What really happened with the Phoenix Lights?
For nearly four years, some 60 websites, Facebook and Google+ pages, Twitter accounts, WordPress blogs, and YouTube channels have been cropping up hinting at a vast military cover-up over the disappearance of four friends off-roading in the mountains near Phoenix after witnessing the U.S. military shoot down a UFO.
Collectively, they’ve garnered millions of views and comments that cried foul or joined in, and even some press coverage from outlets such as The Mirror, Yahoo News, and Business Standard, which reported them as real incidents.
The digital breadcrumbs have been part of an elaborate viral marketing campaign for a transmedia project, Phoenix Incident, a UFO conspiracy docudrama and first feature from veteran game director Keith Arem and his PCB Productions (Call of Duty, Titanfall, Sleeping Dogs).
However, the overall effort incorporates a novel combination of viral marketing, an interactive app version of the film, gamification elements that reward more active app users, and corporate partnerships that extend the film’s modest $1.3 million budget. The strategy, particularly the app, has caught the attention of veteran producers such as The X-Files‘ Chris Carter and Star Wars‘ J.J. Abrams, who Arem says are now talking to him about ways to incorporate this strategy into their projects....