I’m a big fan of B-grade slasher flicks and bred on gross-out horror movies – Dead/Alive, The Hills Have Eyes… Up until I saw Paranormal Activity to be convinced that one doesn’t need gore effects to be scared witless.
Paranormal Activity downplays shock and emphasizes suspense. For instance, a shadow creeping across a wall or the ripple of an unseen form under the bedsheets. You know what I mean. The gore scenes in splatter movies carry a sadistic punch, but those are outside most moviegoers’ experience. What makes Paranormal Activity so cool is dread, a feeling everyone is familiar with.
At the end, it doesn’t let viewers off the hook. It leaves them hanging and dares them to turn that last shiver into a laugh of relief that the delicious ordeal is over. Yeah, ya think! Ok, nuff said. Go watch.
Now, here’s a case study of how Paranormal Activity utilises viral marketing.
The success of Paranormal Activity will be studied extensively by Hollywood, that’s for sure. Made for a mere $15,000, Paranormal Activity has grossed nearly $64 million since its nation-wide release!
Their main focus was on social networks, like twitter. They encouraged the people who have seen it (during it’s limited release) to “Tweet Their Screams,” basically to write reviews. Almost all of the reviews were good (and only 140 characters long, which doesn’t leave room for much criticism) which lead to the larger limited release, mainly focused on college towns.
After Paramount saw the success in those few towns, they knew they had to get this film out on a larger scale. They allowed users to ‘demand’ the film in their town, giving us (the users) the power to decide where this film will play next. In the mean time, Paramount said if they react 1 million “demands” they would release it nationally. And not too surprisingly, it did.
“Paranormal Activity” has been on the trending topics of twitter for a few weeks now, which both testifies to the marketer’s success well as the film’s success. Oh, did I mention it beat out “Saw XVIXIVII” for the #1 spot?
So, what did they do wrong? To be honest, I can’t think of anything they did wrong. There may be something they didn’t do (like an in-game viral site), but look at the success of the campaign and then tell me that an in-game viral site could made it any more successful.
What will this lead to? Well a lot of studios will be turning to viral marketing, that’s for sure. Between this and District 9, viral marketing has proven to benefit low budget films (albeit Paranormal Activity benefited a LOT more). It’s cheap and effective – at least until it becomes overused, at which point it will seem like just another advertisement in a magazine. Marketers are just beginning to understand how to adequately use the internet for advertising.
The summary: Viral marketing has proven time and time again to be an effective way to advertise, at least when it’s done right.