27 May 2009 783 Views

How to Ruin a Viral: Make It “Official”

by Dan Koelsch

What’s the best way to ruin a really cool viral campaign for a film? Slap the film’s logo on an in-world site. While 2008 was a year of intricate ARGs that had us guessing until the end if the studio was really behind it, 2009 brings us “The District 9 Experience”, brought to you by Sony Pictures (TM).



I’ve been thinking about this ever since Sony began labeling their viral websites for 2012 and District 9 a month or so ago. Today was sort of the culmination of my frustration when I saw that Warner Bros. (or, to be more precise, whoever they hired to run their viral campain) decided to add a final post to ResistorBeTerminated.com:

I’m not going to say I’ll be back.

But I will say that we’re not going anywhere, so you shouldn’t either.

First things first: many thanks to all of the participants and followers of our alternate reality campaign for Terminator Salvation.

Secondly: We’re continuing operation of the Tactical Simulator, as well as this site, so make sure you stay tuned and involved for all updates and alerts.

Stay strong, Resistance. We’re not going anywhere.



That’s the equivalent of an intense drama having a blooper reel in the credits. It doesn’t matter if the “game” is over; it still takes away from it. Sony’s actions are worse, since their campaign is still going, and they are using their primary viral site as their official site for District 9.


I understand why they do it. As a company, you are creating this primarily to sell tickets. They don’t call it a “campaign” for nothing. Thus, you want to make sure it’s clear so that novices can follow the viral. You also want to make sure everyone knows what all these viral sites are for. There’s no point creating this amazing ARG if no one realizes you made it for your movie.





This dumbing down of viral campaigns concerns me. This is a pivotal point for the future of viral campaigns, and it seems like studios and marketing firms are doing what they do best: Selling the product. The problem is, the story, the game, the mystery, whatever it is, gets lost. JJ Abrams NEVER confirmed any of the viral sites for Cloverfield. There were even some fake sites that people followed for months. Sony may see this as potential for fan frustration, but I see it as just part of the game. Finding all the secrets is what makes the viral even worth following. If the companies are just going to spoon feed it to us, what’s the point?


Well, that’s the end of my rant. What do you all think?



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