The radio communications of a North Dakota Air National Guard pilot in “The Gorman Dogfight.” The terrified screams of children in “The Flatwoods Monster.”
San Diego Comic Con fans stood in a dark room and listened to audio recordings of these incidents—just two of more than 12,000 U.S. Air Force investigations into reported sightings of UFOs between 1952 and 1969.
The since declassified top-secret program serves as the foundation for History’s new drama series, Project Blue Book, based on the program’s code name.
“We wanted to show people what the case files can look and feel like,” said Tracy Lenhart, VP of experiential marketing at A&E.
The sentiment holds true on air as well at Petco Park, where a satellite on top of a dome was visible by attendees crossing the pedestrian bridge.
“Comic Con goers love to tell their story,” Lenhart said. “We’re saying, ‘tell us what you think you saw.’”
Upon entering the activation, they approached a table where an employee, using the same form witnesses were given in the ‘50s and ‘60s, asked them to describe any possible UFO encounters. The information was then turned into a drawing they got to take home.
From there, attendees walked through hanging black plastic barriers and underwent a security scan with red lights to “eliminate outside threats of espionage” before entering the room where they heard the sounds and saw diagrams of some of the more well-known witness testimonies.
The next doorway led to command central, an area cast in blue light as scientists plugged away on computers, and fans sent a message into space. A real message.
History partnered with SpaceSpeakfor to transmit radio waves at a low enough frequency to make it out of the Earth’s atmosphere, where they will travel for uncounted millennia into the unknown. With this technology, it takes two seconds for the message to pass the moon, and just over three minutes to go beyond the orbit of Mars.
Participants received an email with a link where they’re able to track their message until it hits deep space. The network can also turn around and use that information to retarget potential viewers with further marketing about the show, said Lenhart.
The activation mirrors the show’s combination of science fiction and fact, and Comic Con, she said, was an ideal space for this type of experiential marketing.
“Because these people are believers—fantasy, superheros—but they want to be grounded in authenticity,” she said. “This is the right mindset for this crowd.”
The series itself, set to premiere in the winter, is inspired by the personal experiences of Dr. J. Allen Hynek, a brilliant college professor recruited by the U.S. Air Force to spearhead Project Blue Book. Each episode will draw from the actual case files, blending UFO theories with authentic historical events.
It stars Aidan Gillen (Game of Thrones), Michael Malarkey (The Vampire Diaries), Laura Mennell (Watchmen, The Man in the High Castle), Ksenia Solo (Black Swan), Neal McDonough (Arrow, Legends of Tomorrow) and Michael Harney (Orange Is The New Black, Soy Nero).
The truth ... is unidentified according to a tagline in the trailer, which fits Lenhart’s description of the series: “Our real life X-Files.”
[Photo credit: Kyle Miyamoto]