Saturday, February 2, 2008

Viral Marketing

I was interviewing a perspective student ten days ago and asked what part of the film business most interested her and she said the viral marketing of films. I was surprised because I ask this same question to all the perspective students and usually I get answers like, editing, directing, screenwriting. Viral marketing was a first, but I was glad to know at least someone is thinking about the back end of the film production line.

A brief history of viral marketing courtesy of Wikipedia.

The term Viral Marketing was coined by a Harvard Business School professor, Jeffrey F. Rayport, in a December 1996 article for Fast Company The Virus of Marketing. [6] The term was further popularized by Tim Draper and Steve Jurvetson of the venture capital firm Draper Fisher Jurvetson in 1997 to describe Hotmail's e-mail practice of appending advertising for itself in outgoing mail from their users.[7]

Among the first to write about viral marketing on the Internet was media critic Douglas Rushkoff in his 1994 book Media Virus. The assumption is that if such an advertisement reaches a "susceptible" user, that user will become "infected" (i.e., sign up for an account) and can then go on to infect other susceptible users. As long as each infected user sends mail to more than one susceptible user on average (i.e., the basic reproductive rate is greater than one), standard in epidemiology imply that the number of infected users will grow according to a logistic curve, whose initial segment appears exponential.

I tend to think of viral marketing as word of mouth on steroids. Generally, there is some intrigue and a twist or a catch. I can see why a young filmmaker would be interested in the viral marketing of films.

Two days after Heath Ledger died the Wall Street Journal had an article about Warner Brother's viral marketing of the new Batman film. (Ledger is the Joker.) It began a year ago on-line with a fake newspaper website called the Gotham Times. There soon came a competing website called the haha times- the Joker's version of the paper. And it went on from there. Warner Brothers has spent a mint on using Ledger in the marketing campaign, the question is what will they do now.

Other notable viral marketing campaigns for films are the insane buzz- including a great fake-documentary- around The Blair Witch Project. For my money, the marketing campaign and the fake doc. were better than the real thing. More recently there was the campaign for Cloverfield which generated huge advanced publicity.

I am glad to see young filmmakers thinking in these ways. I think the onus is on me to have the curriculum reflect these trends.



Anonymous said...

I have a question, none related to this post. I'm interested in become a film student at your school, this Sept, and was just wondering, what is your style of teaching?

Do you interact with your students, helping them if they don't understand something. Or is it to where you give your students piles of work, and don't give them any form of help, even if they need it - like my English teacher, Mr. Smith.

For you see, I'm a interactive type person. I have no clue, as to writing screenplays, or even producing a film. I mean, I can do the work, it's just, if I need help, I need to make sure that my teacher's here to help me.

PeterH said...


I would like to think I am very interactive with my students, something you might glean from reading the blog. Go back to some of my back pages and see. In May I did a series pieces on my students and teaching. I also try to tag my posts with key words such as students and teaching.

Better yet, set up an appointment to visit Flashpoint. Take the tour and meet with me. See for yourself.


Matt said...

Facebook seems to be starting to help a lot with viral marketing for movies. there's groups created as well as events (Free Screenings) that are sent out to different people. each person ends up inviting other friends and the simplicity of it is that you can just print the 'event page' for the free screening. this was probably a big push for Cloverfield and will probably continue to become a more popular method.

Matt said...

Oh, and to anonymous,

he's definitely not the type of teacher to just pile on loads of work. it's very easy to get very involved in any of peter's classes.

Anonymous said...

I thank you Peter, Matt, for your response(s) to my question. I'm now looking really forward to joining your school, come September.

It makes me happy to know that your school is not of hard-core testing and unsupportive people, but a friendly, cooperative group of people that help you if you need help/support.

Thank you.

bobby said...

Hey, Peter,

If you don't mine, I was wondering if you could answer a question for me, since anonymous had asked one.

I'm a student who is graduating this summer. I want to become part of the fim industry, and was wondering if you could help. My question is, do you teach studence who are not good at writing?

The reason why, I'm not that good of a writer.


Lord Andrew of Goulding said...

RE: the post.

I've created a fairly easy way to look at viral marketing.

Buzz Marketing is a product, event, video, website or blog post creating a buzz within a specified niche.

Viral Marketing occurs when the Buzz spills out into other niches and starts replicating.