It’s almost 10:30pm, and I’m speaking to a fake person.
On a whim, I hopped onto Facebook (where FSR has recently sold out), and sitting there on my online contacts list is Andrew Tobler, a fictional character or, more accurately, a creation of a truly spooky viral campaign. Despite me asking about his project and what movie he’s advertising, he keeps evading my questions and bringing up things about his hometown of Piedmont, Utah. A fake town.
This whole thing started when we got an advertisement here at FSR for What Happened in Piedmont, a fairly obvious viral site promising to bring updates from a student away at Berkeley who can’t reach any of his friends or family back home. The posts were vague in the beginning, forcing me to believe M. Night or Stephen King was behind all of it, but there was a link to Facebook so that I could add Andrew – the blogger – to my role of friends.
So I did.
A month later, after forgetting mostly about it, I found myself chatting with a fictional being that refused to answer my questions about him buying advertising for our site (he claimed someone else was doing it with his permission to get the word out) and telling me that he feared his only informant was dead. At this point, I almost didn’t want to know what project he was shilling for, so I could live out the liminal fantasy of being a part of that dangerous world.
It doesn’t take long to figure it out, though. For months, there were zero clues leading to what the site was promoting – a great move on the part of the viral marketers – but after hitting his blog again, I saw a fake newspaper picture featuring Benjamin Bratt and Ricky Schroeder. A quick check with IMDB showed they were both acting in A&E’s mini-series version of Crichton’s classic, The Andromeda Strain.
So it turned out to be a television series. But it’s one that has its roots in classic sci-fi cinema (or novels if you’re literate). All in all, the viral campaign is pretty great, if not a little hokey, and I have to applaud whatever ad agency intern was up late updating news on facebook because no matter how I pushed, he or she stayed in character as Andrew Tobler.
There hasn’t been much news about the project beyond this quiet ad campaign. The mini-series is set to hit television sets on May 22nd, so be on the look out. If we get any actual news for it, we’ll be sure to let you know, but I can understand why it was impossible for the people working on “Andromeda Strain” to resist viral marketing.