Running a successful viral video campaign for a film can be tricky and complicated. It requires a lot of upfront planning and the implementation of the campaign requires careful management. Screw up, and lots of things could go wrong: no one will watch it, or maybe, if you’re really unlucky, tons of people will watch it but not understand it, resulting in your film being yanked from the festival in which it was supposed to debut, people you don’t know will send you threatening e-mails, and you’ll have the local police and the FBI on your tail.
The latter is exactly what happened to Outsiders Productions, an Oklahoma-based indie film studio, when they tried to use the “Cloverfield” approach by loading a mysterious and ominous-looking video clip onto YouTube for their latest film A Beautiful Day. The teaser freaked people out in Oklahoma, who thought it might be some kind of cryptic terrorist threat. Things quickly spiraled out of control from there.
The main problem with the video? It made no mention of the movie! The filmmakers have now been spending time explaining themselves and apologizing. They’re also trying to find some way of turning this fiasco into something positive with their “It’s Just a Trailer” campaign. It’ll be interesting to see how that works out.
This is a cautionary tale that teaches an important lesson in viral video publicity campaigns. Yes, the results were that the film got some publicity, but I’d bet not quite the kind of publicity the filmmakers were hoping for.