Movie Marketing Madness: King Kong

How many journalists, whether they’ve been talking about the marketing or the movie itself in relation to King Kong, have used some variation on the “800-pound gorilla” line? Goodness am I sick of reading that. I tell you, there’s no cliche too sad that a ton of writers won’t pounce on it like flies on shit. Trust me, you won’t get any of that here.

King Kong is, for all the hype that it’s gotten, director Peter Jackson’s make or break move. After scoring huge with the Lord of the Rings trilogy and proving he had the chops to make a huge movie driven equally by incredible visuals and remarkable character depth, Jackson convinced Universal to pay him a huge salary to make Kong, which he described as the movie he’s wanted to make since childhood. If this doesn’t work out he’s going to be screwed for so long you’d think he was Andy Dufrane in Shawshank Prison getting gang-raped.

The Posters

There were a number of posters released, most of which were not that exciting. They were mostly going for an artistic feel to some of the preliminary ones and the end result almost came off as concept art. Both of the teaser posters featured both Kong and Naomi Watts as Ann Darrow, tipping off everyone as to the primary story-driving relationship in the movie. Both were OK but quite frankly I felt the failed to capture any sense of epicness or grand storyline.


The final (at least I think it was final, I don’t remember it being labeled as such) poster was simply a close-up of the big ape’s big mug. At first it featured, as did the initial teaser trailer, a big old snaggle-tooth coming out of his lower lip. The inclusion of that tooth led a lot of people to believe that it was going to make Kong too much of a sentimental character and be an overt play to emotions, like we should feel sorry for him for a host of reasons, including the fact that he can’t get decent dental work. A later version of that poster had the tooth removed. Was the first just an first-stab at character design that didn’t work out? I’m not sure but it is awfully funny that tooth disappeared like that.


The Trailers


Wow. Just friggin’ wow. Everything about the trailers just screams an epic full of heart. Sweeping visuals and exotic locales fill up every video element of this campaign, from the trailers to the TV spots. Most all of them end with Kong taking a swipe at a plane from atop the Empire State Building, creating a nice – if predictable – set of spots. Some of the full-length trailers work better than others but there’s little difference between them so it’s not worth nit-picking.


I have a different opinion, though, of the TV spots. Since everything about this movie is huge, from the emotions to the visuals, the TV spots can’t help but feel cramped. Remember, this movie runs about three hours. So did anyone really think that a 30-second TV commercial could contain anything close to this movie’s story and soul? As opposed to the trailers these spots suck.


The Website


You know, I’m just getting a bit tired of visiting movie websites. It’s not that anything is extraordinarily bad, they’re just getting boring. Anyway, let’s just suck it up and dive in, huh?


“The Movie” contains Production Notes that are very well written. Jackson loves talking about himself and it’s obvious he had something to do with these Prod. Notes. They’re divided into seven chapters, each touching on a different aspect of the production. There are also Photos, Cast & Crew bios and a Story synopsis. “Downloads” offers the usual variety of Wallpapers, AIM Icons, E-cards and a Screensaver. Nothing too exciting. Both Trailers, a slew of TV Spots and a brief behind-the-scenes video called A Look Inside are residingn with “Media.”


Inside of “Special Features” there’s a bunch of cool stuff, probably the coolest content on the site. First off there’s The Bestiary, which gives a look at the creatures that inhabit Skull Island along with Kong. Speaking of the big guy’s neighbors, there’s also a feature on Skull Islanders, the humans that have made Skull Island their home. There’s a timeline of Lost Civilizations, a sampling of which include Atlantis, Pompei and other peoples that have bitten the dust, and in the case of Pompei that’s literal. Finally there’s The Kong Legacy, which traces the history of King Kong from his first incarnation in 1938 to today.


Of more interest, honestly, is the site KongisKing.net. It was there that director Jackson posted a series of video diaries tracking the production of the movie during the entire shoot and post-production work and there that the fanbase was kept up to date on how the movie was coming. It’s this kind of outreach to the community that I keep calling for and, considering how much of a fan he himself is of movies, I’m not surprised Jackson was a big innovator in this.

Cross Promotions and Other Efforts

Kong is second only – and a close second at that – to The Chronicles of Narnia in terms of cross-promotions and media hype this season. Burger King menu items, a series of books that tell the back-story of the island and it’s inhabitants and a host of other efforts make this not only one of the biggest promotional efforts of the year but of all time. There are so many promotional efforts that the “Partners” section of the website is so fully stocked it’s almost deserving of it’s own site. Add to that the release on DVD of Jackson’s Production Diaries as well as a whole set of the classic Kong (and Kong inspired) films from Warner Bros. and you have a whole lot of corporate people hoping this movie absolutely kills at the box-office.


Oh, and don’t forget all the PR efforts that have gone toward the movie. Jackson and his stars have been making the rounds of the TV talk-shows and gracing the covers of countless magazines in the last few weeks. I wonder if it hurts when the movie studios put it in a very uncomfortable place like that.


Overall


Despite being so huge and with such obvious parallels to Narnia’s efforts, this one seems more organic and natural than last week’s big release. I found it interesting to read that the campaign wasn’t tracking well with women considering the emphasis on the romance between Kong and Ann. Maybe it’s that women just don’t want to go see a big ape run around for three hours. Maybe it’s that there’s also so much in the campaign that focuses on the fights between Kong and the dinosaurs. It’s a good campaign, but it’s all about raising awareness and they definitely did that. Not too much else to say. It will probably disappoint at the box-office, just like everything else has this year.