How 20th Century Fox marketed Alien: Covenant with personalised and branded content

Alien Covenant personalisation left and top right, Meet Walter bottom right

If you’ve been online or watched a TV in the last few months, chances are you’ve seen an ad for the Ridley Scott-directed sci-fi movie Alien: Covenant.

Twentieth Century Fox hopes to rebirth a potential moneymaking franchise leveraging the iconic visuals of the originals, Ridley's Alien and the James Cameron-directed sequel Aliens.

Whereas critics have widely branded the movie as a formulaic entry that follows the beats of the originals, the marketing campaign contrasts completely with the compelling use of personalised and branded content (which we'll get to later on).

At the start of May, Variety estimated that the studio had spent $5.47m on national US TV ads, globally and across other networks, that marketing budget starts rising to make up a significant chunk of the movie’s $111m production budget. That figure will swell in the run up to the US launch 19 May, over a week after its UK release.

YouTube, naturally housed the video campaign, on there Fox ran a slew of varied trailers and content pieces. The official trailer shown below accumulated 15.5m viewers since its release at the end of February. Unusually, Fox opted not to run a Super Bowl slot (like Guardians of the Galaxy, Logan and many more did). The price of the ad actually largely matches the $5,45m it has reportedly spent to seal 1,291 US showings on national TV.

Over 20 pieces of content sit in the YouTube channel, most taking in hundreds of thousands of views. Lesser performers were personal transmissions from crew members Oram, Lope, Rosenthal, Tennessee and the lead, Daniels. The trailers made it apparent most of this crew will meet a grisly end asking the question why it was important to build backstory around each member.

Branded videos also emerged from Audi (in its lunar buggy) and an AMD slot called 'Meet Walter' which we got behind the scenes off (starring Michael Fassbender).

On these partnerships Zachary Eller, senior vice president marketing partnerships at 20th Century Fox said the studio looks to allow “filmmakers to incorporate authentic, leading-edge technology into their futuristic worlds.” That is reflected in the selection of brand partners - they fit into the wider Alien universe.

It was new forays into personalisation that will most excite marketers however, two particular campaigns stood out. First up was social media personalisation work from EchoMany. A Twitter campaign from the official account urged fans to ‘Retweet to get Alien: Covenant personalised reminders’. The work inserted the name of the tweetee into trailers, crew badges and select content (as seen below). Importantly, the content touched down with consumers in the days leading to the launch, no doubt solidifying ticket sales.

On top of this, UK broadcaster Channel 4 rolled out a new video on demand product that addresses viewers by name in ads. This culminated in an Alien slot that saw the announcer call out directly to viewers - without doubt an unexpected addition that adds a degree of terror to the skulking Alien. The feature was also adopted by brands including Fosters and Ronseal.

The official Instagram account was used to promote behind the scenes images and additional artwork (as is typical) but the studio also gamified the survival of select characters with a Facebook vote. Walter and Daniels survived predictably but underlined that there are additional levels of engagement available for creative brands.

No movie marketing campaign would be complete without some sort of interactive selfie filter. To these end, Facebook ran the following overlay, allowing users to be attacked by the Xenomorph.

Facebook Alien

And finally, Ridley Scott's studio RSA, FoxNext VR Studio, MPC VR, Mach 1, AMD and Alienware, directed by David Karlak, released a two-minute 360-degree video exclusively for Oculus on Alien Day, underlining how the director was keen to embrace new medium to tell the story of his latest film. Below is the trailer to the creative. It emerged on Google Daydream, Facebook, Steam, Littlestar, just the next day.

And as a minor aside, Reebok rolled out a new sneaker collaboration paying homage to the power lifter mech and the Queen Alien in Aliens.

Check out more marketing around 20th Century Fox's Alien: Covenant here.

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John McCarthy

John is an entertainment marketing reporter at The Drum. He writes about the amazing marketing stories coming from the movie, TV, music and video game industries. He's also the hunt for the weirder trends in marketing and advertising.

Fuelled by tea.

All by John