Prometheus, “viral” video and marketing as entertainment

I am so stoked about the upcoming summer movie season in a way that I haven’t been in years. Between The Avengers, The Dark Knight Rises and Prometheus I will be lathered into a fangirl frenzy for months and I am very much looking forward to it.

Prometheus, if you aren’t already aware, is the newest Ridley Scott sci-fi film, that may or may not be a prequel to, or very loosely based on, the Alien series. I’m not even going to get into that, it’s Ridley Scott’s business. Prometheus actually took me by surprise because i didn’t even know that movie was happening until about a month ago. I was pretty excited to begin with after seeing the original trailer but recently that excitement’s been pushed over the edge into fangirl mania.

Why? The release of the “Happy Birthday David” featurette this week, the 2:40 video features Michael Fassbender as David, the newest android from Weyland Industries. (You know, that fictional company not at all connected to the Alien universe.) It’s actually the third in a series of short videos teasers for the film, one of which features Guy Pearce as Weyland Industries CEO Peter Weyland, speaking at a fictional TED talk in the future.

The Peter Weyland video is cool. but not nearly as intriguing
as the “Happy Birthday David” video, which packs a lot of questions and creepy foreshadowing into such a short film. Michael Fassbender slays with his creepy awesomeness, as the titular robot in question, politely informing of his capability to “carry out directives that my human counterparts might find distressing … or unethical.” YIKES.

While the original trailer may have revealed too much of the plot of Prometheus, these featurettes coyly tease the plot and characters of the film – and the (possibly not) Alien universe in general. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a marketing campaign for a film use video and so-called “viral marketing” so effectively.

I think the reason this campaign works so well has a lot to do with the strength of the material. The “Happy Birthday” David video took off quickly in large part because Michael Fassbender is so great and convincing in it. It’s a memorable video on its own; people want to talk about it. It also just happens to be a teaser for a summer blockbuster. Who knows, perhaps these teasers will be more entertaining and provocative than Prometheus itself (I kinda doubt it, but then I’m a fangirl.) Hopefully, though, the lesson that others will take away from the success of this campaign is make great videos. Use talented actors and writers and create something that stands on its own, then worry about “taking it viral” separately.

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