Top 10 viral film marketing campaigns

I love great movie viral marketing. I waste so much of my time following the campaigns, trying new things and getting completely absorbed into them. Based on this obsession, I have created a list of the top 10 viral film marketing campaigns – check out what they are.

Top 10 films that had great viral marketing

10. Last Exorcism

First up in my list of viral film marketing campaigns, is The Last Exorcism.

Lionsgate Films used Chatroulette, a website which pairs up strangers with webcams to chat online, as their chosen method of promotion. Following the stereotype that Chatroulette tends to be used in a ‘sleazy’ way, The Last Exorcism was promoted by having a series of young women appear as “up for a good time” online. The men watching any of these online feeds, would see a girl seductively started to unbutton her top, when she would then stop and turn into a demonic monster, lunging at the camera.

The young guys watching, terrified, would then see a URL for the film’s official website. I think this was a brilliant piece of viral marketing, getting those pulses running and getting users to experience first hand, what scary films should be all about. It raised a lot of interest and got people talking, which is exactly what you want from viral marketing.

The film was released August 27th 2010 and to date, the official ‘Last Exorcism’ YouTube page has had over 8,300,000 views of some of the best reactions from their viral, take a look.

9. District 9

This is one of my favourite examples for viral film marketing campaigns and is a great example of what you can do how well you can do it when you know your product inside and out. Filmmakers of District 9 created a series of adverts and stickers placed in several cities on bus stops, tube stations, trains and benches with the words “For Humans Only”. Below it was a phone number a call to action directing people to a website.

Top 10 films that had great viral marketing

Websites were created to support the film, but each site focused on a different area of District 9′s world. There was a website informing about the ‘non-humans’, another which asked whether you were ‘human’ or ‘non-human’ before entering and also a blog which was written by a fictional Non-Human equal rights activist. These sites covered a variety of areas, keeping viewers from all over interested and intrigued, keeping people talking about District 9 and who those ‘Non-Humans’ were.

8. Star Trek Into Darkness

Star Trek Into Darkness kicked off with some pretty subtle marketing, which quickly grew into something everyone was talking about.

Excitable fans noticed what looked like a secret URL hidden in a scene in one of the Star Trek trailers – what looked like “”.

Top 10 films that had great viral marketing

Big time Star Trek fans figured the connection due to the USS Enterprise being designated as ‘NCC-1701′. The mention of ’1701′ gave viewers belief it was connected to Kirk and his Enterprise. When viewing the site, a sign up form could be seen, as well as links to Twitter and Facebook which were giving out obscure messages.

7. Toy Story 3

During the build up to Toy Story 3, Pixar created a couple of viral videos; ‘Groovin with Ken’ which was an inspired Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous-esque video and a 1980s stylee advert for Lots-o.

Both videos went down a complete storm online, with press, bloggers and fans alike all eagerly sharing and discussing the possibilities of Toy Story 3.


6. Inception

viral film marketing campaigns

 For the release of Inception, Warner Bros spared no expense for the film’s viral marketing. Coinciding with the Inception’s first teaser trailer, Inception’s official website went live, which just simply showed a video of a spinning top. On the build up to December the top started to wobble slightly and lose speed, until eventually it toppled over, presenting an online game called Mind Crime.

Once completed, a poster for Inception was revealed. Later on during their marketing efforts, Mind Crime was given a new level, which when completed offered resources such as a hidden trailer, a manual full of images and odd disconnected websites, all related to the film. This is a great example of building hype and keeping people talking .

5. Dark Knight

viral film marketing campaigns

For the release of ‘The Dark Knight’, 42 Entertainment played on what would become the films famous tagline and created, a website which sent fans on a scavenger hunt, finding clues on the website to unlock special content, such as teaser trailers and hidden messages, which instructed fans to uncover clues at certain locations throughout the States.

When put together online, the combined clues revealed an image of the Joker and an audio clip of him saying “and tonight, you’re gonna break one rule”.

The website was updated and edited over time, to keep content fresh and fans engaged. The overall campaign created a frenzy amongst die-hard fans, desperate to know what the next clue was and what it all meant.

4. Prometheus

Another favourite of mine for film marketing campaigns is Prometheus. To announce the release, a TED talk from the year 2023 was created. TED organisers worked with the team behind this viral to make the film look like what they envision farout future TED talks to look like. The video was then aired at a real TED conference.

This was then followed up by a second video featuring David (Michael Fassbender’s character) in a corporate-type product video.

Websites were also created to support the viral marketing activities, but the success of these videos alone goes to show the power multi-media has in viral campaigns and how easily it engages fans and viewers alike.


3. Super 8

No stranger to viral film marketing campaigns, J.J Abrams had something special lined up for his family film ‘Super 8′.

During initial viewings of the films first trailer, some eagle eyed viewers realised a series of screenshots flashed across the screen, spelt out words (when rotated around). The words spelt out ‘scariest thing I ever saw’ which when searched, of course took them to a website.

viral film marketing campaigns

Various clues were on the website, as well as some elements from the film, such as posters and clips, but also sound effects, which added no value, except to throw fans off a little. This was a sure fire way to keep people posting, looking for clues, solutions and talking about the campaign. The use of ‘throwing fans off the scent’ was a great trick used in this campaign.

2. Blair Witch

This is one of my favourite films and one of my favourite viral film marketing campaigns, despite it’s age, it’s still a very effective example of budget marketing – and budget marketing done right at that!

The selling point of the film was of course that it was “real footage” and based on “a true story”, so what better strengths to play with for marketing? A basic website was created, which detailed the story of the Blair Witch, from 1785 when the legend began, to 1997, when the footage was ‘discovered’.

Rumours of a witch in the woods which made people disappear of course got people talking and to fuel those flames, the team behind the film, joined various online forums adding extra tit-bits of information and keeping people talking.

As an extra add-on to the viral marketing , three actors from the film were also listed as ‘missing, presumed dead’ on IMDB.

Considering it’s age, way, way before Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or before viral marketing was even a big thing, I think this was a really clever, integrated campaign. It massively deserves it’s place here at number 2.

1. Cloverfield

The top spot for my list of viral film marketing campaigns had to go to Cloverfield. I might be somewhat biased to this (though I have tried not to be) but this is what started my love of viral marketing and where it all began.

When the first teaser for the film came out, people were going crazy wondering what this film was. The only official website that could be found was where there was a series of timestamped photos, which didn’t appear to be connected to one another. Website visitors had to piece together the photos in order and interpret their own chain of events. When clicked and shaken, the photos would turn over where some had obscure messages written on them.

viral film marketing campaigns

Desperate for more clues, some eagle eyed viewers noticed a ‘Slusho!’ t-shirt on one of the characters (it was later found out that the main guy Rob, was leaving for Japan to work for the company too). A bit of research lead to a Slusho! website, with a whole series of strange links and clues which seemed to go nowhere. More digging informed viewers that Slusho! was owned by a company  called Tagruato, who had been drilling in the seabed for oil. Wild theories quickly spread that their drilling had disturbed the monster.

Each of these viral sites lead to more clues which had people in frenzy desperate to know what the monster was, what the film was about and where the monster came from. Teaser trailers were also created which gave nothing away and answered no questions for people, continuing that hype and suspense.

That concludes my list of top 10 viral film marketing campaigns. From viral websites and videos, to online games, each film campaign has it’s own unique reason for being listed here. What did you think of my list? Are there any viral film marketing campaigns you think should or should not be in list? What was your favourite campaign? Share your thoughts in the comments section below, or let me know on Twitter! Thanks for reading.