Blood Money: How the Horror Industry Makes a Killing
Universal Studios this month unveiled a maze based on "The Walking Dead" that lets guests experience the TV show as they roam jail cells and prison cages -- while being tormented by zombies and the undead, naturally.
America loves a good scare and the entertainment and ad industries are obliging with big-concept haunted houses and theme parks, real-life zombie chases, scary TV shows and even creepy TV commercials and branding stunts.
It's a frighteningly big business: The appeal of evil drives the $500 million haunted-attraction industry and $400 million at the box office for horror films each year. With spooky storytelling on TV, zombie obstacle courses and theme-park sponsors, the horror industry shows little sign of slithering away.
"If you look back through history, horror tends to be popular when there is stress in the population," said Leonard Pickel, owner of Hauntrepreneurs Themed Event Consulting. "When the economy is bad, stress levels are high, people are having trouble, their future is uncertain -- that tends to increase the interest in horror and apocalyptic entertainment. It's an adrenaline rush."
Enter "Paranormal Activity," "The Walking Dead" and "American Horror Story" as recent standouts in a crowded space that has encouraged Adland to embrace things that go bump in the night. Benjamin Moore and Booking.com are just two advertisers who added some chills to their campaigns this year. Benjamin Moore conceived a haunted-house prank to scare contractors into finishing their work faster to promote a quick-drying paint, while Booking.com launched an integrated push that included everything from horror-themed trailers and posters, to a new search for haunted hotels on its site.
"We've got so many competitors in this business, especially in the Philadelphia area, that now the idea is not just to do your traditional marketing – radio and flyers and TV commercials – but to try to find alternative methods of marketing," he said.