Movie Marketing Madness: Wanted

In the fifth season of “Angel” there’s a scene that was Wesley delivering some mystical weapons to seemingly bad people. Helping him with this is Fred, and when she brings one of the guns out the bad guy remarks on how hot he is. In retort she says something along the lines of “Wow, a man turned on by a woman holding a big gun. How unusual.”

I bring this up because it’s exactly this..let’s say tendency…that Universal is more or less counting on with Wanted.

The movie tells the story a slightly loser-ish cubicle monkey played by James McAvoy who has his life turned upside down when an assassin played by Angelina Jolie tells him that his father used to also be an assassin and that he’s meant to be one as well. This leads to an adventure that has him discovering his destiny as Jolie shows off just how well she can handle a big gun and just how flexible she is as she contorts her body to avoid oncoming traffic and other problems.

The movie is actually based on a graphic novel but, to my understanding, it excises a big chunk of the source material’s story. In the movie these assassins are simply keeping the balance of power in check or something, but in the comic the group wiped out super-powered individuals, creating a world without heroes but, in their mind, a world without the threat those super-powered people would turn bad one day.

The Posters

The first teaser poster Universal released definitely played into the “chicks with guns are hot” idea by showing Angelina Jolie, in very artistic black-and-white with her tattoos on full display, brandishing her very large sidearm. Her pose seems to be contemplative and dark and all the weird symbols, from the tatoo patterns on her arms to the engraving on the grip of the gun, all allude to their being some sort of secret society at work here. Since Jolie is one of – if not the – main selling point in the movie the use of her on the poster makes the most sense, though I’ll admit I was a little disappointed a whole series of character posters – each with more mysterious symbols – weren’t created. That could have created a whole set that created a larger sense of atmosphere.

The theatrical poster again puts Jolie and her arm-art and big-honkin gun at the forefront. This time, though, her pose is more ready-for-action than deep in thought and we see a little bit more of her. McAvoy joins her this time, with dual guns ready for action. Both of them appear before a high view of a city, giving the impression that their reach is far and wide.

One thing about the poster is the fact that McAvoy gets listed first, but on the poster he’s the smaller of the two people. Jolie is last in the above-the-title credits but she’s the focal point of both posters. And Morgan Freeman, who’s listed second here, isn’t even given a big floating head.

An alternate version of this poster was actually given away at one of the Comic-Con gatherings, at which time I said it likely would not be the same design that wound up being used on the theatrical poster. This should prove that I am often very, very wrong since that’s exactly what wound up happening.

The Trailers

The teaser trailer gets right to the point. McAvoy ambles up to a drugstore counter and is approached by Jolie, who promptly shoots someone who appears to be targeting them. She then grabs him and takes him to meet Freeman and the rest of the fraternity, where he learns how to do that cool bullet stuff and break out of his nothing life. It’s heavy on Freeman’s narration on how important that group is and on showing off a number of the movie’s action set-pieces and does a good job of setting the tone for the rest of the campaign.

The theatrical trailer started off with much more action, showing McAvoy running around a parking lot with Jolie in her hot red car, eventually leading to a chase that shows her performing that cool flexible thing out the car window to avoid a truck. That moves into him being indoctrinated into the fraternity and a montage of many of the same scenes we’ve seen before. There is a little bit of dialogue that alludes to the problems McAvoy’s character has with what he’s being asked to do but that’s it. The rest is all guns and adrenaline and Jolie looking hot.

There was then a third and final trailer. This starts off with the same tone the first one did, showing the pointlessness of McAvoy’s life before bumping into Jolie. Then it’s more training with guns and such and then the same sort of set-piece showing off that has dominated all the trailers. This one will show up just about everywhere else and is obviously the one most favored by Universal.

There’s also a redband trailer that more or less looks and feels like the initial spot that was released. The main difference, beyond the addition of a few bits of new scenes showing some violence and one clip of Freeman saying someone should “shoot this MFer,” is that all the bullets we see loosed in the first trailer we now see connecting with their targets. That’s often accompanied by a bit of blood, including when the one goes through the guy’s head in dramatic fashion.

Online

When you pull up the official website you’re a good amount of options right there on the main page.

Before entering the main site – which there are two ways to do – you can watch the first trailer, which is also available to share via code for either a blog or a social network page.

After that is how you can access most of the site’s age-restricted content, including the redband trailer. There’s also a pretty cool “From Comic Book to Screen” featurette that compares the source material to the movie. It’s the sort of thing that you would expect to see on the DVD. Finally there’s a selection of Russian promotional material in the form of a handful of trailers.

Next down the line is a link to the Fraternity of Assassins Facebook application/game. It pits you against other friends on the site that have installed the app in shootout-type contests. The app also has the Curve the Bullet and Panic Attack games that are available on…

…the widget you can grab that not only contains the games but also trailers and a story synopsis.

Finally at the bottom there’s a number to text in order to enter a contest awarding video game goodies and movie-branded swag on the mobile social network Zannel and a link to publisher TopCow’s page on the original graphic novel, which is heavy with movie news.

So let’s go ahead and enter the site.

The first thing you see is a bunch of small pictures of the main characters. Mouse over the one you want to choose and you’ll see it expand for that character. Clicking the link takes you to a full biography of them, including information on things like weapon of choice, parts of the mythology that apply to them and more. It’s one of cooler features I’ve seen like this and provides a good background foundation for those in the audience who might feel weighted down by what’s going on in the movie’s story.

Most of the site’s content, though, is housed under that little bug in the upper-right-hand corner. Click that and a menu expands with the usual content sections listed.

“Story” is actually a pretty cool description of the movie’s plot. That’s because it sticks to describing said story and doesn’t devolve into becoming just a credit block. It lays out who everyone is and what happens to them on the way very nicely, providing a good starting point for people to familiar with the movie before deciding to see it.

Not much to say about “Cast & Crew” – it’s pretty much the standard stuff about the major players in the movie.

Far cooler is “About the Film” which contains extensive information on how the movie traveled through production, including sections on the design of the Loom of Fate to the story’s translation from it’s comics origin to the special effects and more. All well-written and engaging and most of the sections actually contribute to the reader’s appreciation for the movie, which is a bit unusual.

Unfortunately “Video” is a bit disappointing, containing just one trailer, the same one that’s on the front page of the site. There are 20 still photos from both the film itself and some behind-the-scenes shots within “Gallery.”

You’ll find four Desktops, an AIM Expression and eight Buddy Icons you can grab and use under “Downloads.”

Finally, “Training” contains both the Bullet Curve and Panic Attack games, both of which are a lot of fun.

A short while before the movie’s release, portions of the Internet went crazy for what was being called a viral video of some random office worker completely wigging out and trashing his office. It was later revealed to be a stunt from director Timur Bekmambetov and developed by him as an effort to highlight the movie’s message of breaking out from the drudgery of office life. I’m not sure I completely get the connection, but it seems to have worked to some extent by simply getting people talking.

There was also a site created that played into the a couple of the key themes of the movie. The Fraternity of Weavers (also found at FraternityofAssassins.com) site explored the history of weaving and its cultural significance. It’s actually kind of neat in execution, including links to Wikipedia entries and other pages that provide background on the ideas the site forwards, namely that we can link weaving and civilization in general together, an idea that is deeply engrained in the movie.

The movie’s MySpace page recreates a lot of the content from the official site. You’ll find there the trailer, some photos and a handful of downloads. Likewise the Facebook fan page doesn’t have a whole lot more than that same stuff, but does add a promotion for the Facebook game into the mix. There was also a MySpace for the movie’s soundtrack.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

One of the biggest shots in the paid media campaign was a Super Bowl spot that aired this past February. The spot’s footage draws largely from the trailer that had been released at this time. But the audience targeting – a movie about big guns, both of the metal and Jolie variety – and with lots of cool special effects is a perfect fit for the Super Bowl audience.

Universal also partnered with online music service Rhapsody on a contest that let people create a video featuring their own remix one of composer Danny Elfman’s tracks from the soundtrack. The winner will have his video included on the DVD release of the film.

There’s a “Most Wanted Videos” section on video site Break.com that’s sponsored by the movie. Again, that fits with the target audience since Break is commonly known as a guy-oriented site.

Media

Much like many of this summer’s other biggest releases, Universal has used a series of extended clips from Wanted as part of the publicity campaign, something that is lapped up by bloggers like they’re kittens with warm milk.

There are quite a few such clips that can be found around and about online. Universal also used the MTV Movie Awards last month to premiere a new one, which seems a bit odd considering I don’t know how far MTV’s audience these days includes the over 17 set, which is the only group that’s getting in to this R-rated flick.

The last such clip was released just a few days before the movie hit theaters and was age-restricted, something designed to convert any last minute stragglers that yes, the flick was that hard-core and that they should go see it after they drop their kids off at WALL-E.

In a major coup, at least if you’re hip to the online scene, the studio lined up TechCrunch to host an exclusive preview of the movie, something that resulted in a number of posts about Wanted in general and the event in particular appearing on theuber-popular online technology site.

Overall

At first I was a bit tempted to call the campaign “one-note” because of the constant use of the same clips and images from the movie, but I’ve decided it’s “consistent” instead. It’s a lot of fun and certainly makes a strong case for being an entertaining action film if not something that’s going to require a lot of deep concentration or anything. But it knows what it’s selling – Angelina Jolie and a lot of special-effect-laden gun-play – and it makes sure the audience knows that those two things are prominent throughout the flick.

While there are things I can identify as missing from the campaign – more character posters and a little bit more backstory in the trailers – I can’t count any of them as actual flaws because of that singular focus. It hit its key points over and over again, knowing just where to find the target audience and how to make the movie appealing to them. It’s certainly a strong option for action-seeking adults who feel inundated by WALL-E buzz this weekend.

And that makes the campaign a success.

PICKING UP THE SPARE

  • 7/9/08: An MMOG (massively-multi-player-online-game) has been created that mimcs the “fraternity” idea from the movie, enlisting people who can rise through the ranks of the organization. It was actually released before the movie, according to the story, and was a component in the online buzz-building effort then.
  • 9/4/08: A pair of posters for Wanted have raised the ire of the U.K.’s Advertising Standards Authority, saying that the appearance of Angelina Jolie and lots of guns on the posters glamorized the idea of violence to young people. Universal responded by pointing out the elements on the posters did contain those things, but that doing so simply reflected the movie’s comic book roots. The regulatory group eventually conceded that the posters might be offensive to some but were unlikely to cause widespread public harm.
  • 2/9/09: Common is reprising his weapons-maker role for a new video game based on the movie. I’m a little surprised it’s coming out so loate but there must still be a market for this.

Picking up the Spare: Incredible Hulk, The Love Guru, Get Smart and WALL-E

The Incredible Hulk

David Goetzi at MediaPost reviews the effectiveness of The Incredible Hulk’s takeover of an episode of “American Gladiators.” The promotion included outfitting some of the Gladiators with Hulk Smash Hands, an appearance by former Hulk Lou Ferrigno and an extended trailer at the end of the show, all of which added up to a great, if slightly tongue-in-cheek bit of marketing for the movie.

To promote the movie’s opening in Spain, ol’ greenskin took over the front page of MSN Spain with a full rich-media placement on June 20th only that included scenes from the movie in the background and a full trailer that played on the page.

You can also see at Newsarama an example of the “If you liked the movie, you’ll love the comics” ads Marvel was running for the Hulk character online around the movie’s release.

The Love Guru

Make sure to have your pop-up blocker off when you try to play Sitar Star, a riff off the uber-popular Guitar Hero that lets you try to pluck out a tune on a sitar. It’s kind of hard to play, but I’m not sure if that’s just because I’ve never played Guitar Hero and so am not all that familiar with the moves.

Tag Games and Player X are developing a mobile game based on the movie that will challenge people’s ability to pass on bits of enlightenment.

Anne Thompson details how Myers is not the best loved person in Hollywood, something that’s sparked a bit of a PR backlash whenever he has a new movie coming out.

Get Smart

Variety has a good story about the generational awareness gap that exists for the Get Smart franchise and how Warner Bros. tried to bridge that, attempting a campaign – and movie – that would appeal to both longtime fans and younger audiences without the existing knowledge of the old series.

I forgot about this when writing the column, but Warner Bros. is releasing a direct-to-video movie featuring Bruce and Lloyd, the two techies who keep Control in gadgets, called Bruce & Lloyd: Out of Control. Her’s the synopsis: Get extra spy-spoof hilarity when Get Smart’s bungling inventors Bruce and Lloyd stumble into their own comedy adventure in a zany story. The R&D smarties are out of the lab and way out of their comfort zones as the scramble to find a nifty new invention they’ve somehow lost.

Adweek has a feature on the efforts by David Brown Entertainment to come up with something interesting and relevant for Sierra Mist’s cross-promotional spots for Get Smart.

WALL-E

Game maker THQ shipped the video game tie-in to the movie early to maximize its promotional impact on the theatrical release. The game largely recreates many of the key components of the movie and includes a tie-in to videos that have appeared on Disney.com.

A Twitter message from Lish Dorset tipped me off to the fact that Pixar had, in the words of Tom Biro, dropped some madd coin on a ton of gifts you could give on Facebook. The gifts, as you can see, included images from not just WALL-E but all the other Pixar movies as well.

Before the Feature: In-theater ad revenue continues growth

New numbers from the Cinema Advertising Council show in-theater advertising revenue continues to grow rapidly.

The group, which represents 82 percent of the screens in the U.S., reports revenue rose 18.5 percent in 2007 to land just short of $540 million. In 2006 revenues were $455.7 million.

That’s good news for exhibitors, who are seeing concession sales fall off due to more health-conscious audiences. It’s also money that they pocket directly instead of needing to split with the studios like they do box-office prices.

The report shows more advertisers are buying in to cinema ads, growth that’s likely attributable to studies showing audiences are more accepting now of such ads than they were a few years ago and that brand recall is higher than in some other media.

Local ads are growing in number as technology improves both in terms of production but also targeting. National advertisers are also taking advantage of that targeting to more accurately run their campaigns in markets where sales or other promotions are happening.

Also growing are ancillary businesses like off-screen promotions and activities that occur in theater lobbies and elsewhere.

While I know some people continue to rail against pre-show advertising I’ve actually come 180 degrees on the idea. Yes, I still think this bucks the trend of other media offerings that offer content either for free or at reduced prices in exchange for advertising exposure. But when you look at the realities of the exhibition business – especially the fact that studios take such a huge percentage of the box-office take in the first few lucrative weeks – it becomes more understandable that theater chains are looking at advertising as a viable revenue source, one that can’t necessarily bring with it a direct audience advantage.

Movie Marketing Madness: WALL-E

There are numerous pieces written whenever a new movie from Pixar is about to hit theaters about the studio’s vision, their superb storytelling ability and the way they’re able to craft movies that turn out to be darn near masterpieces every time out. All of this is, of course, true. Their movies notonly are wonderfully written and beautiful to look at but they also studiously avoid the “let’s just have a mouse say a line from The Godfather because that’sfuuuuunny !” trap that animated films from almost every other studio latch on to like it’s gold and they’re not going to let that rabbit or the genie try to take if from them.

What also impresses me time and time again is that Pixar consistently creates original films, going against conventional industry wisdom that it’s all about sequels and franchises that can be easily marketed, easily sold to promotional partners and easily sold to shoppers roaming up and down the toy aisles atWal-Mart. While everyone else is running as fast as they can to find some property they own and can resuscitate, Pixar defiantly tells the story the people there want to tell and not the story they think will sell the most action figures. The studio’s history is littered with movies that were not seen as commercially viable, from the first Toy Story to its most recent, Ratatouille, which couldn’t find a fast-food partner willing to put plastic rats in its kids meal boxes.

They are, in other words, the definition of creative chutzpah. And I kind of love them for it.

The latest film, the one that brings us here today, is WALL-E. WALL-E tells the story of a maintenance robot that has been tasked with cleaning up Earth, a task it’s been diligently performing in the hundreds of years since humans abandoned the planet as it became too polluted to be inhabitable. But WALL-E has developed a sense of his place in the world and begun longing for companionship. One day a ship lands near him and he eventually encounters the human remnant, embarking on an adventure that will let him take on the role he was meant for.

Amid a summer heavy on movies that have been marketed, sometimes inappropriately (cough, Iron Man, cough) at young audiences, let’s see how Disney/Pixar is selling this one.

The Posters

The first teaser poster that was released was pretty simple. It just showed WALL-E himself standing there in what we would come to recognize as his customary inquisitive pose, with his head tilted to one side. There’s not much to it – it’s just the robot against a white background – but it communicated to the audience the key selling point, that this robot is incredibly cute. Really that’s all that needed to be said up-front in order to hook audiences. This is a character that is not only a robot (appealing to boys) but is cute and funny (appealing to girls) and certainly doesn’t look like anything that would do anything offensive (appealing to parents). Plus, it’s incredibly easy to visualize the character as a toy to play with, something that increases the audience’s connection with the poster and, by extension, the film itself.

A second teaser one-sheet served the purpose of transitioning the audience into the idea that there was actually a story to the movie in addition to the cuteness. WALL-E stands on top of a pile of garbage and stares longingly – those eyes of his are designed in such a way they can convey just about any emotion the audience sees fit to assign them – into the open space above him. It does a great job of establishing a base point for WALL-E’s emotional journey in the movie as well as making sure the physical setting was conveyed. I especially like the appearance of a cooler behind WALL-E, a little nod to the workman-like nature of his job, at least that’s the way I read it.

The theatrical poster spoke more clearly to the movie’s plot and definitely took a more sci-fi angle in selling the audience. WALL-E is still front and center, but this time he’s placed amidst the refuse he’s tasked with cleaning up through eternity. In the background is the ship that disrupts his routine, which just looks very cool, and above him flies EVE (her name isn’t on the poster, we just know that), another robot that becomes a central figure in WALL-E’s journey, both physical and emotional, if such a thing is possible for a robot.

The title treatment on this poster is, surprisingly, right in the middle of the real estate, above WALL-E’s head. The Disney andPixar logos are right there as well as the movie’s title and the release date. At the very top is the copy, “From the humans who brought you ‘FindingNemo’,” reminding audiences of the studio’s rich history of family-friendly and yet immensely entertaining films.

The Trailers

There’s a nice little arc that you can see if you watch all three trailers one after the other. They progress nicely from each other and follow the same sort of slow revealing of the movie’s plot points that was used in the poster campaign, creating a strong sense of a campaign that’s in harmony with itself and not working at cross-purposes.

The first teaser trailer devoted about half its running time to an overview of the Pixar history. We’re taken by Andrew Stanton through the early days of the studio as he recounts the brainstorming session between the main players there that resulted in the rough sketches that would eventually become A Bug’s Life, Monster’s Inc, FindingNemo and, finally, WALL-E. When the story hits that mark we’re shown the first bits of footage from the film, but really it’s very much a teasing glimpse. All we see is a brief shot of WALL-E cleaning up some garbage and eventually looking up into the stars. It’s not much, but it’s really not meant to be. Instead the goal here is to place WALL-E within the broaderPixar picture and associate it with those other movies, most all of which are now firmly entrenched as modern classics. We’re told, essentially, that the same genius that brought us those movies is also at work here. That has the effect of already creating the mindset of this being a great movie.

The second teaser also does a bit of brand association between Pixar as a whole and WALL-E. The famous Luxo, the lamp that comes on-screen to eventually take its place as part of the Pixar logo, does his thing as usual. Only this time his bulb goes out. It’s at that point that WALL-E treads out to replace the bulb. After accomplishing that he heads on his way back but knocks over the “R” at the end of the name and decides to go ahead and turn himself into that “R.” Again, this is all about associating the movie withPixar’s previous works and it’s pretty effective at doing just that.

After that introduction is over we once again transition into movie footage. It’s pretty similar to what we saw in the first spot, but with the notable addition of a look at the descending spaceship that will bring with it a disruption of WALL-E’s existence. Title cards interspersed within the footage let us know that the little robot has been performing his task for 700 years but that, after all that time, he’s about to fulfill his true destiny.

The theatrical trailer does the least bit of setup, instead diving right into the story. Because it has more room to breathe it also contains the most footage and most fully conveys the movie’s story points.

We start out with a bit of narration about how humanity has left Earth and put its clean-up in the care of this tiny, but very curious, robot. WALL-E is shown trying out things like ping-pong paddles and fire hydrants and even a bra. But along with thatcuriosity , we then see, is a profound sense of loneliness, something that’s exemplified by a scene of him watching an old movie and then seeming to fold his hands in prayer. It’s as if he’s asking for some sense of companionship. Shortly thereafter he has his prayer answered when the spaceship arrives and another robot – a slick littleiPod -looking thing named EVE – disembarks. Their relationship goes from her shooting at him to the two of them holding hands before she’s snatched back up by the ship, which WALL-E latches on to. After that we’re introduced to the human occupants of the mother ship, occupants which seem to have transported their culture of over-consumption to their new home. There’s then a series of scenes showing WALL-E engaging in some sort of mission to communicate something or get something done – it’s never really explained but it’s clearly something the human leaders aren’t thrilled about.

When the trailer debuted I felt – as I still do – that it’s filled with Judeo-Christian overtones and messages. From the prayerful stance he takes to the idea that WALL-E is reluctantly chosen as the one to lead the remnant out of their aimless wanderings, it’s pretty clear to me that there WALL-E is being setup as a Moses/Aaron sort of character. That’s only amplified by the notion that he’s fulfilling his mission despite the aggression of the corpulent captain who wants to maintain his control over the lives of both the humans and the robots on his ship, making him the Pharaoh surrogate in this story.

And notice I’m not even mentioning the fact that the robot WALL-E meets is named Eve? Or that it’s obvious these two could live on the polluted Earth as if it were a garden paradise until they’re forcibly expelled? Nope, not even mentioning it. But honestly, you can of have to be willfully avoiding the issue if you don’t see these themes poking through what’s presented here.

Online

While much of the rest of the campaign is meant to present the movie as an attractive option not just for kids but for adults as well – a theme that’s persistent throughout much of the media coverage surrounding the film – the official website is clearly and definitively an effort that’s all about the younger set. That shouldn’t be all that surprisingconsidering it’s put together by Disney, but does create a bit of a contrast for someone who is looking at the campaign as a whole and not just at one component or another.

The first stop, either on the menu at the top or among the options that WALL-E throws out when he comes on-screen is “Build-A-Bot.” The feature takes you inside the factories of Buy-N-Large to build your own robot. Pick a torso, pick a way for it to get around and so on and then try out your creation on a game that’s specially designed for its characteristics. If you don’t feel like going through the creation process you can also just skip that and go right to the games, which is nice if you don’t have a lot of time or the desire.

“Games” has a handful of games to play, most of which are contextual to what we’ve seen in the other parts of the campaign so far. For instance Space Escape has you navigating WALL-E through space with the help of a fire extinguisher. Treasure Round-Up has you driving WALL-E around the spaceship to pick up things like flower pots and other items like the ones we see him goofing around with in the trailers. There’s also Cup Shuffle, but only tourists fall for that, and a link to more information on the console video game that’s available.

You’ll find the latter two trailers as well as some, but not all, of the vignettes that have been released within “Video,” the next section of the site. I’m a little disappointed to not see the teaser spot there considering that’s my favorite in a number of regards, but I can actually see why they wouldn’t include it. Remember that this site is designed more for kids and the first spot is going to be more attractive to adults since one of its goals is to position the movie as a safe choice for parents to make and part of the adult-leaning cinematic traditionPixar has established. There’s also a video called A Hero’s Journey, which is just a brief introduction to the main character and the movie’s premise. It’s pretty basic but it’s not bad if you need some background.

You’ll find a handful of pictures in “Gallery.” It’s not much but it definitely reinforces just how beautifully the movie has been designed and drawn.

Under “About” you’ll find a nicely written Synopsis and some Production Notes that, as of now, are still said to be coming soon. But the Synopsis is great if for no other reason than that it kind of fills in the gap of why EVE has to leave Earth, something that never quite comes through in the trailers.

“Downloads and Widgets” is surprisingly sparse, with an admittedly large number of Wallpapers and some AIM Icons to download as well as a Widget to grab and add to your blog or social network profile that contains pictures, video and more from the full site.

“Mobile” has directions on how to get WALL-E content and a game on your mobile phone. The game seems to be exclusive for Verizon Wireless devices, at least that’s how I’m taking the presence of the Verizon logo there.

I’m going to deviate a bit from the top menu and go back to the windows that WALL-E has thrown out. To this point the two have been more or less parallel but there is some deviation.

The first section that’s here but not there is “Characters.” You’re taken, when you click on it, to the bridge of a starship where the main robots that populate the movie are. Click on one of them and you get a brief backgrounder as well as the technical specs for that robot. The information contains some plot points that, again, help fill in some gaps that the trailer and other parts of the campaign have not so far.

The other two sections that are unique to this area are options to “Explore WALL-E’s Truck” or “Explore the Axciom.” Both take you into those respective transportation units, where there isn’t really much to do. If you find hidden items you’re taken to games or to a clip, but those things are found elsewhere on the site as well. What they do is take you into the movie’s universe just a little bit more, but the lack of something to actually do in those areas tells me it’s still designed with the youngest kids in mind.

Advertising and Cross Promotions

There was, as you would expect, a pretty significant advertising campaign that accompanied the release of the movie. A good deal of this was in the form of TV spots but there was also a bit of online advertising as well.

One of the first major salvos in this paid media campaign was a Super Bowl spot. The commercial was actually only about fifty percent devoted to WALL-E, with the remaining 50 percent taken over by Toy Story stars Woody and Buzz. The spot had the two of them eating popcorn on a couch and talking about the latest entry to thePixar universe, this character WALL-E. It was a pretty good spot, but it goes back to the idea that Pixar /Disney was actively trying to place this latest movie amidst its legacy of film by giving it the tacit endorsement of its two original stars who are still among its best-loved creations.

Disney lined up a number of promotional partners for this movie, which lends itself better to such efforts than Ratatouille likely did.

The first is BP. Yes, that BP, the gas company. The link on the movie’s official site take you to BP’s kid-friendly site where there are games to play and other activities to engage in that make you think that gasoline and fossil fuels are just the best, most thing ever. Hook them while they’re young, right?

Leapster, the company that makes those interactive games for the younger set, ran a sweepstakes on its site awarding a trip to Pixar’s studio’s. The page there also helpfully reminded visitors that there was a Leapster WALL-E game available.

The National Raisin Company created a downloadable WALL-E game to play that tied into branded packaging that was available. I have to say this sort of thing, because it has legs beyond just the movie’s opening date, is among the better cross-promotional deals I’ve seen. Very nice effort.

Oral-B’s page just promoted the fact that it had created toothbrushes and toothpaste with WALL-E on them.

Battery company Rayovac ran a simple “send in proof of purchase” promotion that exchanged said items for a rolling toy of the main character.

The government site Safercar.gov is also listed as a promotional partner, but I don’t see anything on their site about the movie.

Among the “WALL-E with…” spots was one that had him playing with a basketball that aired during the NBA playoffs. I’m not sure if this was an actual cross-promotional spot but it more or less served the same purpose as one, hence its inclusion here.

Bulk retailers Sam’s Club included a trip to the movie’s world premiere as one of its summer Gift Packages that shoppers could win. The “Animation-Lover Dream Vacation” included travel to Los Angeles then on to Pixar Studios.

NASA of all entities even got in on the action. The organization used the movie as a platform to launch an education initiative to school kids on the realities of space travel. Disney created a WALL-E starring public service announcement, a video that was meant to drive kids to NASA’s website. NASA’s California operation also launched a display of the most recent rovers and other technology to tie the story of the movie to the reality of the space program.

Media

One of the major components of the campaign was the release by the studio of clips and images from the movie. This ranged back to the very first release of a teaser image back before Ratatouille was released through the release of all sorts of character spots that paired WALL-E with objects like magnets and a vacuum cleaner. Most of these were featured on the official site, but each one got heavy coverage in the online press as excitement for the movie built, which was exactly what the studio intended.

Buy & Large

One of the more interesting things Pixar did to promote the movie was to create a full identity for Buy & Large, the corporation that more or less rules the movie’s universe and which made WALL-E and the other robots. The really went the full nine for this, creating a corporate website that included B&L products to buy, information on the available robot models and more. If you didn’t know any better you might actually think this was an actual company. It includes a press room and everything just to complete the illusion.

Some videos were created that extended the story, including a commercial for the WALL-E model, an introduction to the other robots that were available and more. On the movie’s official site there was a spot on how the company could meet all the luxury needs of the customer base.

One of the components of this aspect of the campaign that got the most coverage was the release of several posters that were designed to look similar to 50’s-era advertisements for futuristic products. Posters were created for some of the robots and other aspects of the Buy & Large corporation. The retro-style definitely evoked real efforts in the past of real-life companies – including Disney itself – and also had the advantage of being similar to other promotional efforts from Pixar, most recently the pre-release artwork the studio released from Ratatouille.

This sort of tactic is not only a lot of fun but it’s also definitely meant more for the adults who are going to be aware of what’s going on and who can enjoy experience.

Overall

Pixar has, as usual, put together a great top-to-bottom campaign. As you probably know, I’m a big fan of a consistent brand identity being built and in this case that identity is built around the character itself, which is a nice way to achieve that goal. WALL-E and hiscuriosity are all over this campaign, from the TV spots to the vignettes and even to the posters. It’s easy to create a connection with the character since that sort of wonder at the unusual is exactly the same which is seen in kids and makes them so lovable.

The only problem I have with the push is that it’s a two-sided and creates a bit of confusion in the mind of someone looking for a consistent experience. Where the trailers and posters are selling one movie, one that might be a bit more geared toward adults and has some real cinematic themes to explore, the website is solely about selling one that is a silly little comedy about a wacky robot. Neither is really better than the other, but they’re certainly distinctive. It makes it hard to look at the campaign as a whole since it’s split so identifiably.

But that doesn’t get in the way of this being a solid campaign that, above all, emphasizes WALL-E’s place in the Pixar canon. Most all the components are entertaining and engaging and, most importantly, make the viewer want to learn more about the movie and the character and that’s exactly what it should do.

PICKING UP THE SPARE

  • 6/25/08: Game maker THQ shipped the video game tie-in to the movie early to maximize its promotional impact on the theatrical release. The game largely recreates many of the key components of the movie and includes a tie-in to videos that have appeared on Disney.com.
  • 6/25/08: A Twitter message from Lish Dorset tipped me off to the fact that Pixar had, in the words of Tom Biro, dropped some madd coin on a ton of gifts you could give on Facebook. The gifts, as you can see, included images from not just WALL-E but all the other Pixar movies as well.
  • 7/9/08: Pixar has given a shout-out to a woman who created a YouTube video showing herself crying at the teaser trailer for WALL-E. The woman was given some Pixar memorabilia and invited her to the movie’s wrap party and everything. It’s a very cool story, the kind of thing that reinforces the notion that Pixar is far from a faceless corporation.
  • 7/30/08: Rob Walker discusses the marketing of WALL-E, specifically the portion of it that involved the fictional Buy-N-Large corporation. And he nicely ties that to the notion that much of the movie’s design was inspired by Apple’s products, including Eve, who looks like a more angular, floating iPod.
  • 8/29/08: WALL-E has been co-opted by Greenpeace for use in a new campaign that’s meant to highlight the tremendous waste of natural resources that goes on in the production of tissues and other similar products. It’s not an actual tie-in, but the character that’s part of the campaign is unmistakeably inspired by Pixar’s environmentally conscious robot.

LOTD: 6/23/08

  • Adweek’s Alan Wolk posted a great item about how brands can be “relevant” to people within the social networking world, and effectively asks the question whether non “rock star” brands can have success there. [via Ian Schafer on Twitter] (TB)
  • You might have noticed that Gary Vaynerchuk’s consistently-awesome Wine Library TV has a new home, Revision3. Check out the standard fare here, and a new, five-minutes-or-less version, Wine Library Reserve, here. Kudos on Rev3 picking up this awesome video podcast and to Gary for the new digs! (TB)

We’ve lost a master

Most people, when discussing the untimely passing of George Carlin, are focusing on how he pushed the boundaries of comedy with his use of vulgarity in his routines. While that might very much be true, I always thought it wasn’t the words he used but how he used them. He seemed incredibly aware of words, language and their usage and used them for maximum impact. Anyone can use a dirty word but unless you know how to turn a phrase while doing so then it’s a cheap laugh. Carlin, though, wove those – and every other word he had at his disposal – into a tapestry of societal commentary.

Nowhere was this more evident than in my favorite routine of his, the Airline Safety Announcements from the “Jammin’ In New York” special. (Part 1 and Part 2)

Movie Marketing Madness: Get Smart

I love the old Don Adams-starring television show “Get Smart.” I have a lot of fond memories of watching that on basic cable back in my early/mid-80’s childhood, where it was mixed in with rerurns of “The Munsters,” “I Love Lucy,” “The Dick Van Dyke Show” and other staples of classic television. The whip-smart writing that accompanied the slight bits of actual spy intrigue made for a potent combination in my mind and certainly fit in with my burgeoning appreciation for writing and delivery being key components to making entertainment actually entertaining.

So it’s with a little bit of trepidation that I’ve been anticipating the release of Get Smart as a feature film. This new, updated version stars Steve Carell of The 40 Year-Old Virgin and “The Office” as Maxwell Smart, a CONTROL analyst that’s recruited into being a field agent when all the others are uncovered and killed by KAOS. Helping him out, of course, is Agent 99, with Anne Hathaway filling Barbara Feldman’s shoes in that role. Rounding out the cast is The Rock as Agent 23 and Alan Arkin as The Chief, a bit of casting that might actually be the most perfect match of actor and role ever.

It’s not that I think that Warner Bros. is messing with an iconic franchise that they’ll likely screw up. I’m kind of going into this assuming it won’t hit the same notes the TV show did, but that’s alright to some extent. What I am hoping for is that the talent involved was able to retain the spirit of the show without taking things in either too much of a slapstick or too much of a technologically slick direction. Carell’s casting as Smart has me feeling good about this new version since his ability to actually act – much of that coming through subtle expressions and the occasional mumble – lends itself well to the feel of the property that I remember.

Let’s look at how Warner Bros. is selling this new movie to an audience that may or may not be familiar with the property.

The Posters

There were, in actuality, five posters created for the movie, but there are some addendums that need to be factored in when counting them properly.

The two teasers were actually variations on one theme. The first showed Carell and Hathaway posing for the camera but with Hathaway’s hair blowing in Carell’s face. The implication being, of course, that Maxwell Smart couldn’t even manage an imposing posture without having something come along and make him look like an idiot. But then the studio released a version that reversed the roles and had Carell’s tie blowing into Hathaway’s face, the implication there being that he still couldn’t do anything right, only this time he was inadvertantly interfering with his partner. Either that or WB realized Carell was the bigger draw of the two and so created the new version, I can’t be sure.

The same dual approach was used on the two theatrical posters. This time the camera was a little closer to the characters and the background changed from basic white to a shiny metal that looks a little more tech-centric, like they’re in a headquarters or something. Considering these were essentially the same images of the actors we had seen before the real message of the posters was, in fact, that the actors couldn’t be bothered to participate in more than one photo shoot. That was just reinforced by the fact that these images pop-up sporadically throughout the campaign.

There was also a fifth version created and released closer to the movie’s release that included not just Carell and Hathaway but Arkin and The Rock as well. I couldn’t find this version online anywhere but it showed up as an outdoor ad around Chicago’s loop a bit and was used in a bit of online advertising trailers. The background is the same, it’s just there are more characters.

The Trailers

The first teaser trailer really didn’t amount to much but did serve to whet appetites a bit and hint at things to come. It’s largely made up of Carell first rising into and then trying to exit a phone booth, a direct tie to the classic television series which used a phone booth in the opening credits. After that there is a brief introduction to the other players and their characters and then a couple of brief scenes that serve to show that yes, as we expected, Maxwell Smart is not as clever or stealthy as he thinks he is or tries to be.

Trailer number two was definitely more story-oriented. It opens by introducing Terence Stamp as the head of KAOS, the evil organization that is threatening the world and taking out all of CONTROL’s agents, necessitating Max becoming a field agent. We get looks here at more familiar stuff from the show, including the series of closing doors and a new and improved version of the Cone of Silence. Then there’s more bumbling misadventures (and an only partially dressed Anne Hathaway. There’s also quite a bit of actual action before Carell more or less ends it with the iconic “Missed it by that much” line.

The third trailer is not all that different – there are maybe two or three slight changes – from the second. Neither, really, is the fourth, which features one major additional set piece.

The fifth one, though, was substantially original. Debuting on MTV.com about the time the lead trio from the film was appearing on the MTV Movie Awards, it mostly foregos any attempt at story and instead is mostly about just the sight gags and action. Even then, though, there are a few things that sneak in from the old show, such as Max asking the Chief if he’s “thinking what I’m thinking.” It’s probably the weakest of the three original spots because of the fact that it doesn’t feature much in the way of story points but still manages to be quite funny.

Online

Loading the official website brings up a page that has two of the trailers that were released right there. They’re labeled “Trailer 1″ and “Trailer 2″ but if you follow the number scheme from above this is actually, I think #s 3 and 5, but I’m not going to pick nits over that. At the bottom of the page is a scrolling bar of content but that’s probably going to get replicated inside the site so let’s just go there.

When you do enter the site you’re presented with the option to proceed either as an agent of Control or one of KAOS. If you pick Control you’re taken down the hallway and into the phone booth and then into headquarters. You’ll see all the characters standing around, but clicking on them doesn’t bring you to any new content, just brings them up to the front of the screen and sends the figure that was there into the background. All of the content is housed under the menu at the bottom, which is how we’ll continue.

“Story” contains a brief, though pretty well written Synopsis as well as 14 pages of “Production Notes.” Unlike most multi-page sections like this, though, each page doesn’t have its own heading and is simply labeled Page 2 and so on, which I think is going to be pretty intimidating to a lot of people and turn off reading. By giving them some labels the Notes could have been much more attractive and engaging.

“Cast” has the usual offerings of biographies and backgrounds on the major players in the film. Each actor has their side in the movie’s conflict next to their name, and if you click on someone in KAOS while you’re experiencing the Control portion of the site it kicks you over to the other side, something that’s a little annoying. But the stuff is actually written nicely so if you can get past that you’ll be fine.

“Filmmakers” is pretty much the same deal, only without the team affiliations.

There are Wallpapers, AIM Icons and Posters in “Downloads,” as well as Ecards. The Ecards bit is nice since they seem to be changing as time goes on, originally launching in early February with Valentine’s Day messages but now featuring “school’s out” kind of messages that you can send to your friends. Nice job of keeping that updated.

Far from being a complete archive, “Video” just has the same two trailers on the front page as well as a trailer for a mobile game that was released. “Photos” has, obviously, a bunch of stills, most of which have already been released.

“Promotional Partners” has links to all the promotional partners (natch) for the film, as well as to sites that ran contests and such. Most of those will be covered below.

Up in the upper left-hand corner of the site is a little ticker that shows different sites that you can visit and it’s there where we’ll now turn our attention.

One of those is Control Vs. Kaos. The site looks like a community board/contest type of thing and that’s largely what it is. But it’s also a way to get people enlisted as operatives and get them involved and engaged in the marketing of the movie. There are challenges for embedding trailers and finding swag and news about upcoming publicity appearances and such. It’s actually kind of cool once you figure out what it is. The effort, which included street-teams, was managed by Streetwise, a firm that specializes in these sorts of things.

There’s also Control Versus Kaos (are you sensing a trend?), which lets you pick a side, create a quick profile and see how the teams are stacking up against each other. Once you’ve created your profile you can grab an embeddable badge that identifies your team affiliation.

One of the bigger things they did was create a YouTube contest (now closed, obviously) that encouraged people to submit videos of themselves passing shoes from left to right to someone else while reciting one of the show/movie’s iconic lines. The contest awarded one winner a trip to the movie’s Los Angeles premiere. The page turned out to be pretty popular, with over 1.4 million views of the main instructional video being logged as of the time I looked at it. The page also contained a couple of the trailers and a handful of TV spots.

A couple weeks before the movie’s released Warner Bros. put a seven minute or so clip from the movie, with an introduction featuring Hathaway and Carell, on iTunes as a free download. This complimented other clips that were released elsewhere and was a very neat thing to do in order to show off the movie’s innards a little bit, so to speak. That was part of a larger partnership with Apple that had the cast doing in-store appearances at Apple Stores in New York City and some iTouch devices that were given away to journalists that came with Get Smart content already loaded on them.

The movie’s Facebook fan page is heavily tilted toward being an outlet for the promotional partners Warner Bros. lined up. There are widgets and badges for QVC, Subway and others on the page interspersed between things like agent badges and links to the trailers and such. Not a bad effort, but definitely not the most inspired either.

Over on the MySpace page the theme is customization based on your affiliation with KAOS or Control. You can choose which experience to enter and the page changes accordingly. There’s also the ability to apply similar themes to your own profile and if you do you’re entered into a contest. The page also has links to a couple of the games and quizzes and such. On the day of the film’s release, ads for it created a roadblock on the main MySpace page as well.

All of that wasn’t the extent of the social networking, though. There was also a very cool page created on Bebo that included a very cool movie-themed Friend Counter

Most of the official site’s content was available through a widget that could be added to your site or social network profile that is available on the official site whenever you click the “Share” link that accompanies most all of the content.

Advertising and Cross Promotions

Warner Bros. has lined up an impressive roster of promotional partners for the movie, most of which have also been integrated into the plot of the film as well.

Subway is one of those that is featured in the film and will be helping to promote the movie. The sandwich chain has created in-store signage and redesigned its 32-ounce cups with movie imagery. It’s also created an instant win game that you can play online by collecting clues in stores for a chance to win a variety of prizes. It’s also co-branded ads promoting the promotion through the end of June, a couple weeks after the movie’s opening.

You’ll likely see redesigned bottles of Sierra Mist featuring the cast of the movie, specifically The Rock. The bottles contain the newly created “Undercover Orange” flavor of soda and The Rock will star in commercials for the drink, as well as other in-store materials.

Vespa maker Piaggio has partnered with the studio to promote their little scooters at a time when gas prices are rising, something the company hopes resonates with audiences. The promotional site links to Subway’s, and the two are further linked by the fact that anyone who comes in and takes a test drive gets a $5 Subway gift card. Piaggio also will be doing online, print and in-store advertising for the movie and the partnership.

Swiss Army will promote its placement in the movie – you can already see a bit of this in the iTunes clips that was released – with a round of print ads as well as materials at retailers around the country.

Two companies that were pretty closely tied with their promotions were QVC and beauty product company Peter Thomas Roth. PTR created a “Get Smart Un-Wrinkle Me” kit that was available exclusively through the shopping network. The QVC page for the movie also featured one of the trailers.

Hamilton Watches and Visa also are listed as partners but don’t have anything obvious on their sites, leading me to believe their deals are mainly focused around product placement in the movie.

By my count there were four TV spots created for the movie that range in effectiveness from pretty good to alright. There was also a bit of online and out-of-home advertising done, but not an excessive amount, at least not based on what I saw, as well as in-theater standees that featured all four main characters.

Some pre-feature packages from National CineMedia incorporated footage from the movie – specifically the scene of The Rock breaking the cellphone of David Koechner – into one of the “Please turn off your cellphone” spots.

Overall

There’s a lot to like about this campaign. For one thing, there’s a really strong brand identity that runs through it, one that for the most part puts an emphasis on the conflict between Control and KAOS and asks the audience to choose a side in that conflict.

I do like the focus the studio obviously placed on the web, especially the interactivity that was built into a lot of those elements. It shows that they clearly thought the best thing to do was to draw the audience into the movie’s universe, something that could do a bit to overcome the cultural gap between those who are old enough to know the old show and those who may have heard about it but never really saw the show.

I also think the strongest part of the campaigns are video-based. The trailers are all pretty funny, the seven-minute iTunes clip was great, as were the other clips – especially the one where Alan Arkin says, “Were you thinking a giant swordfish almost went through my head?” That, along with Robert Downey Jr.’s “No, I’m just kidding, throw it up” might be the two best-read lines of the summer.

Overall there are some really strong parts but some weak parts, in all honesty, as well. I would have liked to have seen some variation in the posters, but that’s a minor problem. Overall this is an above average campaign that does what it can to revitalize a property for a new generation.

PICKING UP THE SPARE

  • 6/25/08: Variety has a good story about the generational awareness gap that exists for the Get Smart franchise and how Warner Bros. tried to bridge that, attempting a campaign – and movie – that would appeal to both longtime fans and younger audiences without the existing knowledge of the old series.
  • 6/25/08: I forgot about this when writing the column, but Warner Bros. is releasing a direct-to-video movie featuring Bruce and Lloyd, the two techies who keep Control in gadgets, called Bruce & Lloyd: Out of Control. Her’s the synopsis: Get extra spy-spoof hilarity when Get Smart’s bungling inventors Bruce and Lloyd stumble into their own comedy adventure in a zany story. The R&D smarties are out of the lab and way out of their comfort zones as the scramble to find a nifty new invention they’ve somehow lost.
  • 6/25/08: Adweek has a feature on the efforts by David Brown Entertainment to come up with something interesting and relevant for Sierra Mist’s cross-promotional spots for Get Smart.

Finding An Audience: Distribution Notes for 6/18/08

Disney is planning for new interactive bonus features on their Blu-ray Disc releases. That would include things like more ties between the discs and the web, ranging from live web chats that allow viewers to connect to each other to video messaging. Some of those features will debut on the Blu-ray version of Sleeping Beauty. Disney is obviously trying to hasten the adoption of Blu-ray and so is trying to entice the audience with these features. It’s also including a standard DVD with the Blu-ray version so as not to completely confuse people.

The MPAA, on the other hand, is making sure it does whatever it can do to kill the burgeoning day-and-date home video release trend. It wants the FCC to change the rules governing broadcast of movies in such a way that viewers would be unable to record current movies with their DVRs or even watch them on high-def TVs. The MPAA says changing the standing release window schedule for DVD, VOD and PPV increases the risk of piracy and wants the FCC to drop its ban on technology that would allow it to limit access to new releases. As Marguerite at CNET says, while the request is carefully worded to just impact newer films, this could be the foot in the door by the MPAA to broader changes that would begin to really clamp down on any viewing or recording they feel encourages piracy, which roughly includes any time you’re not watching a legal DVD all by yourself and destroying it afterwards so you have to buy a new one.

Going back to what people are doing right, AdWeek has a good round-up sort of story on how studios are running promotions or distributing films/film clips in virtual worlds like Gaia Online, There.com and elsewhere.

Hollywood is not backing off of its love affair with easy-to-market franchises and existing properties. Their reliance on turning known characters into big-screen hits has been increased by a choosier than ever audience base (largely the result of ever-increasing media choices) and the fact that the audiences that are coming to movies are often picking these films. Plus there’s the fact that franchises, adaptations and sequels are easier to sell as ideas to promotional partners and don’t have to be accompanied by such an insane advertising blitz.

That goes hand-in-hand with this story about how superheroes are pushing big-name stars out of the multiplex, leading studios to cut back on the front-end deals it makes with actors.

The LAT gets around to talking about the fact that studios are mulling their options when it comes to day-and-date releasing of movies online and and on video-on-demand at the same time they hit DVD, something that would have been ridiculous to even consider just a few short years ago.

The Marcus Theatres chain is installing 3-D projectors in 12 of its locations in preparation for for the release of Journey to the Center of the Earth. While the upgrade is specifically for this movie it has the added benefit of putting Marcus screens in a good position for the wave of 3-D movies that is currently hitting, a wave that’s only going to increase in intensity in the coming years.

Meanwhile, 3-D pioneer Imax is looking to get into the home video market, putting its feature titles on a variety of smaller screens. The company has rejected such plans before out of fear it would dilute its brand equity but has seen the value at this time.

Picking up the Spare: Hulk, Speed Racer and a bunch of award winners

The Incredible Hulk

The Thursday before the movie’s opening Marvel’s Joe Quesada and other execs from the company rang the bell at the New York Stock Exchange, with everyone appearing on the platform wearing Hulk Smash Hands just to complete the effect.

Anne Thompson has a great round-up of the story behind the clashes (both real and otherwise) between Marvel/Universal and Hulk star Edward Norton. When it comes to the marketing of the pic she says the two parties agreed it would be best to keep Norton off the publicity circuit so as not to put the attention on him and keep it focused on the movie itself.

Speed Racer

Anne also has a good post-mortem on Speed Racer, identifying problems that plagued Warner Bros. in marketing the movie. There’s a hefty list of reasons, ranging from not deciding to embrace the 14 year olds the movie was clearly made for to the fact that those 14 year olds had no idea what Speed Racer was, all of that with a movie that was obviously aimed at younger kids.

The Simpsons Movie

7-Eleven and its agency partner FreshWorks received a Gold award at the Cannes advertising awards for the retailer’s transformation of a number of their stores into Kwik-E-Marts, something we all really should have seen coming.

Forgetting Sarah Marshall

Director Judd Apatow was honored as a “Visionary” at The Hollywood Reporter’s Key Art Awards. You can read an interview with Apatow that includes his thoughts on “viral” marketing, a story I was intially to be featured in until the powerful Apatow pushed me out, here. You can also watch footage of FSM star Jason Segel opining on his exclusion from the movie’s campaign here.

No Country for Old Men

The campaign – including the site designed by Kirk Skodis and the Real Pie Media crew – for No Country for Old Men won for overall Best Campaign at the Key Art Awards. You can read the entire list of winners, including many movies I’ve featured here on MMM, at THR.