‘Avatar’ Nails Digital Marketing, Again

Success is a relative term. When it was released last year, James Cameron’s “Avatar” was expected to be a success – as, perhaps, were films like “Paranormal Activity 2” and “Toy Story 3.” The difference is that when a James Cameron film is deemed a success, it’s because the thing has smashed all previous box office records known to man.

Such was, indeed, the case with “Avatar,” which earned more than $2 billion in ticket sales worldwide. In the days after the film’s elite status was secured, marketers put their heads together to determine which of their digital strategies made the biggest impact. Like most modern films, digital marketing included a presence on Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, YouTube, and Flickr, but each platform was leveraged in a unique way. The “Avatar” Facebook page was home to an MTV Webcast (sponsored by LG) that included exclusive interviews with Cameron and some of the cast. On Twitter, users could “Tweet to Listen” to access music from the movie’s soundtrack. Sponsored by MySpace, the red carpet moments leading up to the movie’s premier were broadcast online through Ustream.

Then in April, the global release of the film on Blu-ray and DVD was marked by another creative ad campaign: an immersive, interactive rich media trailer. Hotspots were imbedded in the creative that, when clicked, revealed incredibly detailed information about the film’s stunning fantasy world, along with additional video clips. Users could click to pause, zoom, and pan across the creative, and link to Amazon to purchase the Blu-ray and DVD set. Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment worked with MediaMind (formerly Eyeblaster) and international creative and PR agency ThinkJam to build the ad, which ran in 15 markets worldwide simultaneously upon its release.


Now, the launch of the “Avatar Extended Collector’s Edition” is, naturally, being supported by a campaign that’s no less intensive. But this time much of the promotion is playing out on the iPad.

MediaMind and ThinkJam were again tapped to develop another unique online trailer ad, this one even more interactive than the last. Expandable ads have nothing on this creative; a resizable video player allows users to pull scenes from the ad unit and drag-and-drop them onto the actual site page, even expanding them to full-screen if desired. Exclusive, extended, and behind-the-scenes “making of” clips add interest and appeal for the ad, part of a two-week campaign that launched a few weeks ago in the U.S. and continues to run internationally.


There are no concerns about missing out on Flash technology in this campaign; the iPad ads were built in HTML5, while the associated online campaign employs Flash. In the U.S., the media buy included such sites as Syfy.com, Ugo.com, IGN, and FOX Sports.

It stands to reason that box office blockbusters like this one are deserving of a superlative digital marketing campaign, equal in creativity to the product itself. Rich media has fast become the default selection when what’s called for is maximum impact. What’s interesting about the strategy for “Avatar” since its initial campaign is how – whether its high profile creative and targeted media buys, or user-driven social media – interactivity is front and center. Digital media isn’t the movies; we can’t expect our audience to tolerate a passive ad (let alone enjoy it), and we certainly can’t expect this timid approach to generate any online word of mouth.

Webcasts, Twitter contests, interactive trailers…this is the kind of digital media consumers respond to now, and “Avatar” has nailed it with its cross-platform campaigns. Not every ad must be interactive to the extreme, but some products warrant nothing less – especially when their meaning of success means something just a little bit more.

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