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‘Smile’ director was worried nobody would notice the ingenious viral marketing

Has a stranger's #Smile been haunting you lately?

Image via Paramount

Smile is notable not only for being destined to be this year’s horror crowd-pleaser just in time for Halloween, but also for Paramount’s ingenious marketing campaign backing it. However, one marketing stunt was so subtle and dependent on word-of-mouth that writer-director Parker Finn was worried no one would even notice it.

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A memorable series of stunts saw people wearing neon yellow shirts with the word “smile” written on them — as well as plain T-shirts with nothing written on them — as they stood in place in the background of publicly broadcasted events, such as at baseball games and in amongst the crowd in the background of news broadcasts, sporting a statue-like grin painted across their faces, as We Got This Covered previously reported. Check out some examples below.

Despite what Finn described in retrospect as a “terrific idea” that seems to have permeated “instantly everywhere,” the “organically” viral marketing stunt didn’t feel like anything close to a sure thing leading up to its launch. As Finn explained to Entertainment Weekly:

“I’ve got to say, Paramount marketing has been very clever with some of the tricks they’ve had up their sleeves for this film. This is something that had been discussed a little while back and we were all kind of like crossing our fingers that somebody might notice.”

Based upon Finn’s successful 2020 short film, Laura Hasn’t Slept, Smile traces the story of a doctor, Sosie Bacon’s Dr. Rose Cotter, witnessing a bizarre and traumatic incident involving a patient. While the horrific event would have been difficult enough to overcome on its own, Rose soon continues encountering “frightening occurrences that she can’t explain,” according to the film’s synopsis on IMDb. In order to survive the terrifying series of incidents, which includes a number of people in her orbit inexplicably donning the same vacant-eyed grin, “Rose must confront her troubling past.”

Smile, which boasts an impressive 82 percent critical rating on review aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes following its premiere at Fantastic Fest earlier this month, comes to theaters on Friday, Sept. 30.