There’s a growing trend of marketing attempts that try to invade the personal digital space of their target demographic. Recently, two campaigns began vying for the attention of bystanders through distributed video – for two very different properties, with two very different results.

First, a brilliantly simple, and brilliantly effective strategy for socially marketing of the upcoming film “The Last Exorcism” due for wide release on August 27th, took to the community of Chatroulette.

Chatroulette is a hazy, risky video chat service where users can connect to the network and be randomly paired one-on-one with another active user, sharing audio and video webcam feeds. No one knows who or what will appear on their screen.  Suffice to say, a significant portion of the userbase is there for one, rated, reason.

The marketers for The Last Exorcism decided to take advantage of this untapped demographic and medium.  You can see the results in their compilation video below.  Be warned: the video content may be disturbing to some.

Reactions to the chat sessions were recorded and posted to a youtube channel for public consumption and entertainment, bringing visibility of the film to people who may never even have knew of its existence.

How is it effective?  Chatroulette is about as personal and intimate you might be able to get to many people, freely. Even though it’s completely random, there’s an expectation of what one might expect to find: reality. By invading this space and providing a surreal experience, the connection to this property is intense and memorable.

In addition, in what might now be considered standard method, a website was set up in the world of the film for the Church of Saint Marks, along with a twitter account for the Reverend Marcus Cotton, the film’s exorcist.

On the other end of the spectrum, however, a campaign began that is intended to be more focused in its target demographic, instead hoping to gain the attention of local Xbox owners in the Toronto and Vancouver areas.

September 14th will see the release of Microsoft’s next video game in the Halo franchise, Halo: Reach.  Xbox Canada is very involved and pro-active with its Canadian Xbox community. For the previous Halo release, ODST, a pre-launch ‘training event‘ was planned for Toronto community locals. Following suit for this video game, Xbox Canada has plans to run community launch events for Halo: Reach prior to its release.  Just as the ODST training events were hyped with a localized viral campaign, the Reach pre-launch events also have a tie-in campaign to build local hype and excitement.

The ODST training event marketing was effective throughout, but unfortunately the plans for this marketing iteration were a little muddled and confusing, being met with some harsh criticism and backlash.

Subscribers to the monthly Xbox Canada newsletter received a tip to follow a twitter account UNSC_INTEL and to watch Xbox.ca/Reach for updates about launch events and instructions for winning a limited edition Halo: Reach package.

Then, what began as a relatively vague launch for a new video series on the Xbox community dashboard called “Xbox News” became a big mixup.  The series’ web page shows the anchor of the news series as a mystery.  The premiere episode revealed the host as Laura Niven, with a stiff script and news items completely unrelated to Xbox.  Not only were players confused having no context for the news video, but the production quality was effectively laughable (intentional or not), and no one really knew what to make of it. Watch the premiere episode below.

To add to the confusion, a twitter account appeared for Laura Niven, who was interacting with users on behalf of the news anchor, even getting into a bit of a tiff with some followers. The account’s connection though was quickly denied by official representatives as unrelated to the campaign. But as with any online mystery these days, who do you believe?  Though it seems the account has died in activity since being debunked, the creator of the account and its intent remain a mystery.

News popped up all over the place about this campaign’s launch.  Because of this community criticism, the following episodes of Xbox News contained clear references to Halo: Reach, and their connection with the Toronto and Vancouver launch events were indisputable. It was a rough start, and one that prompted some alterations to the campaign’s initial rollout plans, but in this case the saying may yet be applicable: “Any exposure is good exposure.”

(You can follow Xbox Canada’s Halo: Reach community launch campaign as it’s tracked at Halo.Wikibruce.com)

Both of these campaigns invaded their demographic’s personal digital space – on viewers’ screens at home in Chatroulette, and in players’ Xbox dashboards – where expectations about content already exist. The results of these two campaign launches though show how a first impression can really have an effect on the acceptance and impression of a social marketing campaign.