×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

How ‘The Gift’ Used Bloggers’ Personal Histories and Periscope to Go Viral

Some 50 bloggers, writers and disc jockeys received a blast from the past this week in the form of creepy gifts.

From lamb chop puppets to a He-Man hat, the packages contained a note from a high school friend, “Gordo,” that referenced trips, obsessions, phobias or other personal trivia and tidbits. No, this was not a case of media stalking on a grand scale.

Rather it was an attempt by newly launched movie studio STX Entertainment to market its upcoming thriller “The Gift.”

“We wanted to convey the cleverness and creepiness of the film itself,” said Oren Aviv, president and chief content officer of the motion picture group at STX. “You have to create a sense of urgency and the more personalized the material, the more people will talk about it.”

The gifts arrived a day before the release of the first trailer for “The Gift,” the story of a couple (Rebecca Hall and Jason Bateman) who are menaced by a childhood friend named Gordo (Joel Edgerton). In the movie, Edgerton’s character gives Hall and Bateman a series of gifts that veer from the thoughtful to the disturbing.

In order to find out information about the bloggers, writers and other influential media personalities, the team at STX spent weeks combing Facebook, Twitter and other sites for obscure stories or anecdotes that the recipients had shared publicly. They were careful not to include information about people’s children or families so that the gifts wouldn’t take on a menacing air.

STX’s marketing team created a Twitter handle for Gordo and engaged the gifts’ recipients in a back and forth about the packages.

The marketing rollout is indicative of the challenge facing studios today. The panoply of available entertainment options in the home — from YouTube to HBO — makes it harder than ever to convince consumers to leave the comforts of the couch for the local multiplex. It’s tough enough for comicbook movies or special-effects driven productions, but for mid-budget films, such as the ones STX is making, the obstacles are even greater.

“You have to cut through the clutter in today’s busy world,” said Jack Pan, president of motion picture marketing at STX Entertainment. “We thought one of the key hooks for the film is the question of if your past is ever really past in a world where everybody has a big social footprint.”

In order to amplify the impact of the trailer, STX Entertainment partnered with iHeartRadio and Twitter. In the case of iHeartRadio, which counts Ryan Seacrest and Mario Lopez among its roster of hosts, it made sure that DJs would talk about “The Gift” promotions on their program.

It also exploited the launch of Twitter’s new Periscope service, an iPhone app that shares live video on the micro-blogging site. Lopez hosted a chat with Bateman and producer Jason Blum tied to the trailer’s release that was streamed on Periscope.

STX Entertainment estimates that the trailer has been viewed 5 million times in 48 hours, and hopes that the number will continue to rise after this weekend when it will screen in front of “Furious 7.” It also helped inspire stories about its innovative marketing in the likes of People and Fast Company, further driving awareness. Aviv told Variety that the company had an internal target for how many trailer views and comments it hoped to receive, and it had exceeded those goals by 50%.

A lot was riding on its success. “The Gift” marked the first trailer debut of an STX Entertainment release. The company was founded last year by veteran producer Robert Simonds and just this week announced it has partnered with China’s Huayi Brothers to co-finance at least 28 movies. Other upcoming projects include “Secret in Their Eyes,” a remake of the Oscar-winning Argentinian film of the same name to star Julia Roberts, and “The Free State of Jones,” an action drama starring Matthew McConaughey.

Marketing is going to be a big emphasis for the company. Aviv said that STX has combined its marketing and production arms so that every decision is made with an eye toward how a particular project will be promoted. In addition to Aviv, who was a top marketing executive at Disney and Fox, the studio has tapped former Universal Pictures chief Adam Fogelson to oversee the company. Fogelson rose up the marketing ranks.

“We all believe that the audience gives you points for doing something different that’s never been done before,” said Aviv. “The only risk is that it doesn’t get shared as much as you’d like.”

More Film

  • '2019 Oscar Nominated Short Films: Live

    Film Review: ‘2019 Oscar Nominated Short Films: Live Action’

    The Academy skewed dark in its choice of live-action shorts this year, selecting four films to slit your wrists by — each one featuring child endangerment in a different form — and a fifth, about a diabetic on her death bed, that finds a glimmer of uplift at the other end of life. If that [...]

  • How the 'Rich Eisen Show' Mixes

    How the 'Rich Eisen Show' Mixes Sports and Showbiz in an Entertaining Mix

    Walking through the El Segundo studio where veteran sportscaster Rich Eisen tapes his daily “Rich Eisen Show,” the sheer density of sports memorabilia is overwhelming — everything from game balls to jerseys, gear, autographs and uncountable photos are crammed onto every inch of wall and desk space. But step into Eisen’s dressing room, and the [...]

  • Yorgos Lanthimos

    Film News Roundup: 'The Favourite' Director Yorgos Lanthimos Boards Crime Drama

    In today’s film news roundup, Yorgos Lanthimos has set up a crime drama, “Here Lies Daniel Tate” is being adapted, and Donna Langley becomes a member of the USC film school board. DIRECTOR HIRED “The Favourite” producer-director Yorgos Lanthimos has signed on to write and direct crime drama “Pop. 1280,” an adaptation of Jim Thompson’s [...]

  • Brody Stevens Dead

    Comedian Brody Stevens Dies at 48

    Prominent Los Angeles comedian Brody Stevens died Friday in Los Angeles, Variety has confirmed. He was 48. “Brody was an inspiring voice who was a friend to many in the comedy community,” Stevens’ reps said in a statement. “He pushed creative boundaries and his passion for his work and his love of baseball were contagious. [...]

  • Contract Placeholder Business

    Hollywood Agents Blast Writers Guild Over New Proposals

    The war between the Writers Guild of America and Hollywood agents has escalated as the two sides battle over the rules on how writers are represented. The latest volley emerged Friday from Karen Stuart, executive director of the Association of Talent Agents, who accused WGA leaders of misleading its members and asserted that the guild [...]

  • Xavier Legrand Custody

    Cesar Awards: Xavier Legrand’s ‘Custody’ Wins Best Film

    Xavier Legrand’s feature debut “Custody,” a tense portrait of a family torn by domestic violence, won best film, actress (for Lea Drucker), and original screenplay at the 44th Cesar Awards, which took place at the Salle Pleyel in Paris. The awards are France’s highest film honors. “Custody,” which marks Legrand’s follow up to his Oscar-nominated [...]

  • Editorial use only. No book cover

    'Crazy Rich Asians,' 'Late Show With Stephen Colbert' Win Publicity Campaign Awards

    Hollywood publicists have selected “Crazy Rich Asians” as the top movie publicity campaign for 2018 and “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” as the best television campaign. Warner Bros.’ “Crazy Rich Asians” topped the campaigns for Disney’s “Black Panther,” Fox’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” Paramount’s “A Quiet Place,” Sony’s “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” and Universal’s “Halloween” for [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content