Visits to 'Swordfish' Site Jump 40 Percent After Sweepstakes

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The Web site for "Swordfish," a Warner Bros. action/adventure flick released June 8, recorded a huge boost in traffic in the week following the May 30 launch of its online sweepstakes.


Traffic jumped 40 percent to 140,000 unique visitors in that week, and it more than tripled to almost 500,000 for the week of June 4 as the movie release approached and sweepstakes awareness increased.


The site, www.operationswordfish.com, is the key component in an offline and online game associated with the movie.


For the past three months, Warner Bros. has led gaming enthusiasts and movie fans on an offline and online scavenger hunt to find passwords for the game. The passwords allow Web site visitors to access areas of the site where they can see new content such as movie stills, storyboard sketches, animated stunts and special-effects scenes.


In those special-access areas, players also can find four-digit, alphanumeric key codes. Once consumers find and enter all 10 key codes, they are presented with a sweepstakes entry form to win a GMC Yukon Denali plus $25,000, a Dell Inspiron 4000 Notebook or a "Swordfish" gift package.


Even though Warner Bros. has been promoting the game since mid-March, the sweepstakes was kept under wraps until May 30. The last password was released in the movie's credits.


"We wanted to first get people interested in the movie. The promotion is meant to be a gaming fun experience," said Don Buckley, senior vice president of interactive marketing at Warner Bros., Los Angeles. He added that the sweepstakes remained secret until later in the promotion because Warner Bros. wanted to avoid attracting people exclusively interested in winning a contest.


"The movie, which is an action/adventure film about computer hackers, suggested the way that we treat it on the Web," Buckley said. He added that Warner Bros. is using an intricate gaming approach to attract the growing 18- to 34-year-old segment of the online gaming market.


"There is a lot of crossover. We will get a big chunk of online gamers, who are also big moviegoers," he said.


Warner Bros. used all its integrated advertising to present the passwords. Passwords are embedded in movie billboards in New York and Los Angeles, on movie posters and in television advertising spots for the film, Buckley said. Passwords also are being beamed to personal digital assistants by Streetbeam infrared signals sent from telephone-kiosk posters in New York, he added.


In addition, Warner Bros. has created an italicized barcode on newspaper advertisements in 20 major markets. The barcodes can be scanned with Cue:Cat readers to take the consumer to Web pages that reveal additional passwords.


Earlier this month, Warner Bros. ran a double-page ad in Entertainment Weekly cross-promoting the movie and the GMC Yukon Denali in conjunction with an advertisement on the magazine's site, www.ew.com.


The passwords also are scattered throughout the Web. Warner Bros. has created banner advertisements that contain passwords within the text and present consumers with additional audible passwords when they roll their mouse over the ads, Buckley said. The banner ads link viewers to the movie Web site. The banners have been featured on movie sites including www.upcomingmovies.com and www.darkhorizons.com as well as on gaming sites such as www.ugo.com and www.ign.com.


In the past two months the company also has sent roughly 1 million opt-in e-mails to movie fans featuring rich media special-effects scenes from the movie and passwords for the game. Consumers can forward the e-mail to as many as three other people to receive a bonus password, Buckley said. Warner Bros. does not yet have results for this e-mail campaign.


In addition, the movie studio created an AOL Instant Messaging account under the name Gabriel Shear, the spy played by John Travolta in the movie, through which consumers can chat with the character and receive passwords and information about the movie. Buckley claimed that over the past few weeks the account received roughly five messages per second.


Warner Bros. also is disseminating wireless ads that promote the movie and provide more clues for the game.


The game has been advertised for free through passwords revealed by the film's stars during television interviews, Buckley said. Travolta also hosted a program as his movie character on Turner Broadcasting System's segment "The Man Made Movie" in which he revealed passwords for the game, Buckley said.


"This is just another step in the evolution of Web marketing," Buckley said. "Gaming is a bigger business than the movie business. The evolution of technology allowed us to play around on the Web."


A complete set of the key codes was published on the Web site on June 15. The sweepstakes concludes on July 20.


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