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Sci-Fi Thriller “The Martian” Gets Immersive In 20th Century Fox/Microsoft Marketing Tie-Up
The upcoming Matt Damon film gets the full geeky treatment from the software company, which has embedded marketing elements into a variety of its products.
It’s a movie about an astronaut stranded on Mars, so what better way to promote it to sci-fi-loving techies than via online and mobile integrations that let them play with gadgets?
That seems to be the thinking behind a partnership launching today between 20th Century Fox and Microsoft that seeks to bring the story of sci-fi pic “The Martian” to life via Microsoft products.
The campaign involves a Bing Map of astronaut Mark Watney’s journey on the red planet, a design contest called #HackMars that virtually puts players into Watney’s shoes, and an educational program aimed at teaching grade schoolers about our nearest neighbor in the solar system.
“The detail and effort that went into pulling this program together is truly monumental,” said Zachary Eller, senior vice president of marketing partnerships at 20th Century Fox. “We couldn’t be happier with the results, and we know moviegoers will want to engage in the amazing content and activation that Microsoft has created.”
The movie, to be released on October 2, stars Matt Damon as Mark Watney, an astronaut who gets trapped on Mars when the rest of his crew is forced to evacuate and leave him behind. Based on the best-selling novel by Andy Weir, the film follows Watney’s determined efforts to survive and communicate with NASA while he finds a way to return to Earth.
One of the more visible elements of the campaign is a Bing Map called “Bing Watney Home,” which takes visitors through the places that the character traverses in the film. It uses real imagery of Mars, along with “transmissions” written from Watney’s point of view. Bing says it will be adding additional content daily through the movie’s debut.
“They can see the story through a new lens,” said Bryan Saftler, a senior marketing manager for Bing. “It’s a great opportunity to understand how dangerous and difficult his journey was.”
There’s little to no custom video produced for the map-related content, though, as most of what’s embedded throughout the pages is re-purposed from trailers, other promotional material or from NASA footage about Mars exploration.
Microsoft is spreading the word about the custom Mars map via Twitter and Facebook and declined to say whether the campaign would include paid media outside of Microsoft sites:
Additionally, Bing has built an instant-results page for those who search for “The Martian” that features the trailer, top reviews and links to the cast and related topics, as well as show times and ticket purchasing opportunities.
The most engaging aspect of the campaign, the #HackMars contest hosted on HackingMars.com, is also the most complex — so complex that only a relatively small group of people will be likely to explore it in its entirety. Still, Microsoft has the opportunity to use the video submissions to entertain a much wider audience.
For the contest, teams of three adults will collaborate to develop a product, service, app, game or something else that solves one of three major challenges Watney faces in the film — how to stay alive, how to deal with extreme isolation and how to get home.
Players have the opportunity to tap the expertise of tech professionals via a public chat room on Skype called “Hacking Mars Challenge,” which they can join by adding “Skype The Martian” to their Skype contacts. Microsoft is encouraging contestants to use its inclusive design toolkit as they put together their projects.
What we loved about The Martian is how human it is. Technology is hacked in extreme ways to benefit the thing that matters most –- the person in need. It shows how design can start with the most basic human needs, like food, entertainment, and a sense of connection. If we design with these basics in mind, we end up creating solutions that benefit people on a universal scale. Our idea was simple: designing a solution for Mark Watney on Mars can also lead to designing better solutions for people on Earth. Together with Jen Buckmaster in marketing, we called the filmmakers to see if they wanted to partner.
The grand prize includes $25,000 in cash, as well as a trip to Microsoft, where winners can meet with design experts and experience holographic technology.
This aspect of the campaign does feature original video, though it mostly is made up of interviews with the book’s author, Andy Weir, and clips grabbed from the film.
The third prong of the campaign involves an educational effort aimed at grade schoolers. Through Bing in the Classroom and the Microsoft Educator Network, the company’s existing outreach channel to teachers, the company has made available lesson plans related to Mars and space travel.