movie such as the origins of the monster and the introduction to the main characters of Cloverfield.
Break.com released a video, entitled Office Worker Goes Absolutely Insane, in January 2008 of camera footage of a man having a mental breakdown in his office. The video shows the man destroying office property and attacking some of his co-workers. The video became an Internet sensation garnering 5,958,865 views.
Timur Bekmambetov, the director of Wanted later revealed on his personal blog that the video was viral marketing for the film featuring the unedited office meltdown scene with James McAvoy. (Rappe, 2008)
On 25 September 2009, Paramount Pictures decided to release Paranormal Activity in 13 small towns. On his website, director Oren Peli invited internet users to "demand" where the film went next by voting on eventful.com. The online trailer of the movie also gave audiences to “demand” the movie to be played in their cities.
On October 3, 2009, it was reported that a total of 33 screenings in all 20 markets sold out and that the movie had made $500,000 domestically. On October 6, Paramount and Eventful.com announced that the movie would be released nationwide if the movie got 1,000,000 "demands". 4 days later, the counter hit over 1,000,000 requests. The movie began its nationwide release and has now earned $103,847,000 in one month.
- Bloody Disgusting 2008, "Origin of the 'Cloverfield' Monster Revealed... IN MOVIE!" online,retrieved 18 November 2009, from http://www.bloody-disgusting.com/news/10946
- Caldwell, J.T 2005, "Welcome to the Viral Future of Cinema (Television)," Cinema Journal, Vol. 45, No. 1, pp. 90-97, retrieved 18 November 2009, from http://www.jstor.org.ezlibproxy.unisa.edu.au/stable/pdfplus/3661083.pdfMoore, I 2007, "Buzz marketing for movies," Business horizons, Vol. 50, No. 1, pp. 395-403, retrieved 18 November 2009, from http://www.sciencedirect.com.ezlibproxy.unisa.edu.au/science?_ob=MImg&_imagekey=B6W45-4PF1C0D-8-1&_cdi=6533&_user=170565&_orig=search&_coverDate=10%2F31%2F2007&_sk=999499994&view=c&wchp=dGLbVlW-zSkWz&md5=05651be615aaf1a7a63cde829ce37d0c&ie=/sdarticle.pdf
- Rappe, E 2008, "Timur Bekmambetov Punks the World With Viral Video," online, retrieved 18 November 2009, from http://www.cinematical.com/2008/06/10/timur-bekmambetov-punks-the-world-with-viral-video
- Tagruato 2008, "Hatsui Satellite Works for the Futura," online, retrieved 18 November 2009, from http://www.tagruato.jp/headlines.php?story=news_08_01_03