"Connect using Facebook" can serve as an innocuous shortcut that spares you the hassle of creating new passwords. Or, as we’ve seen artfully demonstrated recently, it can be a pathway to an uncomfortable reminder of how much of your life is exposed on social media platforms.
To hype its sci-fi series Falling Skies, TNT has used the link to trigger an ingenious string of fake Facebook messages from real friends that sound the alarm about an alien invasion.
Pegged to the June 17 season 2 premiere of the Noah Wyle sci-fi drama, "Today We Fight" packs a wallop by dropping names that no celebrity or consumer brand can match: your spouse, your dog, your best friend.
Chicago-based Digital Kitchen created the campaign to rivet the attention of existing fans and prospective newbies, says Executive Creative Director Camm Rowland. "People don’t realize when they engage socially online that all these bits and pieces of information are out there. When you re-contextualize it and show it back to them in an interesting way, there is that kind of 'holy shit!' moment of 'Oh my gosh, how do they know this?' Well, it’s because we have access to all this Facebook stuff that’s about you."
TNT Senior Vice President of Entertainment Marketing Tricia Melton got "chill bumps" the first time she tried the app and saw what looked like frantic messages faux-posted by her daughter. Melton hopes for a similar reaction from the show’s core following. "We wanted to bring the fanboys back for the new season by giving them the ability to go deep into the mythology in a really personal way."
"Today We Fight" battles hostile aliens and apathetic web surfers by way of three key components.
1. The Come-On
Flash-powered content plugs in personal data after viewers click "Connect with Facebook." Rowland explains, "When people log in and grant access, our app basically reaches out to their Facebook account and chooses the kinds of information we want to use." DK designers expertly mimic the familiar Facebook interface to establish a comfy sense of familiarity. "Then the app throws this curveball and all of a sudden this 'attack’ sucks you into the Falling Skies fantasy land by grabbing you with all these names and faces of people that you care about," says Rowland. "It’s impossible not to be interested in it when all the people you know are saying these things."
2: The Video
Now that they have your attention, programmers embed Falling Skies footage with a shot of your high school as a weary voice-over reports recent alien infestations. Rowland notes, "The trailer recaps the first season, so if you haven’t seen Falling Skies and didn’t know anything about the show, this gives you enough to want to start watching season two and feel like you’re already a part of the world."
3. The Journal
"Today We Fight" takes viewers to a landing page anchored by a journal, built with HTML 5, that generates weekly entries tied to the latest TV episode. Pages are embellished with time-worn snapshots of real friends "taped" to the page while the text references information pulled from profiles of your Facebook friends. "There’s a lot of behind the scenes tricks and algorithms we use to make sure we deploy the right pieces of information at the right time," says Rowland. "If you go rescue somebody in the journal, it’s more meaningful if that person is your wife or best friend rather than your third cousin or somebody you haven’t talked to since high school."
Digital Kitchen built an equally clever app last summer that enabled smartphone users to transform Transformers: Dark of the Moon posters into augmented reality games. "Today We Fight" aims to jump-start a more intimate bond. Says Rowland, "The whole point is to connect on that emotional level. It’s hard to surprise people now on the Internet so you have to be inventive. "