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Tinder Users Lured into a Crafty Honeypot During SXSW

Sly Swiping


If you’ve been living under a rock for the past week, welcome back! You might want to take a spa cleanse to get all that moss off you. Also, you might have missed the fact that South-by-Southwest kicked off in Austin, Texas last Friday (and will be running until next Sunday). It’s one of the biggest art/film/music festivals on the planet, incorporating hundreds of events, acts, screening and installations.

Being that it’s a festival, it attracts a fairly significant young crowd, and in term a pretty decent fraction of that crowd will consistent of singles who are minded to meet people while they’re around. If you happen to be at SXSW (or even just in the Austin area) and you boot Tinder up (and it's set to show women) you may well find yourself faced with the profile of a girl named Ava. If you then go onto to swipe right, you’ll find that she’s done the same, and that she’ll strike up a conversation with you almost straight away.

Ava is polite, curious and more than a little bit charming. She seems interested in some pretty broad ideas, like love and the nature of humanity and it will only take a few lines of dialogue before she asks you if you want to meet her. Respond affirmatively and she’ll link you to her Instagram. One that happens, the trap is sprung.


You see, Ava doesn’t actually exist. The woman in the picture does, but her name is Alicia Vikander and she’s an actress. Ava is the android character she plays in the Alex Garland film Ex Machina. The film premiered at SXSW on Saturday and the Instagram account contains promotional material for the film in the form of a trailer and an image.

It’s more than a little tricksy, for sure, but in terms of context it’s some of the best viral marketing I’ve ever seen. The film’s plot is built around Ava being tested through routine interactions with a human subject to see how convincing she can be and the fact that she is modelled to look like a very attractive woman is no accident. With that in mind, anyone who falls for the trap will be given an underlying notion of the film’s plot and tone before they see it, without having actually accessed any first-hand information.

This kind of marketing isn’t exactly new, but it’s still very rare that anything this inventive actually gets implemented. Plenty of films have had much deeper, more complex viral marketing campaigns, often involving virtual reality games (including The Dark Knight, Cloverfield and Nine Inch Nails’ 2007 album, Year Zero) but it’s not often that a popular app or social media platform plays such an integral role.

The only other close example I can think of is The Last Exorcism. When the film came out in 2010, Chatroulette was still in a position of prominence, and it already had a reputation as a platform for perversion. During the distribution period for the film, users could potentially end up being linked to a chat with a very attractive young woman. 

Wordlessly, she would start seductively unbutton her top, all whilst giggling and flashing bedroom eyes. This is far from unusual behaviour for Chatroulette, it was bound to arouse something, just not suspicion, at least until the girl’s eyes rolled over while, her face morphed into a demonic apparition and she lunged at the camera. The screen would then black out and make way for the film’s title card.

The genius of it was that, beyond freaking out an ever-expanding rabble of horny people, it spawned a series of reaction videos on YouTube which trended like wildfire. Is it slightly uncool to mislead people in order to advertise a film? I guess, but if anyone manages to legitimately fall in love with Ava in the short space of online-chat time before the truth is revealed, they’ve got far bigger problems.

Callum Davies

Callum is a film school graduate who is now making a name for himself as a journalist and content writer. His vices include flat whites and 90s hip-hop. Follow him @CallumAtSMF

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Tinder Users Lured into a Crafty Honeypot During SXSW Reviewed by Unknown on Wednesday, March 18, 2015 Rating: 5
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