When I think of the most creative and viral marketing campaign to date, it would be the Blair Witch Project (1999). The film producers staged a campaign before the film was set to release, and used online media tools to make it look as though it were a real film and what the audience were seeing was real. This is something that has been listed countless times on the best marketing campaigns lists, no matter which way you phrase it to Google; The Blair Witch Project always comes up in the top of the best film advertising and marketing. This is because it truly scared the audience, made them feel as though they were witnessing true horror. The filmmakers – especially executive producer Kevin Foxe – were dedicated in this project to such an extent that they even created websites, folklore for the Blair Witch Project to back up the ideas presented In the film as well as flooding forums and boards about the actors – where were they? Viral marketing is almost free or earned advertising, and one of the most creative ways to gain traction toward a movie that you are trying to sell.
With online advances, this is easily accessible however; only few filmmakers manage to utilize this marketing tool to their advantage. The tactic of listing the actors as dead on imdb is one that was done well by the Blair Witch Project – and many copycats have also tried this tool afterwards, such as Paranormal Activity. The best part for me, and the most interesting that I found along my research on this film and it’s marketing strategies – was that it was made by students studying filmmaking like myself – Eduardo Sánchez and Daniel Myrick. With this realization in mind, it’s quite simple to make a film successful – all you need is the right film advertising.
Producer Kevin Foxe stated that the best part of all of it was that he wouldn’t let anyone see the film before it was out, no critics or anything until it was released at sundance. The mock website created enough hype that people were literally craving this film. These producers also knew that they would need a strong film advertising strategy to make up for their lack of budget – and it has still been recognized that this goal has gone above and beyond. Producer Myrick also compared the film to the classic franchise Star Wars in the way that they had created a mythology surrounding the film or a different universe for viewers to find themselves in. This was their objective, to make the viewers question whether what they were seeing was real – because how could it not be? There was so much backed up on what they were seeing on screen – though the hard part was the audience deciphering whether it was a documentary or a film.
There was potential for failure for these filmmakers, there was a low budget and unknown actors – though they found the strength in their advertising. The producers of The Blair Witch Project because influential and still to this day is one of the most researched marketing campaigns, with the use of websites and popular media of that time – it was a film made believable to the audience and that is something that people are still trying to emulate.