1. What is an advertising campaign?
An advertising campaign is a series of linked advertisements with a similar theme or idea.
The Blair witch project campaign
Like Cloverfields, the Blair witch project also used a viral marketing campaign. It is the most successful viral marketing campaign of all time centred on a small, low-budget indie flick in 1999.
The film itself was first aired at the Sundance Festival in January of the following year. After an all-night bargaining session, Artisan Entertainment bought the rights for a reported $1million.
In addition to the website, which was expanded gradually to reflect new information being discovered about the ‘story’, the team joined various online forums and fanned the flames of the story by adding mysterious nuggets of information, to keep people talking.
They also shot a number of low-budget trailers. In the first, viewers hear the breathless and terrified voice of Heather, begging for forgiveness, before cutting to the top of her face, wide-eyed in fear, bathed in torchlight in the woods. The second details the search for the missing filmmakers. They are both chilling. The ads were mainly shown in college campuses, with a special feature on the Sci-Fi Channel. By avoiding mainstream cinema ads, they not only saved money, but made audiences believe that they’d stumbled on something special, discovering it for themselves.
Perhaps the most compelling aspect of the viral marketing campaign was the attention to detail, to the extent that if you looked on the IMDb before the film was released, the three actors were listed as ‘missing, presumed dead’. They even handed out missing persons leaflets, although the posters put up in Cannes were taken down the following day when it was revealed that a television executive had actually been kidnapped, in an unconnected event. Also, by limiting the release to only 27 screens, they created the impression that this was a difficult ticket to get hold of, drumming in the idea that you cannot afford to miss out.
2. The Blair witch project website
Haxan Films, the production company belonging to Myrick and Sánchez, had put together a basic website, www.blairwitch.com, giving the story behind the legend, which went online in June 1998. In a joint decision, Haxan and Artisan, decided to use the website as the focus of their publicity campaign. For the next six months, they added to it, and used a number of other low-budget tactics to promote the film. The website documents the history of the Blair Witch from 1785, when the legend began, to October 1997, when the rediscovered footage was released to the families of the missing filmmakers, who asked Haxan Films to piece together the story for them. There’s a detailed section on the filmmakers, with photos of them preparing for their filming expedition, and individual biographies with photos dating back to their childhood. In addition, there are pictures of the aftermath including their abandoned car and tapes, photos of the police search, a number of interviews with family members and people who worked on the case, and footage from the news coverage from the time. Finally, there are snippets of film from the recovered tapes and Heather’s journal. Altogether, they make a chilling time capsule that expands on every aspect of the film, and increases the belief that it’s based on true events
The Blair witch project basic plot
The Blair Witch Project is the story of three student filmmakers, Heather Donahue, Joshua Leonard and Michael C. Williams, who are investigating the supernatural legend known as the Blair Witch in the town of Burkittsville, Maryland. After interviewing the locals, they disappear into the Black Hills with their recording equipment, and are never seen again. A year later, their footage is found and pieced together to make the movie.
Why was it so successful?
In total, The Blair Witch Project reeled in over $248million at the Box Office, the second highest return on investment of any film. The publicity campaign for The Blair Witch Project was simply the most inventive, terrifying and successful campaign in film history. Undoubtedly, part of the reason for its success was that it was the first film to be widely marketed online. The website provided a point of reference for people to refer to, and it was something that could be shared easily, with the potential to spread like wildfire. The pictures, video and interviews that appeared online at various intervals added to the uncertainty of whether this was actually a true story. Even the actors, at the time of filming, thought the Blair Witch legend itself was real, although they were aware the situations around them were manufactured. Another reason for its success was that it created a feeling of uncertainty in people’s minds. Were they actual people? Had they really disappeared? Surely this couldn’t all be fake? Remember too, at this time fake documentaries were uncommon, and the unknown actors simply added to the mystique. It was also more difficult at that time for people to check the authenticity of the story, whereas today a simple search online would reveal in minutes that the events were not real.