Creative Showcase: "Snakes" on a Phone

Creative Showcase: "Snakes" on a Phone
August 29, 2006
New Line Cinema enlists the help of Varitalk to let "Snakes on a Plane" star Samuel L. Jackson deliver a personalized phone call to drive viewers to see "the best motion picture ever made."
Creative Notes
Firefox compatible
Campaign Details
Client: New Line Cinema
Technology Vendor: Varitalk
Campaign Insight
Internet buzz for SNAKES ON A PLANE has already generated terrific early awareness for the movie. So the goal for this effort was to ensure that we didn't run out of steam, or more to the point, that we were able to kick things up a notch down the home stretch, and also to make sure the campaign extended out well beyond the core fan base.

We had met with Varitalk, which created the underlying technology, maybe a year or two earlier, and loved what they were doing. But we work really lean and we couldn't quite make the budget numbers work for us. So when they came back to us a few months back to check in and suggested they might be open to a little pricing flexibility, we knew right away that we had the perfect movie for this type of approach-- a pop culture phenomenon with high awareness and an incredibly cool/appealing star. Negotiations moved along pretty quickly after that. As for the content of the message itself, that was inspired by Samuel L. Jackson's brilliant performance at the MTV Movie Awards.

We batted the script back and forth a few times until we got the concept just right, booked Samuel L. Jackson for a few hours of studio time, and let him do his thing. Then the Varitalk team stitched the whole thing together with their special voodoo and we worked together to fine tune the interface.
We knew this was a good idea going in, but I don't think anyone could have anticipated how fast it would explode into public consciousness. We did a million calls the first week,  which was before we really started marketing it. We did a bit of initial seeding and then BAM! It was just incredible word of mouth. Then it starts showing up in the media, on a billion blogs, on radio stations... We don't really know what the total number will end up being-- we've hit peaks where there are six calls being sent PER SECOND! It's the sort of thing you dream about when you do viral marketing, but so rarely see. Of course, when we had all that success with our CRASH THE TRAILER viral piece for WEDDING CRASHERS, they said "yeah, that's great, but we bet you can't do it again." Apparently lightning can strike more than once.

In contrast to TV spots, which you air and pray that people are sitting and actually watching, these messages go person to person. They bring the unmatchable endorsement power of true word-of-mouth. And they engage and reach people in a totally personal, relevant way. Which is pretty cool, no?
-- Aaron Sugarman, VP of interactive, New Line Cinema

Editor's Note
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The Panel
With everybody scrambling to do SMS voting, mobile coupons, branded content or serial mobisodes, it is easy to forget the blatantly obvious fact that the killer app for the phone was established long ago-- it's voice. New Line Cinema partnered with VariTalk to create a phone campaign that is simple, fun, effective and takes advantage of the one feature that works across all phones, all plans and all carriers (even the few stray remaining landlines).

The application is simple and easy to use. Just enter your name, your friend's name, answer some questions about your friend and VariTalk mixes and sends your friend a personalized message from Samuel L. Jackson. The only downside is that much like buying a personalized license plate at Disney World, the application gets a bit frustrating if your friend has a non-standard name (sorry Lon, Ronald was the closest they had).

New Line has the enviable task of promoting a movie that, sparked by an entry in Josh Friedman's blog, has become this year's poster child for blog-driven, word-of-mouth movie marketing. It's the consumers who own the marketing of this film. New Line's job is to carefully stoke the fires every now and then. The beauty of this campaign is how direct the marketing message is. In the call, Jackson's voice booms "Snakes on a Plane just might be the best motion picture ever made…so on August 18th, skip work…and go see Snakes on a Plane." And the thing is, it works.
-- Patrick V. Barrett, senior interaction designer, Bazaarvoice

For me, this was the pinnacle of the marketing campaign for "Snakes on a Plane." Sure, other companies have used technology like Varitalk's to deliver personalized phone calls, text messages or emails to ask consumers to buy this or watch that. But none of them had Samuel L. freakin Jackson commanding call recipients to see "the greatest film ever made." Would you disobey the orders of the man who was Shaft? I didn't think so. 

I loved that the site allowed "Sam" to call you and your unsuspecting friends by name -- at least, if your name was included in New Line's list of possibilities -- and allowed you to personalize the message with occupations, distinguishing characteristics, mode of transportation, et cetera. Also, it was a nice touch that while setting up the call details, "Sam" chatted with you, making it seem like he and you were in on the plot together. New Line made a wise decision in programming this to come from the film's outspoken star (rather than his SoaP character)-- Mr. Jackson has been so accessible and willing to champion this film that you could almost believe New Line had him seated in a call center somewhere, shilling to his heart's content.

The application was easy to work with, the graphics integrated well with the rest of the SoaP campaign and the viral potential of this effort was phenomenal, given the already rabid fan base. I alone probably sent a good percentage of the million calls delivered in the first week.
-- Jodi Harris, editor, Entertainment Spot

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