James Watts, senior account director, Clarion Communications
When you're creating a prequel to a film which is over 35 years old, how do you ensure the modern generation of cinema-goers can get excited about it?
The film in question is the hotly anticipated Prometheus, Ridley Scott's prequel to Alien - perhaps his most famous and critically acclaimed movie - which promises to go back to the origins of the 'Alien' planet and answer some of the questions that have been taunting horror fans and Sci-Fi geeks for the last 30 years. But with the Alien franchise watered down after multiple sequels and franchise spin-offs targeted at the popcorn generation, how do you get your message out that this is something worth getting excited about? How do you re-build the buzz and excitement that hasn't genuinely been present since the mid-80s?
Well, if you're Ridley Scott and 20th Century Fox, you rely on more than just the traditional movie trailer format to raise awareness; instead you take the Transmedia approach and make the most of all the pre-buzz opportunities that social media can offer - a strategy which is being used more and more widely, particularly by the entertainment industry.
In fact, in just a few months the pre-release publicity campaign for Prometheus has become a great example of how Transmedia marketing or storytelling can be used to fantastic affect. While Transmedia may just be one more way that marketeers can use several mediums at once from film, television, the internet, live events and social media, the difference is that not only does it create better SEO for a product or brand, but it also creates and drives search queries in the first place.
The Prometheus example goes like this: Ridley and Fox created a video of entrepreneur Peter Weyland speaking at the annual TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) conference in Long Beach, California - the global set of conferences formed to disseminate ‘ideas worth sharing’. In the video recorded at the conference, Mr Weyland talked about the challenges facing a society that questioned its own nature in the face of rapidly advancing technology. So far, so good.
The twist? Well, firstly the video was recorded in 2023 - i.e. the future - and secondly, Mr Weyland (played by none other than ex-Neighbours actor Guy Pearce) is, as all good horror film and sci-fi geeks know, the owner of Weyland Enterprises, a character from Prometheus and Sigourney Weaver's employer in the original Alien franchise - the company always hell-bent on recruiting the Alien for its own evil means.
The spoof conference video was actually released through the real-life TED blog and instantly became a viral sensation. At the same time, the trailer for the movie was released online and generated three million views in under 48 hours. This, combined with a lively and content-rich Facebook page seeding out sneak previews of teasers, trailers, a dedicated discussion forum and encouraging fans to crack special codes to unlock more content, has resulted in the movie becoming one of the most hotly-awaited and discussed releases of the year.
The innovative nature of the TED video blog has also become one of the most discussed subjects in online articles and social media forums for a long time, largely due to a highly creative approach of blurring the lines between reality and fiction (and Sci-Fi) within the online space.
Transmedia has been one of the buzz words that’s been thrown around and debated for some time in the entertainment industry (consider the launch strategy for the Blair Witch Project) - but Scott and 20th Century Fox have shown that it still works. Especially if you’ve got some seriously rich content to throw around your various social media platforms.
Expect to see more of this in the future.