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7 Movies That Had Mysterious Promotional Campaigns

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In a world where the Internet has most of the answers to a potential moviegoer's questions about any upcoming film—including how it ends—it's amazing that some filmmakers have managed to keep the details of their new movies a secret, right up until it's time to deliver the reels to the theaters. Some have blurred the line between fiction and reality. Some used the ubiquity of the Internet to their advantage. And sometimes, the viral campaigns were so great that they overshadowed the films entirely.

1. THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT (1999)

The "found footage" horror genre kicked into high gear with The Blair Witch Project, the story of three filmmakers who ventured into Maryland's Black Hills with video cameras and never returned. Nearly 80 million people read "police reports" on the incident and other information pertaining to the disappearances on www.blairwitch.com. That website—plus the use of unknown actors and a documentary featuring fake local news and newsreel footage titled Curse of the Blair Witch that aired on the Sci-Fi Channel prior to the film's release—led many of those 80 million people to believe that the movie was based in reality.

2. A.I. (2001)

The set of A.I., the film brought to us by Steven Spielberg and the late Stanley Kubrick, was notably off-limits to the press, and the stars of the movie had to sign confidentiality agreements. The hype of a Spielberg-Kubrick collaboration was probably enough to power the box office, but Warner Bros. created more than 40 websites to give background information on the alternate reality of the movie, where there is a robot uprising in the year 2142. It was all meant to be groundwork on a series of video games developed by Microsoft called The Beast, but ultimately turned out to be an alternate reality game (ARG) which lasted 12 weeks. The marketing campaign was massive, surpassing even The Blair Witch by utilizing phone lines, fax machines, email accounts, and live events.

3. CLOVERFIELD (2008)

While the first movie trailer for Cloverfield—which ran before Transformers (2007) screenings—showed footage from the actual movie, including handheld footage of New York City being destroyed, and credited J.J. Abrams as a producer, it left out the movie's title. Which only fueled speculation that it was a Voltron movie, or a big-screen spin-off of Lost. Websites were created for the fictional drink Slusho and a fictional drilling company Tagruato, two companies which ended up sharing responsibility in creating The Parasite, the name given to Cloverfield's monster. A MySpace page was even set up for the main character Rob, where "he" announced he was moving to Japan to work for Slusho.

4. DISTRICT 9 (2009)

District 9 is about a world in which sick aliens arrived in Johannesburg, South Africa in 1982 and were subsequently confined to the titular government camp. Billboards and signs reading "Humans Only" began promoting the movie more than a year before its release, without any movie title. A website "written" by the alien character Christopher Johnson told of the cruelties the military company Multinational United was inflicting on his people, and websites were created by Multinational United itself.

5. I'M STILL HERE (2010)

It wasn't until one week after I'm Still Here's release that director Casey Affleck admitted to The New York Times that the film was a mockumentary, and that Joaquin Phoenix only pretended to quit acting to become a rap star. Most memorable in aiding in the deception was Phoenix's painfully awkward 2009 Late Show interview with David Letterman.

Affleck claimed that he "never intended to trick anybody," while Phoenix appeared again on Late Show—this time as his true self—to apologize to Letterman.

6. INCEPTION (2010)

Up until seven months before its release, the plot to Christopher Nolan's Inception wasn't publicly known. The official website was simply a spinning top controllable by mouse, and after some weeks, the top started to wobble. When more time passed and the top toppled over, users were directed to a new website that revealed the first teaser poster. A viral game called Mind Crime was also created, which featured a movie trailer hidden inside the virtual world's movie theater.

7. SUPER 8 (2011)

The J.J. Abrams/Steven Spielberg collaboration (Abrams wrote and directed, Spielberg produced) resulted in expectedly mysterious promotions; theater employees even had to use a special code to open up the canisters containing the trailer. The final frames in that trailer snuck in the phrase "scariest thing I ever saw," and fans who went to ScariestThingIEverSaw.com saw a PDP-11 16-bit microcomputer display. Along with RocketPoppeteers.com, the two websites dived into the story of the son of the scientist who derails a train containing an alien that starts a big mess on Earth.

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How Google Chrome’s New Built-In Ad Blocker Will Change Your Browsing Experience
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If you can’t stand web ads that auto-play sound and pop up in front of what you’re trying to read, you have two options: Install an ad blocker on your browser or avoid the internet all together. Starting Thursday, February 15, Google Chrome is offering another tool to help you avoid the most annoying ads on the web, Tech Crunch reports. Here’s what Google Chrome users should expect from the new feature.

Chrome’s ad filtering has been in development for about a year, but the details of how it will work were only recently made public. “While most advertising on the web is respectful of user experience, over the years we've increasingly heard from our users that some advertising can be particularly intrusive,” Google wrote in a blog post. “As we announced last June, Chrome will tackle this issue by removing ads from sites that do not follow the Better Ads Standards.

That means the new feature won’t block all ads from publishers or even block most of them. Instead, it will specifically target ads that violate the Better Ad Standards that the Coalition for Better Ads recommends based on consumer data. On desktop, this includes auto-play videos with sound, sticky banners that follow you as you scroll, pop-ups, and prestitial ads that make you wait for a countdown to access the site. Mobile Chrome users will be spared these same types of ads as well as flashing animations, ads that take up more than 30 percent of the screen, and ads the fill the whole screen as you scroll past them.

These criteria still leave room for plenty of ads to show up online—the total amount of media blocked by the feature won’t even amount to 1 percent of all ads. So if web browsers are looking for an even more ad-free experience, they should use Chrome’s ad filter as a supplement to one of the many third-party ad blockers out there.

And if accessing content without navigating a digital obstacle course first doesn’t sound appealing to you, don’t worry: On sites where ads are blocked, Google Chrome will show a notification that lets you disable the feature.

[h/t Tech Crunch]

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Why Subliminal Messaging Doesn't Work (Unless You Want It To)
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Subliminal messages—hidden phrases in TV programs, movies, and ads—probably won't make you run out and join the Navy, appreciate a band's music, or start smoking. That's because these sneaky suggestions don't really change consumer behavior, even though many people believe otherwise, according to Sci Show Psych.

We say "don't really" because subliminal messages can sway the already motivated, research shows. For example, a 2002 study of 81 college students found that parched subjects drank more water after being subliminally primed with words like "dry" and "thirsty." (Participants who weren't already thirsty drank less.) A follow-up experiment involving 35 undergrads yielded similar results, with dehydrated students selecting sports drinks described as "thirst-quenching" over "electrolyte-restoring" after being primed for thirst. Experiments like these won't work on, say, chocolate-loving movie audiences who are subliminally instructed by advertisers to purchase popcorn instead.

Learn more about how subliminal messaging affects (or doesn't affect) our decision-making, and why you likely won't encounter ads with under-the-radar suggestions on the regular.

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