Seems like just about every film these days has an official Web site. With their URLs featuring prominently in cinema and TV trailers, and on foyer posters, their function is to generate interest in the films and increase potential box-office (and merchandising) returns. But with so MANY film sites on offer – how does a studio ensure that its forthcoming blockbuster (in this case X-Men) will gain more online support than its rivals?
CREATIVE: Fox devised a second Web site to run alongside the official X-Men site. Called Mutantwatch.com, and appearing at first glance to have nothing to do with the film itself, it was designed to mimic an election campaign site (with fake press stories, fake books, and fake polls). The candidate, of course, was ‘US Senator Robert Kelly’, the McCarthy-esque politico from the X-Men comics and portrayed in the film by Bruce Davison. Kelly’s goal – to stamp out the greatest scourge of the 21st century: mutants.
Fox used email addresses it had collected at the official site to send out a tongue-in-cheek mailing. Readers were asked to aid the ‘Genetically Pure Patriot Brigade’ by visiting Mutantwatch.com and grassing on friends they suspected to be ‘mutant’ (the list of example traits provided was, of course, very silly). This naturally involved providing friends’ email addresses which were used in due course for further mailings – ‘You have been identified as a possible mutant: to clear yourself, follow this link...’ And so on.
Since the initial mailings were sent in February, 240,234 new email addresses have been collected at the site from viral referrals. Each of these has since been used for at least one email from Fox Movies (no instructions for opting out of future promotions, we notice).
COST: Fox was unable to provide exact cost figures … but you can safely assume it’s a drop in the ocean compared to the total budget of X-Men: The Movie.
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