Mainlining Fandom: Hollywood’s Use of Alternate Reality Gaming as a Marketing Strategy

Stephanie Janes

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


Hollywood has always approached the internet with caution, often viewing it as a battleground for IP rights rather than a communicative link between the industry and its audiences.
However, over the past decade, web presence has increasingly become part of everyday life for many consumers. Companies have responded by increasing their marketing activities online, some investigating more immersive viral strategies, such as the promotional alternate reality game (ARG). Since the launch of the ARG known as The Beast to promote Artificial Intelligence (2001), much has been made of this highly participatory mode of marketing. Although difficult to define, the following is a good description of an ARG:
‘A cohesive narrative revealed through a series of websites, e-mails, phone calls, IM, live and in-person events. Players often earn new information to further the plot by cracking puzzles... players... typically organize themselves into communities to share information and speculate on what it all means and where it’s all going.
Whilst this might sound like an attempt to communicate with a niche fan audience, this paper uses the ARG for Super 8 (2011) as a case study to argue that Hollywood is using this strategy to harness fan creativity and gamer sensibilities and ‘mainstream’ these modes of media consumption. I suggest that ARGs can be used to secure brand awareness and ultimately the loyalty ascribed to fan communities, from a wider audience who are less responsive to traditional advertising channels. ARGs allow marketers to create and to an extent control what were once considered ‘grassroots’ communities around a property before its release and encourage the average internet browser to pursue a highly interactive mode of participation with the text that would once have been considered the remit of hardcore fans.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - 15 Sept 2011
EventThe Online Mainline 2011 - Alternative Media and Remediation - Birmingham City University, United Kingdom
Duration: 15 Sept 2011 → …


ConferenceThe Online Mainline 2011 - Alternative Media and Remediation
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
CityBirmingham City University
Period15/09/11 → …

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