The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is preparing to give out 24 Oscars this year, in fields of both excellence and the ability to release your film as close to the end of December as possible. But one award is missing and, in 2014, it’s time to change that. We believe there should be an Academy Award for Best Viral Content Marketing campaign. And we are prepared to hold our breath until they make one.

What, you thought we were kidding?

In today’s world, it’s no longer enough to simply air a trailer for your film and leave it at that. You need to get creative, get interesting and, if at all possible, get interactive. Audiences love feeling like they’re a part of the experience, and not just a series of bodies swiping credit cards to pay for ticket stubs. So the more effort you put into using social media, blogs, and viral videos to promote your film, the more likely people are to give it a whirl.

Unfortunately for every other movie in 2013, our imaginary Oscar already has a winner — Anchorman 2 dominated the viral content market, with Will Ferrell appearing in character as Ron Burgundy absolutely everywhere. No other movie came close, but several of them were still impressive in their own right. Such as…

1. Carrie’s Viral Prank Video

A remake of a 1976 film that already got remade in 2002 is a hard sell, to say the least. But the public seemed to enjoy this one, with a box office take of over $82 million. A big part of the appeal was the film’s viral content. They only did one thing, but they sure as hell made it count.

Set up as a “hidden camera experiment,” the video features a man accidentally spilling a woman’s coffee. The woman reacts the same way any of us would — by throwing a telekinetic fit and pinning the man to the wall using only her mind. She then realizes she can move anything with her mind (including all the tables and chairs around her) and emits an ear-piercing scream that all but destroys the coffeehouse.

You don’t find out the “experiment” was a promotion for Carrie until the very end, long after you’re hooked and ready to share with friends. And share we did, with the video garnering over 53 million hits and generating a ton of buzz for the film. Even if the unsuspecting coffee shop patrons were almost certainly actors paid to be shocked and horrified.

2. Become Iron Man

Even hugely popular franchises need advertising — you don’t think McDonald’s airs as many commercials as they do for fun, right? Such is Iron Man 3. Even though the first two films grossed over $1.2 billion combined, Marvel knew the public needed convincing that a third installment was worth their time.

Enter “Become Iron Man.” Shopping centers all around Britain set up interactive booths where fans could, just as the name promised, become Iron Man. Standing in front of a giant screen, the machine tracked people’s movements, recorded their dimensions, and fitted them with a virtual Iron Man suit. They would then fly around, shoot down enemies, and generally do everything Tony Stark does, aside from drinking themselves into a complete stupor, obviously. In the end, the machine would take various pictures of them as Iron Man, which they could then take home to impress Mom with.

Innovative, fan-friendly marketing like this, combined with word-of-mouth about how friggin’ awesome the movie was, catapulted Iron Man 3 to box office uber-success. Remember how the first two took in $1.2 billion combined? Iron Man 3 did that on its own.

3. Man of Steel’s DSRW Project

The Deep Space Radio Wave (DSRW) Project started life not connected to any film, instead merely challenging Net users to decode a series of messages found in radio waves supposedly intercepted from outer space. Only a tiny little Warner Brothers logo in the corner hinted that this was a commercial. But the puzzles were challenging and entertaining enough to hook people, who were all eager to learn exactly what this was all about.

Finally, after several months of increasingly disturbing messages from an increasingly disturbing universe, the truth came out. Once the final message was decoded, viewers were treated to this:

Though you can’t see him clearly, that is General Zod, one of Superman’s greatest foes. His appearance made it clear that the DSRW Project was a very cleverly disguised bit of viral content marketing for Man of Steel. It worked; despite a mixed reaction to the film itself, it took in over $668 million, a figure even the richest among us can’t scoff at.

This is the future of film marketing — creative, interactive content that isn’t just 30 seconds of clips set to dramatic music. 2014 is sure to offer up even more great examples. In fact, one has already begun: Peter Parker’s employer, The Daily Bugle, has set up its own Tumblr page, regularly updated with the latest headlines and story advancements. That way, when The Amazing Spider-Man 2 hits theaters in May, fans will be more than ready to dive in.

Now will someone please create this Oscar already? Not breathing is beginning to hurt.

Photo Credit: princess5exyface