- Josh Hallett has what might be the strongest response to Tom Foremski’s legitimate issue about social media PR folks who aren’t themselves blogging or otherwise interacting with others, saying it’s really the work that matters. While we all might not be able to talk about specific programs that have been run like some people are that is what’s most important, that we’re doing good work for our clients. If we’re meeting that goal then word will spread and a solid reputation built on that whether or not you’re all about FriendFeed or whatevs. (CT)
- Mike Manuel must be crazy because he thinks we need to reign in our perceptions that everyone on the interwebs with an opinion is worth paying attention to. I don’t know where he gets these ideas. (CT)
- This list of newspapers that are on Twitter is interesting, but a quick look at a handful of them show almost no actual conversations going on. The papers are just using Twitter as another distribution channel, which is alright I suppose, but it’s still a little disappointing that there isn’t more interaction with readers, something that builds the sort of loyalty papers seem to be in desperate need of nowadays. (CT)
M. Night Shyamalan has had a hard time of it lately. After debuting (for all intents and purposes, thought it was actually his third film) with The Sixth Sense the director has been the incarnation of the law of diminishing returns as his movies make less and less money and entrance fewer and fewer critics.
Indeed it’s the director’s own personal brand that seems to be getting in the way. With such a powerful public unveiling he’s struggled since that movie to justify the fact that his name is the one above the movie’s title and that so much of the media coverage is focused around him. Some of that, to be completely honest, is a bit of out and out complaining about how unfair expectations are for his movies since that first smash and some of it is justified. But in the end if he were making movies that were good we wouldn’t be having this conversation.
This is the second Shymalan movie I’ve reviewed the campaign for, the first being The Village, one of the first few MMM columns I wrote. I skipped Lady in the Water, though, simply because it seemed like there was a piling on that was happening (sorry) just before that movie came out, with sentiment turning substantially against the director and I felt little need to add to that with a review I felt was going to be largely negative anyway.
The Happening tells the story of what happens to a small group of people when something mysterious begins…well…happening. Just what it is isn’t clear – theories range from natural disaster to terrorist incident – but it’s causing people to suddenly off themselves in violent ways. So people across the country are turning guns on themselves, jumping off of buildings and otherwise just stopping and dying. But these survivors are on the run out of a metropolitan area, an attempt that’s made harder by the fact that people keep dying and their travels keep being interrupted by the lack of communication with the larger world.
Unfortunately this movie has become besieged by the same sort of bad buzz his last few efforts have fallen victim to. An early, spoiler-ridden review of the movie confirmed early rumors as to what the big twist about the cause of the cataclysm hit over a month ago. The revelation, which I won’t go into here, caused a wave of “no, seriously?” to sweep across the Internet that, coupled with the opinion that the movie was stocked with wooden, boring performances may have started this movie down the same path as some of its predecessors, and Shymalan down the path to one day working as director-for-hire on Daddy Day Care 3.
The teaser poster that, I think, was the first bit of marketing material released was alright and definitely tried to set a spooky tone. It shows a rural roadside littered with abandoned cars in the foreground with a city in the background at the end of the road. There are no bodies or anything around the cars, creating the impression that everyone has mysteriously disappeared from the scene.
It’s a decent poster that certainly plays into the Shymalan brand quite a bit and creates the sense that some sort of strange event has taken place that’s led to a bunch of deaths. Since his movies are more or less dependent on keeping the unknown unknown and by just showing what appears to be the result and not the cause it extends that brand sense.
Similar one-sheets for international markets would be produced showing local landmarks in the background and the same line of abandoned cars leading up to it.
The theatrical poster takes the action out of the countryside and into the city, showing Mark Wahlberg and Zooey Deschanel and their daughter in the middle of a city street that’s obviously been deserted. That’s telegraphed through the presence of all the paper that’s flying around. And they’re obviously terrified based on the defensive postures they’ve assumed. The whole thing is shown in a sort of fun-house mirror effect. (Some people called it a fish-eye perspective but don’t really get that since the perspective isn’t forced it’s just wobbly.)
What’s interesting that this poster drops Shymalan’s name from the materials that are included, something that may be a way to position the movie as more of a straight-ahead thriller along the lines of I Am Legend than the latest in the director’s ouvre.
Whatever the case, neither one is exactly in line with what the movie’s plot as seen in the trailers since, in the first case, people wouldn’t be disappearing like that but instead offing themselves on the spot, leaving a trail of dead bodies along the road. And in the second case the streets too would be littered with bodies, in addition to the fact that everything about the trailers shows them getting out of the city by any means necessary, not hunkering down in the middle of a street.
So on their own the posters are visually decent but unfortunately when coupled with the other materials we’re about to see it creates a pretty inconsistent brand image.
The first teaser trailer released started with a bit of character introduction, showing Wahlberg’s science teacher trying to stimulate young minds with questions about why bees are disappearing en masse. It then transitions into fear mode, with it being explained to him and other teachers that there appears to be “an event” happening and a recitation of the effects of this event on the population.
We then start seeing various scenes of just how the population is being effected, followed by shots of the main characters running away and toward hopeful safety. In between all those are subtle little hints as to the danger that’s looming such as a train conductor intoning they can’t continue since everyone they were communicating with seems to be dead.
It’s an alright trailer that actually does a decent job of setting up the story and does an adequate, if not outstanding, job of imparting a sense of danger and tension about the unknown terror.
The theatrical trailer is less effective by a longshot. It opens with the same scene of the conductor that we saw earlier and then is mostly made up of people running and running and running and jumping because of something spooky and then wind and more running. What’s missing from this trailer is, not to put too fine a point on it, the point. Since there’s little in the way of explanaition here its strength is reliant solely on the ability of the scenes to impart a sense of danger. It only partially accomplishes that, which weighs down the trailer significantly.
There was also red-band trailer released that hit many of the same notes as the second trailer, only with slightly more blood being shown. It’s kind of barely red-band worthy and not all that different than the early version. An interesting addition but nothing substantive, it seems to exist solely to remind us that this is Shymalan’s first R-rated film.
Finally, a five-minute clip from the movie, again including the train escape sequence, was released that featured a brief introduction from Shymalan himself. Since this is well-worn territory from what we’ve already seen it also doesn’t add that much to the campaign.
Despite the fact that Fox seems to be taking the public stance that this movie is a major event in the summer movie season, the official website speaks to a decidely lackluster affair. The site’s navigation is designed in such a way that all the content is right there under the “Navigation” menu and, for the most part, does not contain sub-sections.
The usual sort of backgrounds and work history can be found under both “Cast” and “Filmmakers.” Each group gets write-ups that don’t veer too far away from puffery, and while that’s not unusual for this sort of content it’s all that much starker considering the rest of the campaign.
There’s a pretty good write-up of the story under “Synopsis” but unfortunately too much time is spent there puffing the ego of Shymalan and talking about how edgy or risky this story was for him to make. Similar ground is trod by the “Notes” section, which also uncovers such information as how the special effects crew designed the different sorts of wind that appear throughout the movie.
“Gallery” contains a paltry 12 stills, though at least there’s some new stuff there and it’s not all just grabs from the trailers. Three wallpapers and two desktop themes are all you’ll find under “Downloads.”
The theatrical trailer as well as the red-band version and a red-band TV spot (I’m assuming this is something that would have had to be shown late at night or something) are what you’ll find under “Trailers and TV Spots.” Surprisingly the teaser trailer is no where to be found. It doesn’t even appear on the Apple Trailers page and could only be found by my on Yahoo Movies for some reason. No idea why this wouldn’t be included unless the studio was trying to disappear it from the public record for some reason.
20th Century Fox did quite a bit of advertising for the movie, likely under the theory that Shymalan was such a household name that he would present a strong enough brand attraction to audiences inundated by spots for known franchies.
That took the form of both television spots, which seemed to be ubiquitous in the last couple weeks before release, and outdoor ads that featured a variation on the teaser poster. Unfortunately, as Copyranter chronicles, some of those ads fell victim to the seventh grade boy that lives inside of all people and were defaced in various sexually explicit ways.
There was also the above-mentioned red-band TV spot, which is just a chopped version of the red-band trailer.
And that’s about it. No cross-promotions or product placements in place that I’ve read about and nothing like that on the official site so I’m assuming this movie comes sans additional support.
I think the first thing that unfortunately comes to mind when looking at this campaign in total is “one note,” something I don’t think you ever want to be the first thing people latch on to when thinking of your marketing.
All the materials, though, do indeed seem to hit just one note. The posters hit the same idea as the trailers and the website exists in a complete vacuum of ideas. There’s nothing about the campaign that seems to be designed to spark any excitement in the audience. While I get that this isn’t going to be the roller-coaster ride that Iron Man was, it should have at least seemed interesting if not exciting and it fails even at that. If this was being released in September or October the more staid tone might make more sense but in the middle of a high-octane summer it stands out like a very boring sore thumb.
I don’t mean to join in the chorus of negativity that has dogged this movie and which is about to fall down around it in massive volume, but there’s nothing about the campaign that seems to be designed to attract any audience but Shymalan’s most loyal advocates.