How The Blair Witch Project Changed Film Marketing
Project Blair Witch’s viral campaign forever changed film marketing, with Hollywood creating unique ways to immerse audiences in their stories.
The Blair Witch Project was not the first feature-length horror film found, but its exceptional advertising campaign changed the marketing of the film forever. What started out as a low-budget improvisation experiment has grown into one of the most influential horror films ever produced. This was in large part due to the ambiguity surrounding the film’s alleged true story.
The film was written, directed and edited by Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez, who created their own legend with the film which dates back to 1785 when a young girl was sentenced to death for practicing witchcraft. The Blair Witch Project takes place in 1994 and follows three film students who set out to make a documentary about the myth and disturbing disappearances in the woods of Burkittsville, Maryland. It was presented as a real documentary, claiming that the students were truly missing, leaving only their cameras.
Artisan Entertainment purchased The Blair Witch Project, which spawned two sequels and adopted a very unconventional marketing technique by capitalizing on its appeal to the “real story”. Avoiding traditional addiction to posters and informational trailers, the filmmakers urged audiences to search online for the fictional legend and the supposedly missing students. This form of viral marketing had never been practiced before but has since become a tool for immersing audiences in film campaigns, ranging from horror films to superhero blockbusters.
The directors distributed leaflets on missing persons which, in addition to a brief trailer, took people to a website devoted to The Blair Witch Project. People would then discover a compelling backstory about the legend, photos of police reports and fabricated stories, all designed to generate word of mouth. As details were regularly updated, public speculation escalated via online discussion forums, through which the filmmakers slyly directed users to their site. The Sci-Fi channel even broadcast a mock documentary, The Curse of the Witch Blair, designed to reinforce the validity of the legend. Instead of just marketing a movie, the production company crafted a comprehensive experience that captivated audiences throughout 1999. The film’s grainy, in-house aesthetic underscored its realism, and the cast was even listed. like “faded away, presumed dead” to IMDb.
The filmmakers couldn’t support the ruse long after the release – The Witch Blair Project was a cultural phenomenon and one that Hollywood often tried to replicate. It would be next to impossible to create a compelling “true story”, given that the internet was still fairly new in 1999, but viral marketing is still effective in getting the public to invest preemptively. at Gore Verbinski The ring remake played the cursed tape on television completely without context, exploiting people’s fear of the unknown and maximum curiosity. Interactive marketing is now receiving considerable importance, using incredibly creative techniques. Jurassic World designed a website for his fictional theme park while Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice announced Gotham and Metropolis using Turkish Airlines twin announcements. Film and TV marketing has since evolved into in-person events, like by Westworld virtual reality exhibits, expanding their narratives by providing information that cannot always be included on screen.
Audiences love to escape to fictional worlds, and marketing has now become an effective tool to achieve this alongside movies. Of course, these intriguing marketing ploys can be misleading, with some proving to be a brilliant distraction from weak storytelling. In other cases, they do not achieve the desired effect. The village failed to copy The Blair Witch Project with his own fictional hoax surrounding director M. Night Shyamalan, while Bird box exposed the dangers of viral marketing with his reckless blindfold challenge. No doubt, since The Blair Witch Project, no campaign has surpassed the spectacle of its spooky small town myth.
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