“Cloverfield,” a good old-fashioned monster-attacks-big-city movie that premiers today has already had a monster-sized presence on the web over the last few months. Producer J.J. Abrams and crew have created a number of fictitious company websites related to the movie. The information on the sites gives clues to fill in a bit of the back-story of the film. One of the sites, Slusho.jp, even goes so far as to have its own contest for users to make and submit their own commercial promoting the fictitious soft drink. Other parts of the campaign include fictional foreign news reports of incidences related to the film and a site that has been slowly releasing images from the movie.
From what I understand, the viewer doesn’t need to know all this background info to appreciate the film itself. It’s just another layer of the storytelling. This is a similar approach Abrams and his “Lost” group took to keep rabid fans satisfied in between seasons of the show during the summer of 2006. Pretty much any product or company (all of which were made-up) that appeared on the show suddenly had its own website. Just like with “Cloverfield” there were clues given that filled the viewer in on many mysteries of the “Lost” island and some of its former inhabitants. There was even a “live action” part of the campaign that took place at Comic-Con in the form of a character showing up and disrupting a “Lost” panel discussion.
Similar as they may be, I do see a difference between these two cases of online guerrilla/viral marketing. In the case of Lost, the fan base was already built and those who participated in what was called the “Lost Experience” were getting a payoff from a show they already loved. In the case of “Cloverfield,” I wonder if all this hype isn’t building up expectations to a point that no one could possibly meet, no matter how good the movie. Take “Snakes on a Plane” for example. It seemed this silly named movie was going to rock the box office based on all of the pre-release Internet buzz. But in the end, that just wasn’t the case.
To add one more layer to this, the success of the online “Cloverfield” campaign could be slightly skewed by opening weekend numbers. Marcus Theaters will not be showing the film due to a disagreement between Marcus Theaters and Paramount. Unfortunately, I fall into the category of “not shown here” so I will be driving an hour out of town to see what all the hype is about.
If you want to get the lowdown on all of the “Cloverfield” online antics, wikipedia has done a good job of summarizing and listing all the related links.