If you saw the Transformers movie in the theater back in 2007 you might remember being greeted by a very mysterious trailer before the robot action started. A group of young adults in New York are having a going away party for a friend when all of a sudden the city comes under attack and the head of the statue of liberty is thrown down the street like it’s nothing… Sound familiar?
When this trailer first debuted nobody had any clue what it was or what it was even called. The only hint that was given was that it was from the production company Bad Robot, which every now knows is J.J. Abrams’ production company, but at the time, not everyone knew that. It would also eventually leak that the working title/fake title for the movie was “Cloverfield”… and this was actually not intended to be the final title for the flick, but obviously that’s what happened.
I can’t remember exactly how I first heard about the mysterious trailer, but I was able to track down a bootleg copy of it online to check out. I was a big fan of “The Blair Witch Project” when it first came out in theaters, so to see a new movie utilizing the first-person POV style was pretty exciting. These days it’s been done to death, but Cloverfield did sort of bring it back to the mainstream.
With all of the mystery surrounding the trailer and my regrets of not starting a forum surrounding the show LOST, since there were more easter eggs and people talking about that show than anything else on TV at the time, I decided I was going to setup a site and follow the reveal of Cloverfield as more information came out.
As soon as I got the site up things started happening. Viral websites were being found in the trailer and things began to ramp up. Fake MySpace profiles for the various cast mates were created and began talking to one another, various images started to appear, fake company websites, all sorts of things… it was pretty cool.
There was a viral marketing campaign behind “The Blair Witch Project” when that was gaining steam, but the internet wasn’t as big in 1998/99 as it was in 2007, and it was nothing like this Cloverfield one would become.
My website got picked up by a few very large movie blogs and pretty soon I was getting thousands of visitors a day checking in to see if there was anything new going on with the viral marketing.
I started to make a decent amount of money off of the website between Google Adsense, poster sales on eBay, and a few other affiliate programs I had setup on the site. All in all I’d say the site itself brought in about $2,000 throughout it’s run until just after the movie came out.
Once the movie came out the traffic started to die off. I was sent a free copy of the blu-ray from Paramount so that I could review it. I was sent a bunch of posters and other swag to giveaway to my readers and I was even interviewed by a newspaper in Ohio (I think it was Ohio) about the movie and the viral marketing campaign. I still have the article somewhere since I made them send me a physical copy.
The website (in one of it’s many incarnations) still lives on, just in case they decide to make a sequel, over at http://www.cloverfieldnews.com.
A few years later rumblings of another mysterious J.J. Abrams project began to surface. Now I don’t remember a lot about how things initially started, but I remember hearing about a movie called “Super 8” that he was writing and directing that was being produced by Steven Spielberg, so I knew it was going to be huge… I immediately bought super8news.com and threw up a quick site.
It wasn’t long before the viral marketing campaign for Super 8 launched and started picking up steam. I don’t think it was quite as in-depth as the Cloverfield one was, but all of those people that followed my site through the Cloverfield campaign were now reading my site for Super 8 information.
Throughout the course of the marketing campaign I probably pulled in about $1000 for the Super 8 site. Again, I got the blu-ray for free to review, I think I may have even gotten free tickets to see it in theaters, and when the trailer aired during the super bowl I got over 40,000 hits in a matter of minutes, which crashed my friends web server where the site was hosted… it was pretty nuts. I was also included in the viral campaign by Paramount themselves this time. They sent me an 8MM roll of film and a USB stick that contained a missing piece of footage which you could then add to an official website to unlock the various clips for everyone watch.
All in all following these viral campaigns was a lot of fun. I met and conversed with a lot of cool people through the comments on the various posts and learned a lot about running larger websites (at the time).
I’ve tried to jump on some of J.J. Abrams’ later projects in hopes that there would be another campaign I could follow, but the last couple that I’ve tried to keep up with have kind of fizzled out. But who knows, maybe there will be another one in the near future and I can jump right back into it.
And yes, the super8news.com site does still exist, but it looks like it’s pretty broken at the moment and no real reason for me to fix it.0