Most Wanted: Prometheus

One of the biggest films of Summer 2012 is surely going to be the return of Ridley Scott to the sic-fi genre he helped reinvigorate in the late 1970s/early 1980s with Alien and Blade Runner. Prometheus has been tipped for greatness in the popular press, mainly on the strength of the extensive marketing campaign which has placed the film front and centre in the cinema-going public’s imagination.

The marketing and PR campaign for Prometheus has been almost unavoidable for film lovers. Prominent film and sic-fi sites have been carrying stories of the plot, video trailers and crew interviews for some time now. There’s nothing particularly unusual about the attempt to position an expensive movie in front of as many eyeballs as possible – we all know the dangers facing big-budget flops (John Carter, anybody? No? OK then).

What has been a little disconcerting though is that too much information might have been leaked in advance of the movie’s release, leading to a situation in which the audience might find themselves disappointed at the general lack of narrative surprises when they finally get to see the finished film. Indeed, this was the focus of an article written by Ben Child over at guardian.co.uk entitled ‘Spoiling Prometheus: is the PR campaign giving away too much?’.

Child’s post was focussed around a trailer for the film (see above) which was screened on Channel 4 in the ad break for Homeland, replete with the Twitter hashtag #areyouseeingthis – something which got the broadcaster in trouble. The hashtag was the second most popular trending topic in the UK at one point that day, meaning that many eyeballs bore witness to the marketing hype.

This might be justifiable in a Summer where the British public may be somewhat distracted by the various sporting events taking place (Euro 2012, the London Olympics, Wimbledon, etc). Indeed, the second largest cinema chain in the UK, Cineworld, are pinning their hopes on blockbusters like Prometheus, The Dark Knight Rises, The Hobbit and 007 in Skyfall.

Sitting alongside the Twitter stunts are a series of regularly seeded ‘viral’ videos that are also aiming to whet the appetite of viewers. There’s been a video in the style of the TED conferences featuring Peter Weyland (the figure behind ‘the company’ in the Alien franchise), there’s been two videos introducing fans to the technology behind the robot lifeforms that have been a staple part of the series (David joins Ash, Bishop and Call), and most recently, there’s a video from Dr Elizabeth Shaw begging Peter Weyland for the support to conduct her research. All the video are at the bottom of this post in the order they were leaked.

One question that springs to mind is whether or not these short promotional pieces are essential to the film’s story, or are they more symptomatic of a need to engage an audience in advance of the cinematic exhibition event? In an era of intense competition for our time wherein it’s not unusual for us to cram in more hours of media consumption than there are actual hours, might this multi-pronged bid for our attention be the future of film marketing? Or might it be restricted to the marketing of sci-fi/fantasy films – films that have a geek following who are comfortable spending the majority of their time online? After all, how many rom-coms are getting this type of attention (or money invested in them)?

Viral #1 – Peter Weyland’s TED talk

Viral #2 – Big things have small beginnings

Viral #3 – Happy Birthday David

Viral #4 Quiet Eye

For more marketing of Prometheus, head over to the Project Prometheus page where a series of training games have been coded in HTML5 as part of a Internet Explorer sponsorship deal. Other browsers are available and also work with the page.

It seems like the Project Prometheus page is related to the Weyland Industries site. It’s not unusual for marketing campaigns to feature numerous micro sites (there were many official and unofficial micro sites for the TV series Lost, e.g., the Dharma Initiative, The Hanso Foundation, Oceanic Airlines, Drive Shaft, etc).  This was the site that also emailed those people who registered on it the ‘Shareholder access’ link which gave users a range of interesting (fake) company timelines, financial info and terraforming plans. This really is a treasure trove of interesting marketing material. Fancy an investor pack for prosperity?

Keen observers at the cinema have also noted that the film’s final credit sequence also contains a reference to the company timeline, just in case people missed out on the pre-release hype. It also features a mysterious upcoming date: 10-11-12 (Oct 11th? November 10th?)

Following that link takes you to a timeline entry for the 11th of October 2012. If you click the blue flag on the entry a further microsite launches entitled www.whatis101112.com. This site includes a quotation from Nietzsche’s Thus Spake Zarathustra, ‘What is great in man is that he is a bridge not an end’ and a video appearing to be Peter Weyland prior to his TED appearance in the first viral video.

#Viral 5: Peter Weyland – Thus Spoke Zarathustra

It seems like Weyland is muttering a quote from the text: ‘I am a law only for my kind, I am no law for all’. Given that Thus Spake Zarathustra is famous for the ‘God is Dead’ section, it would seem that this addition to the marketing campaign may be an attempt to explain some of the slightly muddy themes at the centre of the film. This video is also classed as unlisted on YouTube – only those with the link can see it.

It would seem the marketing continues until well after the film has been released, with abandoned Parisian metro stations being converted into large scale ads for the film: