Movie Marketing Madness: Jumper

jumperposterbig.jpgA lot of times an actor or actress will be able to get future roles or command a higher salary based on their appearance in a successful film, especially if that movie was underestimated or otherwise came out of nowhere to be a hit. Katherine Heigle is a recent example of this, with her asking price rising after appearing in Knocked Up, and she’s now in a position to choose roles instead of taking what she can get. This despite the fact that, while she was good in that flick, she probably wasn’t the driving force behind many people’s desire to see it.

The same can largely be said of Hayden Christensen. Following his turns as Anakin Skywalker in the last two Star Wars films he’s now a bona fide movie star. Why? Because he appeared in those two hugely successful movies. This, of course, over looks the popular opinion that he weighed the two of them down with his leaden acting (better in Revenge of the Sith) to equate his appearance with the box-office receipts. So you can see there’s a sort of faulty, almost circular logic going on.

Whatever the case, Christensen now appears in Jumper, playing a young man with the ability to teleport to wherever he desires. He and others like him are hunted by a group called Paladins that seek to stop jumpers under the theory that they all turn bad eventually. The leader of the Paladins is played by Samuel L. Jackson, meaning that yes, we’re getting a rematch of the Anakin/Mace Windu confrontation at the end of Revenge of the Sith.

Before moving into the campaign review I wanted to link to and comment on something Steven Zeitchik wrote on The Hollywood Reporter’s Risky Biz Blog. He mentions how Jumper is being released when it is almost as an experiment on two fronts. First, to see if winter releases of movies that seem like natural summer tentpoles can find success in a less crowded field. And second to see one more time if it’s possible to create new franchises instead of just dusting off old ones.

To the first point, I think the February release strategy might be half driven by a desire to provide summer-time entertainment while the snow’s still falling (and falling and falling and falling – I’ve shoveled my driveway a LOT this winter) and half the studio doing a little CYA in case the movie flops. If it came out in July it would be going up against some stiff competition and a disappointing box-office take would be a sign it just couldn’t hold its own. But if it fails now the studio can label it a failed experiment, blame a snowstorm in the northeast or otherwise find a reason that’s not they’re fault for it.

To the second, I do think it’s possible to create new franchises. It’s just that most of the attempts to date have been A) Not very good movies, B) Not marketed very well or C) Overly conscious attempts to emulate another franchise’s formula. Any of those things are going to honk off an audience, should it actually get on their radar in the first place.

The Posters

The teaser poster is actually pretty good as teaers go. It’s solid black with some sort of silhouette figure running toward the camera, with a shiny, technology-invoking title treatment alongside it. Like I said, it did a pretty good job as a teaser setting a sort of mysterious tone for the campaign. That’s about all there is to say about the poster since that’s about all there is to it.

The theatrical poster that was released actually appeared after the trailer did. I make that clear since the strength of the poster is relational to that of the trailer. That’s because where the trailer showed Christensen’s character lounging atop a sphinx in Egypt in one scene, this first poster shows a similar image. It’s a slick poster whose look and feel clearly tag it as a one-sheet for a science fiction flick. But its true strength lies in how it carries over the imagery from another part of the campaign.

The Trailers

The first trailer starts off surprisingly quietly, at least that’s the way it seems in light of the rest of the campaign. Christensen’s character is shown milling around his apartment sort of restlessly like anyone does when they can’t think of something fun to do. Then all of a sudden he starts teleporting short distances, like across the couch. Eventually we see he’s capable of much more powerful jumps, going from his apartment’s sidewalk to Big Ben in the blink of an eye.

After that we’re given what’s actually a really good introduction to the world of the movie, showing Christensen’s girlfriend (played by Rachel Bilson) and then being brought into the war between Jumpers and Paladins. That’s when the action ramps up, as Christensen’s jumps are interrupted by the weapons employed by Jackson in his hunt.

The second and final trailer also spends a surprising amount of time on exposition, showing Christensen’s character as a young boy who discovers one day he can teleport. It more quickly transactions into an action movie commercial but still tries a bit to sell the movie as being character-driven, at least to the extent that scenes of Christensen concentrating really hard (you can tell because he looks like…well…like he always does) counts as character development.

This theatrical trailer was actually given its own big press debut event at the Luxor Casino in Las Vegas. As I said at the time that makes a lot of contextual sense considering the Luxor sports a recreation of The Great Sphinx, which is seen in the movie, with that scene being featured in the trailer. So here even the setting was being used as part of the branding of the movie.

This is the trailer that largely provides the framework for the commercials that would be created for the movie. Most of the ones follow the same narrative structure as this trailer but are, obviously, shorter.

Online

When the official website loads you’re taken into the apartment of Christensen’s character, David. The room moves back and forth with your mouse in what I can only describe as a really, really annoying way. Throughout the entire time I spent on the site I kept wanting it to just stand still for a half a friggin’ moment so I could look at things. That frustration is compounded by the fact that you can click on things in the apartment to explore pictures or get more information. But that’s kind of hard to do when the background keeps slipping out from under your mouse.

One thing I was able to click on that I’ll mention here is the speakers off to the left of the room. Click on that and you’re taken to the official website for Meridian Speakers, one would assume as the result of a placement deal that extends to the film as well.

Honestly, that scrolling feature made the site so annoying I gave up on it. I managed to see that you could change the setting of the site from New York to some other exotic locale and that you could download some mobile swag. You were also prompted to visit the site on your iPhone (so you’re telling people to shut down their web browser and pull it up on their iPhone why exactly? Cause it’s so much better a user experience?

Ugh.

The studio tried to create their own little sub-drama related to the movie with a YouTube-based video podcast called Watch Your Jack. The star of the show is someone who’s just exploring his teleportation powers, is looking to the community other others like him for support, and worried about the mysterious figure lurking outside his house. It’s not very good, and in fact almost brings the whole campaign down with how staged and phony it is. The less said about it the better.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

20th Century Fox decided Jumper would get a commercial during the Super Bowl a couple weeks ago but unfortunately put together what I thought, and continue to think, was a pretty weak spot. At only 15 seconds long the commercial has almost no time for anything and so is a messy concoction of flashy images that are quick-cut together into something that’s incomprehensible, but thankfully over before you know what’s going on.

But that may not have been what the studio was aiming for.

Unfortunately the spot did not generate the kind of excitement Fox was probably hoping for. According to a Hitwise traffic analysis, hits to the movie’s official website were actually down 50 percent on Super Bowl Sunday from just the day before. They then dropped a further 50 percent the Monday after the game, almost making it seem like the spot actively turned off people who had previously been hitting it. There are other explanations, of course, but none of them are much rosier. Maybe the fact that they didn’t do any SEO or paid advertising work to support the spot is at least partly to blame.

At the very least it means no one was coming to the site to replay the commercial in high quality. Those who were interested in repeat viewings likely, it can be assumed, settled for YouTube or MySpace or one of the other channels collecting the commercials.

Later that night during the post-game airing of “House” a much better 30-second spot (that I’ve also seen elsewhere on TV) appeared that, because of the extra breathing room, did a much better job of setting up the story and selling the movie.

The movie also got some advertising help from Hewlett-Packard. An H-P commercial featured Christensen popping in and out in and around what Serena Williams is doing in the spot. A commercial for Jumper is then added on to the front and the back of the spot, resulting in a commercial in a commercial in a commercial, or what might be the advertising world’s first Meta Triple Lindy.

The interesting thing to keep in mind about that spot is that it was not the result of a cross-promotional deal between H-P and Fox. Instead it was the ad agency that both companies use that thought it would be a fun and appropriate idea and got Christensen to shoot against a green screen for a while in order to make it happen, with both companies signing off on the execution.

There’s also been a bunch of online advertising done as you can see archived on Adverlicio.us here and here. The girl who runs the Agency Tart blog also caught an interesting full-motion ad that appeared on an Australian news portal that was pretty cool.

Remember LonelyGirl15? Well Fox decided that the kids were still tuning in to the continuing adventures of Bree (which is now some sort of odd serial adventure and not just her confiding into the camera) and got the producers to include mentions of teleporters or something in order to promote the movie.

According to Tom there was also some marketing for the movie going on during the recent X-Games broadcast. According to him some of the athletes wore Jumper-branded outfits during competition. He also mentioned on Twitter something about the movie sponsoring jumping-centered games, which is kind of interesting.

Overall

Well it’s an alright campaign, but its weak parts are incredibly weak. The website especially just stinks up the joint. The movie looks like it might be halfway decent but that’s almost in spite of instead of because of the campaign.

I don’t know, it just seems like it’s weaker than the sum of its parts and that’s too bad. Wish I had more to say about it but it’s just not inspiring anything but a shoulder shrug.

Things I’d like to see

Word is Michael Bay has finished writing the script for Transformers 2. I’ll skip the obvious jokes and instead mention that I really hope he works in some way for Shia Labouf’s character to rant about the new fees being taken out of the items he’s selling on eBay. Nothing speaks to the kids in the audience more than timeliness.

LOTD: 2/14/08

  • Seana Mulcahy is wondering whether she’s lost control of her personal contacts now that so many people are including social network, blog and other links in their communications with her. (CT)
  • CNN is finally launching iReport, their video site dedicated to reporting done by non-professional reporters, who can post whatever they find to be newsworthy without the intrusion of pesky editors. (CT)
  • I completely agree with Max Kalehoff’s comment on this Blogspotting post about how the bigger-name bloggers are increasingly hard to get hold of by their readers. (CT)
  • Harvard is considering making some of the scholarly works produced by its faculty free for everyone to read online instead of narrowing the audience by sticking with journals and such. Their decision could start a trend and is being watched more than a little closely. (CT)
  • Our long national nightmare is over. There is now a “Post to MySpace” button you can add to your blog. (CT)
  • John Cass points out Countrywide is now blogging on credit. (CT)