How 'The Fault in Our Stars' Movie Became a Social-Media Supernova
Sarai Cruz, a blogger and University of Florida senior, is a connoisseur of young adult novels and their movie adaptations. She devoured every photo that leaked online during the production of the Twilight movies, and she was among the hordes at shopping mall hypefests staged prior to the releases of The Hunger Games, The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, and Divergent.
Most of these young adult (YA) franchise launches came with enormous efforts to rally their YA bases, but Cruz says she has seen nothing like the PR push for The Fault in Our Stars, the adaptation of John Green's best-selling YA page-turner about two cancer-stricken teens in love, starring Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort and opening June 6. The all-hands-on-mobile-devices operation has involved, among other things: flooding Instagram, Tumblr, and other social media feeds with set photos; galvanizing fans to dictate the schedule for a recent publicity tour; and giving Green free reign to blast out updates and video clips. "It's never been like this, where the author is tweeting [from the set] and saying, 'I just cried for the fourth time,'" says Cruz, 21, who reports every tweet, Instagram, press conference video, interview, and any other fleeting mention of the film on the TFIOS fan site that she administers with three friends flung across the globe in Boston, Austria, and Switzerland. "For us as bloggers, it was amazing because we had content to put up on our blog. As fans, it made us feel really involved."
Making the fans feel involved is the mission of Twentieth Century Fox’s marketing campaign, which has borrowed the elements that are now standard in the promotion of wildly popular YA-inspired cinema (embracing the book's fans, providing early sneak peeks, hosting cast Q&As) and taken them to an even more social media-obsessed level. TFIOS is a very personal book to the millions of people who wept when they read this bittersweet terminal love story, and wept anew every time they reread it. They're protective of the film, and by keeping them intimately updated on its progress, the studio has made them not only feel nurtured and listened to, but also turned them into proselytizers for the major release. While the final word on the strategy's effectiveness won't become clear until the movie opens, there's no doubt it is amplifying excitement to an incredible degree: A recent TFIOS cast appearance on May 6 at Miami’s Dolphin Mall had to be shut down early because the crowd was larger and harder to control than anticipated. Cruz, who witnessed the crush firsthand, said the turnout at a similar event for The Hunger Games two years ago was "probably one-fifth of what the TFIOS event was." The studio and Green apologized to disappointed fans in Miami but were surely heartened by an oversized response indicative of how high excitement has been stoked by the online push. "Other movies have done [social media outreach] in places," George Dewey, Fox's senior vice-president for domestic digital marketing, tells Yahoo Movies. "We're doing it across the board. I think the combination of the passion that pre-existed the movie with the decision to involve fans every single step of the way is why you see so much conversation about The Fault in Our Stars now."