Welcome to the Will It Stick podcast – all about crazy marketing stunts and campaigns. Join us for this episode, as Melissa and Alexis take us back to 1999 and the release of the Blair Witch Project. This movie cultivated viral marketing at the start of the internet era. As an independent film, this was the first movie to be primarily marketed on the internet.
Learn about the strategic marketing that began a year before the film release, the rumors that circulated, the unique plot and backstory, and the legend behind it all. Film students thought that real documentaries of paranormal activity were far better than made up movies, and they sought to combine the two—thus Haxan Films was created. In June 1998, far before the debut of this low budget film, they launched a website about the Blair Witch film. Materials of testimonials, interviews, and information filled the website to create a cascade that truly looked like a real manhunt for the actors. From hanging missing posters, to manipulating the IMDB page, and using popular online chat rooms to spread gossip, these tactics stirred confusion around potential movie viewers and led them to the website. Due to such high volumes of traffic, the website servers crashed. Artisan Entertainment bought the film, a PR agency helped, and the stunts they pulled helped make the storyline insanely believable. An organic social media buzz escalated and their ad in Variety Magazine proved untraditional but effective.
Melissa and Alexis discuss the genius strategy behind all of these moves and how the production quality ultimately did not match the marketing success. Was this film what audiences expected? Whether or not the film itself was a hit, it certainly proved to change the game of movie marketing. By altering the course of this industry so much, the Blair Witch Project marketing success stirred viewers in an entirely new way. While we have more access to check the legitimacy of movies today, the skill of these creators proved to surpass the barriers that faced them in their day.
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Find The Drum article here.
Read the Film School Rejects’ article here.
Check out Variety Magazine’s article here.
Discover more about Blair Witch on Wikipedia.