Movie Marketing Madness: Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist

Ahhh…the star-struck romance. It’s such rich material for filmmakers when they’re telling the story of two people who meet by happenstance and proceed, over the course of a short period of time, to fall in love. Before Sunrise covered this over a decade ago, tracing one night when Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy walked through Vienna, realizing they were soulmates as they discussed politics and societal issues and everything else that came to mind.

Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist mines similar territory. Both the main characters are on the rebound after some sort of heartbreak or other romantic problem when they arrive at the same bar. In order to avoid a situation with her nemisis, Norah (Kat Denning) grabs Nick (Michael Cera) and convinces him to be her boyfriend for five minutes. But of course the story doesn’t end there as they bond over their musical tastes and go on an adventure through New York City that will wind up with them…well…you know.

The Posters

I love this poster so much it’s a little bit insane. This single image is pretty much what the movie is all about, the two characters hanging out and talking between themselves. Oh sure, there might be more plot than what’s presented here, but this is what everyone is going to want to come and see so it’s smart to make it the focal point of the poster campaign. The New York cityscape and the small yellow car at the bottom do a good job of filling in the remaining blanks, alerting everyone to the location and an item that apparently will play a large part in the movie’s story.

Let’s talk for a second, though, about the typeface used for the title treatment. It looks very much like the way someone would scrawl something on a Trapper binder they had filled with poems and short stories they’d written out while drifting off during Sociology. It’s rough, unfinished. That sort of look and feel is likely meant to appeal to a young audience that embraces do-it-yourself projects, sifts through Etsy looking for unique items and creates their own iPod mixes of music that’s been released under a Creative Commons license. So it’s an appeal more to an aesthetic than an audience.

Of course not everyone was a fan, with Caroline McCarthey saying it verged on annoying and blaming it for eventual applications to NYU, which I think may be the funniest speculated problem ever. Others took issue with it as well, all identifying how overly clever and artsy the title treatment was. Despite all that, though, I still think it fit in perfectly with the tone of the rest of the campaign and, more importantly, is kind of what the audience would be expecting here.

The Trailers

The trailler carries over that same sort of loose, underground feel. Everyone that’s presented here is trying to strike out and find their own identity while traveling the murky waters of relationships, both romantic and otherwise.

We’re introduced to the main characters, Nick and Norah, who are both having problems with their lives. We’re then shown the main conceit of the movie, which is that she grabs him at a club to pretend he’s her boyfriend in order to get her out of an awkward situation. The two wind up hanging out all night, though, which brings the various things they’re each going through to a head and forces them to strike out on unexpected paths.

It works really well as a promotional piece, showing off the strengths of everyone involved and showing the audience pretty much what they can expect to see, which is a lot of romance and a lot of Michael Cera acting gangly and awkward, which is what he does best.

Online

Most of the time when you hit a movie’s site and it starts playing a trailer there’s something you can click to skip it or a link to directly enter the site.

But the official website for Nick and Norah starts playing the trailer without those options being available. They only appear after the trailer has stopped, at which point the screen rearranges itself to allow you to enter the site. In addition to that you are also given the options of watching the trailer again, register for updates, create a mixtape (more on that later), check out the source novel or get some free voicetones of dialogue from the movie.

Also there are links to the movie’s MySpace and Facebook pages. The Facebook page includes the trailer, a bunch of photos, some assorted videos and, quite frankly, a buttload of widgets. There’s one for a Virtual Book Club, the Sprout FanKit widget and two that are more traditional, bringing features from the official website to the audience in an embeddable way.

The MySpace page doesn’t have it all on display like Facebook does but does contain many of the same features. Instead of listed top to bottom these widgets are mostly contained in a single frame just below the top of the page, just below the trailer. There’s also a “Grab a Skin” feature that lets you customize your MySpace profile if you’re anxious enough about the movie to do so.

Back to the official website, where the navigation of the content is laid out like a map of “Manhattan,” which I can only assume is a magical mysterious land somewhere in the wilds of the South Pacific.

On the map the major locations from the film are shown. When you click on one the little car drives there and you can finally see what’s there since it’s not labeled as to what the content of each location actually is.

Starting at the top of the map, Saint Patrick’s takes you to some pretty rudimentary “Downloads,” containing just a couple of Wallpapers and four Buddy Icons.

The good news is that once you’re into the content you can navigate via a menu at the bottom and can ditch the map concept so let’s do that from here on out.

“About” contains a one-paragraph Story synopsis and a list of the Actors and Crew, though those don’t link to anything and there’s no full biographical information or filmography about the players and other talent. Big missed opportunity there, something that’s pretty standard on almost all websites so its omission here is a bit startling.

“Photos” contains a scant nine photographs and “Videos” should actually just be “Video” since there’s just the one trailer there.

Next up is “Where’s Fluffy,” which ties into the idea first forwarded in the outdoor game that is covered below. On the site it’s an instant win game with an icon spread throughout the site that, if you find it, enters you to win one of a number of prizes. Next to that is a link to the “Virtual Book Club,” which looks like it rewards you for starting a book club with your online friends.

There’s then a link to the widget building feature, covered below as well, and to the movie’s MySpace page. Finally is “Promotions,” which is just more information on the Where’s Fluffy and the Virtual Book Club.

Scattered around the site are little magnifying glass icons that, when you click on them, bring up hidden content, most of which are posters and iron ons for the band that Cera’s character is in. There are also some other hidden icons that make you think you’ve found exclusive content but which are actually just short clips from the trailer.

Sony used this movie as one of the first test-beds for Sprout’s new Fankit widget builder. This enabled them to offer not just a standard widget but one that could be customized by the end user with a variety of stock items such as layouts, photos and more. Streaming music from the soundtrack was also available through the widget via a deal with imeem.

Attendees of the Toronto Film Festival, where the movie had its public debut, were driven to the official website through a series of outdoor flyers with the message “Where’s Fluffy” and a hand-drawn picture of a rabbit on them. The posters actually had a different URL on them but it just redirected to the official site. Still, a nice little way to drum up some publicity and traffic at the festival.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Sony, to a great extent, laid bare what it considered to be its target demographic for the film when they appeared as one of the premiere sponsors of MySpace Music, the recently launched music site from the social network. A movie-themed skin was added to the site’s player for a week after launch while ads for the movie appeared throughout the site.

Other ads were scattered around the internet and some TV spots made it on to my radar. Aside from the usual stuff like that I didn’t see or read about much in the way of advertising and no promotional partners were listed on the official site other than those associated with the Virtual Book Club or the Where’s Fluffy game.

Media and Publicity

Most of the publicity surrounding the film came around its appearance at the Toronto Film Festival. Karina interviewed both star Michael Cera and director Peter Sollett while she was up there. And Cera was the subject of plenty of other stories like this one in The New York Times as well, being kind of nationally beloved after his role on “Arrested Development” and starring turns in Juno and Superbad.

Overall

It’s hard to come away from this campaign with any other notion than that it was completely and utterly geared for an audience below the age of 20 and almost no one else. While I did find the trailer and poster charming and entertaining, the rest of the campaign sort of falls down around itself. I agree that sponsoring MySpace Music is a great idea, but that’s about the best part of the campaign that I can point to.

Especially disappointing is the movie’s website. No character descriptions (other than the five word versions that appear in the various sections)? No filmographies? No biographies? No additional trailers? That’s just odd is what it is.

That’s especially because this movie is all about customization and personality. And yet there was none of that spirit on the site. Considering that’s a big part of the mindset and media usage of the target demographic I have to wonder how that was overlooked.

Unfortunately the missed opportunities here overshadow how some of the components are put together. I’d love to be more enthusiastic here but just can’t.

Review Wrap-Up for 9/26/08

I’ve put up a bunch of new DVD reviews over on CT that I now present to you in truncated form. Click through for the full write-ups.

Bucket List, Bruce & Lloyd, Funny Games, Harold & Kumar 2

Bucket List: Still, the movie is more or less enjoyable if you expect from it no more than what it has to offer. The two lead actors make it very much worth watching, but I advise quickly getting past the all-too-convenient situational settings. [Buy Funny Games at Amazon]

Bruce & Lloyd: Out of Control feels very much like a direct-to-video toss off, but has a few genuine laughs that mostly occur when it’s not trying to so hard to be “out of control.” Larry Miller appears as the underchief of the technology division and provides most of those with his wildly inappropriate phraseology and alternate agendas. [Buy Bruce & Lloyd at Amazon]

Funny Games: This is not for an audience that likes its stories nice and tidy. Everything is left open and the usual redemption that comes at the end of such movies is completely missing. So don’t expect anything other than relentlessly downbeat turns, with things going from worse to worse to worse and so on throughout the film. It’s unsettling and disturbing and not for the casual viewer. [Buy Funny Games at Amazon]

Harold & Kumar 2: All the characterizations are the same as before, which I guess makes sense since the movie is supposed to take place essentially right where the previous one left off. But that leads to an unsatisfying viewing experience since there’s no growth that’s taken place or which occurs during the movie itself. [Buy Harold & Kumar 2 at Amazon]

The Promotion: There’s nothing necessarily wrong with The Promotion. It’s perfectly likable and non-offensive as a comedy about two guys slugging it out for the manager position at an about-to-open grocery store. But there are problems with the script that even the best efforts of the actors can’t overcome. [Buy The Promotion at Amazon]

The Love Guru: In the hands of an actor less inclined to unabashadly mug everytime something funny happens, thereby draining all the actual humor out of the situation, The Love Guru would be about 95 percent better than it is. As it stands it’s got some genuinely funny bits, but Myers is simply too enamored of himself and so brings every scene to a screeching halt so he can make a face. [Buy The Love Guru at Amazon]

The Foot Fist Way: It’s never out and out funny in an obvious way, but the humor comes unexpectedly and, in most case, awkwardly as you watch a collection of relative idiots bumble their way through their lives trying to be bigger than they really are.

The Godfather Trilogy – The Coppola Restoration: There’s no sense in reviewing the movies themselves since they, at this point, are bigger than being merely films that can be judged on any sort of objective, critical level. They’re fantastic and epic, even while telling a very small and intimate story about men and what they do to protect their family. So on to how the movies look. [Buy The Godfather Trilogy at Amazon]

Iron Man: There’s so much to like about Iron Man it’s a bit hard to keep count. Between the tight, engaging script, Robert Downey Jr.’s loose, natural performance, the fact that Gwyneth Paltrow actually seems to be having fun and the top-notch special effects it’s just fun. On top of that it’s a good movie in and of itself. [Buy Iron Man at Amazon]

DVD Review: Iron Man

There’s so much to like about Iron Man it’s a bit hard to keep count. Between the tight, engaging script, Robert Downey Jr.’s loose, natural performance, the fact that Gwyneth Paltrow actually seems to be having fun and the top-notch special effects it’s just fun. On top of that it’s a good movie in and of itself.

Reviewing the movie at this point is kind of point…less. The movie has a widespread fanbase from its impressive theatrical run that includes both comic book mavens and general movie goers. So I’m probably not going to change anyone’s mind with a positive review of the film itself. If they didn’t see it in theaters they’re probably waiting until it hits DVD, which is what w’re here to talk about.

The two-disc DVD set from Paramount is filled with good stuff. Here’s what’s available:

  • Deleted/Extended Scenes
  • Featurettes: (Special Collector’s Edition “I Am Iron Man”, “The Invincible Iron Man”, “Wired: The Visual Effects of Iron Man”
  • The Actor’s Process
  • Robert Downey Jr. Screen Test
  • Still Galleries Images

The two biggest parts of the features are the I Am Iron Man documentary that runs an hour and 45 minutes and The Invincible Iron Man, which goes into the history of the character from the comics. Both are very interesting and entertaining in and of themselves.

In addition to what’s listed above there’s also a bonus treat on the second disc that people are sure to find enjoyable since it’s definitely more light-hearted in tone.

You can check out clips of some of the bonus features on MySpace:

The whole set is fantastic and is well designed and certainly a must pick-up for any fans of the movie or the Iron Man character.

No need to have an Excel spreadsheet on standby

Marshall Kirkpatrick offers a list of reasons you should absolutely be reading blogs on the clock. So next time someone says you’re just wasting time ask them about the trend you’re reading about right now but which won’t hit the trade magazine they rely on for another two months.

Movie Marketing Madness: Blindness

The last few years have seen an uptick in the number of movies where there is one person trapped in a closed-off area amidst a population that’s been quarantined or otherwise isolated for a number of reasons. Most often this sole individual is trying to survive or escape from zombies or some other horrific group that is out to get the lone person not infected. Or the person is trying to work their way through the mobs n order to find a cure or some other Macguffin that they alone are qualified to rescue.

While most of these movies are horror or action films, Blindness takes that premise and turns the outcast individual as a redemptive savior of sorts. In the movie an entire population has mysteriously gone blind. The infected are grouped together in one area in order to protect others from contracting whatever has caused their affliction. But one woman, played by Julianne Moore, who is not blind refuses to leave her husband, played by Mark Ruffalo, as he’s taken to the quarantine area. But the fact that she has retained her sight is somehow unknown to the population.

The Posters

Both posters for the film carry the same sort of look and feel, creating a good sense of brand consistency in this aspect of the campaign.

The teaser poster features a blurry figure reaching toward the audience, pressing her hand against what appears to be fogged glass, creating the appearance of something along the lines of having an astigmatism or some other vision problem. The way the title treatment is then arranged like an optometrist’s vision chart further enhances the focus on eyesight being a central topic of the movie. No star names appear on the poster, just the barest of details about the film.

The later theatrical poster carries over the blurred white visuals, but this time Moore and Ruffalo along with the rest of the main cast appear. Moore is presented at the head of a line, leading those behind her along, setting her up as the de facto leader of this small population. This one also includes a mention of the film being an opening night selection at Cannes, something meant to appeal to the independent film lover, or at least those with an eye toward serious films that they feel they should see.

They’re both pretty good, but have the appearance of making the movie largely inaccessible to a mainstream audience. It’s too fuzzy, without a clear outlining or explanation of the plot to be attractive to anyone not already interested in more psychological films that lack explosions or knife fights. Now if Moore had been front-and-center on the poster wearing a tank-top and carrying a sawed-off shotgun this wouldn’t be a problem. But she’s not, so a large portion of the audience is going to be turned off by this to some extent.

The Trailers

The movie’s teaser trailer opens with a normal scene of a married couple waking up before Ruffalo admits that he can’t see, becoming increasingly frantic at his helplessness. We then see a montage of he and Moore being hauled off and eye examinations being given. News announcements are made about the “white sickness” and the measures being taken to attempt to halt its spread. There are shots of people being herded into the institution and some descending into madness and anarchy.

The theatrical trailer delves a little bit deeper into the setup, showing how Ruffalo’s character came to be infected. There’s also more about how Moore, who remains uninfected, winds up in the same institution as those who have lost their sight. There’s more then showing other people being stricken as they go about their lives. Once inside the institution she becomes an increasingly important figure among those there as the one person willing to stand up to those who have taken mob rule to a new level within those walls.

Both trailers are pretty good at not only conveying the major plot points of the film but also extending the branding that runs throughout the campaign, showing that the look of the posters and the website come directly from the slightly washed-out and milky look of the film itself. They both present it as a straight drama, though, free of many of the moralistic issues that are said to run through the source novel. That might be an attempt to make it more approachable for a general audience who just wants to watch a movie and not have to think about how easily societal niceties break down when a crisis occurs.

Online

The movie’s official website opens with a news announcement that the world is being stricken by an epidemic of blindness before giving over to the film’s theatrical trailer, which you have the option of grabbing for embedding elsewhere. Once it plays, or if you decide to skip it, the full site content becomes available. More snippets from that news

First up is “Synopsis,” which presents the pedigree of the movie and the basic points of the plot, including an explanation of how the sickness is spread through the population. “Cast” is next, with write-ups on the five main actors in the film. What I find interesting is that, according to this, all the characters have names like “The Doctor’s Wife” and other descriptors in lieu of actual names. “Filmmakers” covers the same sort of ground, presenting the resumes of those behind the camera.

“Video” contains both the teaser and theatrical trailers as well as five extended clips from the movie. They’re not especially long but do present aspects of the movie that are key to the plot – just enough to give the audience a taste of what to expect.

Under “Downloads” there’s just a handful of character Icons and a Wallpaper that carries the same image as the teaser poster. “Production Notes” is pretty sparse, meaning it’s not filled with all sorts of sub-headers and such. Instead it just concentrates its handful of paragraphs on the travels the story took from the 1995 source novel to the big-screen and how it was adapted from one to the other.

There are 14 pictures by my count in “Gallery” that expand when you click on them.

Finally there’s the “Featurettes” section. This is really more a section of special features, or more accurately a special feature. Spread Blindness, the only option available there, lets you opt to send a URL to a friend that will let them experience Blindness. I tried sending this to myself, using CNN.com as an example. When I opened the email that was sent, the link within took me to a screenshot of the CNN homepage that is wrapped in the milky haze that permeates the rest of the campaign. The screen then turns to the same sort of news announcement about the quarantine before bringing the visitor fully into the film’s official site.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Just a basic round of online and, I think, some TV advertising.

Media and Publicity.

The usual bits of interviews with the cast and filmmakers. The movie did get a bit of a boost toward the end of the campaign, though, when it appeared at the Toronto Film Festival without the narration by Danny Glover that it was saddled with when it appeared at Cannes. Most everyone I read said that made it much-improved and less awkward and stilted, giving the film a better pace and feel.

Overall

I know I probably shouldn’t be harping on this again, but this campaign contains a wonderful amount of brand messaging with the site, the posters and everything else all containing the same white-out visuals.

The site contains a good feature set and the trailers are tight and interesting, while the posters play into the themes presented throughout the rest of the campaign very well. Miramax has put together a solid campaign for a movie that could be among the first of the fall season’s “serious” films that try to reach a mainstream audience as well as those watching potential Oscar and other award contenders. As I’ve mentioned above there are some aspects of the push that don’t seem especially geared toward a wider audience but if the trailers, the most accessible component of the campaign, can reach a decent audience it could happen.

PICKING UP THE SPARE

  • 10/2/08: An advocacy group for blind people is protesting Blindness, saying that it harms the efforts of those without sight to integrate into mainstream society. This might be the most ridiculous position ever since from everything I’ve read it’s not about how blind people act but how society breaks down when the rules are abandoned. David Poland comes to a similar conclusion.

Bring me that APT ASAP

Yahoo has unveiled APT, the new ad buying platform that was developed in part by members of its Newspaper consortium. The platform will allow for display ads to be managed across the web through a single interface and let buyers secure placement on any number of sites in one fell swoop.

Unless I’m wrong, this is the 17th (only a slight exageration) “simplification” of their ad platform that has been announced by Yahoo in the last two years. That says to me they either A) Had an incredibly complex system to begin with that has needed so many revisions or B) They’re making this up as they go along.