Over the past few months there’s been a lot of chattery conjecture about the next Jason Bourne movie. Paul Greengrass, director of The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum–which have a combined worldwide box office take of almost $750 million–checked out from Universal’s long hoped for fourth installment, citing “creative differences.” (Gawker has a nice summary.) Then star Matt Damon, who has said he doesn’t want to do a Bourne movie without Greengrass, dropped a bomb when confronted on the red carpet for Invictus, telling Empire magazine he thought there would “probably be a prequel of some kind with another actor and another director before we do another one, just because I think we’re probably another five years away from doing it–we’ve got to get a script … ”
The problem: Damon’s character got his memory back in the last movie, and Universal is fresh out of novels by Robert Ludlum, the deceased author who penned the original three books in the series. But if you really want to know which book is likely to serve as the foundation for the next Jason Bourne film, simply follow the author on Twitter, become a fan of his on Facebook, and watch some of his promotional videos on YouTube. No, not Ludlum, a different bestselling author: Eric Van Lustbader.
Lustbader is Ludlum’s heir apparent, and he’s already published 5 Bourne books. Now he’s promoting his latest novel, Last Snow and tapping social media to drop clues about which book may serve as the inspiration for the next Bourne movie.
Lustbader has already doled out hints on Twitter: “One of my Bourne books is being considered for the new the Bourne film,” he tweeted on Feb. 7. And when some blogs proposed The Bourne Conundrum as the basis for a new Bourne flick, Lustbader replied, “The Bourne Conundrum does not exist in any form, nor does legit info about the 4th film, except from this source and Universal.” He also let it fly on his Web site: “BREAKING NEWS! One of my Bourne books is being considered for the new Bourne film! To see which one, check out the teaser for Last Snow.”
But Universal isn’t talking, neither is his publisher. So Lustbader is filling the vacuum himself–redirecting inevitable interest in the Bourne film saga to help sell his newly released novel which features a Bourne-like protagonist with dyslexia who puts together clues in ways mere mortals cannot. (No, I did not make this up.)
In the Viral Loop Chronicles I’ve written about mid-list authors designing viral campaigns for their books. Lustbader’s social media campaign is very ambitious. He used New York-based Web design and Web marketing firm Studioe9
[Disclosure: I hired Studioe9 for my own social media campaign for Viral Loop, which included the design and creation of a Facebook application] to create an intricate game where
users have to sift through clues. He also produced several videos, including a movie-like trailer, shot
in New York City and Moscow; a teaser, and a
mock news report, in
which Lustbader makes an appearance and is asked which character he
likes better: Jason Bourne or Jack McClure, his tortured, bad-spelling
protagonist from Last Snow.
There’s even a faux bootleg video
to be distributed over p2p networks and on his own YouTube channel.
Lustbader hopes it will inspire fan mashups in the same way that fans
remade the Brokeback Mountain trailer.
“We think making your own bootleg has a lot of potential,” says Studioe9
co-founder Paul Johnson.
“Our prediction is that fanvids will do a lot more referencing of each
other as time goes on–as opposed to just re-editing film clips and TV
But is it effective? Since Lustbader is a new convert to social media
it’s too early to tell. He hasn’t yet amassed a huge number of
followers on Twitter or fans on Facebook, according to Johnson. But the ads on Lustbader’s Facebook page
initially received extremely high click-through rates–on
the order of .20%–which is above the industry average. As Last Snow picks up momentum, Lustbader’s social media fan base
should grow virally.
All in all, a decidedly non-mainstream approach to social media by a decidedly mainstream author.
Adam L. Penenberg is author of Viral Loop: From Facebook to Twitter, How Today’s Smartest Businesses Grow Themselves. A journalism professor at the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute at New York University, Penenberg is a contributing writer to Fast Company.