Halloween – it’s fun, it’s freaky and it’s become a huge business, having grown into the 2nd largest U.S. holiday by commercial activity.
My colleagues and I at Universal Studios are very aware of the ever-increasing passion for the holiday, given our annual event called Halloween Horror Nights. The popularity of the holiday and the event itself has allowed us to expand the number of event nights offered each year, to the extent that the first nights are in now in September.
As quick background: Halloween Horror Nights is held at Universal Studios in Hollywood and Orlando, and features serious scares and gore. It’s not intended for children or the faint of heart.
The teams creating the event attractions pride themselves on authenticity and high production values. There’s a strong movie-industry tie-in, including partnering with film & TV properties for attraction themes (e.g., the very popular The Walking Dead series) and working with movie-industry talent (from makeup artists to film directors).
A recent Wall Street Journal article about high-end horror attractions described Halloween Horror Nights as: “The Grand dame of haunted attractions, this venue is the most popular in the industry and closely watched each year for cutting-edge techniques.”
Digital marketing has played an important role in building awareness of, and excitement about, Halloween Horror Nights. Video is a central element of the digital marketing.
In the spirit of the Halloween season, I’d like to share examples of the online videos we produced for the event this year. Generally speaking, the videos fall into one of these categories:
1. Preview videos
During the summer we release a video highlighting the upcoming event’s main attractions and intellectual properties (IPs).
Prior to the release of this ‘umbrella’ preview video, we also create videos announcing specific attractions and IPs. These videos play well with the event’s core audience that is hungry for the latest news as well as existing fans of the respective IPs (e.g., The Walking Dead or Silent Hill, both featured this year).
2. Guest Reaction videos
During the early nights of the event we film event guests reacting to the scary/gory content and package the highlights into rather entertaining videos.
These videos were unique to the industry in 2006 when we initiated them, but have since been copied in style and approach by our main competitor and others. (To that point, our approach to Preview videos has been copied as well, which we take in the spirit of “flatter is the sincerest form of compliment.”)
An example Guest Reaction video is featured at the very top of this post.
3. Celebrity Reaction videos
This is a subset of the Guest Reactions video, but feature celebrities — either associated with the featured IPs or who visit the event as fans and agree to be filmed.
The above video of The Walking Dead cast has a little less attraction content than normal because it was filmed at a red carpet premiere (held at Halloween Horror Nights). But it offers Halloween eye candy, pardon the weak pun.
4. “Behind The Screams” videos
We also produce a series of videos looking behind the scenes/”screams” at how the event attractions are made.
The above video features Alice Cooper (who knew he was so funny?). He’s been involved in the creation of attractions (or “mazes,” as they’re known) the past 2 years.
We try to mix up the content to offer new insights each year, for example, previous years’ videos have looked more specifically at makeup and special effects.
5. Television commercial
The television commercial my colleagues produced is of great importance too (of course) and we promote it online. I am listing it 5th in this list only because I was foremost highlighting the content we create primarily for digital marketing.
These videos have played a significant role reaching potential guests on our event website, YouTube channel, Facebook and those of our partners. In combination they are viewed hundred thousands of times and generate lots of social media interactions (comments, likes, shares).
We also like that they stay live on social media channels year-round, which helps maintain ongoing awareness of the event during the 10.5 months that Halloween Horror Nights is not taking place.
As mentioned above, that our approach to videos has been copied by others in the industry is a compliment — but it also means we need to get even more creative to stay a step ahead.
Meanwhile, I hope you enjoyed the video content and that it helped build the Halloween spirit for you as 10/31 fast approaches. Happy Halloween!