Movie Marketing Madness: When in Rome

Kristen Bell is on a role recently with roles that seem designed to show off not only her comedic chops – which are decent – but also make it clear to the audience that she actually an adult young woman (she’s almost 30) and not still the teenager we all met during her run at the title character on “Veronica Mars.” That show, running from 2004 to 2007 had her playing seven or years younger than she actually was at the time. So her recent turns in Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Couple’s Retreat – where she’s the other half of a relationship with grown men – have been part of the plan to position her as a viable leading lady, albeit one that seems to be able to out-think everyone in the room.

The latest effort in that plans is When in Rome. Bell plays a young woman who, finding herself depressed with the state of her romantic life, flies to Rome to attend her sister’s wedding. While there she finds a fountain that’s supposed to have the power to grant the wishes of those in love who throw a coin in. But she instead takes a few coins out, resulting in the men who threw those coins in inexplicably falling in love with her out of nowhere. All this while she begins to see a guy she met at the wedding (Josh Duhamel) but who she can’t be sure is actually interested in her or just under the power of the fountain.

The Posters

The movie’s single poster is alright but nothing special. Focusing on how cute and charming Bell is she gets most of the one-sheet’s real estate, though she’s forced into a weird pose with her biting her fingernails, seemingly trying to portray her to the audience as the kind of girl who is unsure of herself and for whom thinking big thoughts is just hard. Duhamel is positioned behind her and off to the side and we’re meant to assume by the leering look he’s giving her, the day’s growth on his face and the unbuttoned tux that he’s kind of a cad – the typical movie bachelor type of character who probably gets around a lot but who will find redemption by finding the right woman. The setting for most of the action – Rome – is displayed behind them with one of those funny little European mini cars in the foreground, making it clear that the car will factor into some portion of the film’s hilarity.

The Trailers

The trailer starts off as most romantic comedy spots do, showing what a strong, successful and independent woman Bell’s character is. That is, of course, until her ex-boyfriend shows up at a work gig and tells her he’s going to be engaged – not that he is engaged, but that he’s getting engaged. Then she has to throw her life to the ground and jet off to Rome to try and make something magical happen. At the same time Nick, Duhamel’s character is heading to the same wedding for some unstated purpose. The two meet and flirt briefly before she heads out to try her luck with the fountain of love.

It’s then that we see this is going to be a more wacky than usual romcom. Dax Shepherd, Will Arnett, Jon Heder and Danny DeVito all play guys who have their coined picked up by Bell’s Beth and they’re all clearly insane comedic figures who go to outrageous lengths to win her heart. We even, as suspected, see that the mini car comes in for a gag that plays off its compact nature. There are a few laughs here but for the most part we’re not veering into anything resembling unfamiliar territory here.

Online

The movie’s official website opens with the poster key art behind the auto-playing trailer. Indeed the entire “Video” section is what more or less greets you when the site comes up. Under the Video label there’s the trailer, a video from the Katy Perry song that appears on the soundtrack and two TV spots, though they’re not labeled as such. Next to that is “Film Clips” which gives you four extended scenes from the movie that are longer versions of the looks we get in the trailer. There’s also a “Featurette” that has interviews with the two principle cast members and a couple behind-the-scenes clips.

“Photos” has just about eight or nine stills and “About” has a one-paragraph synopsis of the plot, Cast and Crew overviews and some Production Notes, though the latter three sections are all marked as “coming soon” just days before the movie’s release date.

There’s a big emphasis on social networks on the site, with a prompt at the top to connect with the site via Facebook Connect and a stream of Twitter updates that have mentioned the movie at the bottom. The film also has it’s own Facebook, Twitter and MySpace profiles, with all of them being used to varying degrees for messaging and content distribution.

There are a couple “Promotions” mentioned at the bottom but without clickable links, which makes it tough to find out what they’re all about.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

As the website showed there were at least two TV spots created for the campaign. One takes a pretty standard approach – basically a trimmed down version of the trailer. The other, titled “He Said, She Said” is a bit different, featuring stand-up interviews with the characters as they talk about how they met and such. I’m not sure if this device is used in the film itself and it comes off as sort of odd but overall they’re not bad.

There’s also been a bit of online advertising that I’ve come across that has used the core components of the poster art.

Media and Publicity

Plenty of interviews with Duhamel and Bell and some coverage about how the movie, for apparently no real reason, has Heder reverting to Napoleon Dynamite and interacting with Pedro.

Overall

This is one of those campaigns that just comes off as kind of “light.” It’s late January – notoriously a dead period at theaters – and this campaign seems to be built around the idea that not much in the way of a sales pitch is actually needed when you have the charming and attractive Kristen Bell to show off.

The trailer is alright, as is the poster, though neither are going to blow your doors off and, again, seem to rely heavily on us all being in love with Bell. While more or less a safe bet it seems like a risky marketing proposition. The official site is pretty weak and doesn’t actually come across as being nearly as social as the designers likely thought it was going to be.

At the end of the day this is a fair campaign to support what appears to be mildly amusing romantic comedy. Will it pull in the audience? Not sure since there are still some strong contenders at the theater that this has to compete against, so a campaign that comes off as half-hearted might not do the trick.

Engagement measuring

Early on the in the life of the “social web” – back in the barely remembered past of 2005 and such – there was lots of talk about engagement being a metric that marketers had to be paying attention to. But just how that was defined was fuzzy and everyone seemed to have a different idea of what it meant, with many of those personal definitions being the ones that fit their particular program best.

A new study from the Society of Digital Agencies has identified what seem to be the most important engagement-oriented metrics. As usual, these need to be presented with the caveat that they seem more focused on advertising and marketing campaigns and less on those that make use of social media efforts that are geared toward conversation.


So, to bounce off my above point, there are a bunch of additional things that can be included under the heading of engagement that are more appropriate to social media-focused campaigns.

  • Comments/Trackbacks: A strategy of writing posts that encourage reader feedback can move the needle on how many comments a post receives and how many times the blog as a whole or a individual post are linked back to.
  • RSS Subscribers: Subscribing to an RSS feed requires action and, even if that’s all they do, shows a level of engagement with the blog/brand since it shows they’re interested in continued reading. RSS click-throughs is also important here as it shows readers who then want to see, to some extent, if there’s a conversation happening in the comments that they need to participate in.
  • Average Page Views/Visit: The graph above does include Time on Site, which is related to this one but there are differences. Average page views per visit shows directly how effective your content is at drawing in readers to the other stuff you’re writing. One good post is fine…but this metric shows if that’s a consistent thing or a fluke.

Those are just a few ideas but I’d be curious to hear if there are ones I’m forgetting or haven’t thought of.

…and that’s all I have to say about that

In case you missed it, yesterday was iPad day. Without a lot to say on it I’ll pass on some of the more interesting write-ups – interesting in that they actually go beyond the “But it’s missing…” or “But it can’t do…” critiques.

No, it’s not the savior device for big media that some were believing it would be. Yeah, it displays content in a great way, but there’s nothing native to the device that is all of a sudden going to plug leaky revenue models or anything like that. Seems innovation along those lines will still have to come from the media companies themselves, which is exactly what they weren’t hoping for.

In fact, as Ian Schafer says, it might actually hurt web publishers since the non-Flash web browsing experience means a lot of banner ads aren’t going to display correctly and therefore not make those publishers money. I’m starting to become convinced this is deliberate by Apple to drive publishers to their app environment, where they can integrate ads in other ways.

The one exception to all this is books, which could be an area where the new innovations on the iPad actually drive revenue.

Privacy icon

Apparently we’re about to start seeing this little puppy appearing in online ads as a signal to the audience that information on their web-browsing behavior is being collected.

OK. I mean…it’s good I guess and certainly beats whatever federally mandated options ad groups feared, options that probably would have been a lot more clutter-ific than this. Kind of looks like an upside-down “power” button icon, which is probably a chief reason it resonated with whatever focus groups were