Digital Make Believe Builds Anticipation for Iron Man 2

  |  April 12, 2010   |  Comments

Elaborate viral campaigns for films like Dark Knight, Watchmen and Iron Man 2 could become even more prevalent now that Producers Guild of America will give official credit to those creating them.

The Stark Expo opens May 7. Located in Queens, New York, the event promises to be a World's Fair style extravaganza showcasing tomorrow's technological wonders in a maze of candy-colored pavilions, expos, and theatrical spectacles. The expo has an engaging Web site and a Facebook page, too. The thing is, it doesn't exist.

This expo is part of a viral marketing campaign dedicated to Iron Man 2, a super hero flick from Paramount Pictures set to open the same day as the fictitious fair. Such campaigns could become even more prevalent now that Producers Guild of America has decided to give official credit to the producers of these intricate story tangents.

"It's gonna be a real place?!?!?" asked one fan of The Stark Expo on Facebook. Her friend's response: "No but a girl can dream...." The same dreamer wished another fan luck in her run on "a course around the future grounds of Stark Expo 2010!"

Since the fake company's Facebook page was created - seemingly late last month - it's generated thousands of fans, all looking forward to "Witnessing the future, firsthand." Most seem to be in the know about the fact that Stark Industries and its Expo are associated with the upcoming movie, based on the Marvel Comics title Iron Man. Stark CEO Tony Stark - a.k.a. Iron Man - runs the defense industry firm.

On Thursday, fans were invited to "See the HazTech Exoskeleton at Stark Expo 2010." Stark subsidiary AccuTech has unveiled "the latest breakthrough in anthropo-robotic physical enhancement," a robotic armor of sorts allowing humans to perform acts of superhuman strength, such as breaking a brick in half like one would a chocolate bar. The company's newest invention was touted on the Facebook page with a teaser asking, "Have you seen what just went on display at some of the Stark Expo 2010 pavilions? Here's one we're really excited about." The Stark Expo Facebook fan base grew from around 5,600 to over 6,000 between Thursday and Friday.

The campaign is torn from the pages of other viral efforts for recent comics-inspired films, including Warner Bros. Batman movie, "The Dark Knight," and Warner Bros. film "Watchmen."

"It's almost like the studios understand that audiences - while they're excited for a big screen adaptation of their comic book heroes, there's also a sense that the studios can really screw this up," said Ian Schafer CEO and founder of Deep Focus. "So, they have to prove to the audience before the movie comes out...that they're not screwing around. They're investing everything in not just the production, but the story."

The Dark Knight was released in July 2008, but elaborate viral efforts were trickling online as early as autumn 2007 when WhySoSerious.com launched, featuring a jack o' lantern which slowly rotted as the days went on, revealing a scavenger hunt and message from The Joker on Halloween. Another component of the campaign enticed fans to submit photos of themselves as the sadistic character which were posted to RorysDeathKiss.com, a spoof of "Rory's First Kiss," the code name given to The Dark Knight during filming.

In March 2008, as the U.S. presidential elections heated up, Gotham's candidate for District Attorney launched his own campaign. Ads for the fictitious candidate showed up online, linking to IBelieveInHarveyDent.com. The Joker's answer to Dent appeared soon thereafter at IBelieveInHarveyDentToo.com.

Their desire to be in-the-know months before a film opens, as well as participate in the tales unraveling online makes fans of comics and their related franchises particularly susceptible to such marketing tactics. For instance, Iron Man fans have been helping create their own extensions of the Stark Industries side stories. "I have the bionic eye they are working on," wrote one fan in a comment about AccuTech's new robotic invention. "My cousin works at Accutech and he said I don't want to miss the expo. I'll be there!" stated another.

"Most of these things are appealing to a pretty small audience, but they're the ones that set the initial barometer," Schafer suggested.

As with other viral efforts, these campaigns are fed to key sites with loyal readers on the lookout for tidbits about their favorite pop culture titles and characters. Ain't It Cool News reported on a Watchmen related site in June 2007, nearly two years before the film was released. The site's founder, Harry Knowles, wrote that he had received e-mails from Rorschach, a primary character in the film; the cryptic message linked to RorschachsJournal.com, which allowed fans to send the obsessed character an e-mail message to which he responded - often with his catchphrase, "hurm."

Other viral Watchmen efforts included a lush site featuring the contents of Rorschach's Journal, sent to The New Frontiersman, a conservative news publication read by the character in the comic. TheNewFrontiersman.net also links to an "arcade game" related to the comic. A YouTube video featuring a clip from a 1970 edition of the fictitious NBS Nightly News cast about Watchmen character Dr. Manhattan also made the rounds after its January 2009 posting.

This muddling of film marketing with living narrative is evident in the fact that the Producers Guild just last week announced it would give credit to "Transmedia Producers." The organization defines these producers as people who develop original extensions of "storylines existing within the same fictional universe" of film, TV, comics, "Narrative Commercial and Marketing rollouts," and other platforms.

"What you'll see is the people behind these stories are going to start getting credit themselves," said Schafer, himself a member of the guild.

You can follow Kate Kaye on Twitter at @LowbrowKate.

ClickZ Live Toronto Twitter Canada MD Kirstine Stewart to Keynote Toronto
ClickZ Live Toronto (May 14-16) is a new event addressing the rapidly changing landscape that digital marketers face. The agenda focuses on customer engagement and attaining maximum ROI through online marketing efforts across paid, owned & earned media. Register now and save!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kate Kaye

Kate Kaye was Managing Editor at ClickZ News until October 2012. As a daily reporter and editor for the original news source, she covered beats including digital political campaigns and government regulation of the online ad industry. Kate is the author of Campaign '08: A Turning Point for Digital Media, the only book focused on the paid digital media efforts of the 2008 presidential campaigns. Kate created ClickZ's Politics & Advocacy section, and is the primary contributor to the one-of-a-kind section. She began reporting on the interactive ad industry in 1999 and has spoken at several events and in interviews for television, radio, print, and digital media outlets. You can follow Kate on Twitter at @LowbrowKate.

COMMENTSCommenting policy

comments powered by Disqus

ClickZ Today is our #1 newsletter.
Get a daily dose of digital marketing.

COMMENTS

UPCOMING EVENTS

Featured White Papers

ion Interactive Marketing Apps for Landing Pages White Paper

Marketing Apps for Landing Pages White Paper
Marketing apps can elevate a formulaic landing page into a highly interactive user experience. Learn how to turn your static content into exciting marketing apps.

eMarketer: Redefining Mobile-Only Users: Millions Selectively Avoid the Desktop

Redefining 'Mobile-Only' Users: Millions Selectively Avoid the Desktop
A new breed of selective mobile-only consumers has emerged. What are the demos of these users and how and where can marketers reach them?

Jobs

    • Contact Center Professional
      Contact Center Professional (TCC: The Contact Center) - Hunt ValleyLooking to join a workforce that prides themselves on being routine and keeping...
    • Recruitment and Team Building Ambassador
      Recruitment and Team Building Ambassador (Agora Inc.) - BaltimoreAgora, www.agora-inc.com, continues to expand! In order to meet the needs of our...
    • Design and Publishing Specialist
      Design and Publishing Specialist (Bonner and Partners) - BaltimoreIf you’re a hungry self-starter, creative, organized and have an extreme...