Sir Ridley Scott makes his return to the Sci-Fi/Horror genre with his new film Prometheus, which opens today. While the film promises to be action-packed, the social media marketing campaign for the film has been out of this world. From a plethora of viral videos to multiple microsites, Prometheus has definitely risen to the high bar set by The Hunger Games.
While it’s not technically a prequel, Prometheus precedes the story of Scott’s 1979 film Alien, but is not directly connected to the franchise. Starring Michael Fassbender, Guy Pearce, Idris Elba, and Charlize Theron, the story focuses on the crew of the spaceship Prometheus as they follow a star map discovered among the remnants of several ancient Earth civilizations. Led to a distant world and an advanced civilization, the crew seeks the origins of humanity, but instead discover a threat that could led to the end of the human race.
The film’s social media campaign kicked off with the release of the first, of many, viral videos at the TED conference in Long Beach, CA. Set in 2023, the video featured a futuristic TED talk delivered by Guy Pearce in character as Peter Weyland, CEO of Weyland Industries and the financial sponsor of the Prometheus Project. This was the first time TED’s name was used for promotional purposes.
The video teased future viral content with the mention of human-looking androids and the flash of the company’s website at the end. On March 6, the corporate website was updated to allow visitors to become investors and sign up for updates.
The next piece of the viral marketing campaign puzzle came during WonderCon. Attendees of the film’s panel were given Weyland Corp business cards. When you called the number, you were put on hold indefinitely while Weyland promotes themselves. You also received a text message with a link to a mobile website that had the new video, “David.”
The video, which soon after went viral, acted as an advertisement for Weyland’s next-generation android robot, David, who is played by Fassbender. Along with the video, a full-page ad for David was placed in The Wall Street Journal. After the video was released, “investors” could unlock each of David’s emotions by cracking binary codes sent to 8 movie blogs. Once unlocked, you could read of description of how David would express that emotion.
The third, and final, video released for the marketing campaign was called “Quiet Eyes.” Released on May 16, the video features a new character, Dr. Elizabeth Shaw, played by Noomi Rapace. In it, she pleads to Peter Weyland for money to seek out the “secret of life.” Not only does it reveal the character, the video also teases Weyland Industries competitor, Yutani. What role will Yutani play in the movie? Fans will just have to wait to see.
In addition to the viral videos, Fox also created two microsites to promote the film. The first, which was mentioned before, is a corporate website for Weyland Industries. The site goes into extreme detail about the company’s products and timeline. The other site, Project Prometheus, allows fans to apply and train to become part of the crew of the Prometheus ship. With the Project Prometheus Training Center, Fox teamed up with Internet Explorer to create a game center that tests “applicants” agility, logic, reflexes, and physical capabilities.
In one last push before the release, yesterday the Project Prometheus website launched “Project Genesis.” Fox distributed clues across its Prometheus channels to unlock locations on a globe to help Dr. Shaw in her research. Once the locations were unlocked, the page displayed a message allowing users to download Dr. Shaw’s research dossier, including memos about Shaw sent to Peter Weyland and pages from Shaw’s notebook.
Other components of the campaign include the release of schematic posters of the technology used in Prometheus, an unlock contest for production stills, a live stream of the world premiere in London, and a Prometheus makeover of an abandoned French subway station. Also, screenwriter Damon Lindelof hosted a Twitter chat on May 16 and answered fan questions live from the film’s Twitter account using the #prometheus hashtag.
While The Hunger Games focused on an integrated campaign across several social media platforms, Prometheus took a different approach and emphasized original content creation. Between the videos and the unlock contests, Fox successfully activated the fans of the Alien franchise to create a truly viral campaign.
What stands out about the film’s social media campaign is the amount of detail in it, particularly the corporate website and the research dossier. It’s simply incredible, but what else is to be expected from the team that gave us Lost. By letting users into the world of Prometheus, Fox whet the appetite not only of die-hard Alien fans, but a new generation, whose only knowledge of the Alien franchise is Alien v. Predator (sad).
The main question facing the film is if it will deliver at the box office. Its main competition is a kids film, Madagascar 3, that may have more widespread appeal than the R-rated Prometheus.