$5 Cover: A community time capsule and cross-platform case study

While audacious in some elements of its distribution plan and release strategy, director Craig Brewer’s latest film, $5 Cover, is intimate in its story and reverential almost – almost – to a fault in the world it’s portraying.

5-cover-pic$5 Cover is set in the world of the local Memphis music scene and features real life artists that exist in that world playing themselves, or at least slightly dramatized versions of themselves. Dialogue is (or at least seems) largely improvised and performances from the artists are sprinkled throughout the film. Those points, combined with Brewer’s hand-held, shoulder-level camera work that captures them gives the whole venture a very documentary feel, which in some respects it is every bit as much as it’s a narrative work.

While there is a core group of people we’re following, a group that ranges from Amy LaVere, a seemingly grounded female stand-up singer/songwriter/bass player to the eccentric, widely individual Muck Sticky, who can best be described as a skinny white dude with aspirations to become George Clinton. All the characters (I’m going to refer to them as that since, while it might not be technically correct, it’s the best shorthand I can come up with) flit in and out of the action, with the focus on Amy for a while before it transitions over to her roommate Clare and then to rapper Al Kapone and then to Sticky and then to Packy, the guy who runs the studio that they all record at because he’s cheap, plays all sorts of instruments himself and lets them come in at all hours.

All these characters come in and out of the story in much the same way instruments come in and out of a song’s mix. This one comes to the forefront but the others are still there in the background, creating a solid foundation for the once currently being featured. They all come together on-screen only a handful of times but show up in little groups, mostly while attending some other artist’s performance at a local bar or club, all the time. That creates not only a nice narrative consistency but very much portrays the notion that they’re all supporting each other. So you see someone who creates sensitive acoustic rock completely getting into it when someone’s laying down some heavy rap beats. Whether or not the music is their cup of tea, they dig the passion of the artist and want them to succeed. So they’re there.

So OK, that’s the movie. It’s really interesting and cool to watch and I really dig Brewer’s appreciation of the local music scene from his home town of Memphis. But what’s very cool is how the film is being released.

See, I keep saying “movie” but that’s not technically correct. The story is actually broken up into 15 seven to eight minute chunks that are being shown on MTV (which financed the $350,000) beginning last Friday, May 1st, with a new episode showing up each Friday after that. But TV distribution is only the tip of the iceberg. For the sake of accuracy I’m copying the ancillary points from the press release :

  • AMTV - AT&T will host a full “AT&T $5 Cover Week” from 3 a.m. to 9 a.m., Mondays through Thursdays, that gives fans access to exclusive videos, interviews and short form segments.
  • MTV2 – A “Memphis”-themed week beginning May 4 will include short form series episodes airing nightly for three weeks at 11 p.m., along with the documentaries, music videos, and more.
  • mtvU – “$5 Cover”-themed programming, packaged music hours, interstitials, and other short form efforts will be featured, driving fivedollarcover.com.
  • MTV.com and Fivedollarcover.com – Viewers can watch the content on demand, listen and download the music, learn about these artists and take a deeper dive into this fascinating scene.
  • AT&T mobile phones - AT&T wireless customers will be able to access content from the series in the form of Cellular Video (CV) clips, ringtones and content available through their mobile Web browsers.
  • MySpace - Exclusive content and promotion will be found on the $5 Cover community at www.myspace.com/fivedollarcover. Additionally, MySpace users may stream music from the series for free on the site. Each artist being featured in the program will utilize their official MySpace profiles to promote the show.

5-cover-pic-2It really is a very cool multi-platform delivery model that uses online and mobile touchpoints not so much to advance the story but to simply provide depth to it. Download music from the artists here, view actual documentary footage there. Do all that during the week and then come back on Friday night for the next serving of the story. By that time you’ll have such a connection with the people the story is about you’ll feel like you know them more personally.

Also interesting about this is that Brewer really seems to have done it as the definition of a labor of love. He loves this scene and wanted to document it. There’s a line in one episode where a guy who video records band’s shows (he’s kind of the Brewer surrogate in the story) says that he has footage of a band that broke up and whose lead singer died recently. They never recorded anything and didn’t make much of a splash so, he says, he’s in possession of the only lasting proof the band ever existed. Likewise $5 Cover is a document of a particular time and place and might wind up being the sole time-capsule item some of these artists and bands ever get.

Part of that commitment to the community is evidenced in how he didn’t end his involvement when the cameras stopped rollling. Again I’m pasting from the release.

MTV and Brewer collaborated with the local newspaper, filmmakers, tourism bureau and film commissions to ensure that “$5 Cover” has the authenticity and involvement of the Memphis community. Acclaimed photographer and documentary filmmaker Alan Spearman, of the city’sCommercial Appeal newspaper, shot almost 150 hours of footage to make 12 mini documentaries providing insightful and remarkable portraits of the artists in the series. The Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau brought on the founders of the popular Memphis-focused Web destination “Live from Memphis” ( http://livefrommemphis.com) to produce dozens of shorts called “Flipside” to bring the viewer snapshots into the colorful local scene. Additionally, the Tennessee and Memphis Film Commissions supported the project with unique incentives and rebates to provide full support for this fledgling new form of entertainment.

You can keep up with the series and all the assorted supporting content at the $5 Cover Blog, which also will give you access to some of the preview footage that MTV brought to both the Sundance Film Festival (where I first caught wind of it) and SXSW.

I love Brewer’s idea of this being the first entry in a series, with local filmmakers covering their local music scenes in similar ways. Every city has one of varying size and it would be interesting to see a bunch of these that span the country. My only worry is that not all of them would sport the intimate touch the Brewer brought to the Memphis installment.

Not only does $5 Cover provide an interesting and intimate look at a scene that most of us are not as personally invested in or aware of but it provides an interesting case study for how to support a core feature film with cross-media executions.

Now I know that not every independent filmmaker is going to be able to secure a deal with MTV that is sponsored by AT&T and distributed in part by MySpace. But there are guideposts there that can be taken by just about anyone and scaled to the resources available to them. Shooting a documentary? Have a friend man a B-Unit camera and release that footage online in bits and chunks to support the main product. Can’t afford mobile video? That’s fine. But collect phone numbers and send your fans, friends and followers SMS updates when new content is released. Take the ideas, if not the exact executions, and use them as best you can.

Movie Marketing Madness: Star Trek

star-trek-11-poster-theatrical-finalDownload PDF: MMM-251-Star-Trek

“Reboots” are all the rage in Hollywood when it comes to reviving a franchise that’s seen as either irreparable in its current state or simply too long in the tooth to be attractive to the current audience. The Incredible Hulk, Batman Begins and others have all either ignored their big-screen predecessors and tried to start the character from scratch or taken a drastically different tone than what came before. (Batman Begins is an example of the former, which I still contend The Incredible Hulk retains the general mythology of 2003′s Hulk but ignores it in substance. We can debate that later.)

The reboot Paramount’s new entry in the Star Trek series most resembles, though, is Casino Royale, the movie that reintroduced Bond for a new generation, with new sensibilities, a new origin story and a new continuity. Bond films were never big on continuity to begin with, but this was, especially when combined with last year’s Quantum of Solace, obviously an attempt to not just create another series of stand-alone movies with the same character but as a series of films that built off one another and gave the Bond franchise a clear new starting point.

The Star Trek franchise is now getting a similar return to the starting line. Unlike the Bond series, though, this one doesn’t completely ignore what’s come before but instead uses it in a new and interesting way.

Star Trek first leaped to the big screen 30 years ago, with Star Trek: The Motion Picture bringing the cast of the much-loved but short-lived television series in to their first feature film. A mixed bag of a first outing, it was followed by one of the strongest one-two-three-punches in cinematic history. The Wrath of Khan brought back an adversary from an episode of the show and featured a compelling, emotional story and some amazing action sequences. Its story was then continued in The Search for Spock and then ultimately concluded in The Voyage Home, which is widely cited even by those who aren’t Trek die-hards as not only the best in the series but also a really good movie in its own right. The Final Frontier, the fifth movie, was widely seen as a bit of a mess and the original cast concluded its big-screen adventures in The Undiscovered Country, which is one of my favorite in the series.

While those adventures were happening on the big-screen, Paramount was bringing the Star Trek name back to television with a new cast in “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” Set a couple hundred years after the original cast’s era but also set on the Enterprise, the series was immediately embraced by fans eager for an expansion of the franchise that was brought to them each week. This cast went on to their own series of feature films, with their first outing, Generations, also including some members of the original incarnation and acting as sort of a bridge between the two. They finally got their own movie a couple years later in First Contact, which is kind of that cast’s Wrath of Khan, featuring a mix of action and hard-core in-universe mythology and back-story along with some decent humor and strong performances from everyone. Unfortunately things would go down-hill from there, with the later Insurrection and Nemesis entries suffering not only from some obviously lackadaisical attitudes, falling production values and the overall sense that everyone was just going through the motions.

So the Star Trek series, while its been expanded by other television series like “Deep Space Nine, “Voyager” and “Enterprise,” has been dormant in theaters since 2002.

So now, after reviewing where things stand to date, let’s look at the new movie coming to the big-screen this week, the simply titled Star Trek.

Directed by J.J. Abrams, the creator of TV shows like “Lost” and “Alias,” both of which feature complex mythologies and story arcs that span years, the new movie seeks to reboot the Trek franchise.

The story of the film was originally believed to be one that focused on younger versions of the original crew, showing Kirk, Spock, McCoy and the others as they were when they were atStarfleet Academy. But, as we later learned, it’s a little more complicated than that.

The movie does indeed take place, at least initially, in the same time continuity stream as all the TV series and films that have come before. But an event in that timeline prompts a Romulan named Nero (played by Eric Bana) to travel back in time and attempt to kill a younger Spock (played by Zachery Quinto). Spock is at Starfleet with, of course, the brash and irresponsible James T. Kirk (played here by Chris Pine) and others who would eventually come to take their posts aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise. Eventually Nero’s actions cause a divergence in the time continuum and a new timeline is created as the crew seeks to stop Nero from wreaking more havoc.

If you think about it it’s kind of a brilliant way to restart the franchise with a younger cast and with the original characters the fans love while not simply saying that everything that’s come before just didn’t happen, or that this movie is taking place in some other universe or something. It exists in that same universe, at least initially, and so doesn’t mess with fan’s appreciation for previous entries while at the same time revitalizing it without all that baggage and in a way that provides the general audience a jumping on point that doesn’t require them to be super-educated on what version of the Enterprise should exist in this time period based on the most intricate details of the second edition of an encyclopedia.

So enough with the back-story. We’ve seen what the foundation that’s been laid is and now let’s see how Paramount is taking what they have in front of them and trying to make this reboot appealing to that general movie-going audience.

The Posters

Like many franchise extensions, sequels and adaptations, there have been a ton of posters created for the relaunch of Star Trek, ranging from extreme teasers to character pieces and eventually to a theatrical edition, each of them with their own intended audience and each trying to do what it can to build anticipation in that audience for the finished film.

There were three teaser posters released over the course of a period of time that basically ran up until about July of 2008. I don’t remember what particular order they appeared in but that’s not all that important. One featured a silvery Starfleet insignia and mimicked the look of the teaser image that first appeared on the movie’s official website right after it launched. Another featured the same image but this time against a blue and yellow background. A third version dropped Starfleet for the simply display of “Star Trek” the classic typeface. All three were released when it was still believed Paramount would be released the movie to theaters around Christmas of 2008, a date that was later pushed back to May 2009.

star-trek-11-poster-teaser-2star-trek-11-poster-teaserstar-trek-11-poster-teaser-3

The one that works best, I think, is actually that middle one, the version featuring a gold insignia against a yellow and blue background. While the silvery one might look all slick and futuristic and the latter one with “Star Trek” definitely gets to the point (especially since it pegs the release date as the “Star date”) the middle version works at being both clear about what it’s promoting – a new film release – and at being eye-catching for the casual audience. It’s bold visually and instantly creates awareness that there’s a new movie coming out and people should look closer for details on just when that might be.

The first round of more focused posters for the newly revitalized movie took the eight primary cast members and arranged them in different portions of the iconic Star Trek symbol, the logo of Starfleet. Kirk, Spock, Chekov, Sulu, Uhura, Scotty , McCoy and Nero all appeared on individual one-sheets with most of them looking over the shoulder or out of the corner of the screen or in some sort of sideways-glance pose.

star-trek-11-character-poster-quad-kirkstar-trek-11-character-poster-quad-spockstar-trek-11-character-poster-quad-uhurastar-trek-11-character-poster-quad-nero

The first batch of these was released at the San Diego Comic-Con at the end of July 2008 and contained four of the primary cast, the big guns among the characters: Kirk, Spock,Uhura and Nero. The timing of the release here, like that of every other movie being promoted at Comic-Con was to take a genre movie and get some buzz building at a time when not only genre fans were the most whipped up into a frenzy but also when the mainstream entertainment press was paying attention to the happenings in this world.

star-trek-11-character-poster-quad-chekovstar-trek-11-character-poster-quad-mccoystar-trek-11-character-poster-quad-scottystar-trek-11-character-poster-quad-sulu

The next set of four rounded out the cast and was released, appropriately, at the 2008 Star Trek convention in Las Vegas. This time Sulu, Chekov, Scotty and McCoy got their own posters.

star-trek-11-poster-character-quad-1star-trek-11-poster-character-quad-2When combined into quads, each set of four place the members of the cast around the Starfleet insignia, something that looks just as cool visually as you’d think it would. The posters work on a few different levels, primarily if you identify their target audience as being attendees of the two conventions at which they were unveiled. They gave those audiences, and the subsequent online readers, their first real looks at the characters as portrayed by the younger cast, which is pretty big in and of itself. And the way they formed something bigger than the individual posters (much like the Constructicons for Devastator) adds a significant level of collectibility to them, especially since that eventual construction was the Starfleet insignia, something that thus shows this might be a new movie but the creators know what the heritage of what they’re dealing with and it’s not like they’re making things up from scratch.

Another set of four more theatrical-ready posters were then released, this time taking just a few of the characters and giving them their own black and white solo one-sheets. Kirk, Spock,Uhura and Nero all were given character-centric one-sheets that showed them in the same poses as the previous installments but this time all grainy and arty and all that. They’re maybe a touch less effective than the earlier versions in terms of pure imagery but they did a much better job of branding the film for a consumer audience. Most of that was accomplished through the inclusion of two items missing from the other ones, the address of the movie’s official website and the Starfleet insignia, both put in the bottom corner of the poster’s real-estate.

star-trek-11-poster-theatrical-kirkstar-trek-11-poster-theatrical-spockstar-trek-11-poster-theatrical-uhurastar-trek-11-poster-theatrical-nero

The final – for real this time – theatrical poster dropped the emphasis on the individual character focus of the print campaign up to this point and instead presented the Starship Enterprise as its primary component of the image. The ship that will be crewed by Kirk, Spock and the rest is seen streaking across the screen, moving so fast it’s leaving a blur of motion in its wake.

Personally I think this is the best poster of the bunch, but largely because it’s the latest brick that’s been laid on a solid foundation. The character-centric posters played to the fans and reintroduced the characters as portrayed by this new crop of actors. The later character posters were a little more branded but still used the idea of new, younger actors to appeal not only to a general audience but specifically to a younger audience that, it’s felt, needs a younger cast in place in order for the film to be relevant to them. So mission accomplished on all those fronts over the course of the campaign so far.

But now this one puts the iconic Enterprise – something anyone who’s been even peripherally aware of popular culture would be able to pick out and identify – right back in the thick of it and makes the film accessible to that entire demographic. You might have been intrigued by the younger actors and figured out that this was Spock and that was Uhura and wondered who the guy with all the face tattoos was. But there’s no mistaking that this is a poster for a new Star Trek movie. The Enterprise is the simplest, most easy to understand touch-point for the audience and so it’s no surprise that this was chosen as the final theatrical image. It also helps that it’s just a lot cooler to look at than if the designers had created a composite image that used everyone’s Big Floating Heads.

STXI Master bill_typeAn alternate version of this – literally the same image but with the negative reversed so that white is black and black is white – was used for the movie’s IMAX release. It’s maybe a touch less effective than the original. The contrast of white on black is just a little less enticing and striking than the contrast of black on white. But it’s still kind of cool and, again, it’s certainly better to use this image again and slap some “Experience it on IMAX” copy at the bottom than it is to try and re-brand the film from scratch for a small component of the release pattern.

The Trailers
The first teaser trailer really is a teaser in a very real sense of the word. It contains little footage of anything that you’d immediately identify as a Star Trek movie, instead showing workmen constructing something massive, something big enough for them to walk across easily. It’s not until halfway through the trailer that you get enough of a look at what it is they’re building and realize it’s the Enterprise. At that point too, the familiar voice of Leonard Nimoy comes in and says, just as the front of the ship comes into view, “Space…the final frontier.”

That first spot definitely sets the tone for the rest of the campaign by showing we’re going back to the beginning of the story but not completely ignoring the franchise’s history. It’s moody and atmospheric and pretty cool and certainly accomplished its primary goal, which was to start getting people excited about the new movie.

The second trailer starts off with an odd look for a Star Trek movie, with a vintage Corvette racing through the desert. We then see, though, that the car is being pursued by what appears to be a robot on a hover cycle. The car then flies off a cliff as the driver, revealed to be a 12 or so year old boy, jumps out. When asked for his name, the boy defiantly responds, “My name is James Tiberious Kirk.” So now we know he’s always been like that.

STAR TREKAfter that a now older Kirk speeds on his own motorcycle through farm land before stopping to admire what’s presumed to be the Enterprise under construction as someone via voice-over tells him he’s always felt like an outsider because he’s meant for something special. Then we get a few establishing shots of Spock’s origins on Vulcan and his struggle to fit in to two worlds. It’s then action, action, action with hand-to-hand, ship-to-ship and hand-to-monster battles. Lastly, Nero the villain stands and says, “The wait is over,” which I’m sure is not only an important plot point but also sums up nicely the attitude of fans.

There was an alternate version of this trailer that was released online that contained a brief shot of not only young Spock but old Spock as well, played of course by Leonard Nimoy . There’s no context given here, he just shows up at the end. But it was enough to really get fans buzzing about how the original continuity Spock winds up in this new continuity movie and all that and so achieved its marketing goals.

The third trailer takes a similar tone but hits a few different notes. It’s a little more plot heavy, starting off with the bar-fight that gives Kirk his bloodied-up face and followed by a Starfleet officer telling him he has some big shoes to fill based on the heroic actions of his father. He dares him to enlist in Starfleet and fulfill his destiny.

While we don’t get a clear picture of exactly what the conflict is between Nero and our heroes, we do get a very strong sense of it being very personal, the result of a lifelong obsession. Nero also states that while James Kirk was a great man, “that was another lifetime.” That’s the full scope of the hinting in the trailers that there’s some sort of alternate universe or time travel thing going on.

star-trek-11-pic-4The last two trailers work about as well as each other in terms of positioning the movies in the marketplace. They’re chock full of action sequences, an attempt to convince the audience that whatever they think of the Star Trek franchise, this is a very well constructed action film that delivers lots of laser blasts and high-flying stunts and big explosions. In that respect it’s similar to how Paramount sold Iron Man last year, positioning it as more of an action film than a comic book movie. But there are still enough moments – for example the shot of Kirk stepping up into a command role and sitting in the Enterprise’s Captain’s chair for the first time – that are going to make long-time Trek fans make a noise unlike “SQEEEE” when they see it.

But mostly they show a slick, professionally made movie that looks to have metric tonnage of entertainment value whether you know the difference between a Vulcan and a Romulan or not. In that regard I think they both serve the movie well by presenting a film that should be attractive to as broad an audience segment as possible.

Online

The movie’s official website actually opens in quite a subdued manner. The banner image of all the characters glaring at us is displayed across the top while we’re prompted to “Watch the Latest Videos”, “Get Tickets and Showtimes” or get email updates. There’s a reminder at the bottom that it’s coming out in IMAX for a limited time and more. What’s interesting to me is that a collection of critic’s quotes from early reviews is displayed at the very top, with most of them exhorting the movie as accessible for everyone, lots of fun and other such accolades. A couple even compare the movie to Star Wars or Iron Man, at least in terms of entertainment value.

When you click “Enter the Site” you’re whisked down one of the Enterprise’s corridors. There’s actually a ton of stuff that’s displayed in a group over on the right-hand side of the screen but before going down that trail let’s cover what’s included in the main content menu, accessible by clicking NAV on the left.

First, though, let me clear up on thing. When you’re whisked initially down that corridor you’ll notice the doors in front of you are click-able . Clicking that door opens it and continues your journey through the ship. All of the content is displayed as such and from there you’re once again dependent on the NAV menu. It’s a cool way to display the content and makes for an interactive experience.

Back to the content.

star-trek-11-pic-6The first section is “Videos.” Immediately upon loading the third trailer begins playing but you can access more via the menu at the bottom of the player. There you’ll find all three trailers, eight extended clips from the film and nine TV spots. I have to say I love the fact that they included those TV spots since it’s an area that most all official sites completely ignore and which I always call them out for. Providing them here makes the site that much more of a complete archive of the movie’s promotional materials and that’s exactly what it should be.

Next up is “Gallery” which collects 33 stills from the film, a sizable number and heads and shoulders above what a lot of sites feature. After that is “About” which contains a very well written and informative Story synopsis, Cast and Crew profiles and Production Notes that cover most every portion of the film’s production, from casting to set design to the inspiration for the new elements the film introduces.

“Downloads” contains Wallpapers, Buddy Icons, a Screensaver and Icons & Desktops that you can use to spruce up your computer. There’s also a link to the Star Trek Fan Kit, which has all that and much more. There you’ll find just about everything you need to fully get your Trek on, with a Profile Pic Creator, Site Skins, Fan Banners to put on your own site and much more. There’s even aPeelback that puts a Star Trek icon in the corner of your blog or site that, when moused over, will give your readers a look at videos and other content. This section is very similar to one that was created for Watchmen a few months ago and I wouldn’t be surprised to find out it was created by the same agency.

You’ll find brief introductions to the main characters, locations and ships in the film under “Dossiers.” They’re not exactly fleshed out – just a few facts for each item – but they’re pretty cool. “Widget” is just that, a widget of site content you can use to bring that content to your own site of social network profile.

There are a ton of games under “Games,” including the Trek Yourself tool that lets you upload your picture and put yourself in the movie (Brian Morrissey at AdFreak is not a fan of the continued usage of this sort of thing) as well as Cadet Training Facility, Race to Destiny, Jigsaws, Academy Trainer and more like links to the Xbox Live game, the Star Trek edition of Rock Band and even the Esurance advergame Delta Vega.

“Partners” lists the movie’s promotional partners, which I’ll go into the details on more later.

Off-site, the movie has a MySpace page that features the third trailers as well as couple of the extended clips that were released. There’s also a scrolling list of the movie’s promotions and partners and a photo gallery, with the page rounded out by some Wallpapers and other downloads. The Facebook profile has updates with both production stills and behind-the-scenes photos, trailers, clips and TV spots and reports from the premiere and other events. The left sidebar on the page also has some of the promotions and games and such as well as calls to follow Paramount on Twitter and other places like that.

star-trek-11-tieins-green-party-girlsAlso running online was an alternate reality game that contained clues that were scrawled on the wall of a party and then pieced together with unlocked sites online and other materials. I covered part of this aspect of the campaign before when I was sent materials that included a Star Trek-themed USB card . This information included how the parties these pictures were taken at were photographed by famed photographer TheCobraSnake and featured real-life models of artistic takes on the Enterprise’s design, most of which you can view at the Enterprise Model Gallery. There were also photo booths there where people could have their pictures uploaded to a Mosaics site where the pics were integrated with those of others into movie posters.

I’m a little surprised that this hasn’t been covered more extensively online by some of the bigger movie blogs and so I haven’t been following its progression like I should have. I haven’t wrapped my head completely around thisARG but it looks pretty cool. Luckily the guys at TrekMovie .com have been deep in the weeds on this and have a number of updates you can go and read and get the full scope of the game. I’m copying and pasting from their Summary here and I’d encourage you all to go and see what the game has entailed.

Star Trek ARG – A quick review
The Star Trek Alternative Reality Game began a couple of weeks ago after some fans spotted URLs on the walls of ‘Star Trek Dance Party’ photos up at thecobrasnake.com, these clues led to more sites, which in turn led to more clues. Here are the previous TrekMovie articles on the Star Trek ARG:

You can read all their posts under their ARG category.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

As one of the first two big movies of the 2009 early summer movie season, as well as being the movie Paramount hopes will not only revitalize the franchise among hard core fans but among the general population as well, there’s been no lack of advertising support doled out for Star Trek by the studio, as well as its partners on this film’s promotional journey.

star-trek-11-pic-5Ten or more television commercials were created, each hitting many of the same points covered by the trailers but with a few instances of going off track and breaking new ground. Most of them, though sought to position the film in one of two ways, either as an all-around entertaining thrill ride or as, and I’m quoting directly here from a couple of the spots, “Not your father’s Star Trek.”

One of the biggest components of the film’s TV advertising campaign was the running of a spot during the 2009 Super Bowl. With lots of action and smash-cuts and dramatic music and clocking in at a really fast 30 seconds, it was pretty effective at presenting a thrill ride of a film for the massive audience the game was reaching.

In addition to placing all those posters we already looked at in theaters Paramount also created some nifty standees like the one seen by Tom that re-purpose all those character photos and make the Star Trek title treatment the main focal point. I’m not thrilled with the “The Future Begins” copy at the bottom, though, and am glad it hasn’t been used throughout the campaign.

There’s also been plenty of online advertising done, both by Paramount for the film itself and by the film’s copious list of promotional partners in support of not only their movie but also the products and services they’re hoping to sell you by riding the film’s coattails.

That list of promotional partners is pretty extensive, further proof that the movie’s being sold to the general public as an audience-friendly action flick and not just fodder for diehards to sift over for specs and details.

stark-trek-11-tieins-esurance-erinOne of the biggest is online insurance company Esurance. The firm put its cartoon spokesperson Erin in a whole slew of ads not only online and in print but also on TV in a couple of co-branded commercials. On Esurance’s microsite you’ll find a sweepstakes to enter to try and win a trip to Space Camp as well as games, videos and downloadable material, some of which is just for the movie and some of which includes the co-branded promotions.

Esurance also sponsored a Star Trek Movie Night at AT&T Park, home of the San Francisco Giants, that involved a Trek costume contest and the ability to win tickets to see the movie. Clips from the film were shown on the park’s big-screen throughout the game and fans in attendance also received a foam hand that had the fingers giving the Vulcan salute, which is actually kind of cool.

Burger King provided the film’s QSR support on a number of fronts. For younger patrons the chain included Trek toys in its Kid’s Meal, ranging from big-headed versions of the Enterprise crew to starships as well as some gadgets like a Tricorder and Communicator. For older folks it offered a series of four collectible glasses, each featuring one of the main characters.

The BK chain also created its own co-branded television commercial from Burger King’s agency CP&B that used their long-standing spokes-character The King. Only this time it was an altered version of The King that was crossed with a Klingon, thereby creating what can only be called the unholy mess that is aKingon. The spot, which you can view at AdFreak, doesn’t make mention of the Kid’s Meal but instead primarily promotes the collector’s glasses that are more geared toward adults.

star-trek-tieins-trekyourself-adYummy treat and friends of parents trying to keep their kids quite during church everywhere Cheez-It used their promotional efforts to be the sole sponsor of the Trek Yourself site. As the site loads you’ll see the Cheez-It logo, which also appears on the site once it’s done. Cheez-It also created a small online ad that popped up around and about on the web that was co-branded with both the brand and the movie.

Theater chain AMC Theaters offered a limited series of four character-centric gift cards that you could buy in the lobby or online.

Consumer packaged goods giant Kellogg’s continued the push to bring in new kids to the movie’s audience by putting Star Trek images on a handful of its cereal, breakfast and snack products. Within those packages were tokens that, when mailed back to Kellogg’s with some shipping and handling money, would get you some Star Trek swag, ranging from t-shirts to movie tickets to a very cool wrist-bandUSB drive that came pre -loaded with Trek content. Kellogg’s also put Tony the Tiger in some branded ads and even got him to make the Vulcan salute with the “Live long and prosper” copy on the ad.

Intel (a Voce client, but we weren’t involved in this at all) offered a couple different sweepstakes to enter, one to take friends to the movie’s premiere and one to take a group of friends on a Zero Gravity Flight, to promote itsLenevo IdeaPad machine. Intel also screened one of the trailers at their booth at CES earlier this year.

Nokia and Verizon teamed up on what was, at least in its online execution, one of the most fully featured cross-promotions. Their JoinStarfleetAcademy site contains a whole bunch of content, ranging from games to exclusive movie clips and even some applications you can download to yourNokia mobile device. Nokia also made a variety of exclusive movie content available through its V Cast service while Verizon launched a campaign for the partnership with the movie on TV, online and elsewhere.

Even Facebook got involved, acting as the outlet for Paramount to give away 50 one-of-a-kind limited edition t-shirts that were designed by a handful of pop-culture artists. Also on the bleeding edge of pop culture was a promotion that gave away 500 free Rock Band downloads each day over 15 days and also gave players access to a version of the game that let them perform in a more galactic setting, with high scoring bands winning a hometown screening of the movie.

On the more surreal promotional front were official Star Trek-branded urns and caskets as well as Klingon fragrances. Yeah. let’s just move on.

star-trek-11-tieins-countdown-comicAlso coming out was a tie-in comic that, like many recent efforts, sought to clear up the back-story of the movie’s plot and give readers a foundation of knowledge that the movie will then build on. The limited series, titled “Countdown” and available either in print or through iTunes, bridged the gap between The Next Generation era and the movie’s time-frame, explaining why Nero is so angry at the Federation and at Spock and Kirk especially. I’m a big fan of these efforts, whether they’re executed as comic books or online video or anything else since a movie is fundamentally an enclosed ecosystem and there’s always fleshing out that needs to occur. These sorts of things allow the creative team to more deeply dive into certain character’s motivations and that’s always welcome since it makes the film actually work better when you finally see it.

Of course the release of a new movie, especially a reboot like this, would not be complete without the re-release of the older movies on home video. Two new sets were created in this instance. The first was a collection of the first six movies, the ones featuring the original cast, on Blu-ray for the first time. The second was a sub-set of that group that brought together on standard DVD new editions of Star Trek II, III and IV, the three films often cited as the strongest of that original crew’s outings.

Media and Publicity

Every bit as important as the paid marketing campaign was the generation of publicity and buzz around the movie. At times the two segments overlapped, such as when posters debuted at fan-heavy events where people were sure to get to talking about them.

star-trek-11-media-ew-coverOf course being what it is – a reimagining/reinvigoration/rebooting of a long, storied and much beloved franchise – it was sure to be scrutinized and covered by the media anyway. But with so much speculation about how it would bridge or create a new timeline in the Star Trek universe there was even more chatter about the film among fans and entertainment media outlets.

The fact that this movie ditched the old cast and featured a bunch of attractive young people didn’t hurt either, with the cast appearing on numerous magazine covers as far back as a year prior to release. One of those even doubled as a first look at Kirk and Spock, with Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto appearing on the cover of Entertainment Weekly in a recreation of another promotional image that featured Shatner and Nemoy in their roles back when the original TV show was on the air. IO9 has a great collection of magazine covers not only from this movie’s publicity push but the previous Trek entries as well.

star-trek-11-media-jja-wired-coverOn the magazine front, director J.J. Abrams got some special treatment from tech title Wired, which published a special issue guest-edited by Abrams. The issue focused a lot on Abrams’ love of puzzles and mysteries and even included an issue-wide puzzle of its own that one person figured out and published the results of. There was also some continuation of the fleshing out of the lead-in to the movie in the form of a comic prequel “When Worlds Collide” that featured an aged Spock contemplating the idea of puzzles and how he’s used them to keep his mind sharp and logical over the years.

In addition to the media tour that’s commonplace with such tent-pole movies, the cast also appeared at various fan-centric events like Comic-Con and WonderCon, where they pleasantly endured fan questions, talked about how great it was to be part of such a fantastic series and occasionally screened a new trailer or footage.

The movie got some sad and unwanted publicity though, when Majel Roddenberry passed away last year. The wife of the late Gene Roddenberry, creator of Trek, had been involved with the franchise throughout the years, serving as the voice of the computer on every Trek series on TV. She reprises that role in the new movie as well and reportedly completed her voice recording session just days before her death.

The announcement of a massively multi-player online game Star Trek: Online was also dovetailing nicely with the movie’s promotional push. The game is set decades after the last cinematic outing of the crew of The Next Generation and allows players to be either part of Starfleet or the Klingon Empire, which is back to its fighting ways and making life once again difficult for the Federation.

Never afraid of the big stunt, Paramount surprised Star Trek fans who had gathered at the Alamo Drafthouse for a screening of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and which was also supposed to feature a 10-minute clip of footage from the new movie. But as the movie started, the film appeared to break. While the operators were out in the theater apologizing for the problem, Leonard Nimoy himself wandered out in front and asked the audience if, instead of Khan with a brief teaser of the new flick, they’d like to see the entire movie. Of course the crowd went wild and footage of Nimoy was widely circulated around the internet for the next few days. The surprise screening was timed to more or less coincide with the film’s premiere, which was taking place at almost exactly the same time but all the way in Australia. This really was a cool move and definitely stirred people up.

As evidenced on the official website, the release of extended clips from the movie has been a series part of the publicity portion of the movie’s campaign. Most of them provide deeper looks at the scenes that have already been teased in the trailers, and a good amount of them focus on the meeting of two characters, such as one that shows Kirk hitting on Uhura in a bar and another that has Kirk meeting McCoy on a shuttle.

Overall

star-trek-11-title-newWell that’s a pretty massive campaign, isn’t it. It’s hard to peg a component that Paramount overlooked or really dropped the ball on.

I guess looking at the campaign from top to bottom there are a few small nits I might choose to pick. For instance there’s a slight lack of consistent branding between the posters and online. It’s not huge but it is kind of there with the website’s lack of shared focus on the images of the cast. I know it opens with the same key art but aside from that it’s very much about The Enterprise and not about the cast, which is backwards from most of the rest of the campaign. And there are some parts of the advertising and cross-promotional efforts that kind off go off in sometimes distracting directions.

But overall the campaign is good at what it needs to do, which is get people excited about the movie. The pace of the trailers and the TV spots and the clips never really lets up, moving along at breakneck speed that promises a movie that won’t give you very many opportunities to catch your breath.

The fans have been appealed to with the promises and the hints that this new installment does not completely ignore what has come before and which this group devotes so much time to enjoying and discussing. Instead it’s just the opposite – It promises those fans a whole new set ofminutiae that they can pour over and analyze, seeing how things are progressing from a fresh starting point and giving them the notion that there’s a whole new wing being added on to their treasured museum.

On the other hand, the general audience gets their appetites whet by showing them that regardless of their feelings about the original incarnations, this is a fresh starting point that’s less about philosophical introspection and more aboutstarship battles and fast-paced action. We can debate whether that’s true to Roddenberry’s original vision or not and other similar points, but the reality is that in order to continue in a thriving fashion the franchise needs to be popular with casual viewers, the kind that know the Enterprise looks different in each incarnation but doesn’t have the serial number memorized.

So I think that with the collection of components that range from really cool to “meh” but which never really goes deeply into “bad” territory the campaign should bring the movie a good amount of success in achieving the goal of appealing to both audiences and bringing some amount of both groups to the theater.

PICKING UP THE SPARE

  • 5/8/09: I09 has more of the CP&B-produced spots for Burger King as part of their promotional partnership with the movie. Just like all the BK spots the agency has created, they’re creepy and mildly inappropriate but they certainly leave a lasting impression.
  • 5/8/09: Brian Morrissey at AdWeek has a more in-depth report on the Verizon/Nokia promotion for the film that’s focused around the JoinStarFleetAcademy site.
  • 5/8/09: Star Trek was one of the chosen few that have received some sort of product integration around ABC’s “Lost.” An ad for the movie began looking like the title sequence for the show but the background became a star field and the Enterprise came flying out of the “O” in the show’s name.
  • 5/15/09: Patrick Goldstein tackles something I didn’t touch on in my column about the marketing of Star Trek, which is that part of the marketing team’s job on the film was to play down expectations and hype so that if the movie didn’t open big it wasn’t seen as any more of a failure than it needed to. If they can do so successfully than anything above that official line is seen as a sign of the film’s success.
  • 5/15/09: Bill Green does not appear to be a fan of the Esurance co-branded commercials for Star Trek, particularly the company’s instance on using their animated Erin character in the spots.
  • 6/12/09: The Children’s Advertising Review Unit (CARU) has flagged some TV commercials for the big-screen revitalization of the Star Trek franchise as being inappropriately placed in programming with a primary audience of children who would be too young for the PG-13-rated film. CARU has referred the ad placements to the MPAA after Paramount Pictures said the placement of the ads in the unidentified program was intentional and not an accident on the part of either it or the broadcaster. If the MPAA finds the placement violated its guidelines it could take some sort of action against Paramount since the organization is eager to avoid any…Imperial entanglements.
  • 6/19/09: Payless ShoeSource will be rolling out Star Trek-branded Airwalks, their house brand, this fall. The release seems a bit oddly timed since it comes so long after the film hit theaters but I’m guessing it will mesh up nicely with the time the DVD hits shelves.
  • On the heels of the widely acclaimed Countdown prequel series, a new comic titled “Star
  • 6/19/09: Trek: Nero” will chronicle what the antagonist from the movie did in the 25 years he was waiting for Spock to come through that worm hole. It will reportedly draw from the original screenplay and feature some scenes that were cut from the finished movie.
  • 6/26/09: Star Trek – and Terminator – was among the most searched topics in the month of May according to Nielsen. The report says that searchers were looking for details on the film’s story and other information that would help them get informed on the movie.
  • 6/26/09: George Parker at AdScam has some problems with the Burger King promotion for the movie.
  • 7/17/09: IO9 uses a Variety story on how different films are marketed to different regions to look at the ways Star Trek was sold world-wide, appealing to different cultural queues in each market.
  • 9/3/09: Star Trek is coming back (Variety, 9/1/09)to nearly 100 Imax theaters beginning today and running for the next two weeks. This is partly an effort to remind the audience of the movie in advance of its upcoming DVD release, could be an effort by Paramount to position it for some sort of Oscar run and might also be a sign that there’s a lot of Imax screen inventory out there right now without something compelling to bring in the audience so they’re pulling out a previous release.
  • 9/16/09: The homepage takeover ad created and planned by AvatarLabs and executed on MTV.com has been named as a Finalist in the Homepage Takeover category for this year’s awards being handed out by OMMA Magazine.