Fox Recruits ‘X-Files’ Fans with a UFO Crash Landing
When a 16-foot-tall UFO flying saucer “crashed” into The Grove, the retail and entertainment complex in Los Angeles, the p.r. stunt caught the attention of shoppers and motivated fans to come see it for themselves. This socially shareable moment was exactly what Fox wanted to achieve in promoting the return of “The X-Files” after a long 14-year hiatus, a moment amplified with national TV and media coverage. Not so paranormal: the resulting success of the premiere, at 21.4 million viewers, which beat out the series’ own finale by 24 percent.
The stunt not only needed to revive the interest of fans more than a decade later, it needed to capture the attention of potential new fans who have access to the six-episode series across multiple platforms. The flying saucer installation in The Grove, inspired by the UFO crash scene in the first episode, came to life with special effects including lighting, sound and smoke. Crowds of fans, shoppers and diners stopped to take photos with the UFO and watch “investigators” dressed in hazmat suits inspect the area.
To encourage consumers to share the experience socially, those who uploaded photos to social media with the hashtag #TheXFiles received a complimentary “X-Files” cupcake baked by Sprinkles, a nearby bakery. L.A. bloggers, influencers and fans attended an advanced screening of “The X-Files” in a 400-seat movie theater located within The Grove. Attendance, however, exceeded expectations with 657 super fans showing up to catch a glimpse, and a second screening was almost filled to capacity. As Angela Courtin, Fox Broadcasting executive-vp and cmo told The Hollywood Reporter, “We want to continue to find ways to connect the online and offline experience. Crashing a UFO at The Grove, while obviously very geographically central to L.A., is going to proliferate on the social sphere.”
And proliferate it did. Giving fans a photo op with the hazmat crew and encouraging them to share on social media for a reward bolstered the social response. Many fans stopped by after hearing about the activation through social networks or through the media. The stunt achieved more than 5,000 posts over its two-day run and more than 20 press and trade hits including broadcast coverage on Fox 11 L.A., “Access Hollywood,” The L.A. Times, Business Wire, The Hollywood Reporter and Business Insider and additional top blogger sites, prompting one blogger to write, “I guess it turns out extraterrestrials and Angelenos have something in common: we both hate parking at The Grove. Hey-o!”
Altogether, “The X-Files” crash landing reeled in 68 million total impressions across all social platforms and media outlets. And not to be overlooked—Fox distributed 3,000 cupcakes. Sweet, sweet success.