Trying to tap into the same spell that made The Blair Witch Project a phenomenon last summer, News Corp. has signed on with the movie’s producers to create a Web site it hopes will deliver viral marketing support to a new sci-fi drama set to debut this fall.
Called Freakylinks, the site was created three months ago by New York-based News Digital Media and Haxan Films–the Florida-based studio behind Blair Witch–and features the weird, wacky and occult interests of Derek Barnes and his friends.
“I’m just your average 20-something living in the early part of the 21st century with too much time on my hands and too much technology in front of me,” Barnes writes on the site.
Nowhere on the site does it mention, however, that Barnes is a character who will appear this fall in Fearsum, which will be produced by Blair Witch producer Gregg Hale. Described by Fox Broadcasting as a sci-fi drama combining “the interactivity of the Internet with the power of television to spin tales of the unexpected and often unexplained,” Fearsum “follows a young Webmaster whose paranormal Web site leads him to his long-deceased twin, who may be very much alive!”
The idea behind the site, said Jon Richmond, president of News Digital Media, is to build “a community of people around Freakylinks Ultimately we believe that these people will then go searching for the TV show when it arrives, and they will understand that there’s a link between the two. But the goal today is not to link them at all.”
Richmond, who called the site “a very interesting marketing experiment,” pointed to its successful precedent, Blair Witch. “It wasn’t so much that they had a bunch of hits when the movie came out,” he said. “The Internet story was that for a year before the movie came out, and certainly months before anyone even mentioned that there was a movie, you wondered what it was.”
Like Blair Witch, which incorporated “facts” about what happened in the woods, Freakylinks focuses on Derek Barnes’ fascination with all things paranormal and occult. Meanwhile, his Web site will be part of Fearsum’s plot.
And like the site, which never mentions the TV show, Fearsum promos, which recently began running on Fox, never directly mention the site. Instead, said Richmond, “we reference Fox.com. But if you’ll notice, very cleverly during the promo you’ll see a browser and you see somebody typing in ‘freakylinks.com.’ “
Richmond said even once the show debuts the site will continue to stand alone and eventually may sell advertising space. Already, it has an e-commerce portion, featuring T-shirts and voodoo dolls.
“I think what’s most important is that the site doesn’t ‘sell out’ when the show arrives,” he said. “We’re going to be very certain that it doesn’t. There most likely will be a Fearsum Web site at Fox.com, which will be entirely different.” But, he said, Freakylinks “will never be a fan site.”