There used to be a time when found footage movies and viral campaigns were not the norm. The Blair Witch project increased the popularity of the found footage genre, and had one of the most successful viral marketing campaigns.
Today, thanks to a healthy amount of networking sites such as Youtube, Twitter and Facebook, viral marketing is a common concept and more difficult to execute. The Blair Witch project managed to successfully bring people to the cinemas, on a budget, and it all took place before Youtube, Twitter or Facebook even existed.
The Blair Witch Project
For those, who haven’t heard of The Blair Witch Project, it told the story of three film students, who while investigating the supernatural legend known as the Blair Witch, disappear in the forest. Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez, who co-wrote and produced the film confirmed the budget was between $20,000 and $25,000. Cutting costs was clearly a priority, as the movie itself was shot on handheld cameras, returned after used to keep costs down.
Publicizing the movie, and making sure people knew it was in the theatres was going to be challenging without money to back it up. Having only spent $1 million promoting the film, Artisan Entertainment managed to significantly increase the movie’s popularity. The Blair Witch Project ended up earning $248 million at the Box Office.
How did they do it?
Certain sections of the website included biographies and childhood photos from the characters. I still remember clicking on the film icons, to play small videos or sound from the supposed recovered tapes. The website was extremely successful as it delivered a story that felt real and highlighted the mystery around the movie.
Two videos were made, complementing a website that told a “True Story”. Instead of playing them in cinemas or TV Channels, they were shown in college campuses. This way Artisan saved money and increased the word of mouth popularity. Adding to this if you looked for the movie on IMDb, you would find the actors listed as “missing, presumed dead”. The final effort was a full-page ad with the website address, simply stating, “you can’t afford to miss out”. A simple, but extremely effective call to action.
Was it worth it?
The campaign for The Blair Witch Project was original in its approach. The website served as a reference point full of information, that made the story feel more real and mysterious. The targeted videos and attention to detail created uncertainty in people’s minds, leading more people to the theatre.
The same success would be difficult to replicate today, as people have more resources, and information is easy to reach. In the end, The Blair Witch Project marketing campaign aimed for originality which to this day continues to be extremely effective.