Companies sometimes use viral marketing techniques to catch their target demographics’ attention (Bizweb Journal, n.d.). Other forms of advertisement perform the same function, but viral marketing involves their targets in such a way that it could boost anticipation and even sales for an upcoming film, book, or video-game. Theresa Howard of USA Today even described it as “(…) today’s electronic equivalent of old-fashioned word of mouth” (Howard, 2005). Such form of marketing threads beyond the conventional advertisement, past radios, newspapers, and videos (Chron, n.d.). They could be online games, like AMC’s Mad Men Yourself dressing game to promote another season of the hit show (Mashable, 2009); they could be petitions, like Paranormal Activity’s “Demand It!” button to screen the movie in more cities (Entertainment Weekly, 2009); and they could be challenge trends, such as the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, to raise awareness to the disease and donate to research centers (Time, 2015). All of them were curious enough to spark activities and discussions online, but there has not been a more common practitioner of the viral marketing campaign than filmmaker J.J. Abrams.
Before the release of Cloverfield in 2008, Abrams and production company Paramount Pictures commissioned a series of cryptic material for the world to see, decrypt, and promote (Bennett, 2007). The first of these is a mysterious trailer previewed along with the first Transformers movie, followed by websites for fictional companies and dossiers to piece together clues to the mystery that is Cloverfield and its universe (Little White Lies, 2018). They have carried on this tradition well after the found-footage monster movie’s release, with unusual release date announcements for later instalments. 10 Cloverfield Lane was announced a few months before its own release (Collider, 2016), and The Cloverfield Paradox released the same day it was announced (Deadline, 2018), with part of their own campaigns being an alternate reality game (IGN, 2018).
Among other projects beside the Cloverfield franchise, Abrams released a trailer for a mysterious project that was later revealed to be a book, S., which he co-wrote with Doug Dorst (Nerdist, 2013). One other example for his knack for viral marketing campaigns is perhaps his most publicized, which is the Force for Change campaign, partnered with Disney. In this campaign, fans would have to donate to supported charities in order to have cameo appearances in The Force Awakens, sell exclusive merchandize, and meet the cast and crew (Force for Change, 2015). Promoting this campaign further, Harrison Ford appeared in a charity video to surprise fans (Entertainment Weekly, 2015).
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