Movie Marketing Madness: The Last Kiss

Zach Braff is the wounded puppy dog all women want to save. His earnestness, his sense of humor and his just-below-the-surface vulnerability make him attractive and endearing to each and every female I’ve come across. That same sense of humor also makes him palatable by guys, which goes a long way toward making sure that his TV show, Scrubs, and his movies are enjoyed by both genders and that there’s no “chick flick” tag assigned to his movies.

While his Scrubs persona of John Dorian leans more toward the slapstick with moments of heart-wrenching pathos, his movie efforts seem to be more on someone who’s struggling to find their place in life. Garden State, which he wrote, directed and starred in, was very much in that vein. He played a character who had no idea where he belonged in the world and returned home, only to find his path ran through Natalie Portman. (The last part of that might be the best thing I’ve ever written. Let’s move on.)

The Last Kiss seems to be along similar lines. He plays a man about to turn 30 and about to get engaged who meets another woman who just might be that special someone. The problem is that he loves his fiancée and has established a life with her. So does he break up the solid thing that is in front of him? Let’s take a look at how it’s being sold.

The Poster

Pretty straight-forward, isn’t it? Braff and his emoting are the big draws here and they’re right there on display in the poster. I actually really like the design, with Braff off-center and a woman’s arm reaches in front of him. The dressed-up but slightly disheveled sported by Braff conveys his character nicely. The use of black-and-white for the picture adds to the emotional resonance of the poster and is offset very well by the soft blue type used in the title treatment.

(Personal note: An executive at Paramount, after I told him my wife was a big fan of Braff, was nice enough to send a poster to her. Very nice of him.)

The Trailer

You know how the biggest device used by “Scrubs” is the narration by Braff that reflects not only what’s going on around him but also his internal monologue? The trailer for The Last Kiss starts off with the same sort of thing. The decision to do that, while at first it might seem like a cop-out, actually goes a long way to setting the viewer at ease or making them feel comfortable. They immediately feel as if they’re on familiar ground and are therefore open to what’s going to come at them. I’m not sure if this is what they were going for but that’s how it comes off to me.

Anyway, the trailer sets up the movie very well by telegraphing plot points without spoiling them. Braff’s character is turning 30 and is facing down the prospect of settling down and becoming an adult. He’s in a long-term relationship with a woman who is very much what he’s looking for and will be a great partner for settling down with. His life, with her, some great friends and a good life, is hitting on all eight cylinders. But that familiarity and steadiness is causing him anxiety as he begins to think about the adventures or twists his life could have were he not already so entrenched in a routine. As you’d expect, this feeling is exacerbated by seeing a beautiful girl at a wedding. His life is then thrown into even more upheaval when his parents, played by Tom Wilkenson and Blythe Danner, decide to split up.

The trailer has a very nice rhythm to it and fits the music played over it perfectly. If the entire movie is paced this well it could be excellent.

Online

Let me just say that this might be the best movie website I’ve visited and reviewed in quite some time. And I say that completely regardless of the fact that I kind of know the guy whose company designed it. I’m really not just saying that to kiss his butt. The reason I like it so much is that it knows what it’s supposed to do, which is convey information about the movie and the people in it while at the same time having bit of fun. Let’s dive in.

After you view a brief intro consisting of a still photo montage you get into the meat of the site. It’s laid out simply, with plenty of white space, just like the poster. In fact it’s exactly like the poster, using the image of Braff, the woman’s arm and the title treatment in exactly the same manner. The overall design of the site lends itself to easy, non-confusing navigation and, with the replicated poster image, some good and consistent branding. Remember, the idea behind branding is to present a repetitive, cohesive message to the public. Right off the bat this site has achieved that goal.

One area where it seems like site designers and studios have been getting lazy is in the “About” section. I guess they feel visitors to their site already know so much about the movie (or there’s so little to know) that they only need to throw up a one or two paragraph description and some cursory or obviously PR-generated production notes. The Last Kiss site takes the opposite opinion and actually helps you find out about the film. The Story section contains a lengthy synopsis of the movie. Cast & Crew not only provides extremely thorough biographies and film histories of the major players but some well fleshed-out notes on the casting of those players. There’s also a Photo Gallery containing about 14 stills, some of which are from the same scenes we’ve seen in the trailer.

The next section on the list is “Video.” This is the home to all the usual suspects such as the Trailer, TV Spots and some Clips. In addition to those features was a video podcast from Braff titled “A Day in the Life.” They’re not labeled as a podcast on the site but they were made available for subscription and download through iTunes, which is why I’m comfortable calling them podcasts as opposed to just online video journals. I would have loved to have seen a direct RSS feed for the videos made available on the site, but that’s a minor gripe, especially since an iTunes link is available on the left-hand side of the page. A grand total of about 12 to 14 episodes were released, leading to a very nice collection of shorts. I hope they have the sense to put these on the DVD since having them in one place and easily viewable is always nice.

The website also features some very cool interactive or community-enhancing features. First of is “Choice.” It basically functions like a Choose Your Own Adventure story, with people presented with crucial moments and the ability to choose own path or another. Those choices are then represented through clips from the film.

“Moment Capture” lets people create their own personalized pages that come off of the lastkissmovie.com domain. Visitors can create their own intro to the site by uploading pictures of themselves and creating text in the style of the movie’s title treatment. The intros will be customizable so people can show what kind of choices they’ve made and how they reflect the themes and subject matter of the film. Those personalized URLs can, once they’ve been screened by Paramount, be shared with friends. With so many people having their own MySpace pages or blogs, the idea to provide them a personalized URL is fantastic. Traffic was pushed to the site via this online ad and others.

Speaking of MySpace, the movie has its own page on the social networking service as does the soundtrack. Through that page, some people were able to get invited to the release part for the soundtrack, a great way to reward the online community that’s interacting with the film.

Zach Braff also has his own site and MySpace page. The site was launched a few months prior to the movie’s release and has played a good part in the marketing of the film. Braff has been putting up blog posts and debuting both the teaser and theatrical trailer on the site. He’s also just been riffing on the movie and other projects, letting people feel like they’re really communicating with the star himself. It’s amazing how a little bit of access like this can really energize and empower a fan base. Prior to the launch of his own domain, Braff had been among the first directors and starts to start up and maintain a production blog for his film Garden State. That blog is where he first established a reputation for openness and expressed a fondness for connecting with his fans over the internet.

Other Efforts

Really the only thing I’ve come across that I’d label “Other” is a contest that was held on Threadless.com, a site that lets you upload a design of your making and have it custom printed on a t-shirt. Visitors were encouraged to submit their own designs inspired by The Last Kiss and its themes of choice, maturity and more. Seems like more and more studios are putting their movie brands on their sleeves.

Overall

Sometimes I’m not sure what order things come in. Do I write up a column for a movie because I’m already interested in seeing it or do I become interested in seeing it after I write up the campaign? In the case of The Last Kiss I have to say, in all honesty, it’s the former. This is a movie that I’m inclined to see but a bad campaign easily could have soured that.

Thankfully that’s not the case and I can say in a hopefully unbiased way that I think the campaign is wonderfully strong. The poster is great and the trailer, as I mentioned, gets you emotionally committed to the movie in a very genuine way. The real highlight, though, is the website and its minimalist look and feel. Minimalist is a word that gets thrown around a lot but I think it’s warranted in this case. The site knows what its goal and achieves that goal with a minimum of fuss.

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LOTD: September 13

  • MySpace is talking about replacing what YouTube and other sources of “content” on the site are doing with their own, so they can have all the traffic. That’s a good idea, one stop shopping is fantastic, but howabout taking two things into consideration – people like using YouTube the way it is, and second, it’s probably important to get the non-super technical features you already have to work on a consistent basis. If you can’t scale on a totally regular scale to the 100 million accounts you already have for messaging, IM, and profiles, how do you expect to do so for thousands (if not millions) of bits of video?
  • Shel Holtz points to the latest Second Life Podcast that spells out what it’s all about.
  • ClickZ’s kate Kaye writes about how political marketing these days has changed, on the Web. Well that was fast. At least someone’s adopting different technologies.
  • Our own Chris Thilk thinks he’s cool because he’s now Web 2.0 Compliant. How cute.
  • FeedBurner has a look “under the hood” of the more than 100 thousand subscribers to TechCrunch‘s RSS feed.
  • On Monday, Jeremy Zawodny had a few things to say about recruiters who think they’re all slick by finding potential job candidates online. It’s one thing to utilize new tools on the ‘net (beyond Google, thankyouverymuch) to find talent, but a completely different one when you’re wasting people’s time. And the best part is that said recruiter probably doesn’t even realize what happened here.