Monday, February 4, 2008

CLOVERFIELD and Viral Marketing Genius

It all began last summer. The trailer for a mysterious new film took audiences by surprise when it played before screenings of Transformers. A party scene, shot in camcorder style, gives way to complete chaos when a massive explosion is witnessed by partygoers from the rooftop of their building in Manhattan. Crowds flood the streets as debris, including the disembodied head of the Statue of Liberty, rains down on them. "It's alive! It's huge," someone screams, and soon the screen goes black. There's no hint of a title. Just a release date of 1-18-08. And the mania was born.

The Cloverfield viral campaign has taken the fake-media "Blair Witch Project" techniques to huge, new levels. To make it all more encompassing, now there are foreign news bites to check out. You can check out Spanish, Italian, and German news clips about the collapse of Chaui Station -- a drilling behemoth* in the Atlantic Ocean owned by the company who also owns Slusho. Each news clip has the same recorded video, with different news spins on the piece.

The movie's nondescript teaser site at was the first to be discovered by fans. Initially, the site displayed a single still image of two young women staring up in shock at something unknown... the monster, or its path of destruction, perhaps. The image was timestamped "01/18/2008 12:36A." New photos have been added to the site over time with more captured moments from the party and post-attack events in the city. The most recent pics, however, appear to depict an air-sea battle of some kind and its fiery aftermath. How does this relate to the Cloverfield monster? Did the military know about its existence before the attack? Answer unknown.

The next viral website to emerge from the ether was, the off-the-wall "official" site for a fictional Japanese drink that has a strange link to the events of the film. The first hint: Mike Vogel's character can be seen wearing a Slusho t-shirt in the movie's trailer. So, what's the connection? It seems that Rob Hawkins, the guy who's going away party is featured in the trailer, has been hired by Slusho for a marketing job -- more on how we know this later. Rob presumably scored the t-shirt and gave it to his brother, Hawk, played by Mike Vogel.

In the history section of the Slusho website, you can read the outlandish story of renown beverage-maker Noriko "Smallest Whale" Yoshida, who perished on a deep-sea search for a secret drink ingredient. Noriko's beverage-making enterprise was later revived by her son, Ganu, a scientist who was inspired to return to the family business after discovering an incredible "deep sea ingredient" that is the key to Slusho's flavor and lauded health benefits. Might this secret ingredient, as silly as it sounds, have some connection to the origins of the Cloverfield monster? After all, we learn that it was "discovered on the deep ocean floor, under amazing pressure and in the most extreme cold." Hmmm.

We don't expect the movie to answer any of these "expanded universe" questions about vast corporate conspiracies, eco-terror plots, or yummy frozen beverages. You'll have to look online for those answers. Cloverfield, instead, will tell the more human story of a small group of people caught up in the monster's attack. Want to get to know more about the movie's main characters? The film's intricate viral website also includes "official" MySpace pages for Rob and his crew.

A recent blog entry on Rob Hawkins' page reveals that he's just been offered a job with Slusho. You'll also find links to pages for Rob's brother Jason "Hawk" Hawkins, and his possible love interest Beth McIntyre. Then there's the rest of the gang: Hud, Lily, Marlena, and Jamie. The pages don't contain any juicy secrets, but it's an interesting way to see how the movie's characters are connected. One of the characters does have a secret, however. And it's one that may link her to the story's deeper mysteries.

The director explained, "It's almost like tentacles that grow out of the film and lead, also, to the ideas in the film. And there's this weird way where you can go see the movie and it's one experience… But there's also this other place where you can get engaged where there's this other sort of aspect for all those people who are into that... All the stories kind of bounce off one another and inform each other. But, at the end of the day, this movie stands on its own to be a movie. The Internet stories and connections and clues are, in a way, a prism and they're another way of looking at the same thing. To us, it's just another exciting aspect of the storytelling."


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