A Viral Marketing Campaign For Smile Is Photobombing Baseball Games (And The Today Show)

Creative marketing is the best. There's nothing like going about your day and suddenly noticing that gas costs 34 cents because "The Wonder Years" is back, or that all your favorite actors suddenly have red balloons in their Instagram posts. Since moving to LA, I've barely been able to leave my house without being bombarded by everything from free flowers to floating beach-side advertisements to NFT coupons, all circulating in the name of spreading buzz for TV shows and movies. When it comes to horror films, though, surprise marketing can be as freaky as it is fun.

That's certainly the case with "Smile," the Paramount horror flick set for a theatrical release this week. The marketing team behind the film is going all out this weekend with a campaign that seems to involve a website, a hotline, and — most notably — a bunch of creepily smiling audience plants that are at once hilarious and unnerving.

Jomboy Media took note of the latter phenomena in a Twitter post yesterday, sharing a video in which a security guard at an MLB game between the Oakland A's and the New York Mets approached a woman who was smiling unnervingly and wearing a yellow shirt emblazoned with the word "Smile." 

The audience member seemed to be placed in the perfect position to haunt the back of the shot with her intense, unblinking smile. Soon, people started noticing smilers were popping up at other live events as well.

Keep an eye out for the smilers

Today, Fandango's Erik Davis compiled several smile sightings in a Twitter post, including those he says were spotted at a Yankees game, a Dodgers game, and even in the background of a telecast of "The Today Show." In the latter shot, a smiler can be spotted staring daggers just over weatherman Al Roker's shoulder.

But that's not all. There also appears to be a new viral marketing website associated with "Smile" called smilesightings.com. The site allows users to report smiles they spot out in the world, or upload photos of themselves or their friends using the "Smile" Snapchat app. "IF YOU SEE A SMILE CALL: 201.365.4067" the site informs visitors, and calling the number leads to a recorded message.

All of this hype is an impressive way to draw attention to Parker Finn's feature directorial debut, which centers around a seemingly contagious phenomenon that leaves witnesses seeing uncanny smiles everywhere before inevitably meeting a grisly fate. Sosie Bacon, Kyle Gallner, and Caitlin Stasey star in the film, which just premiered at Fantastic Fest. /Film's Jacob Hall calls it the epitome of "the pretty good horror movie, the horror movie that doesn't reach for the sky, but instead chooses to fill the room." Meanwhile, Chris Evangelista's review calls parts of the film "truly unnerving," but points out how heavily it relies on familiar tropes.

"Smile" hits theaters on September 30, 2022.