LOTD: 6/20/07

  • The WSJ is tapped in to the “virtual job interview” meme that’s floating around, on how companies are using Second Life, among other places, to get the scoop on potential staffers. Awesome job pointing out the “difficulties” some have using the system. (TB)
  • Launching off of Tom’s item above, the difficulties of the Second Life experience are recreated in the world in a video passed on here by Eric Rice. (CT)
  • In case any of you were wondering when LOLcats were going to officially become uncool, the fact that the phenomenon got a write-up in today’s Chicago Tribune seems a good starting point for that countdown. (CT)

Movie Marketing Madness: Evan Almighty

evan_almightyIt’s been four years since director Tom Shadyac lead Jim Carrey, Jennifer Aniston and Morgan Freeman through the comedy Bruce Almighty. In the flick, Carrey played an ordinary guy who worked at a TV station and who one day got a message from God, played by Morgan Freeman. The comedy – and the eventual emotion – in the movie was provided by the conceit that God was able to give Bruce his powers and responsibilities. Wackiness ensued, with Bruce eventually learning just how important God’s role in the universe is and how lucky he is to have a life to live.

Evan Baxter, played by Steve Carell, was a minor character in the flick – a rival at Bruce’s TV station who got an anchor assignment instead of Bruce. It was Carell’s first film role but since then his star was really taken off, both in subsequent movies and especially thanks to a starring role on the hit show “The Office.” Baxter returns as the titular character in this film as he’s just been elected to Congress. As he begins this phase of his life he prays to God that all he wants to do is help the world, which prompts God to take him up on his offer. What Evan must do, God says, is build and ark to house two of every animal because another flood is coming.

The Poster

At least domestically there has only been one poster released for the movie. It has Carell poised at the front of an arc (actually on top of an elephant) and surrounded by the other animals in his charge. The placement of the Capital Building in the background achieves the goal of letting everyone know where the main action in the flick will be set. And the copy at the top, “From the director of Bruce Almighty,” is meant to make sure people understand the labeling of this movie as Evan Almighty isn’t just a coincidence.

The brightness of the poster and the other visual elements like the Heavenly light from the top and big, bold text labels this in the minds of the audience as a broad comedy. There’s nothing subtle about it, this one will do whatever it can to make you laugh is the message being sent.

The Trailers

The teaser trailer is the best at showing Evan Almighty to be a sequel to Bruce Almighty, simply by virtue of its opening with a scene from Bruce. It explains the basic premise of the movie, that God wants Baxter to build an arc, and deals with the reactions of some of the people around him, but that’s about as deep as it gets.

The theatrical trailer does the job of actually setting up many of the jokes in the film. It’s more of an outlet for Carell to be exercise his physical comedy chops, which he as plenty of. It also dives a little deeper into the setup of the plot, that Baxter has just been elected to Congress, a position that’s complicated when God taps him for ark-building duty. It also provides the first real look at the ark itself and the eventual flood that necessitated its building.

Online

The movie’s official website is pretty fully stocked even before you enter into the fuller and richer content. When you pull up the page you’re greeted with a trailer, an e-commerce shop where you can buy Evan Almighty-branded swag, a list of nine of the movie’s promotional partners as well as a link to the GetOnBoard site, which I’ll cover more later.

There’s also a button with a phone number to call in case you’re interested in group ticket sales. This is important considering the outreach done to religious and other faith-based groups. By prompting them to think about group trips to the see the movie, something that’s consistently cited as contributing to the success of The Passion of the Christ, Universal is taking a proactive approach to getting these groups out to the theater.

evanalmightypic.jpgWhen you decide to Enter the Site, the loading progress of the Flash application is shown by an image that transforms Steve Carrel’s image from the ordinary guy he starts out as to the Noah-looking character he eventually becomes. On the page that’s eventually shown there’s a graphic of the cast but below that is a little widget-type box that displays the Acts of Random Kindness people have submitted, to which you can contribute your own good deed. Below that is “Almighty Links” which links out to the GetonBoard site, some exclusive content on MovieFone, the Noah’s Ark Memory Game, a place to download Evan ringtones and the Conservation Fund.

  • If you click the “Ark Building for Dummies” book Carell is holding you’ll be presented with a virtual ark that contains a ton of interactive content. If you click on certain images you’re presented with exclusive stuff like desktops and such. Let’s see what we have here behind some of the windows of the ark:
  • Another link to the Acts of Random Kindness tool
  • An excerpt from Ark Building for Dummies which is preceeded by a clip of God giving Baxter the book
  • A prompt to go play some games and such in the Activity Room
  • Do the Evan dancing tips – basically a bunch of film clips featuing Carell dancing but also downloadable and printable instructions
  • An Ark History tutorial
  • Almighty Downloads
  • There are links to a number of games and activities right there at the bottom of the screen.

Going back to the main page for a moment, you also see that Freeman lights up when you mouse over his picture. It doesn’t do much, just plays an audio clip of some of his dialogue.

So now let’s look at the content lurking behind the main menu of options.

“The Film” contains a brief Story synopsis but also some incredibly in-depth Production Notes. Everything about the making of the movie is chronicled here, from the environmental theme to the costume design to some of the animals in the movie. The Prod Notes are broken into eight different sections for easy reading and it’s worth your time. You’ll find the usual mix of biographies and filmographies for the major in-front of and behind the camera players in “Cast and Crew.”

There’s a wealth of video in, well, “Video.” The movie’s trailer, five TV Spots, a number of Clips, a video on the movie’s “green” production, A Look Inside BTS special and three featurettes are all in there. That’s an awesome amount of video to put in one place. Unfortunately it’s just one trailer and not the couple that were produced that are in there. If they were going to go all-out like this I don’t quite get why they didn’t include more than just the one.

“Downloads” has IM Icons, Desktops and a Screensaver. “Gallery” is just what you think it is – a gallery of about 36 or so still photos. Unlike most movie sites, though, this Gallery gives you the option to download the pics as a desktop background. Why this sort of functionality isn’t baked into more sites is beyond me but I’m glad they included it. Finally, “Features” brings you to the same virtual ark environment we visited earlier.

The studio also created two microsites for the movie.

The first, ArkAlmighty, is simply a repository for the good deeds people can submit.

The other is GetOnBoard, which I briefly mentioned above. In the interest of not repeating myself I’m going to repost what I wrote a couple months ago on the site. Everything I said then still applies.

Universal has launched a spinoff site related to their upcoming Evan Almighty that highlights environmental awareness and calls on people to get involved in reducing emissions and other harmful activities. The site, Get on Board, is wonderfully put together (not surprising since it’s a Real Pie Media production) and manages to promote the movie AND be useful as a “cause marketing” platform. Some of the highlights:

  • A News page that pulls in Google News alerts relating to green issues
  • Simple steps for more environmentally friendly living
  • Details on how the movie’s production was a carbon-neutral one

The biggest feature, though, is the Almighty Forest. People or corporations – such as those listed on the partners page – donate $5 to plant a real-world tree and also get immortalized in this virtual forest. This provides a great outlet for personal passion and (let’s be brutally honest here) some corporate philanthropic branding. And everyone who plants a tree/makes a donation will have their name included on the movie’s DVD.

I had the opportunity to talk to Real Pie’s Kirk Skodis about this who said it was in large part his agency’s work on the site for An Inconvenient Truth that helped them get this project. As you can see Real Pie’s carving out quite the “green” niche for itself when it comes to interactive work. And while that alone is great, it’s equally as good to see a major studio like Universal get behind an initiative like this.

Advertising and Cross-Promotional Efforts

As part of the movie’s “green” promotional initiative Universal signed a bevy of promotional partners, all of which signed on to help financially market the movie, most of whom did so through their own environmental programs.

Roughly $25 million in marketing support is being provided by U parent GE (through its Ecomagination campaign), Sheraton Hotels & Resorts, Travelocity, Environmental Defense Fund, Bear Naked, L.A. Zoo, San Diego Zoo, BP Solar and Dell Computers to help U launch its Get on Board eco-awareness campaign and give audiences tips on how to help slow the effects of global warming — while letting them know “Almighty” is hitting theaters.

This, according to that Variety article, is the first time director Shadyac has gone this deep into promotional partner territory, having been wary of the practice in the past out of a fear of over-commercializing his films. Those companies that did so, though, will also be part of the eventual DVD release campaign. Many are creating their own promotional material, with G.E. producing in-theater spots and the World Wildlife Fund producing a series of PSAs. And I previously mentioned GE’s co-branded “Ecoimagination” spot, which I got the idea behind but thought was awkwardly executed.

evanalmightyctad.JPGThe movie even got a plug by Christianity Today in its email newsletter that goes out to readers. It came as one of the “special offers” and news of interest that you agree – but can opt out if you so choose – to receive. The email was simply titled “Evan Help Up” and had a trackable link that redirected to the movie’s official website. When you visit CT’s homepage you’ll also see a roughly 290X290 ad for the movie right there that also redirects you to the movie’s website.

Universal took full advantage of some cross-ownership synergy by using broadcasts of NBC’s “The Office,” which stars Carell, to debut not one but two of the movie’s trailers. One hit during March 29th’s marathon of Office episodes and the other during the May season finale of the show. The movie has gotten significant support in the form of hosted sneak peaks and other such exclusives on other channels as well. I saw a promo for one such infomercial on TBS the other night and the Gospel Music Channel hosted an Evan-themed concert.

The Evan Almighty poster image was used in cross-promotions with both Cinemark Theaters, which put it on a gift-card, and Moviefone, which used it as part of a larger campaign dubbed “What’s your movie mood?

Of course the movie was supported at least in part by the release of a special two-disc DVD edition of Carell’s The 40-Year-Old Virgin.

There was a launch party held in the virtual world of Second Life but what it constituted I haven’t been able to tell. Still, sounds like it might have been cool.

Overall

There’s some concern that the movie’s overtly Christian message is going to be attractive only to that particular audience, running into a critical drubbing by all those smartypants writers who aren’t willing to put their faith in the movie’s suspension of disbelief. But the marketing campaign, which reportedly ran about $40 million, does a good job of selling it just as a comedy at the same time a good amount of the PR efforts have made it clear the film has a Godly message.

It’s a good campaign, but I’ll admit I wasn’t originally sold on it. I thought it looked too broad and too wacky as the individual components were being released. But now that I review if from beginning to end I see it’s great at presenting a consistent brand and sells the film very well. So instead of my earlier hesitation I’m now willing to give it an enthusiastic approval.