Throwback Thursday: Visit Our (Totally Real) Website!

Twenty-two years to the day after viewers first saw a T-Rex charge across the movie theatre screen, Jurassic Park’s highly anticipated sequel, Jurassic World, premieres tonight at midnight. In honor of the film, this week’s Throwback Thursday looks at how movies, from Jurassic World to The Blair Witch Project, have brought their worlds to life online.

 

For those looking to plan their next family vacation, this is the website for Jurassic World, not the movie, the actual place. Here we are able to get an inside look into the park and see some crucial facts about safety, wait times, big events happening soon and the weather, among many other things, providing information you would want to know for real theme parks like Disney World, Six Flags and Universal Studios. On the surface, it builds awareness for the film. It engages moviegoers on a deeper level, however, by immersing them in the world of the movie (no pun intended). When the lights go down in the movie theatre and the famous theme song begins playing, the audience will connect with a place that feels that much more real, since they’ve experienced the park already online.

 

The strength of viral marketing is that it invests consumers in the brand. As The Dark Knight proved, viral marketing can both pique and sustain consumer interest in a brand or movie. Warner Bros. Studio hired 42 Entertainment to create a viral marketing campaign that would not only increase consumer awareness of The Dark Knight but also keep the movie on their minds. The brainchild of this partnership was an ingenious campaign. 42 Entertainment created two websites: a fictional campaign site for the film’s tragic, heroic District Attorney Harvey Dent; the other intended to build anticipation for The Joker, slowly revealing the first image of the character as fans “joined” his cause by sending emails.

 

The Blair Witch Project is thought to be the first widely released movie marketed primarily by Internet. The movie’s official website featured fake police reports and newsreel-style interviews. These added to the movie’s mystique, as fans debated whether it was documentary or fiction. This mystique helped the $500,000 movie production to earn roughly $250 million in worldwide grosses; needless to say, the site, and the larger viral campaign, worked very well.

 

As shown by The Blair Witch Project, websites are just one tool brands can use to build a wider, viral presence. Physical tools, such as “Non-human” warnings around major metropolitan areas to build the hype for Sony’s District 9 or “Kwik-E-Mart’s” (in reality re-designed 7-11s” in advance of The Simpsons Movie), are just as successful in immersing consumers in movie worlds. Dedicated gamers found an interactive scene from the film Super 8 in Valve’s massively popular puzzler Portal 2. Going beyond the simple trailer-poster promotion technique is so widespread, it’s become its own sort of viral sensation. And as these campaigns show, it works.

 

Cover Photo courtesy of By Malpass93, via Wikimedia Commons.