The Unnerving and Creepy Viral Marketing for Smile Movie Is One for the Books


The new movie “Smile” is now out but while the movie is getting semi-decent reviews, the far more interesting part of the movie isn’t the movie itself, it’s how they marketed it.

Two things that I love are marketing campaigns and alternate reality games, or “ARGs”. When these two elements are combined, you get the amazing intruding into real life.

An “ARG” can be described as a game that a content creator plays with you. This type of storytelling is more than telling you a story. Stories are often told with hidden secrets by the creators. You might be watching a YouTube channel that tells a great story over many videos. However, Twitter accounts that feature the characters in the story may be sending messages that could lead you to secret websites. You might be able to gain a deeper understanding of the world’s history by turning on subtitles.

It’s designed to make the story more 3D. This gives you the illusion that you are actually part of the creator’s world and/or there is more beneath the surface than you are being told.

Internet creators have used ARGs to great effect for years. ARG storytelling is seeing some amazing developments, particularly in the horror world. ARG-style storytelling is used to great effect in the horror genre.

Horror stories such as Alex Kister’s “The Mandela Catalogue” and Kris Straub’s “Local 58” are excellent examples of a genre called “analog horror” that elevates ARG storytelling to new heights.

Major studios are not afraid to engage in viral marketing. Bungie’s Halo 2 ARG Marketing was legendary because it featured an interactive story about a rogue AI that plagued a website of a poor woman dedicated to bees.

Paramount Pictures treated “Smile” like an ARG. If you are a sports fan, you may have noticed it. The camera captured a woman smiling and not moving during an Oakland baseball game. The camera caught her staring straight at it, almost like she was smiling at you, the viewer.

Similar to this, a man sat at Yankee’s stadium in a blue shirt, smiling for an extremely long time.

These “smilers”, which were soon noticed by others, became more common. One was even seen in the background of The Today Show. People started to wonder about their meanings.

It wasn’t long before people realized that this was all to promote “Smile”, a horror film about a bizarre mental possession that causes infected individuals to smile like lunatics.

My loyal readers will recognize me as a man who is obsessed with great storytelling. I’m not afraid to write diatribes if I see one that’s too harsh. I love good storytelling and have a great appreciation for the 3D marketing method. If they hadn’t placed those people in these crowds, I wouldn’t have been interested in the movie.

Now, I do.