A New Kind of Pitch


Super8.jpgWriter/director/producer J.J. Abrams is, of course, the guy behind mysterious and spooky sci-fi faves such as Lost and Cloverfield. And you’ve probably heard that he’s got a new flick called Super 8 coming out June 10. But you may not have heard about the film’s viral marketing that’s swirling around in the digital wind and drawing sci-fi geeks and Internet trollers like professional gluttons to an all-you-can-eat smorgasbord.  

So let Uncle Bob fill you in.

Many of the details about Abrams’ new movie are still shrouded in secrecy, but it appears to combine elements of both of the above-mentioned projects. The movie’s trailers focus on a group of kids making a homemade movie with a Super 8 camera who happen to record a devastating train wreck that subsequently releases …  something.

That sounds like pretty typical old school sci-fi fare. But conundrum-master Abrams is drawing people’s attention with something less typical. One of the first things that showed up were mysterious packages, sent to news and reviewing organizations, that contained an old Kodachrome 40 Super 8 box with a snippet of film inside. Each piece was different and obviously part of a bigger Super 8 puzzle. The news orgs could then go online to something called the Super 8 Editing Room and add their snippet. If you go there and check it out yourself you’ll see how much of the scratchy Dharma Initiative-style film has currently been stitched together. 

But that’s not all of the intrigue on hand. When the movie’s trailers began appearing, some observant folks noticed the sentence “Scariest Thing I Ever Saw” scrawled across the screen. And, sure enough, when they went online they found www.scariestthingieversaw.com, featuring something that looks like an old computer monitor that you can interact with and dig out secrets about some kind of countdown and  … Area 51?

Of course, Abrams wasn’t going to leave out the videogaming crowd. So when the new game Portal 2 hit the street it held a hidden little game-like clip that places players inside the train from Super 8 just moments before it crashes and its mysterious cargo escapes. Then there’s the new Super 8 iPhone app. Not only does it let you create your own Super 8-like movies, but if you point it at something related to the movie (such as a Super 8 movie poster) the app automatically reveals little trailer-like clips for your viewing pleasure. 

Who knows what else may be out there? It’s just a very imaginative way of rounding up some of our latest technologies, combining them with some retro-feeling coolness and creating a new way to, not only advertise something, but make that product feel incredibly special and intriguing before we even know what that product is.  

And, if Abrams’ creativity pays off, this could be the beginning of a whole new approach to marketing. I suppose that will bring a new slew of problems, too, but I already like it better than Internet pop-ups.

Who wrote this?

Bob Hoose is a senior associate editor for Plugged In, a producer/writer for Focus on the Family’s Adventures in Odyssey, a writer of plays and musicals and one-half of the former comedy/drama duo Custer & Hoose. He is a husband, father of three and a relatively new granddad.

Have something to say? Leave a comment.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  Lisbeth:

JJ Abrams is a GENIUS.  He knows how to tell a great story and he knows how to get you really excited to see his stories on the big screen.  I saw the teaser for Super 8 back in May 2010 and waited thirteen nail-biting months to see the movie.  From February 2011 onwards, as the marketing campaign for the movie amped up, I deliberately avoided anything on the Internet that might give away what the monster of Super 8 looked like.  I was even hesitant to read the PI review because I didn't want to run across a spoiler alert.  But y'all didn't so, thank you PI, for allowing those of us who chose to see Super 8 with our families to enjoy the suprise that JJ wanted us to discover.  JJ's way of doing marketing for his movies really gets you emotionally attached to them.  Five years ago, I would have been too scared of Super 8 but the way JJ handled the movie made it one of the best moviegoing experiences I've ever had. Speaking of creating surprises, I recently heard that JJ had a wall built around the Star Trek 2 sets because he didn't want any spoilers getting discovered by the press.  I'm so glad that Paramount gave him an extra year to work on Star Trek 2 because, knowing JJ, he will work so hard to make it a really great movie.  I'd really like to see him get an Oscar one day.  And, when that day happens, I will break down crying in front of my TV.  He truly is a gift to the moviemaking world.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  Layma:

The TRON:Legacy franchise did this in a pretty big way: it was pretty much an ARS by the time they were done!Fun, too.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  ClothedInRoses:

A lot of bands have done similar things, although not always to that scale. RED did it with two of their albums (Innocence and Instinct, and Until We Have Faces) by leaving random links to themed websites and puzzles, riddles and such. There was another Christian group (don't remember the name but they're signed to Tooth & Nail Records) that released one of their songs in 7 parts over the course of a couple months, and people could download each bit and try to fit them together in the right order.

I like it much more than the typical advertisment campaign--like you said, you get involved in it, and it's much more of an exciting thing when you get it than it would have been if it was a traditional banner-ad setup.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  YetAnotherTeen:

Definitely interesting, I'd love to see some of it in action. Of course, I still don't expect too much from the movie, not being a fan of Lost and knowing nothing about Cloverfield but the name.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  Chalita:

This definitely is an interesting brand of marketing, but it's nothing new. Nine Inch Nails did a similar type of marketing when they released their album Year Zero. They had websites, left USB drives in concert bathrooms with cryptic messages, had posters, MP3's with weird sounds on it, the works. I personally like this type of advertising because it's fun and gets you involved with the movie, or the album, or whatever they're trying to sell. Eventually, it will become boring just like everything else, so enjoy it while its new and exciting!