While one of 20th Century Fox’s marketing stunts for “A Cure for Wellness” — involving fake news stories planted across the web — blew up in its face, the studio also spread fiction of a more traditional sort across Facebook to promote the movie.
The studio worked with fan-fiction site Wattpad to enlist writers to craft stories inspired by the thriller, about a mysterious wellness center in the Swiss Alps. Unlike with the fake-news campaign, for which Fox apologized on Thursday, the Wattpad promos are clearly labeled as a “Cure for Wellness” tie-in.
Using Facebook’s Instant Articles feature, Wattpad earlier this month pushed the first chapter of “Pure” by Sandra Grayson (known as @SheHopes on the site) to the social network’s users to read for free in paid and organic promotions.
Grayson’s story, about a divorcee who seeks therapy at what turns out to be an ominous treatment facility, has garnered 600,000 views so far on Facebook, according to Wattpad. On Wattpad’s own site, by comparison, the full 12-chapter story has about 19,000 views. It marks the first time Wattpad has run a branded-content campaign off its own site and apps.
The campaign afforded a unique way to engage prospective moviegoers, targeting a young-female demo, said Suzanne Spence, Wattpad’s head of global brand partnerships.
“We’ve taken a writer who understands the genre and paired her with the film,” said Spence, noting that Grayson is one of Wattpad’s top mystery and thriller writers with nearly 84,000 followers on her account. Wattpad worked collaboratively with Fox to review the content to make sure it was “on-brand,” Spencer said.
Still, it’s not clear how much lift at the box office 20th Century Fox and production partner Regency Enterprises will really see from the Wattpad partnership on “A Cure for Wellness.” Even if readers enjoyed Grayson’s story, there’s no guarantee they’ll be moved to take a trip to the cinema. The film opens wide in theaters Friday after generally poor reviews.
Toronto-based Wattpad says it has a monthly unique audience of over 45 million people, with about 2.3 million writers on the platform who share content at least monthly. Creators can earn money through branded-content opportunities like the “Cure for Wellness” promo, as well as through in-story ads displayed between chapters of their stories.
The company also has launched Wattpad Studios, which has deals with Turner and Universal Cable Productions to identify stories that could be developed into TV shows. A movie adaptation of “After,” a YA romance hit by Wattpad star Anna Todd, is in the works at Paramount Pictures and Offspring Entertainment.
Wattpad’s “Cure for Wellness” campaign launched Feb. 3 and runs through Sunday, Feb. 19. The company is promoting “Pure” across other social channels as well.