Thursday, 26 August 2010

The Blair Witch Infection

This year Forbes billed The Blair Witch Project as one of the best ever social media campaigns. It was designed and succeeded to engage and encourage discourse within the target audience allowing it to spread virally thus causing the populartiy of the film(the product) and the campaign particularly the website by adding value to that product since it bolstered the story line rather than just advertising it.

The marketing materials endeavoured to create empathy for the characters by making it appear as if it was for actually missing persons with a bizarre supernatural twist. To achieve this a second "pseudo-documentary" created for the Sci-Fi Channel which centred on interviews with the parents of the "missing" film makers and residents of the town “formerly known as Blair”, a book based on the investigation, a comic book, and a soundtrack that is marketed as the mix tape found in Joshua Leonard's(one of the Students) car. Flyers were distributed in Cannes that appeared to be for missing persons and most importantly a website, which was an extension of the mythology and “search” for the missing students was created. The site featured an interactive timeline, beginning in 1785, of the events in the History of the Blair Witch which offers further explanation of the myth, complete with historical artifacts such as sepia-toned photographs and documents such as the book The Blair Witch Curse. The aftermath section features the story after the film ends by detailing the search for the missing filmmakers, displaying evidence in the case, interviews with the sherrif and search party participants, and news reports of the case. The Legacy section includes video and audio clips of the found footage as well as excerpts from the main character Heather's diary. At the time Nielson NetRatings listed the official site as the 45th most visited location on the Web for the week ending August 1 1999, with a reported 10.4 million page views and an astounding average visit of 16 minutes and 8 seconds. That ranking is a jump from its placing of 86th during the week ending July 18, when the film was in limited release.

Steve Wax, MikeMonello and Greg Hale who created the “the Blair Witch project” went on to found Campfire a marketing agency who's strategy is to create a story that develops over time entangling their target audience in a plethora of media. They create an addictive mystery that peaks curiosity and entices people to want to find out more which thanks to the help of search engines such as google has become much easier. Their Audi campaign called "The Art of The Heist," utilised the web through both traditional and social sites like message boards and blogs, mobile technology and experiential exploits. The results were better than Audi could ever have hoped for, with 2 million hits on their web site, 4000 test drives and 75% more dealership leads.