DIY Marketing: Paranormal Activity

September 30, 2009

I really love clever marketing campaigns! Here is a case study on Paramount Pictures Marketing Campaign for the low budget feature “Paranormal Activity” and some tips on how you can use some of the ideas in your own marketing.

DIY Marketing - Paranormal Activity

Hoping to catch lightning in a bottle (or the ghost in the machine), Paramount Pictures has been treading carefully with its release of “Paranormal Activity,” which opened in 12 theaters on Friday and an additional 20 cities this weekend.

The Slamdance 2008 pickup’s ridiculously low budget of $15,000 and cinema-verite approach to the supernatural evoke that ultimate sleeper success, “The Blair Witch Project.”

So, let’s take a look at what is going on here and how you can apply it to your business.

What’s going on?

We have a very low budget film, Paranormal Activity ($15,000 is ridiculously low) that has been picked up by a major studio, Paramount Pictures. According to Variety, director Oren Peli shot the film over one week with a high-def camera in his own house with two unknown actors, Katie Featherstone and Micah Sloat, who manned the camera much of the time. The movie premiered at the Slamdance Film Festival in January 2008 and was purchased by Dreamworks/Paramount with the intent of remaking the film with Director Oren Peli directing.

Here’s where it gets interesting

They did a few test screenings to see what parts of the movie worked and which didn’t. It tested so well, they decided to make a few slight changes and release it as is… Traditionally, movies get a huge advertising budget, commercials etc, but paramount decided to do something a little more interesting.

Last November, they showed the film to international buyers. here’s the twist, they invited dozens of older teens and young adults to sit alongside 150 buyers in a Santa Monica theater. “It was nothing short of riotous” – In the next 24 hours, they sold out all the international rights in 52 countries. (Isn’t this genius?! Stacking the deck!)

A few weeks ago, rain was coming down in a hard drizzle at the Telluride Film Festival, and as midnight approached, the several hundred festival guests wrapped themselves tighter in blankets, tarps and ponchos as they tried to stay warm. The free, outdoor “Paranormal Activity” screening at this year’s Labor Day festival scarcely benefited from the cold, wet weather, but few in the audience left early. By the next day, positive Internet reviews and Tweets were flowing in.

Following the example of some DIY filmmakers they set up midnight screenings in 13 college towns – this continued the word of mouth campaign.

Paramount’s expectation is that as word-of-mouth builds for “Paranormal Activity,” people who haven’t seen the film will use to request the movie in their towns. Over 250,000 have demanded the movie in their towns!

The Internet service has been used by music fans who want bands to play a local gig; Paramount says the “Paranormal Activity” application is Demand’s first for a movie.

“It allows us to be really responsive to what is actually happening,” says Megan Colligan, Paramount’s marketing co-president.

Using a combination of Social Media outlets, Paramount is “assisting” the word of mouth marketing campaign. By setting up accounts on Twitter and Facebook (Fan Page) – they have provided a platform for people to easily spread the word.

The Facebook fan page now boasts over 24,000 fans, who leave comments, reviews (“Best horror movie ever!!!!! I am soooo going to see it a second time. Maybe even more if my wallet will allow me to!”) and a link (with encouragement) to so that people will demand the movie play in their area – It worked on me.

How can use this idea in your own marketing?

“I can’t do this, I don’t have Paramount Pictures money…”

First off, Paramount doesn’t have Paramount’s money anymore. That’s what we are talking about here.

Here are the steps to follow if you are modeling what is going on with “Paranormal Activity”:

  1. Create a good product or service.
  2. Give it away to a few people so they will give your reviews/testimonials and tell their friends. Make sure you ask them!
  3. Leverage Social Networks like Twitter and Facebook in your marketing – Huge reach, low effort.
  4. Listen to your audience (Fans, client base, customers) and respond to their needs

Thanks to my using (along with 17,412 others) – demanding the movie play in LA it opens here tomorrow and, yes, I am going to see it with 17,000+ of my closest friends.

Using the model above I am going to ask that if you found this post useful, please leave a comment or Tweet it using the “Retweet button” above. Thanks!


Paranormal Activity Official site, Facebook Fan page, Twitter

Check out the Trailer:

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