Down the Rabbit Hole: Super 8’s Complex Viral Campaign

This morning I caught wind of a Steve Spielberg produced, J. J. Abrams directed movie scheduled to come out next year. I’m sure I’m very late to the game but was inspired by what I found.  The movie is called Super 8, which is unfortunate due to an association with a motel chain I had a very bad experience with once.  (That’s a story for another time, or, never.)  The movie has a high quality and special effects trailer that doesn’t directly reveal much about the plot.  Actually not revealing too much plot in the trailer is a lost art, as someone pointed out in the comments on the YouTube clip.  Go ahead and watch the trailer, it’s worth it.  (Feed readers may need to click through to view).

After watching that cryptic trailer, I  was intrigued started searching online and found more.  At the end of the trailer is a coded message that leads to  Computer geeks will get jazzed about the DOS PDP11 command terminal (whoops, thanks Phil), others will be fearful to do anything.  Take a look.  Keep saying “Y” to all of the questions and you get to a page with a file listing:

Type the command .PRINT RSCOM8 and you can download/print a file, which is a newspaper clipping with an ad for Rocket Poppeteers, some articles and some strange pencil marks.

Well, I was hooked and found, which has a lot of hidden features and content:

And then more content leads to the blog, updated recently, run by a character in the movie, Josh Minkin:

What’s this have anything to do with Super 8 and the plot?  Who knows, but fans have already created a wiki to track everything they find and piece clues together (yep, that’s where I found much of this – it’s Cliff notes on the complex stuff for people like me).  Key updates took place during Comic-Con (smart).  Fans have analyzed the trailer frame by frame.  They figured out that the Xs and marks on the newsprint story, when lined up overlapping pages, reveal coded messages.  There are audio files in the DOS directories and clearly lots more hidden content and other websites popping up.  Content seems to have stopped flowing to most of the sites since earlier in the summer, but we can expect more to come before the movie launch date.  If done right, the team producing this can expect a die hard core of sleuthing fans to show up for the premier.  I can’t admit I solved any of this personally – that wiki sure did help – but I have to admit I am intrigued to say the least and looking forward to more.  Abrams certainly has a track record to intrigue and providing fans a way to engage this deeply before the movie has begun production is quite remarkable.  There is clearly a storyline to the content.

What do you think of what you see here?  Is it too complex to engage fans at a big enough level?  What other complex marketing campaigns have you seen and liked?  Could this work for anything other than a movie premiere?  The marketing questions this uncovers could rival those of the plot so far…but I have to admit, I like what I see.

Social Media Chat Tuesday, July 21st

There are regular chats on Twitter, and then there’s hashtagsocialmedia.comMarc Meyer and Jason Breed have done an amazing job over the last year plus bringing in some highly respected and social-media-knowledgeable folks like Chris Brogan, Amber Naslund, Beth Harte and Jason Falls.  If I name dropped them all, it would actually like correlate to a good portion of my RSS feeds, and the weekly chat is a way to interact and answer some questions real-time.

Much to their dismay, Marc and Jason have invited me to host the tweetchat this week.  I’m honored to be included among company like this, and from participating in prior sessions I’m looking forward to hearing from some passionate folks.  You can follow along with the hashtag #SM69 (for the 69th time they have had this weekly discussion).  I’d love to hear from you since it’s your participation that matters.  You can also find me on Twitter before during and after.

My topic for this week is “Social media AND…”  If you have been a subscriber here you know that I look at social media tactics as informed strategies leveraging deeper understanding of a brand’s most valuable customers and prospects – truly integrated into other forms of marketing.  When combining social media with other interactive marketing practices, the results can magnify both.  In other words, social media integrated with other forms of marketing is greater than the sum of the parts.

Here are the questions we’ll explore:

Q1) How should marketers approach weaving social media tactics into their marketing arsenal?
Q2) Why does blending social media improve the effectiveness of other tactics?
Q3) Which tactics have the most impact when combined with social media? (Think both digital and traditional)

I’ll follow up here with a link to the live event and transcript afterwards.  See you there?

(Thanks to Aaron Strout, Ken Burbary, Rachel Happe and Amber Naslund for providing very valuable advice beforehand for managing chats like this one – Rachel captured her “fast and furious session” which provided some great input on what to manage and expect.)

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Billboard Yourself

Spotted this excellent example of fusing digital, personalization, offline, online, social media and music.  Spot on for Billboard magazine.  I get inspired by the fusion across creative concepts like this.

(RSS feed readers please click through to see the video)

Billboard Magazine video instalation from Marcos Kotlhar on Vimeo.

Display Advertising Shows Signs of Life

I always like to capture ideas and campaigns here that really catch my eye and provide inspiration.  Here are two banner ads that challenge the notion that this industry has nothing left in it.  They show that the right mix of creativity, humor and humility for the knowledge an end-user has about the space can create a vibrant ad.  Most importantly: they engage better than, well any other banner ad I’ve seen.  I’d imagine, like me, anyone in the interactive marketing industry would look at both these and say, “I wish I’d thought of that.”


First up is an ad from Pringles. I couldn’t click just once. (OK, I know that’s a headnod to the Lay’s campaign, but it’s for potato chips too).  I heard about it via AdFreak – key quote:

I appreciate that it isn’t flashing horrible circus colors and promising me a free Xbox or a spyware-laden “virus scan.”

It’s actually quite funny, and no surprise it recently won awards.  The one here is embedded – you can click right here and no I don’t get any referrals for your clicks.


The second ad was covered in Adweek’s TweetFreak a couple weeks ago.  This ad for Volkswagen integrates Twitter directly in the ad, scanning recent tweets for terms used and then recommending a car that is right for you.  This one is not embedded – click through to a page where you can put in a Twitter ID to see the results.

Volkwagen Twitter Ad

Of course I like the idea of integrating Twitter in a creative way – it’s trailblazing with new platforms and technologies – but I would be curious to see some of the metrics around both of these campaigns.  Any others that strike you as compelling or inspirational?

Bonus: An Offline Ad Can Inspire Too

Proving that technology, location and creativity can create a compelling mix, here’s another Cannes Lion award winner that could inspire loads of guerilla marketing ideas – imagine what Times Square could be like in New York City if all of the ads responded to what happened in front of them.  Hat tip to copyranter and @dschutzsmith for sharing.


UPDATE: For a lot more insight on the Pringles ad (not to mention some very useful resources on Pharma and social media) directly from the source agency that created the ad, see the post “What Pharma Can Learn from Pringles” from Jonathan Richman.

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Is User Generated Content the New Campaign Standard?

terminateyourselfTwo recent movie promotional campaigns do a great job combining the storyline, user photos and content (not to mention the ability to share that content easily on networks like Facebook).  They’re fun, easy to use and engage the user in more than just an online impression.  Has this become the new standard for interactive marketing?

First, the site Terminate Yourself ( promotes the new Terminator Salvation coming out on May 21.  The site allows you to upload a picture (or take one via webcam on the spot, which I think is the best part) and then customize the “damage” to yield a photo.  Simple, effective, and potentially viral.  What is intriguing is a lack of big corporate sponsorship, unlike the Star Trek Counterpart.

Star Trek’s marketing team partners with Cheez-It to deliver Trek Yourself (  While more feature rich, it can take time to load and process making it slightly more cumbersome.  After uploading a picture, you select a character, a soundbite (custom text allowed, which is pretty slick), and a background, and you’ve got a moving, living image you can embed anywhere.  I’d say this site is much more robust than the first example, but both are good at accomplishing promotional goals and leveraging user generated content to drive results.

As an agency, we’ve done work on these campaigns in the past (most recently for client Nationwide on the Sanjaya-ize Me site).  They can be fun, effective ways of engaging people online and can have at least a good shot of creating viral success.  I think the Simpsons site is still the best example out there though.  What do you think?  Have any other good examples that get the concept right? (For those reading via feed, please click through to see the example).

Create Your Own

Healthy Choice Chooses Wisely

workinglunchEvery once in awhile I stumble across a great example of interactive marketing to share.  Today a friend shot me a link to a microsite from the consumer product brand Healthy Choice, that has a lot of the right ingredients for a successful campaign.  The campaign looks like it was launched last fall but I think it will have a long shelf life.  Here are some reasons why I like the campaign.

  • Comedy is good. The central theme around the microsite is a daily comedy improv show.  The actors are funny, regular people loosely resembling the successful TV show the Office.  They depict characters debating various agenda topics during a lunch meeting.  Quality comedic content can make a site more engaging, more viral and keeping people searching the site for more.  The site’s show had daily updates for several weeks when it was launched, for a “season.”  It appears Season 2 ended in November. With agenda topics such as, “What Not to Do at Work,” “Dealing with Flatulence,”and “Reuse Staples.”  This “best of” show from November 25th is a great example.
  • Consumers engage and direct the content. You can submit meeting agenda topics, vote on future meeting topics, and send a “care package” to a friend who has been in too many meetings.  You can subscribe to reminders about the next meeting, browse through many archived shows and read through dozens of humorous articles.
  • Product endorsement is pervasive but not overbearing. Healthy Choice could just have easily made a microsite about nutrition and product information.  Instead they chose a humorous platform and work the product placement in without diluting the quality comedy content.  When you “send a care package” you can share episodes with friends via email but there also is an option to send a Healthy Choice product coupon.


I’m curious what the cost was to produce the show, site and content, and what the overall ROI would be for a site like this versus an ad campaign in a magazine.  No question I spent more time on this site than reading an ad and that Healthy Choice will have ample metrics to measure consumption of the content.  Well done, Healthy Choice.  Do you think this type of microsite works?  What are some examples of others you have seen and liked?

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Untapped CRM: Social Breadcrumbs

listeningpostMarketers have a lot of data. Online, they know where you live, what you clicked on, and what page layout (among other things) is more likely is going to drive you to make a purchase. They know what you searched for, what ads you saw and how long you spent on their sites. Signs are pointing to an elevated sophistication of using that data – get ready, because with the ability to combine your activities in social media with your online behavior, targeted, personalized approaches to marketing to you could be what’s next.

Exhibit A: CMO’s want to read the tea leaves

Mark Taylor, colleague at Rosetta, recently mentioned a study from the CMO Council that highlighted some key insight as to how CMOs feel they are deficient at understanding and leveraging customer data. Some key findings:

Marketers were asked about their top three areas of focus. Among the responses cited:

* 47% want to leverage existing resources to enhance customer communications.
* 41% would like to explore new customized communications technologies.
* 39% want to move marketing investments to Internet and mobile channels.
* 33% wish to improve behavioral targeting of advertising and online marketing campaigns.
* 32% want to adopt and use CRM and sales automation applications.

Exhibit B: Online activities reveal customer emotions and behaviors

I had a conversation earlier in the week with Evan Schuman, former retail technology editor for and PCMagazine and author of the retail industry blog Evan recently posted a provacative article about how semantic information about a user’s activities could lead to more targeted marketing activities, and I’ve had it on my mind since.

Extensive analysis of a consumer’s Web interactions has been used for years to try and target pitches more effectively. But new research suggests that…every digital comment made by consumers anywhere—in a product comment, an IM, on a social network site, in E-mail and via, exchanges with a live chat tech support person, coupled with Web traffic analysis—can be mined for hints as to emotions and other thoughts.

What it could mean

Imagine what organizations who are savvy enough to tie their CRM data to semantic, social media content left as breadcrumbs out there. Evan rightly suggests that every consumer responds differently to emotion. When you’re sad, so you seek out comfort food or buy some new music? When you’re happy do you surprise your spouse at home with a gift? Could your social media activity be somehow tied, through emotion, prior history, or simply by subject, to your purchasing or brand buying behavior?

Some examples

Consider some possibilities. I’m sure we could come up with better ones together but here’s a stab at some.

  • In Twitter your posts could be mined for relevant information. Say, you have a cold and are under the weather, and you like to post about it as you are down in the dumps. Imagine a coupon for Advil Cold & Sinus showing up in your email shortly after you have a conversation about cold remedies, and a targeted ad on a news site gives you 20% off on a home humidifer.
  • In Friendfeed, you show a pattern of mentions about football in blog posts and comments, and favorited Youtube videos – and your favorite team wins the next playoff game. Knowing that when you are on an emotional high you tend to make an online purchase, retailers start showing specific discounted offers pop up on eBay and Amazon related to your team. Beyond the fact that the team won, taking it to the next level targeted people whose buying behavior changes at these peaks.
  • Imagine if in a Myspace posting you share the loss of a beloved pet. You start seeing ads and receiving offers for “comfort” items.

Evan responds,

What consumers receive is nothing bizarre: A pitch from Amazon or Borders or Walmart for a particular kind of product. But what they won’t likely know is that the pitch was prompted by … a MySpace posting the software thought “sounded sad.”

Technologically? This is quite do-able. Psychologically sound? If the software is done properly, yes, these predictive packages can be frighteningly accurate. But here are the big two questions: What about privacy and morality?

Sure there are many concerns about privacy, morality, and transparency. Is it going above and beyond using this type of data to target customers, or just the next logical evolution? It sure makes me think a little more about what I share on searchable outlets, but I am not so sure connecting me with the right products at the right time would be a bad thing. What do you think?

Photo credit: fenchurch via flickr

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