Marketing: Creating a monster movie hit

The short clips being released to promote Prometheus are as intriguing as the movie itself. Tim Walker salutes Ridley Scott's approach to film marketing

Even by Hollywood standards, 2012 is having a blockbuster summer. When Avengers Assemble (aka The Avengers) opens this week, it will be preceded by a trailer for another mega-budget superhero film, Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight Rises, which is due to open in July, a fortnight after The Amazing Spider-Man. If you factor in Pixar's latest outing, and additions to the Bourne and GI Joe franchises, then Prometheus – the new sci-fi from Sir Ridley Scott – starts to seem like an unknown quantity. And if there's one thing movie studio marketing departments abhor, it's an unknown quantity.

Prometheus, which opens in British cinemas on 1 June, started life as a prequel to Alien (1979), but the director now downplays the connection between the two films. Besides, the teenage boys to whom such things are inevitably advertised are too young to recall the thrill of Scott's sci-fi classic, or its 1986 sequel Aliens. Perhaps this is why the film's first big trailer was heralded online by a brief trailer of its own, and why those trailers have been supplemented by such a smart and intriguing viral marketing campaign.

Ten years ago, filmmakers were focused on creating great DVD extras to draw in audiences with added value after their feature left the big screen. Now, the emphasis is on clever, pre-release online advertising – and Prometheus has broken the mould.

At a TED conference in February a "screening from 2023" was played, in which the character Sir Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce), the future's most powerful billionaire industrialist, explained his philosophy and that of his company, Weyland Industries. The clip spread across the web faster than the most popular of genuine TED talks.

This month, the fictional Weyland Corporation released an online advertisement for an eighth generation android called "David", which looks human, and is capable of simulating emotion or, conversely, performing tasks that its masters might find "unethical". Michael Fassbender gives a bravura performance as David, which he will doubtless repeat in the film itself.

The extensive Weyland Industries website (weylandindustries.com) ties these viral strands together with delightful infographics and witty corporate detail. In the late 21st-century, it claims, Weyland has 837.53 million employees, one per cent of them androids. "At Weyland Industries," the site suggests, "we apply science, technology and our unparalleled global network of resources to the pursuit of Building Better Worlds... As the largest company on the planet we have taken it upon ourself to constantly explore, expand, and discover what lies beyond our own heavens."

In Prometheus, Peter Weyland dispatches a team of scientists and space travellers to a far-off planet, to search for what he believes might be the extra-terrestrial origins of life. The fate of their ship's namesake – the Greek god Prometheus, who was punished for giving fire to the mortals – might be a clue to what awaits them. And yet, the events of the film remain a mystery.

Journalists are yet to see it in full, and this far-reaching online campaign cleverly establishes the premise, without ever giving away anything significant about the plot.

The studio behind Prometheus is 20th Century Fox, but Scott appears to have been as invested in the marketing as he is, famously, in his films. His own production company, Ridley Scott Associates, created both clips: Scott's son, Luke, directed the TED 2023 video, while another RSA director, Johnny Hardstaff, was responsible for the David advertisement.

If Guy Pearce needed a model for the driven, fearless, fabulously successful Sir Peter, he could have done worse than study Sir Ridley.

Arts and Entertainment
No half measures: ‘The Secret Life of the Pub’

Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air

Arts and Entertainment
Art on their sleeves: before downloads and streaming, enthusiasts used to flick through racks of albums in their local record shops
musicFor Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Arts and Entertainment
Serial suspect: the property heir charged with first-degree murder, Robert Durst
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Igarashi in her

Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression

Arts and Entertainment
Could Ed Sheeran conquer the Seven Kingdoms? He could easily pass for a Greyjoy like Alfie Allen's character (right)

tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
It's all in the genes: John Simm working in tandem with David Threlfall in 'Code of a Killer'

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Far Right and Proud: Reggies Yates' Extreme Russia

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West was mobbed in Armenia after jumping into a lake

music
Arts and Entertainment
The show suffers from its own appeal, being so good as to create an appetite in its viewers that is difficult to sate in a ten episode series

Game of Thrones reviewFirst look at season five contains some spoilers
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench and Kevin Spacey on the Red Carpet for 2015's Olivier Awards

Ray Davies' Sunny Afternoon scoops the most awards

Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Proving his metal: Ross Poldark (played by Aidan Turner in the BBC series) epitomises the risk-taking spirit of 18th-century mine owners

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne is reportedly favourite to play Newt Scamander in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

film
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars in dystopian action thriller Mad Max: Fury Road

film
Arts and Entertainment
Josh, 22, made his first million from the game MinoMonsters

Grace Dent

Channel 4 show proves there's no app for happiness
News
Disgraced Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson
people
Arts and Entertainment
Game face: Zoë Kravitz, Bruce Greenwood and Ethan Hawke in ‘Good Kill’

film review

Arts and Entertainment
Living like there’s no tomorrow: Jon Hamm as Don Draper in the final season of ‘Mad Men’

TV review

Arts and Entertainment
Yaphett Kotto with Julius W Harris and Jane Seymour in 1973 Bond movie Live and Let Die

film
Arts and Entertainment

art
Arts and Entertainment

film
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

    The secret CIA Starbucks

    The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
    Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

    How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

    The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
    One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

    One million Britons using food banks

    Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
    Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

    2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

    Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
    The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

    The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

    The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
    Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

    Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

    A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
    Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

    Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

    They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
    Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

    Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

    The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
    The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

    The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

    Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
    How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

    How to run a restaurant

    As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
    Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

    Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

    For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
    Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

    Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

    The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
    10 best tote bags

    Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

    We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
    Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

    Paul Scholes column

    I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
    Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

    Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

    The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...