I thought the advertising campaign that preceded the release of The Blair Witch was brilliant. I think the advertising that is circulating the net preceding the release of J. J. Abrams (Lost)'s untitled horror film (currently only known as Cloverfield) will make advertising history before it is complete.
The thing began with a trailer before the recently released "Transformers" movie. The trailer hinted at a monster movie from the perspective of average people on the street, perhaps most of it the product of handheld cameras. A pretty slick idea that moves away from the seamless special effects of the last couple years. By narrowing the experience to handhelds, it personalizes the action in a way that may connect with people in visceral manner. A brave ploy.
To continue the advertising saga, following the release of this mysterious trailer, a couple of viral advertising sites opened. They produced puzzles, which when solved, would lead a person to certain videos to further develop the mystery. These videos show a fuzzy image of a man rambling about Aug 1, and about how the end of the world is at hand, with the returns of ancient ones. Actually, here is some of the text:
The great war of the gods will come upon the earth; the fires and terror of their rule will return for a time, but the children of the gods may be thus prepared, themselves aware and powerful…they may stand along side the gods not as equals, but as allies, feared and ready.
If you are into Lovecraftian mythos, then this is crack for you.
Abrams denies these videos have anything to do with his project and indeed they seem to point here: http://www.mindstormlabs.com/products.html. The wild thing is that they have become associated with Abrams' film to the point that he would be foolish not to continue to have people believe.
Still, with these messages crossing and criss-crossing the web, we are witnessing an astonishing act of advertising acumen, and wait until the mainstream media gets hold of it. I predict that in the next few weeks there will be numerous pieces in Entertainment Weekly and Newsweek about how Abram's company has whipped up interest in this new project. Probably August 1st we'll see a new website open with further clues and maybe another trailer.
The Cloverfield campaign is viral advertising at its finest. For those who may not be familiar with this term, viral advertising refers to a marketing technique using pre-existing networks. People pass around the message voluntarily. For instance, the day after I saw the trailer I went on SQT's website and posted 01-18-08. No explanation. Just the date. My goal? To generate curiousity and interest, and to spread the virus.
While many people will point to the internet and complain that fans of genre have too much time on their hands, I think instead that critics should sit back and enjoy all the hoopla as it unfolds. In a time when headlines pound away and reality shreds our positivity, I think something that could have been devised by P.T. Barnum is worth a little attention. So here's to Paramount, Bad Robot and J.J. Abrams.
The Phnglui mglwnafh Cthulhu Rlyeh wgahnagl Ftagn!