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ColumnCore Ideas and Scenario Ideas as viewed through the “Resident Evil: Extinction” campaign, which was a candidate for a Cannes award in 2008.

As a follow-up to the previous column, we will introduce a campaign that received an award at the Cannes international advertising festival in 2008: The campaign for the Japanese opening of the film “Resident Evil: Extinction,” distributed by Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc. This campaign, which ran during October and November of 2007, was on the short list for the Media Lion award.

Here, we will look at this campaign, with a focus on “Creating Core Ideas and Scenario Ideas.”

© Sony Pictures Entertainment (Japan) Inc.

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Concerns about fans drifting away over time

The film “Resident Evil” (the first in the series; released in 2002) was created based on the popular action horror video game of the same name. (This series is marketed under the title “Biohazard” in Japan.)
The action is set in Racoon City, in the U.S. An accident has released a virus that was the subject of secret experiments at a certain company. People who are infected by the virus are suddenly transformed into vicious zombies, and attack humans one after another. The movie follows the heroes in their fight for survival as they face these horrors.
This movie, which starred Milla Jovovoch, was extremely popular, and the first sequel, Resident Evil: Apocalypse (2004), was a major hit as well.

The third film in the series was set to open in 2007.
There were concerns, however, about this opening.
Three years had passed since the previous film (and a total of five years since the first in the series), and it had been more than ten years since the original video game was released. Sales of the video game had been steadily decreasing with each new version that reached the market.

In other words, there were concerns that as time passed, fans were drifting away from the “Resident Evil” contents. It was also possible that there was a new generation that did not even know “Resident Evil.”

Cultivating topicality

In order to overcome these problems and draw more viewers to the theater, we had to draw attention to Resident Evil once more, and get people talking about it. To achieve this, we decided to create a new driving force that would make the movie into a hit.
We targeted not only the existing fans of the games, but teenagers in general (particularly females), and came up with ideas that would get friends talking to one another, spreading news of the film through Word-of-Mouth.

The starting point was to focus on the essence of the film: what makes this film interesting?
The central draw of Resident Evil is “Zombies” - that is, the fear of people infected by the virus, and being transformed into zombies that attack you one after another.

© Sony Pictures Entertainment (Japan) Inc.

What if this strange transformation took place not only in the movie, but in the viewers themselves?

This became the Core Idea for the campaign.
“Have the viewers gain a strong interest in Resident Evil by allowing them to actually experience the feeling of becoming a zombie.” We wanted to allow viewers to experience the brand of this movie as quickly as possible, before the film opened.

We knew that the quickest way of achieving this goal would be to use the Contact Points most frequently used by teenagers, who represented the main target audience. In order to attract teenagers' sense of playfulness, we used mobile phones to develop a psychological approach based on the motif of the users' own facial photographs.
To generate as much Word-of-Mouth communication as possible, we had to create a trigger that would get many people to participate, and get them talking about what they saw.
Following is an outline of the Scenario Idea that we prepared.
We created a system in which you send your photo via mobile phone, and you are transformed into a zombie. We also set up a campaign site where you could post your own “zombified” photo, as a means of cultivating Word-of-Mouth communications among friends.

“Zombies” appear throughout Japan!

The system that made the “zombie experience” possible was developed in collaboration with the company that operates the popular service in Japan, “Face Check” site (where users can check which celebrities they resemble). In the “Zombie Check” system, when users send their own facial photos from their mobile phones, their faces appear as zombies. The system identifies the eyes, nose, and mouth from the photo, and adjusts those parts to automatically form a zombie's face. (Click to view enlarged version of the mobile phone screen)

© J-Magic Inc.

The advertisements were rolled out in the form of banner ads on the “Face Check” site starting about one month before the movie opened.
“Face Check” is a popular media in Japan that receives more than ten million hits per month, mainly from teenage visitors.

“Scenarios” were also created from the official movie site.

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When the user's “zombie face” is posted on the campaign site, it is also reflected on the movie site.
One after another, people posted their photos to see what they would look like, and the number of users grew rapidly.

(Click to view enlarged screen)

Countless users also wrote comments on personal blogs and posted their own zombie photos, and the “transformation” became a major topic of discussion in social networking services (SNS) and blogs.

Parallel rollout of theater opening advertisements

Even as the “Zombie Check” zombie experience was gaining popularity, advertisements were being rolled out at the same time using multiple eing rolled out at the same time using multiple Contact Points in the form of trailer ads at movie theaters. This scenario, which was designed to increase people's desire to come to the theater, was timed to appear just as interest in the Resident Evil series was increasing.

[television commercials]
[Magazine ads]
[Newspaper ads]
[Train station ads]
© Sony Pictures Entertainment (Japan) Inc.
“Resident Evil: Extinction” becomes the biggest hit in the series, and the campaign receives recognition at the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival

Finally, on November 3, 2007, the movie opened in theaters.
Almost as if the original concerns were part of a dream, the theaters were flooded by many, mostly comprised of younger people.
As a result, “Resident Evil: Extinction” posted the highest ticket sales in the series, outdoing both “Resident Evil” and “Resident Evil: Apocalypse”.
The total number of people who experienced the “Zombie Check” transformation exceeded two million.
Many people gained a strong interest in the movie through this personal “zombie experience.”

The Resident Evil: Extinction campaign received substantial recognition at the Cannes International Advertising Festival.
At the 55th Cannes International Advertising Festival, held at Cannes, France, in June 2008, this campaign made the short list for the Media Lion awards for its innovative use of media and its unique ideas.

This is just one example of how a Core Idea and a Scenario Idea can be used to resolve a given problem.
It demonstrates that an outstanding campaign must have a unique and attractive idea, and that it is important to create a scenario that moves the target.

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