We’re all Jurassic Park fans – that much is undoubted. But, whether you loved or hated the newer entries in the Jurassic World series, it is undeniable that the immersive viral marketing for the films has been incredible. I know as a young and impressionable college student during the Jurassic World release campaign, I was inspired by the marketing – envisioning dreams of a grandiose marketing campaigns which pushed the boundaries and walked the line between marketing and real life.
With this personal love for immersive marketing, it is my absolute pleasure to share with you today a behind the scenes look at Jurassic World and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom’s marketing.
Jack Ewins and Timothy Glover are responsible for the formation Chaos Theorem – a marketing agency which has handled Universal’s immersive Jurassic projects.
So – Jack, Tim, before we start why don’t you tell us a little bit about how you got into Jurassic Park, and what it means to you both?
Timothy Glover: I was actually living in Rhode Island, USA as an eight year old at the time Jurassic Park came out in 1993. I had grown up reading illustrated books and playing with those late 1980’s dinosaur toys, which always looked like they were inspired by the 1933 King Kong film. When I saw the preview for this new Spielberg movie that made dinosaurs look so incredibly real I was hypnotised. The entire concept of a Jurassic Park felt very believable as a kid. As a film, Jurassic Park made you want to be a storyteller, director, musician, actor, animator, you name it - it’s the pinnacle of film-making.
Jack Ewins: I’ve been heavily drawn to Jurassic Park after seeing the first film at the cinema when I was 4 years old. At the time, I was enthralled by the adventure of the story, and the menacing presence of the dinosaurs, which still rings true today, but now I’m 30 I’m engaged by the deeper meaning that Jurassic brings to my life. To boil down to the spine of Jurassic’s story, the franchise surrounds a moral, and ethical debate about playing God, and this is something I think captures the minds of children, and adults, which sticks with them because it resonates with real debates that exist in our world. So, whilst Jurassic means a lot to me because it’s fun, and adventurous, it also means a lot to me because of its philosophical nature.
As we’ll touch on in a little bit, you guys have been on an incredible journey with the franchise. How did this all start for you both?
JE: I’ve been thinking about this ever since we got the initial email from Universal asking if we’d like to join the team. For myself it went something like this:
In 2011, my mother presented me with this box which contained all my old Jurassic items, or close to all of it, and I was surprised just how much I had accumulated over my childhood years. So, I went online to see whether anyone else had made videos showcasing their collections, and I found this plethora of fans who were proud of their stuff. So, I made my collection video detailing all the nostalgic memories I had for the items, why my Robert Muldoon was nicknamed “El Floppo”, why my Coelophysis had a missing foot, or how my Juvenile T-rex figure was missing its dino-damage. This gained millions of hits on YouTube, and caught the attention of Sam Phillips who hosted a Jurassic Park podcast called Jurassic Cast. He reached out to get me on the show to discuss my collection, and I agreed wholeheartedly, because I was a fan of Sam’s podcast, listening to it in my spare time. However, before going on the podcast, and after finishing work one night, I felt this urge to send a tweet out to the newly announced director of Jurassic Park 4, Colin Trevorrow, inviting him onto the podcast with us to discuss his attachment to the franchise. I had no idea that he would agree to this but he DID! And it was going to be his first official interview about Jurassic since he was announced as Director. Going not to some major magazine or news outlet but directly to the fans. So, after a week or so we recorded and released our interview, gaining a lot of media buzz. And this is where Tim came into the picture, by hearing about our podcast, and researching who we were he reached out to myself for help on his (yet to be completed novel). Tim?
TG: In early 2014, I befriended Jack on Twitter. I was writing a creative story about a space exploration mission and I needed an artist to push some of my ideas forward. At the same time, all this Jurassic Park 4 news was coming through full of rumours and speculation. I think in February there was a JoBlo article that hinted at the possibility of an open park run by an Indian billionaire with the surname Patel. I asked Jack if he’d be interested in making a fan-based viral website for this company showing they’d recently acquired InGen. He was totally in, which was great as I don’t think I would have had the motivation to do it alone. Everything happened quickly after that - the Patel site went up and Twitter went nuts. Colin and Universal both saw the site and how it generated so much reaction. Luckily for us they reached out! The rest is history.
Most people will be familiar with your viral work on Masrani Global – the website which was featured heavily in Jurassic World’s marketing. How did you go about constructing the website?
TG: We had a few months in 2014 to work on our ideas, content and so forth before we were flown out to LA to meet with Colin, Frank and the team at Universal to present our ideas. That trip was when we had a first look at some of the materials from the film as they’d just wrapped shooting. I think straight away I said to Jack, “Wow - this film is going to be amazing. We really need to make something that blows everyone away”. Fortunately for us Universal were fantastic and sent us an assortment of assets that we could use. From there Jack and I worked on making a website that was rich in content and fun to explore. We had to make sure someone could dive into 20 years’ worth of lost information but not do it all in 5 minutes. This included us brainstorming and writing original ideas about events that (in all likelihood) would have occurred over the twenty years since 1993’s Jurassic Park. Colin’s help and feedback was instrumental to our success. A day before we went live he told us the website was “understated, thoughtful and rich”, which was a great compliment for us.
On the website, we see a lot of World Building – grounding Masrani Global as not only a conglomerate who built Jurassic World, but a conglomerate who have ties to the security, power and fuel industries. What kind of real-world inspiration did you use to ground this fictional company?
TG: I think I recall there being a little bit of Wayne Enterprises in the mix, but we were honestly making a lot of this conglomerate up during our Skype brainstorming sessions. We were told by Colin in LA that Simon was a billionaire with interests in Oil and Telecom, so we knew first up we had to create two companies and give them some backstory. Then we looked at various other specialties a billionaire might be interested in such as engineering, aviation, healthcare and data consulting. We had a bit of fun with some of their names along the way too. Axis Boulder is an anagram for Diabolus Rex, the original name for the Indominus. Timack Construction was a play on our own names and for constructing the world of Masrani Global. Masrani Oil became Masrani Energy, which was a fun environmentally friendly rebranding campaign we launched. In hindsight, perhaps there was a little bit of Elon Musk in there too!
A fan favourite feature of the Masrani Global website is the Backdoor – providing insight into the Jurassic world beyond what we see on screen. How did you decide what to include here?
TG: The Backdoor was a really important addition we wanted to include in the viral campaign because Masrani Global as a company would only be interested in positive PR on their main website. The Backdoor was where you could look for archives and Easter Eggs that had direct connections to some of the previous films. We felt this was a platform where we could really go into some details about Henry Wu’s character in particular, so a lot of focus went on his archived logs and you can see his thought processes evolving as he picks up new discoveries since the early 1990s. We’d also come up with the acronym of I.B.R.I.S. when Colin mentioned to us that Owen’s program didn’t have a name in the film. So, we were like - “Let’s name it!”
JE: This was an idea that we jumped on because we felt that one of the major parts of the original Jurassic movie was this notion of hacking into parks systems. We hoped early on to bring that aspect to the site so fans could play the part of hackers. The site wouldn’t launch until the day of the home media release, so it was a case of better late than never. One of the must haves for this section of the site was the timeline of events. For years, we had been seeing wishes for Universal to officially release a timeline of events that would help explain things more coherently than before. So, we sat down and researched what dates would be best to highlight and what to keep hidden. We agreed to keep the events of the movies under “Restricted Access” because the fans, and audience would already know what happened and the company would want the information contained within to be harder to reach. This would also allow us the opportunity to bring stuff to the surface later down the pipeline if need be, and with the release of the reports of the DPG website we made that happen.
We also see areas which retroactively add to the story-line – such as some of the information about the Spinosaurus. What kind of approach did you take when adding to the history of the franchise?
TG: Where there were opportunities to promote Colin and Derek’s story-line we did that first and foremost. I consider the viral websites as prequels or bridges with opportunities to connect the films together in a linear method (i.e. timeline) and so that responsibility came second. The third level of writing was left to our own creativity. We had to be very careful here as we didn’t want to upset any fans by including contradictory or irrelevant information, and we also didn’t want to tread on Colin and Derek’s territory. We noticed that Jurassic Park 3 in particular had some opportunities for expanded ideas, and there were some positive elements to Jurassic Park: The Game that we could “borrow” and bring into the film canon’s world - such as Mt. Sibo and the Bribri tribe. Overall my favourite additions were creating the I.B.R.I.S. acronym and writing a prequel for Vic Hoskins’ character in connecting him to the Jurassic Park 3 Pteranodon “cleanup”. Both these pieces seemed to be well liked by the fans and have made it to official games and booklets.
JE: We took a careful approach. We never wanted to spoon feed the fans information, and that meant not revealing everything at once. We carefully decided what to dive into, and used the position of the company Masrani Global, or the organization of the DPG as vessels for information within that universe, meaning the reader would only know what they would know, or were willing to publish to help their cause. So, for example, on Masrani Global it mentions Simon personally hiring Hoskins after his working during the “cleanup” of some flying reptiles over Canada in 2001, but if you watch Jurassic World, when those characters meet, it’s their first actual encounter with one another. So, the website was painting a nicer picture to what was really happening, a corporate mask as it were. Whereas the DPG are fighting for a specific cause, and will only release what they felt would help gain traction behind their vision for saving the dinosaurs of Isla Nublar. The dialogue I have seen fans undergo, trying to dissect or understand what is happening is reflective (I think) of what people within the Jurassic universe would be talking about. So, the fans and the fictional people who have witnessed the events go down in the world of Jurassic are closer than ever.
So – Masrani Global has been one aspect of your work with the franchise, but for Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom you doubled down with both the Dinosaur Protection Group and the Extinction Now! Group. What inspired these ideas?
JE: The DPG was already in motion when we were brought back for round 2. It plays a pivotal role in getting our protagonists to the island within the plot of the movie, so the ideas for that site were given a jump start here. When we visited the DPG set we got a real sense for how the site should look and feel, and how juxtaposing it was going to be when compared to Masrani Global. However, Extinction Now! came about in an entirely different way.
TG: That’s right, the DPG was already central to the plot of the film. Whilst pitching our ideas for the DPG to the team at Universal, we came up with the idea of an antithesis group, which we simply referred to as the “Anti-Dinosaur Group”. It didn’t get the green light until much later in early 2018 when Colin reached out to us wanting to promote the same kind of idea. Believing the DPG were only representing half the ethical debate, Jack and I worked with Colin to build a campaign based on some fun back and forth social media banter, and really get the debate going. Thus, Extinction Now! was born as a collective effort between us and Colin. Can’t forget mentioning Manuel’s incredible San Diego video too which really kicked things off!
So, we saw you really double down with this project – with a heavier influence on Social Media. What was it like getting to work on trends such as the Dinosaur Adoption campaign?
TG: I came up with the idea for “Adopt a Dino” very early after hearing about the DPG project, even before we were booked to visit the set of the filming. Universal loved the concept so much they ran with it separately and created a whole campaign - including badges and t-shirts. We knew it was going to be a big hit with the wider audience because we did something similar on the Masrani Global website that let people interact and “apply” for a job, which turned out to be more successful than we’d anticipated. Watching Adopt a Dino all unfold in the way it did on National Dinosaur Day was very rewarding.
For the DPG, we also see content from the set of the DPG office, with stars like Bryce Dallas Howard contributing. What was it like working alongside these people to build the fictional world of the DPG?
JE: We didn’t exactly work alongside those actors, but we did write a list of phrases for them to record for videos, or sound bites for them to say which made it into the videos. We wrote those on the DPG set, and handed them to Bryce Dallas Howard’s assistant so once the main filming on that set had been wrapped, they would use the cameras to shoot the viral videos using what we wrote. However Universal worked on the content for the videos, and sent them our way once completed so we could integrate them on the site.
Is there anything else you’d like to add about working on these epic-scale Jurassic Projects? I think to the average fan it is hard to comprehend just how much work goes into these projects!
JE: There’s months of preparation that goes on behind the scenes, including ideas, and pages of documentation that doesn’t get used. One example from the last campaign was this idea to have a simple video game appear within the Kids Section of the DPG. We worked with Manuel to design how this game would look and what it would be. Our idea was to have the player be a triceratops escaping the volcanic eruption on Nublar, trying to get to the East dock to be airlifted to safety by the DPG. However other more crucial things came up, and we decided to abandon the game. In hindsight, I think it would have been OTT, that site was already packed with plenty of goodies. On top of that there’s the aspect of where our team members operate from on Earth. Chaos Theorem works globally, so keeping up with time-zones whilst we work, other external work we might have, family life, social life, and R&R, there is never a dull day.
However – these big projects are not all the pair of you are working on! Can you tell us a little about Chaos Theorem?
TG: Chaos Theorem I think is something that’s going to be evolving over time. Right now, I like to think of it as a digital storytelling entity that is lucky to possess some talented individuals who aspire to work on BIG ideas.
What is the dream with Chaos Theorem – where would you like it to be in five years’ time?
JE: My hope is for Chaos Theorem to be working on its own productions. Bringing our own method and flavour to the world of storytelling. But with anything large scale like this it’s one step at a time. So, we’ll just have to see how it all plays out.
TG: Like Jack says - producing our own creative content. Lucasfilm and Amblin are very big inspirations for me. I’m not just talking about the obvious stories like Indiana Jones or E.T., but early short films like THX 1138 4EB and Amblin’ really set the tone for what Lucas and Spielberg were going to do for the rest of their lives.
Where can people go to learn more about Chaos Theorem, and how can they support your continued work as the company grows?
TG: We’re working behind the scenes on building a website at www.chaostheorem.com and we’ve just kicked off our Facebook page https://fb.me/chaostheoremdigital/ recently where we’re posting videos and a bit of content related to the Masrani and DPG campaigns. We’d love for the community to keep in touch and follow us.
Lastly – what would your one piece of advice be for anyone looking to get into film marketing?
TG: If we’re talking digital marketing then I’d say two things -
Grow your imagination. People will be attracted to something they haven’t seen before. If it’s already been done then try to make it better. Don’t be afraid to share your ideas because just discussing them can lead to even greater ones.
JE: Thanks guys!!!
No Jack and Tim – thank you for taking the time out your busy schedules to have a chat with me about all things marketing for the Jurassic franchise! I really appreciate it.
Make sure you check out Chaos Theorem, and stay tuned for additional interviews, features and much, much more here on The Jurassic Park Podcast.