Single-file lines of 50 eerie peacemakers in beige were seen wandering around Comic-Con this week performing good deeds, sparking curiosity about what their true purpose really was – and what they might be promoting.

As of Sunday afternoon, the campaign culminated in the big reveal that Syfy concocted the entire thing as a promotional stunt for its miniseries, Childhood’s End.

Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End, which will premiere in December, tells the story of a peaceful takeover of earth by a benevolent but mysterious overlord and his invaders. They tell supporters they’re here to help. Soon, there is no debt, diseases are cured and problems seem to disappear.

But people start to ask questions, namely “At what cost are these things happening?” Protesters begin fighting back against the invaders until they’re finally let in on what their true purpose is on earth.

According to Sara Moscowitz, SVP of marketing at Syfy, Childhood’s End’s campaign at Comic-Con was meant to imitate that process: Peace, protest, reveal. “The idea was: How can we have folks at Comic-Con live through that experience a little bit?” she told Brief.

So two groups of peaceful messengers wandered the streets of San Diego’s Gaslamp District on Thursday and Friday at Comic-Con, telling people “There’s no need to be afraid.”

They also performed good deeds around the event. They bought people’s lunches, tipped waitresses, gave people in line for panels a chair to sit on, got people into parties, charged people’s phones, bought fans merchandise on the convention center floor – a series of unexpected experiences meant to make things easier for people around Comic-Con.

According to Moscowitz, the goal was to help 5,000 people throughout Comic-Con weekend.

Afterward, the messengers left business cards marked with #ThankYouKarellen. “They would say that the overlord bought it and Karellen wanted them to have it,” said Moscowitz.

To add to the eerie nature of the these groups, every 10 minutes they simultaneously stopped to stare at the sky - which really caused people to ask questions.

All combined, the stunt sparked conversation and curiosity all weekend long about who this benevolent overlord was.

“The Childhood’s End’s marketing campaign is surrounded by the idea that “‘Sure, they come in peace, but at what cost?’” said Moscowitz.

#AtWhatCost became the centerpiece of the protest phase of Syfy’s Comic-Con campaign.

Screens and buses around Comic-Con were taken over by the fake news source New World Stories, who reported on all of the good things Karellen was doing as well as the planted protesters, even going so far as to create an entire Twitter account for the news source.

The curiosity campaign did have one downside, which was that people began guessing the source of the marketing stunt early on since the story and Karellen already existed in Clarke’s book. Saturday’s Syfy panel also shared a teaser from the miniseries, so Syfy knew people would begin to piece things together.

But that wasn’t actually a major issue, because the guessing and questioning was Syfy’s aim.

“The goal was to start getting people to ask ‘Who’s this Karellen’?” said Moscowitz.

Syfy’s stunt wasn’t connected to the show or the network until Sunday, when the hashtags #ThankYouKarellen and #AtWhatCost were tied to Childhood’s End through a video the network posted to Twitter.


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