Marc Shmugar has been named chairman of Universal Pictures and will share responsibility in approving marketing plans with co-chairman David Linde. Linde is one of those behind the marketing of Brokeback Mountain at Focus Features, a division of Universal. Shmugar has a history of experience with domestic marketing. The two were given the co-positions since, in the words of Ron Meyer, president of Universal Studios, the two have skill sets that compliment each other.
Check out the new logo for Movie Marketing Madness! It was designed by Greg Petrin who unfortunately doesn’t have a blog I can promote here. If, however, you need some good fast design and graphics work done drop him a line at email@example.com. I’ll be posting that email address in the left-hand navbar soon. Many thanks to Greg for this fantastic looking logo.
I’m a huge fan of the band Chicago and so I’m psyched about the release of XXX, their first full album of new material in 15 years. The record doesn’t hit shelves until next Tuesday but right now Clear Channel has a stream of the entire album up for your listening pleasure.
The album seems to have been divided in a very Side 1/2 way. The first half-dozen or so songs are ballads, primarily sung by tenor Jason Scheff. After that, though, Robert Lamm and Bill Champlin take over a bunch of the vocals and the album gets groovy and the band starts to rock a bit more. If you’re looking for a good bunch of music click over there and give it a listen.
One of the hazards of writing my columns so far in advance of opening day (about a week) is that all the marketing moves haven’t fully been implemented yet. There are two solutions to this. Either I don’t publish any column until Friday and then do everything or I do a follow-up post such as this. I’m going to go with the latter.
First off, the official website for Thank You For Smoking has been updated. I think I got everything that is there now in my column except for The Daily Naylor. It’s a blog of sorts from the main character, cigarette spin-master Nick Naylor. You can subscibe to it either via email or RSS, which is cool. Thanks to Kirk from Real Pie Media for the heads-up. (Kirk also runs the FilmPlug website which is now on my daily reading list.)
Secondly, V For Vendetta, which I just covered yesterday, has launched two pages on MySpace. The first is the for the title character V and there’s also one for Chancellor Sutler, the leader of the government in the movie. Neither are all that stocked with content and seem to exist primarily to take advantage of the networking the MySpace allows for.
As big of a comics geek as I was in my youth I never read the big ones for some reason. League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, DC’s Crisis – all of them passed me by. Thanks to my brother-in-law I recently read The Watchmen for the first time and thought it was absolutely fascinating. Even more recently he lent me his copy of V For Vendetta so that I could become familiar with the story before the movie came out.
(I also have to admit that I never read the Lord of the Rings books until just shortly before the movies hit the big screen. Sometimes I wonder what exactly I was doing with my time.)
V For Vendetta is the tale of a totalitarian state, Great Britain, that is brought to its knees by a lone vigilante. The country barely survived a nuclear attack and in response cracked down on Jews, Muslims, homosexuals and others who didn’t fall in line behind the new leadership. When a “terrorist” who goes simply by the name V and wears a Guy Fawkes mask begins bombing buildings and committing other acts of defiance the government seeks him out only to find that they may have had a role in making him what he is.
The two main ones were this teaser poster that was simply a close up of the mask V wears and this later one-sheet that has a full-body shot of V standing poised for battle with his two large signature knives. They were both very slick and shiny and while cool, might have been a bit, I don’t know, antiseptic for the story. The teaser poster also contained the original release date for the movie, 11/5/05, which was chosen because it coincided with the phrase from the comic “Remember remember the fifth of November.” That date was moved out for various reasons (some no doubt true, some suspicious) so the later poster just says “Coming Soon.” Both, though, completely ignore the comics origin of the story and instead hype the fact that the Wachoski brothers, creators of The Matrix series, were the producers of the movie. “An uncompromising vision of the future from the creators of The Matrix Trilogy” appears on both posters. I can see where ordinary moviegoers might latch onto that as a selling point but it ignores the core audience. Comics geeks are going to make or break this movie’s success and, considering the large crossover between that group and Matrix fans, there’s no real point to not putting the names of Alan Moore or David Lloyd, the creators of the comic, on the poster. It’s not like there’s going to be many Matrix fans who don’t also know of Moore so it seems Warner Bros. missed the boat on this one.
There were also a number of other posters created that look very cool. They feature V and Natalie Portman, who plays Evey, a key figure in the story, and almost look like they were made to look like propaganda posters. Stark designs and bold splashes of color along with the phrase “Freedom Forever” make these a series of posters suitable for collecting and framing, which is exactly what Warner Bros. wants you to do. This one in particular looks like it was chosen to be the actual theatrical one-sheet for the film since it has the full credit block in addition to the copy point and image.
Considering the volume of output there’s not a weak image in the batch. They’re all very cool posters. Nice effort.
There are two primary trailers along with spot that debuted during the just passed Super Bowl. All three make it obvious that while James McTeague might be the credited director of the movie the Wachowski brothers obviously had their hands in all aspects of the movie’s look and feel. That suspicion is made evident by the numerous slow-motion shots of V’s knives being thrown through the air.
As for how the spots convey the story of the movie, that differs depending on which one you’re talking about. Both of the full trailers make it pretty clear that London is under strict police-state rule and that V, or Codename V as he’s referred to, is fighting against that. Both show his introduction during a rescue of Portman’s Evey, who is about to be raped and killed by undercover cops. Both then also show Evey being shaved bald by government agents who question her as to Codename V’s whereabouts. Other things the two trailer share are large images of John Hurt’s head, various London landmarks being blown up and V acting all, you know, mysterious and such.
The Super Bowl spot is drastically abbreviated from the two full trailers and loses some of the impact those others had. The story of the movie is just too complex for a short 60 seconds or so. A lot of the same elements appear but in a hacked up fashion that doesn’t make the same points the full trailers do. We still get Evey, V and John Hurt but not enough of them to really sell the movie. Much of the action appears on screen while a voice over reminds us that it comes from the creative minds of The Matrix, something the other two trailers avoid doing. I’m wondering how the WB arrived at the decision to advertise during the Super Bowl. Considering the original November release date it can’t have been part of the initial marketing plan but more of an audible that was called at the last minute. I’m guessing – and this is merely a guess – that Warner Bros. bought “X” amount of time during the game and then split it between a few movies with V For Vendetta just being in that group. They advertised other movies (Poseidon and Running Scared off the top of my head) and so likely had 60 seconds left over, which they decided to award to V since they had the shift in release schedules.
It’s interesting that the trailers don’t make the connection between V For Vendetta and The Matrix considering that seems to be the sole point of the posters. I wonder why the team behind this at Warner Bros. felt it was a necessary element for one aspect of the campaign but drop it almost completely from another part of the push. I’m sure there’s a reason behind it but am at a loss for what it might be.
The official website for V For Vendetta has been up for a year now. It went live in March, 2005, with content that was solely pulled from a press conference the producers held to announce the movie and begin to build anticipation. Over the course of the last year it’s been used to debut the trailers, posters and other interesting content that has built up slowly but surely as the movie has gone from pre- to post-production to being just about ready for release.
Warner Bros. has a habit of producing not just a Flash-animated full site but also an HTML-based site-lite that is accessible right off the homepage. That’s enabled people who didn’t feel like – or weren’t able to – sit through all the animation to still get at the content. They didn’t go quite to that level of effort but did put some stuff there right off the bat. From the homepage you can access trailers, a Quicktime VR tour of some of the sets and a photo gallery.
Once you enter the full site you’re immediately brought to the News section. When you look at it you’ll be struck by how much it resembles – without actually being – a blog. There have been pretty regular updates of information on the production of the film and the release of new materials but it’s not even RSS enabled so there’s no way to get these updates without visiting the site everyday to check for new news. It’s even formatted like a blog, with line breaks between each post/update. Why not just go the full nine yards here? I’m not going to get into that again, at least not here and now.
Moving on, all four of the propaganda-like artwork posters are available as Desktop themes you can download. Very cool. Videos does not contain the trailers – those are found under Trailers – but instead video from a number of press conferences and premieres. This is the kind of stuff that fans are likely to geek out over so their inclusion on the site is a nice touch. VR Sets is the same option that was available on the entry page but the feature is neat so you should definitely check it out. Posters contains all five poster images in both their “Web Preview” and “Print” versions. There’s also a version of one of the posters that is being used to promote the IMAX release of the movie. I can tell that because it has “See it in IMAX” across it in big letters.
Interviews contains two text interviews with members of the production crew. Costume designer Sammy Sheldon and assistant art director Stephen Gessler share their thoughts on both how they got into the movie business and working on this particular film. About is where you’ll actually learn about the movie itself. There are the usual “Cast” and “Crew” bios and an all too brief “Synopsis”. Press contains a paltry two press releases, one about the IMAX release and the other about Hugo Weaving joining the cast, which he did after filming had begun with another actor in the role of V. There’s also some pretty good “Production Notes” that covers a good deal of not only the source story but how it was molded into a movie and how said movie was filmed. The section labeled “Comic Con” is pretty much what was originally on the site and is a series of audio, video or text interviews from last year’s Comic Con. Finally there’s “Film Credits” which is a recreation of the credits that will appear at the end of the movie.
Art Dept is where you can find a number of storyboards organized by subject matter. There’s one group for storyboards relating to Guy Fawkes, one for the Fingermen and one group about Larkhill. There are more but they’re all labeled “Classified” which I’m assuming is the way they’re labeling content that’s still to come. There’s a very cool section on the historical Guy Fawkes including a time line, gallery and more. There’s even a game of “Hangman” you can play where, when you guess wrong, you help Fawkes get hung. That’s so funny I don’t know quite what to do with it. Was everyone who approved this aware of just how funny a Fawkes-themed game of Hangman would be and is? Goodness I hope so.
Talk-Back is kind of a forum/conversation starter where people can post their thoughts in a community environment. Most of the posts I read were about totalitarian governments. Can’t imagine there’s much fodder for that conversation right now, can you? Lastly is the Soundtrack, where you can listen to clips from the soundtrack, most of which are bits of the score by Dario Marianelli.
I have to say this is an incredibly strong campaign. If the movie fails to live up to box-office hopes it certainly won’t be because of the marketing. It might be because of whatever changes were made to the story from the source comic – always a point of contention among comics fans and one they don’t easily forgive or forget. On the other hand that very group is being targeted with the certain aspects such as the Comic Con footage and that from other press conferences. So Warner Bros. know where the keys to its success lie and are willing to play to that audience.
It’s obvious that the Warner Bros. team overseeing this campaign had a great deal of access to the filmmakers and shared a unified vision for how the campaign was to be put together. The viewer is immersed in the world of V and not let out. The themes of the movie are repeated over and over again so that the viewer feels instantly familiar with them. That singular vision is carried over from the excellent trailers to the frame-worthy posters to the fully stocked website where, if you so chose, you could spend hours reading and watching.
I want to go back the RSS issue once more before I finish up. Yeah, I would have loved to have seen the News section of the website be more bloggy, with the attendant RSS enabling that goes with that. I also think the audio and video postings should have been turned into podcasts and their video equivalent by publishing them through RSS feeds. That way every time a new one was produced it could have been downloaded and synced to the MP3 player of choice for listeners/viewers and listened to or watched at a time of their convenience.
That might seem like a minor gripe to make about such a well put together campaign but it really is going to be increasingly important for studios to remember as things move along technology-wise. Other than that this push gets a major thumbs-up from me.
…with Shel Holtz when he says that large companies have every right to participate in the blogosphere discussion going on about them. Anyone who feels they shouldn’t be there is, in my opinion, trying to squash that voice for a reason of their own. Participation by companies, PR agencies and other share holders in the topics being talked about online should be valued and welcomed with open arms. That of course assumes that, using Shel’s driving analogy, they abide by the rules of the road and aren’t doing anything that violates the openness and honesty that have made blogs so successful. No matter what particular tactic the company employs, whether it’s a product-specific blog, one by a PR guy or any other form it might take, as long as the purpose is clear then it deserves a spot on the road.
Keith O’Brien hits another home-run as he points out that blogging isn’t about shouting from the rooftops every time you put a new post up. It’s about doing good work, in an authentic voice, that adds something to the conversation. Check out this quote:
But there is one problem PR leaders have: they can never really talk about the good stuff – like clients. Or they can only do so in the safest, most managed terms. That is entirely understandable. But it places extra demands on the blogger to ask, “How can I express something truly meaningful about our industry?”
Any company that has clients and also tries blogging will hit a few potholes in terms of posting something they ought not to about said clients. It’s part of the growing pains. But keeping the idea of adding value in mind is important and could – and should – be the deciding factor as to whether something gets blogged or not.
Great (as always) thoughts by Jay Rosen on blogs and the newspapers that they can support. I’ve long held the belief that the future of blogging lies in bringing passionate writers and experts under the umbrellas established news organizations can provide. That way the publications tap into an influential niche audience that saves them the hiring and training costs of bringing on a full staff member and the blogger finds a great distribution outlet for their content. And if the revenues are shared equitably then it’s a win-win for everyone involved. It’s an especially likely scenario in light of rumors the Seattle Post-Intelligencer may go web-only.
I’m a big square when it comes to music. That’s why I’m excited by the fact that next week sees the release of the new album (the first in over a decade) from Chicago. It’s titled, in true Chicago fashion, XXX.
And then there’s this news from MusicTap:
After being expunged from the calendars for whatever reasons, Greatest Hits and Greatest Hits and Videos from Huey Lewis and The News is back on the pages with a street sate of May 23. If you’re looking forward to that release, mark it down…again.
I’m especially enthused about the “and Videos” part. HL&N put out some great videos in the day and I’ll definitely be picking that up.
Oh, and don’t forget that these two bands – my two favorites mind you – are touring together for the first time this summer. My head just might explode during that show.
There’s a recurring bit in the Doonsbury comic strip where a walking cigarette comes out to talk about regulation, legislation and the general absurdity of the relationship between the government and the tobacco industry. As with most things Doonsbury, the satire is sharp and pointed and based largely on fact.
So too Thank You For Smoking. The movie, directed by Jason Reitman (son of legendary director Ivan Reitman) is based on the book of the same name by Christopher Buckley. It follows the life of Nick Naylor, chief spinner for a large tobacco firm, as he makes the rounds telling people that smoking isn’t actually so bad and that it’s all a matter of personal choice anyway. Let’s dive in.
Both one-sheets are very cool but one is obviously the best.
First the teaser poster. Designed to resemble the ubiquitous “thank you for not smoking signs” it works perfectly by circling the cigarette by not putting the slash through it. Combined with the title’s obvious play on that very phrase it’s a great one-two punch. The theatrical poster is also quite good but not quite as great. With the cigarette-headed figure holding up a lighter it’s obviously trying to telegraph the point of the movie a bit more than the teaser. That’s a good thing and accomplishes the goal of a theatrical poster but it’s not as subtle, sharp and biting as the teaser. Still a solid effort but I love the first one more. It’s also interesting to note that the teaser image was the one chosen for the tie-in edition of the source novel.
Very funny but maybe a bit too broad in its humor. We’re introduced to Nick Naylor, head flack for and the public face of the tobacco industry. His life is all about making people believe that cigarette makers would never knowingly kill people and that any evidence that they do is purely circumstantial. While he’s doing this (along with his counterparts in the alcohol and firearms industries) he’s also trying to raise his son and have a personal life. Aaron Eckhart (best known for his roles in a number of Neil Labute dramas) plays the oily but sincere Nick very well and the scene of him going up against William H. Macy, who plays a senator questioning him, is great. Another highlight is the scene of him and Rob Lowe, who plays a movie producer, working around a slight problem while trying to cement a product placement deal for Nick’s products.
It’s a good trailer that’s weighted down only by the quick cutting and other visual quirks that are employed. The movie likely has some of these but in the trailer things are going by so fast that they get a bit distracting. The content of the trailer is great, though, don’t get me wrong.
It’s pretty low key but it is, after all, a low budget satire and not a huge summer tent pole movie.
The first thing on the site is the Trailer. Nothing new there. Then there’s a link to a list of Free Screenings of the movie. Just pull up the location and date and you’re able to RSVP to request tickets to a screening. That’s a fantastic idea since, by letting interested parties find where it’s playing, they can see it and then spread the word to their friends without spending $10. Since the people who are going to be visting the site are likely those specifically meaning to go there they’ve just engaged a motivated audience to talk about their movie. Great idea.
Next is the Director’s Blog Fox Searchlight setup for director Jason Reitman. It’s almost exactly what I’ve been harping on studios to do for their movies and it’s great that Fox Searchlight has done this. Reitman has shared his thoughts and exhaustion with the audience as he travels around to promote the movie, including a recent stop here in Chicago, where he apparently ordered a Chicago-style pizza from Giordano’s. It’s threw Reitman’s blog that we also learned they setup a MySpace page for the movie. It replicates a lot of the features of the official site, but with the added “friending” functionality of the social network.
The only issue I had with the blog (you had to know there would be at least one) is that an RSS feed is not readily apparent on the site. Luckily I usually use the Firefox browser which is actually able to automatically detect feeds so with a bit of cutting and pasting I was all setup. But as I viewed the updates through Bloglines I noticed I was the ONLY subscriber, at least the only one using Bloglines. So all in all the blog is 95 percent perfect, with the lack of RSS on the page being the only thing that docks it that five percent from being perfect.
Spin Cards are next. They’re kind of a “greatest moments in spin” collector’s set and feature Bill Clinton’s famous “I didn’t inhale”, Ashlee Simpson saying “My band played the wrong song” and other such spin-heavy quotes. Quite funny. There’s a brief Synopsis and a Gallery that consists of all of five pictures. Lastly, you can access cast profiles by clicking their names at the top of the page. Along with their bios and filmos there’s a brief scene from the movie specific to that character that plays.
Fantastic campaign, probably one of my favorites of the year so far. The teaser poster is fantastic, the trailer is funny and the web effort is made so much stronger with the inclusion of Reitman’s director’s blog. He’s a natural at blogging and has provided the sort of “here’s what’s happening with the movie” updates that I’ve often longed for. Great effort by Fox Searchlight for this flick. Can’t wait to see it.