Marketing District 9: The Web
A Film Feature

South Africaby Mandy J Watson
Posted: 1 October 2009 Comments View Comments

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Many web sites were launched as part of the online viral-marketing effort to promote District 9. In this showcase we will look at those sites (collectively referred to as "The District 9 Movie Experience"), and more, to see how they related to, and complemented, the real-world marketing campaign. (Plus, for fans, find out about some amazing items and downloads you may have missed on each site.)

MNU Local Alert System: District 9
Requirements: Flash
Recommendations: Headphones/speakers
MNU Local Alert - trailer is the primary District 9 web site and for many it was their first big introduction to the movie as this was the URL that was printed on the marketing materials, which we covered in "Marketing District 9: The Real World Campaign". The site features the movie trailer as an intro and then launches into an MNU introductory video to the main web site, which is an alert system for "crime updates and news reports in District 9". The site is divided into sections for humans and non-humans and you pick your "side" before entering, although both sections are quite similar and features the same content, just in different areas.

MNU Local Alert - intro

On the human side you are presented with an interactive, zoomable map of a section of Johannesburg with zones that are accessible only to humans or only to non-humans. It's quite well implemented and feels as though it could easily be a Google Map reworked for a real-life community-awareness situation. Interactive items are marked with red and orange icons. If you click on a red icon you receive an "alert" update about a specific crime in the area and the MNU rules and regulations that the alert is announcing have been violated. If you click on an orange icon you can access videos, which are in the form of vox pops and interviews. In the "Man-On-The-Steet" videos citizens of Johannesburg give their answers to a variety of questions such as "Do you think the non-humans are committing too many crimes?", "Do you feel that the non-humans are taking our jobs?", and "Do you have a problem with the way the non-humans communicate?". The interview videos sample opinions from non South Africans such as "Do you believe non-humans deserve equal rights?", "Would you allow non-humans in your neighbourhood?", and "Should we be afraid of non-human?".

There are 11 videos (five "Man-On-The-Street" videos and six videos labelled "interview"). They are split (and sometimes duplicated) across both the human and non-human sections of the map:

MNU Local Alert

"Behavior recommendations" will occasionally pop up on the map as you're browsing to remind you of, well, the correct way to behave. It's very nanny state and amusing.

Finally, the human section also features an "MNU Rules & Regulations" section which lists every MNU rule that is used to oppress the non-humans. It's interesting to read through but unfortunately it's all Flash based so you have to click on one at a time... or just skip to the buried downloadable version (172 KB PDF here), which I don't know how you access via the site interface - but it's there. There are also "Safety Downloads", which comprise an APB regarding Christopher Johnson (you can view/download the 320 KB PDF here) and a non-human target (3 MB PDF here) showing the best spots to do damage for maximum effect. (You can also enter "christopher" into the code box at the top of the page to go straight to the Christopher Johnson APB page or "target" to go straight to the target-download screen.) In the "Video" section you can find links to the official trailer and the two teaser trailers, as well as direct access to the man-on-the-street videos and interviews listed above.

If you listen to the audio you will be given an access code that you can enter into the box at the top of the page. The code is "careers" and entering it sends you to the career section of the MNU web site. You can also click the MNU Community Watch banner at the top to visit the Community Watch section of the site or at various other places on the site via "Go To Community Watch" buttons. Both of these sections are discussed elsewhere in this article.

The method to switch between human and non-human sides is somewhat buried in the interface but the way to do it is to click on the "MNU Local Alert System: District 9" logo at the top left of the screen (rather than refreshing the page, although that'll also work).

MNU Local Alert - human an non-human comparison

Ooops...The non-human side of the site is much the same as the human side, except there you can access the parts of the map blocked off to humans, including District 9, and much of the text is in the alien language, with audio translations for the alerts provided in English via an icon that, when clicked, plays an audio file, as "audio translation will help you to learn English, which is necessary for assimilation".

A special code is available here too. In this section it is "labor", which I think is a really stupid choice of words (why not "jobs" or "work"?) as "labor" is the American spelling of the word yet District 9 is situated in South Africa, which uses British spellings of words ("labour"). Obviously, this site is aimed at Americans who won't think to use "labour" but it's confusing to anyone remotely educated in the version of English used in South Africa so, again, why use a difficult word when a simpler one will do?

Here you can also view and download the two PDFs, although in this instance the Christopher Johnson APB has been translated into the alien language. The files are available here (APB: 320 KB PDF) and here (target: 3 MB, although why a non-human would want a PDF of a non-human target is beyond me).

Finally, if you violate any area of the map, such as by clicking in a section that you don't have access to as a human or non-human (depending, of course), or attempt to enter incorrect codes in the code box, you get kicked out (with the appropriate MNU regulation cited) and sent to the main MNU web site [ read about it here ]. How kind.


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Official Site: District 9
Other Sites: IMDb | Rotten Tomatoes | Wikipedia | Yahoo! Movies

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