Why Cloverfield’s ARG Marketing Was WAY Exciting Than The Film

Step 1: Break the internet. Step 2: Release film. Step 3: ???

Are you looking for a film that will leave you on the edge of your seat, biting your nails, and checking under your bed for the head of the Statue of Liberty? Well, Cloverfield might not be the answer you’re looking for. But its ARG marketing campaign was one for the ages, and arguably left more of an impression than the film it sought to promote.

What is an ARG marketing campaign?

An ARG marketing campaign is an interactive way for storytellers to engage with their audience. It involves creating a fictional world with clues, puzzles, and hidden messages to be solved and uncovered. Blending fiction and reality, it essentially positions you within the narrative, with your actions and sleuthing affecting what’s revealed. Although ARGs are largely an online phenomenon, they do sometimes bleed into real world spaces and events.

Back to Cloverfield…

Before we get into the nitty gritty of why the ARG was better than the movie, let’s quickly recap what the film was about. Cloverfield was a found-footage monster movie that hit theatres in 2008. It followed a group of young adults in New York City as they tried to survive a massive monster attack.

Still of the Cloverfield monster causing mayhem.
Poor angry baby Clover.

Now, onto the marketing campaign. The ARG for Cloverfield was an immersive experience that had us scratching our heads and hunting for clues months before the movie’s release. In fact, the matter-of-fact manner in which a lot of these breadcrumbs were delivered led some to speculate what was fact or fiction.

One of the most exciting parts of the ARG campaign was the fake news reports that were released online. These reports detailed the events happening in the Cloverfield universe, including the appearance of a giant monster in New York City. Nowadays the term ‘fake news’ gets a bad rap, but I can very much get on board with this kind of nonsense.

In the movie itself, not much is revealed of the nature or context of the monster rampage, as we see everything unfold through the perspective of our unwitting yuppies. And that’s fine – it added to the sense of frenetic panic to leave certain details behind the curtain.

However, these fictional reports scattered around the net gave a lot more information for those looking to find it, and properly introduced us to Tagruato.

What is Tagruato and why is it important?

Tagruato is a fictional Japanese conglomerate that operates in various industries, including technology, energy, and medical research. The company’s subsidiary, Yoshida Medical Research, is responsible for awakening the creature (lovingly nicknamed Clover) during deep-sea drilling in the Atlantic Ocean.

However, instead of revealing the existence of the monster, Tagruato chooses to keep it a secret, leading to the events of the film.

If that wasn’t enough juicy lore, Tagruato’s other subsidiary, Slusho, is a popular Japanese drink rumoured to contain a secret ingredient sourced from the ocean floor. I wonder why they were deep-sea drilling? 

Screenshot of the Tagruato website.
The completely fictional Tagruato company had a pretty convincing website.

Did Tagruato appear in the other Cloverfield films?

Yes! In 10 Cloverfield Lane, there are subtle references to Tagruato, including a character wearing a Slusho t-shirt and a newspaper headline mentioning a Tagruato subsidiary.

The Cloverfield Paradox features more overt references, with a character mentioning working for Tagruato and a Tagruato logo appearing on a computer screen.

But this was just the start of the rabbit hole we descended down. The ARG also included a series of puzzles and clues that were hidden throughout various online locations. Fans had to work together to solve these puzzles and uncover more information about the movie’s story and characters. It was like being part of a giant online scavenger hunt.

And in a time in which social media was starting to boom, it really galvanised a community. It felt like we were all in this together, working towards a common goal. It’s kind of like when you get to the last part of an escape room, and everyone’s arguing over whether that tea towel you found 45 minutes ago was important, or just left by mistake.

And then, the movie was finally released. And it was… okay. Don’t get me wrong, it was a fun ride, but it just couldn’t live up to the hype that the marketing had created. The marketing campaign had built up this massive sense of anticipation, and the movie just couldn’t deliver on it.

The head of the Statue of Liberty broken off, lying in a New York street.
The head of the Statue of Liberty hurtling down the street was a pretty cool visual.

But that’s okay because the marketing campaign was still worth it. It had created a community of fans who were excited to be a part of the Cloverfield universe. And even though the movie might not have been as good as we’d hoped, the ARG campaign had given us an experience that we’d never forget.

Looking back on it now, the ARG campaign for Cloverfield was ahead of its time. It was one of the first times that a movie studio had created an immersive experience for fans that went beyond just watching the movie. It was a marketing campaign that felt like a game, and it had people hooked.

But what did you think of Cloverfield, and did you participate in the ARG movement? Let us know in the comments and tell us if you’d like us to feature more classic movies in the future.

Read more film theory!

While you’re here, please subscribe to Upside Down Shark on YouTubeApple PodcastsSpotify or wherever you listen to podcasts!


Tom Baker

I like Star Wars, heavy metal and BBQ Pringles.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Check this out next