Having worked on film and entertainment accounts for a few years I like to think I know a little bit about film marketing and methods. And most recently there has been some hoo-haa around that social video (I’m using social video as a term here rather than the horrible ‘viral’ terminology) for the remake of horror film Carrie in a coffee shop in America (especially after it had 50m views on Youtube). Last week the makers of that video spat out a new social video to promote a horror film called Devils Due. Here’s my quick view on this shift…
Over time there has been an evolution of how horror movies are promoted. Way back when The Blair Witch Project was held up as an example of taking a myth and making it real (“This isn’t a film – it’s REAL”) which to be fair stretches way back to the 70s and nasties like Cannibal Holocaust.
And then Paranormal Activity appeared with its myth (After watching the spooky movie the door to Spielberg’s bedroom locked itself from the inside and the filmmaker had to call a locksmith to get out. The next day he’s said to have been so scared he immediately brought the DVD back to the DreamWorks offices in a garbage bag) it also innovated with its marketing approach by showing not scenes from the film but night vision film of people being scared shitless in cinemas. Following this it seemed every horror movie campaign featured night vision cinema scenes and teenagers cowering behind popcorn/their mobile phones/seats.
Recently we’re seeing new ideas though. Sinister was promoted via an experiment proving how scary the film was. And now with Carrie and Devils Due we’re seeing content strategy at scale. Both films do the same thing by taking the narrative of the movie and maximalising it for the youth audience with a short form ‘surprise’ video. Teen horror is after all about the ‘jump’ these days so this is the jump taken into the real world and pumped up.
You could argue that this is just Beadles About for the modern age but we’ll leave that there for now….
Carrie: Telekinetic Coffee Shop Surprise was published on Youtube on October 7th 2013 and has received 53m views to date. The film was released in cinemas on 29th November - 53 days after the video launched.
Devil’s Due: Devil Baby Attack was published on Youtube on January 14th 2014 and has received 35m views to date. The good news on this video is that video statistics have been left public so we can take a look at this in more detail. So here’s the cumulative and day by day data.
No surprises here in that the curve of views mirrors a short term ‘spike’ that we see across culture. And matches up with Unruly’s social diffusion curve.
The game here though is people going to the cinema to watch the dam things though. Carrie had an opening weekend of £663,000 and Devil’s Due £1m. Correlation isn’t causation but the sensible approach taken by Devils Due in releasing the video in the days leading up to release makes sense…
As much as getting early awareness about a film can make sense for an intricate Christoper Nolan movie or franchise with inbuilt fans when you’re taking about teenagers going to the cinema that weekend then integrating a scaled content strategy with the advertising strategy makes sense.
Saliency and distinctiveness in that short week of release window is what is necessary and although Devil’s Due won’t be the most popular horror film of the year at least the campaign is an example of integrating content and advertising strategies at what would seem to be the perfect moment.