The art of viral marketing: how to sell a movie

SHAUN SPROULE

Sometimes movies are only as successful as their marketing teams. A lot of time and money is spent on creating hype for films, with marketing teams going to great lengths to make sure their movie is a box office success.

The most recent movie with an overboard marketing scheme was Deadpool. With Ryan Reynolds' quirky character, there was quite a bit for the marketing team to play with. From billboards featuring a skull and a poop emoji followed by an “L”, to romantic comedy posters ahead of its Valentine’s Day release, Deadpool was set to be a success from the start. The team also created a set of Deadpool emojis and a Tinder profile for the anti-hero.

Another movie to make use of Tinder was 2015’s Ex Machina. Users could find a woman called Ava on their Tinder feed who would interact with users, engaging in deep conversations about love and life. Eventually, Ava points users to her Instagram page where they could find more photos of her, only to find out that they had been speaking to a Tinderbot advertising a movie about deceptive artificial intelligence.

District 9, by South African director Niell Blomkamp, was advertised worldwide prior to its release in 2009. Weeks before its release, signs on buses, trains and public toilets indicated that they were for humans only. The iconic sign from the movie indicating that only humans may use the public facilities created an excited following for this new take on the ever-popular alien invasion plot.

One of the first movies to make use of internet’s full potential in its marketing scheme was The Blair Witch Project. This 1999 “found footage” movie follows a group of students on their film project as they hunt for the infamous Blair Witch. The marketing team set up a website which included a full history of the Blair Witch, reports and official looking documents. It also included interviews with the family members of the three students and officials on the case. Together with missing person’s posters for the students and the lack of the actors’ presence, the film was widely believed to be actual footage from the hunt. With a very small budget of around R370 535, the film made R3.6 billion, proving that marketing can be everything.

Christopher Nolan’s 2008 hit The Dark Knight used many ploys in its marketing. The phrase “I believe in Harvey Dent” was popularised before the first trailer for the movie was even released, with the use of an official looking campaign website for Dent as the next District Attorney of Gotham City. The marketing scheme also included hidden Joker cards in cities around the world and hidden secrets in the pictures released for the movie. One such picture featured Dent (Aaron Eckhart), but with some manipulation, it showed Heath Ledger’s Joker, which was also the first revelation of what the Ledger’s Joker would look like.

 

Image: Imdb.com

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