'The 4400': Welcome to Their World

NEW YORK To promote the new season of The 4400 on USA Network, Campfire has created a wide-ranging interactive world consisting of 80 videos that run from 30 seconds to five minutes and six Web sites.

The effort launched on Monday.

The 4400 follows 4,400 people who are abducted, taken away and then returned to planet Earth. After their return, many of them discover they have superpowers. As the fourth season begins on June 17, the plot follows the development of a drug called Promicin: it gives the users superpowers, if it doesn’t kill them.

Three different factions emerge around the drug: pro, anti- and neutral. This is the world that Campfire attempts to bring to life with Web sites with names like promicinterror.com and promicinpower.com devoted to explaining the drug, the advocacy groups for and against the drug and the characters who populate the world.

In addition, many of the videos offer a look into the show’s world from an average person’s perspective. For example, in “Dump Gone Green” a man gives a tour of what used to be toxic dump. Instead of seeing a steaming pile of refuse, there is a massive lake with thriving wildlife. The man says that a rumor going around town is that a woman who took Promicin changed the dump into a lake.

“We’re trying to dissect this story and then break it out as it would be explored if it were in real life,” said Gregg Hale, creative director, co-founder of Campfire. “We’re looking to energize the fans and do something that’s a little bit different in terms of marketing.”

While Campfire is handling interactive duties, USA Network Brand Marketing is handling traditional TV and radio promos. The push will run through the show’s season, and the budget was not disclosed.

While many of the characters in the videos are from the show, some online originals are also introduced. “One of the pieces of feedback we got was that there was not a lot of levity in the show,” said Hale. “So we created a character that fits into the universe but is very, very light in tone compared to the types of things others can do in the show. He has the power to unlock the dancer in you.”

Hale also hopes fans will upload videos of themselves dressed as characters they would like to see on the show. “We’re hoping they get energized and go out to do that word of mouth thing with an intensity you wouldn’t see if it was traditional advertising,” he said.

Given the sheer amount of videos available, is it possible for the average fan to even keep up with the multiple story lines available? “From the most ardent fan of 4400 there’s as much or as little content as they want to sample,” said Chris McCumber, svp, marketing and brand strategy at USA Network in New York.