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1-18-08 makes me wonder: Is there anything tougher than a viral campaign for a movie?

Posted by: Burth Helm on August 7, 2007

The Wall Street Journal has a story today about the lengths movie studios are going to to generate buzz months ahead of a premiere. That story focuses on the upcoming film “The Seeker: The Dark is Rising,” about a teenager who must find hidden talismans in order to save the world. The marketing team plans to hide talismans throughout the real world in order to drum up interest in the movie.

Smart viral campaigns these days connect elements in the physical world with promotional websites and also with “real-world” websites — mysterious sites that seem unrelated until you know to connect the dots. But the most important requirement (and I wonder if “The Seeker” will fulfill this) is that people have to actually care in the first place, right? Imagine a really cool, innovative, mysterious viral campaign for Lindsay Lohan-flick I Know Who Killed Me or Who’s Your Caddy with Big Boi from Outkast, two bombs that have grossed $6.2 and $4.8 million respectively (side note: anyone else continually disappointed that the members of Outkast can’t put together a decent movie? This is a matter for another blog post). In addition to forking over $10, you want me to do more work, too?

One campaign that really gets it right — so far — is one for this untitled upcoming movie, nicknamed “1-18-08”:

HD 1-18-08 (Cloverfield) Trailer

This trailer, which debuted with Transformers on July 4, sparks so many questions that it's hard not to Google around about it. The high-def version is at Apple. And the subsequent viral elements you find when you Google only generates more questions. Check out a site connected to the guy's "Slusho" t-shirt, for instance. The project has stoked massive blog discussion this past month, spawned fake clue sites like this one (referencing a brief glimpse at a license plate), and a Wikipedia entry following it. And just check out some of the meticulous nerd discussion on YouTube:

But we'll see if the team, led by producer J.J. Abrams of Lost, can sustain that curiosity until January 18. As we learned from Snakes on a Plane, timing is everything. Though I’m as excited to see the movie as anyone else right now, I'm skeptical they'll be able to escape over-exposure.

Reader Comments

Laura Brooks

August 7, 2007 4:01 PM

As "new" technologies become a way of life, I have to believe we will see more and more marketers integrating online and offline efforts into their campaigns. Merging what consumers experience via their computers and mobile devices with their physical environments is a great way to break through the clutter in each medium, reinforce a message, stir curiosity, and drive buzz.

1.18.08 is definitely working the viral angle (although, I agree, they have to walk the fine line of buzz building without becoming overexposed). Another fascinating execution was the launch of PSP's Gangs of London. The documentary on ( provides an overview of all the elements used to make this latest offering in a highly competitive industry a true multi-sensory experience for gamers.

As consumers become more and more difficult to reach (and better at filtering out irrelevant advertising), marketers in every industry is going to have to become more creative and resourceful to get their attention.

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News, opinions, inflammatory meanderings and occasional ravings about the world of advertising, marketing and media. By marketing editor Burt Helm, Innovation Editor Helen Walters, and senior correspondent Michael Arndt.

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