One movie marketing trend that has proven most effective over the past several years is the use of viral videos. These short videos are crafted to promote and build awareness of a specific movie by having viewers pass them along to friends and family, thus marketing a new film.
The most recent example of such a marketing campaign was produced by Sony Pictures for their upcoming release “Carrie”, a remake of the classic 1976 horror film which is based on a best selling Stephen King novel. The previous adaptation starred Sissy Spacek and was directed by Brian De Palma whereas the most most recent iteration is helmed by Kimberly Pierce and stars Chloë Grace Moretz and Julianne Moore.
Rather than feature footage of the movie being marketed, these viral videos play off the themes and content of each film. The video for “Carrie” is a well rehearsed stunt rigged and staged in sNice Cafe, a New York City coffee shop chain with three locations, including one in Greenwich Village. The concept plays off reactions of unwitting cafe patrons who are shocked and frightened as a disturbed woman uses here telekinetic powers to throw a man across the room, scatter the restaurant’s tables and chairs and send books flying from shelves.
The woman is of course an actress, as are most of the customers inside the cafe, where a hidden camera captures all the action. Viewers of the viral video are let in on the prank from the beginning, as the scenario is repeated numerous times with different unsuspecting customers, including a construction worker decked out in a hard hat and fluorescent vest.
It is very difficult to produce a video with the intention of making it viral, for there is never a guarantee that the public will begin to spread it around once it is posted to websites such as YouTube. Part of what makes viral videos such as the one for “Carrie” successful is that they don’t mention the film being promoted until the very end (if at all). As well, in showing the setup of each prank they allow viewers to satisfy a voyeuristic curiosity by watching the natural responses of each victim.
Like many of the successful viral videos for movies that have come before it, the “Carrie” campaign stunt was produced by Thinkmodo, a New York firm that specializes in producing viral content. This is the same company behind the Elevator Murder Experiment video that promoted “Dead Man Down”, another in which video screens in Times Square are hacked for the movie “Limitless” as well as a campaign that sent people flying over New York City to promote the movie “Chronicle”.
While each of the videos has racked up millions of views, not to mention countless media hits, the campaign for “Carrie” may be Thinkmodo’s most successful yet. After being posted to YouTube on October 7th, the two minute, fifteen second video racked up over 35 million views in the first seven days.
An interesting unintended observation from some of these videos is how they document the natural inclination of most people to run away from trouble, rather than get involved and lend a hand to someone in need. This is especially true in the Elevator Murder Experiment video where person after person flees the scene of what the believe to be a murder in progress.
Surely that is part of what Thinkmodo was trying to capture with such videos and a reason why they go viral. For Sony Pictures however, the goal is less that of a social commentary and more about market awareness. I knew a remake to “Carrie” had been completed and was hitting theatres sometime this year or next, though I wasn’t sure when. Having watched the “Telekinetic Coffee Shop Surprise” video on YouTube upon being directed to it by multiple news sources, I can now tell you with certainty that “Carrie” will open on October 18th.