Viral victory: The 10 most genius movie marketing ploys of all time
A sign of the apocalypse began on April 15. Fans of The Walking Dead universe experienced their favorite dystopian world on the big screen as Fathom Events & AMC announced “Survival Sunday” – the screening of The Walking Dead S8 finale & the Fear the Walking Dead S4 premiere, both of which played back to back and commercial-free in more than 750 select movie theaters nationwide.
While that was a tantalizing way to feed that zombie addiction, we think there are far more attention-grabbing ways the network could’ve marketed the premiere-finale mashup. Perhaps an IRL zombie experience, or social media zombie camera?
One of the most tricky aspects of releasing a movie or TV show is getting noticed. These days, creating a campaign that stands out means doing something different. Let’s take a look at some of the most genius marketing ploys in big and small screen history to remind ourselves of the most effective ways to grab attention.
A Cure for Wellness
If we’re talking about grabbing people’s attention, then hold onto your sanity because we’re gonna talk about Gore Verbinski‘s A Cure For Wellness.
To promote the movie, marketers ended up creating and circulating several fake news stories based in the film’s fictitious world, including one that stated a bill to implement a temporary ban on vaccinations and another referring to Lady Gaga’s plans to include a tribute to muslims during her Super Bowl performance.
Meanwhile, clicking on the headlines took readers to the film’s official website. The news stories went viral, and while they didn’t go down too well with some fans, there’s no denying they got people talking. Job done.
The creators of Westworld absolutely nailed their marketing at this year’s SXSW festival by recreating the dusty streets of Sweetwater and hiring actors to play hosts to its visitors. Not only were fans provided hints for the second season of the show, but they were also able to fully immerse themselves in the land of their fave show. As such, it was described as “one of the best publicity stunts of the 21st century.”
William Castle (Rosemary’s Baby) was the king of the low-budget, B-movie horror flick and his marketing gimmicks were legendary. For example, for his 1960 movie 13 Ghosts, viewers were given a ghost viewer called the “Illusion-O!”, so that audiences could see each of the ghouls featured in the movie. If you believe in ghosts, you look through the red viewer; if you do not believe in ghosts, you look through the blue part.
Whether you liked Ridley Scott’s Alien-themed movie or not, there’s no denying the marketing campaign was nothing short of genius. Viewers were treated to several videos from the movie’s realm, including a TED Talk from Guy Pearce (Memento) as fictional Weyland Industries boss Peter Weyland. This was reinforced by a website created for the Weyland company, which offered tidbits for an otherwise mysterious film.
Alfred Hitchcock (Vertigo) was ahead of his time in many ways, including the methods he used to market his movies. The film itself came with a six-minute trailer in which Hitchcock guided the audience through the Psycho house as he describes the plot. Unlike other marketing campaigns, the director was in control of what people did and didn’t know about the film and as we know, the movie fully lived up to the hype he gave it.
The Blair Witch Project
Before the days of viral, the marketers of The Blair Witch Project spread like wildfire and also helped shape many of the strategies used today. The film created an in-world campaign, including a website that contains a detailed history of the “real” Blair Witch, as well as a detailed look at each of the filmmakers, complete with biographies and childhood photos. Click on the “experience” section, if you dare!
Netflix is renowned for their marketing plots, one of the best being the promotion for the second season of Stranger Things. Like fans weren’t psyched enough, the streaming giant launched a Facebook camera in which things went from cute to RAWRRR!
First, it’s cute. Then, it’s RAWRRR! Our Stranger Things Facebook lens is live: https://t.co/4zOk0DKYKE pic.twitter.com/yQfvRAzaQ0
— Stranger Things (@Stranger_Things) 31 October 2017
Game of Thrones
HBO and digital marketing agency 360i teamed up to raise awareness for an upcoming season of Game of Thrones with #RoastJoffrey. The campaign was picked up by nearly 150 news outlets worldwide and went down in history as the first ever crowdsourced comedy roast on social media.
The marketing experts behind Alex Garland’s sci-fi flick created a suitably advanced campaign by launching a fictitious Tinder-bot who approached unassuming dates on the app and asked them questions about love & life, before revealing the stunt and breaking a few hearts along the way.
28 Days Later
While we’re on the topic of Alex Garland, we thought we’d give this movie a mention despite the fact it wasn’t actually the marketing team who created this genius promotional ploy. It was in fact the one and only Stephen King – apparently he loved the film so much, he bought the tickets for every single seat in a cinema showing in Maine and handed them out to people passing by. And who’s gonna pass up a free ticket from the King?