Advertising in the age of the internet presents its own unique challenges. Unlike pre-social-media days, everything is now under constant scrutiny. A bad ad campaign will be quickly vilified. Mediocre ad campaigns are simply ignored.
Rather than merely being an ad speaking to consumers about a product, ads must be part of a broader conversation about the ads themselves. In a very real way, advertising has transformed much like media itself, becoming less one-sided and more conversational.
The real trick—the Holy Grail, if you will—is to “go viral.” But that’s often easier said than done. The very nature of virality suggests an accidental fortune—Google’s definition of the word: “the tendency of an image, video, or piece of information to be circulated rapidly and widely from one Internet user to another; the quality or fact of being viral.”
Marketing professionals continue to struggle with this concept. While Gangnam Style or Angry Birds seem to go viral almost on their own, making an ad memorable is another challenge altogether. Going viral on purpose, it turns out, is hard.
The Hunger Games is taking a clever approach to its marketing campaign for Mockingjay: Part 1, the third film in the blockbuster series from Lionsgate (combined box office of over $1.5 billion worldwide for the first two films.)
Rather than simply release movie trailers and posters advertising the film, the latest Hunger Games entry is releasing propaganda for the film’s fictional dictatorship, Panem. The latest trailer shows President Snow (Donald Sutherland) dressed all in white standing next to Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) against an all-white background.
It’s not an ad for the film directly, but rather a message to all the districts in Panem explaining the benefits of a peaceful relationship with the Capitol—and the risks of rebellion. It’s perfectly creepy.
As we recall, the second film in the series, Catching Fire, ended with the beginning of a rebellion. This first Mockingjay trailer reminds us of that, and brings us back into the story. It’s also in keeping with the posters that have been released for the film, each readily share-able on social media.
In these posters, the Capitol “celebrates” the hard work of each District—like the miners of District 9, Katnis’s stomping grounds:
These posters are cool enough—detailed, attractive, ominous—to spread online in ways that a more traditional movie poster likely would not. There’s a whole suite of the posters, as well, making it more likely for viewers to sift through each of them, and making it more likely for bloggers like myself to create galleries like this one:
There’s no guarantee that a marketing campaign will go viral, but The Hunger Games appears to be on the right track, asking viewers to engage rather than simply showing off a product.
It’s reminiscent of some earlier ad campaigns for shows such as Lost, which used the “Lost Experience” to engage viewers, sending them on scavenger hunts, and fleshed out the mysteries of the weird island and its cast of characters, building backstory and dropping new clues and hints.
As far back as 1999, The Blair Witch Project used similar tactics, capitalizing to some degree on the fact that very few people were online at the time by creating fake websites and spreading rumors about how the movie was “real.”
Mockingjay’s campaign may not be going this far, but by bringing the viewer into the story as part of the ad campaign, they’ll certainly generate plenty of buzz.