Movie Marketing Madness: How to Lose Friends and Alienate People

This is kind of a week for fish out of water stories. Rachel Getting Married put Anne Hathaway’s narcissistic young woman in the uncomfortable situation of being with her extended family on the occasion of her older sister’s wedding. And Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist is all about two people who don’t quite mesh with their surroundings but who find comfort in each other.

Add to that How to Lose Friends and Alienate People. The title is a take on the classic self-help book “How to Win Friends and Influence People” and the story is as polar opposite from that as the title is. In the movie, an adaptation of a novel, Simon Pegg plays a loser with delusions of grandeur who gets a job at a high-profile celebrity fashion magazine. Being British and lacking any sort of societal awareness or id to impede him from acting however and saying whatever he likes, he obviously has a hard time fitting in. This setup is what’s going to setup the bulk of the movie’s comedy. Let’s see how MGM is selling it to the public.

The Posters

The first real poster designed and released for the movie was a recreation of the artwork I had previously come across during one of my first trips to its official website. The main cast is assembled in the middle of the one-sheet’s real estate. Megan Fox looks like a starlet, Simon Pegg looks clueless but confident and happy as he’s about to pour champagne on Fox’s head, Jeff Bridges looks smug and Kirsten Dunst just looks hot, especially with those black hose and the one knee up and here…I’m sorry where was I?

Anyway, it’s a pretty good poster that tries (maybe a little too hard) to present a wacky comedy. But it’s nice and clean and fits in well with the rest of the campaign and so I’m willing to judge it a success.

The Trailers

The teaser trailer that was released was very short and primarily acted as an introduction to Pegg’s character and his many, many flaws and inadequacies. It’s pretty funny but doesn’t do much in the way of plot set-up, relying on our familiarity with Pegg to act as lure enough to make us want to see the film.

The movie’s primary trailer sets up Simon Pegg’s character as someone with aspirations of greatness but without the talent or ambition to make it happen. One day, though, he’s hired by a high-fashion magazine at the same time he meets his nemesis, played by Kirsten Dunst, who thinks he’s an idiot at the same time he meets a popular female star played by Megan Fox. Jeff Bridges also appears occasionally as the long-haired owner of the magazine, someone who doesn’t seem to quite believe how incompetent Pegg’s character is.

The trailer is pretty funny, setting up the basic premise of the movie well and introducing us to most of the situations and ideas that will provide the film’s humorous moments. It’s quickly paced and moves along nicely and I like it quite a bit.

Online

The movie’s official website opens with the trailer, which you can skip if you so desire. Toward the bottom there’s also links and information on the source book and the film’s soundtrack.

Once you enter the site you’re greeted with a big pic of Pegg and Dunst, with text around the site laid out like the headlines of a tabloid magazine. When you mouse over those headlines you see what sort of content is behind them.

“Who is Sydney Young” turns into “About the Film,” where you’ll find a decent Synopsis, Cast & Crew and Production Notes, which breaks down into sections on About the Production and Casting the Film.

“Media” supposedly contains The Trailer, Clips and TV Spots, but only the trailer is actually there right now, the day the movie is scheduled to open. Both of those latter sections are labeled as “Coming Soon,” something that’s simply inexcusable.

There are just 10 pictures in the “Photo Gallery” and they’re evenly split between cheesecake shots of Megan Fox and the rest of the cast. “Downloads” has an assortment of Wallpapers, a half-dozen Icons and a Screensaver that again is sold on the power of Megan Fox luxuriating on a couch while wearing a slinky dress.

The last section is “Special Features” and is made up primarily of links to the movie’s presence elsewhere on the web.

For one thing, the studio setup a Twitter profile for Pegg’s character Syndey Young. The updates all seem to take place from his attendance at the party that takes place in the movie, which makes the fact that they all come “from web” a little odd. If he were truly at a party they’d more likely be “from mobile” or something like that.

There’s also a link here to the film’s Facebook fan page, which contains the trailer and poster and a bunch of photos, as well as links elsewhere. The page also takes you to the Quiz application that basically tests how big a jerk you are, presenting a variety of scenarios where you can either do something fun or live up to a commitment with a friend. It’s kind of fun but not exactly filled with a point.

Finally, there’s a Soundboard widget you can grab that has audio clips from the movie to play.

There’s of course a fuller-featured widget that contains many of the official site’s features.

Also along the Facebook lines is an application called Anti-Social Networking that is basically a variety of tools to make yourself into a gigantic arse. There’s a quiz, Doodle-on-a-Friend that allows you to deface a friend’s photo, Crap Friends that lets you insult people you know, an Insult-a-Friend fill in the blanks thing, Give a Crap Gift that lets you send things like an empty beer glass and Cheat at Scrabble, which is just what it sounds like.

Part of the online campaign revolved around the fictional movie-within-a-movie Mother Teresa: The Making of a Saint. Megan Fox plays the starlet Sophie Maes, who plays the titular character, presented here as a woman who is initially tempted by lust for a priest in her convent before leaving for the end of the civilized world in order to escape her temptation. The movie had an official site and a trailer which, despite the fact that I’m neither Catholic nor easily offended – even by religious humor – still managed to be offensive to me. This is the kind of thing that should have been spiked the first time someone suggested it. I’d be willing to guess that the only reason it was approved is because the studio heard Paramount was doing something similar for Tropic Thunder and decided this would be a good idea. It’s not.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

The film got some decent online and TV advertising support. The TV spots were largely condensed versions of the trailer and didn’t really contain anything new or anything, relying just like the trailer on the charm of Pegg and counting on the audience being at least passingly familiar with him.

Media and Publicity

Just the usual rounds of celebrity interviews and press. The biggest bump it got was when comments from star Pegg made it sound like there was some sort of fued between him and fellow British comic Ricky Gervais. In reality that was more a case of the American press not being hip to dry British humor than anything else and both guys took the opportunity to have a little bit of fun with it.

Overall

Not a bad campaign, but there’s nothing there that really provides any “oomph” if you know what I mean. The posters and trailers are all pretty on the nose and don’t contain any strong elements that are likely to pull the audience in to see the flick. They’re good, but not exactly memorable.

The online components are a mixed bag at best. The official website is shockingly incomplete, specifically in the Video section, missing the TV spots and clips. But then you have a ton of stuff going on over on Facebook that’s actually quite fun. So it seems like there were priorities set on things that should have been secondary to making sure the main stuff was taken care of first.

Pegg fans will probably like this quite a bit but the general audience may be left feeling cold to the campaign.

PICKING UP THE SPARE

  • 1/12/09: Director Robert B. Weide and star Simon Pegg are actually urging those of us in North America to not buy the movie’s DVD, saying it’s being released without the deleted scenes and gag reel and other bonus features they pushed for. Region 2 is getting those but the lack of extras, which they were pulling for throughout the process and which they apparently thought were locked in, has them honked off.

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