Most all of us who came of age in the 1980s – I was five when the decade started and 15 when it ended – hold much of that era’s cinematic output to be sacred, the way a farmer looks at the earth and he holds it sacred…the way a Christian hold the bible sacred…the way some people hold their marriage sacred. It was, after all, through those movies that we first learned many of the curse words we now use on Facebook , got our first glimpse at some naughty bits and learned that sticking a banana in someone’s tailpipe will cause the car to backfire.
Much of that canon involved the “buddy picture.” Take two guys and put them in all sorts of violent and sometimes comedic situations. Rinse, repeat. Sometimes the guys are long-time police force partners, sometimes they’ve just been paired together, sometimes one’s black and the other’s white, sometimes one’s not originally from LA…whatever the circumstances there was sure to be gun play and bonding going on. Oh, and don’t forget the female love interest, likely for just one of the characters.
This, in other words, set a generation’s definitions of what it meant to be a man: Shoot the bad guys, joke around with your partner and go to bed with the lovely lady. And DONE.
Paying homage to that genre this week in much the same way he did for the high school/college comedies of the same era with Mallrats is director Kevin Smith in his new movie Cop Out. The movie stars Bruce Willis – himself one of the definitive movie action stars of the ’80′s – and Tracy Morgan as long time police partners who have to track down a valuable baseball card that’s been stolen.
Interestingly this is the first movie directed by Smith that doesn’t also feature his own screenplay, though there’s little doubt that Smith has not left many of his own distinctive fingerprints on the finished product. Anyway, enough setup…let’s get into looking at the marketing.
The movie’s one poster is, unfortunately, pretty generic and not all that funny. With the bullet-ridden title treatment behind the two primary starts there’s not a whole lot that is memorable or which stands out in any way. Willis stands with his gun at the ready much as he has in countless other movie posters and next to him Morgan mugs to the camera as he holds up his badge with a “No, really, I’m a cop” look on his face.
Aside from the smug, kind of clueless look on Morgan’s face there’s little about this poster that identifies it as a comedy, which could prove problematic. Well there is one thing – the copy “Rock out with your glock out” that appears below the title. It’s a play on a popular slang expression but isn’t all that clever in and of itself, even though it probably made some designers chuckle for about five minutes. Hell I probably would have suggested it myself…it’s that annoying. It unfortunately also just serves to remind the audience, with its sly referencing of male genitalia, of the film’s original title – but we’ll get to that more later.
The movie’s first trailer doesn’t touch at all on anything resembling a plot or even a broad story outline, instead relying completely on the idea of selling the film as a straight-ahead comedy.
In lieu of any sense of story we get lots of scenes that emphasize the dynamic between the characters played by Willis and Morgan. Willis is, of course, the more serious of the two and much of his screen-time is spent giving Morgan questioning looks, like he can’t believe what’s going on over there. But then there’s obvious camaraderie between them and we get plenty of those shots as well. For his part, most of Morgan’s screen time is devoted to him acting somewhat heroic but also in large part buffoonish, such as when he keeps devouring a bowl of nachos at an inappropriate time.
It’s a funny enough spot, but it does have a couple problems. First, the lack of any sort of plot is noticeable and worrisome, as if there isn’t much there and so let’s just not mention it. Second, action comedies are incredibly hard to pull off and without seeing more the fear is there that the full film is just a hot mess. But hopefully these fears are misplaced and it will certainly be interesting to see how the vibe this trailer gives off will translate to the finished movie.
Of note also is that the trailer credits confirmed that Harold Faltermeyer, who who created the scores for many of the most memorable action and comedy films of the 1980s, would be returning to create the soundtrack for this movie.
A later red-band trailer starts off with a conversation entailing watching Animal Planet documentaries about chimpanzees and oral sex and goes on from there to show Tracy Morgan punching a 10-year old boy in the crotch after tagging him as the biggest car thief in New York. There’s very little plot here as the primary purpose of the trailer is for it to serve as a venue for at least four other oral sex jokes. We do get to see the pay off to the “knock knock” sequence the first trailer set up, a pay off that involves Scott making a double-penetration joke about Morgan’s wife.
The official website opens with video of Tracy Morgan welcoming you to the site and warning you that the content here is going to be in some manner or another offensive to you. It then gives way to one of the TV spots that was created. Above the video player is a prompt to watch the Restricted Trailer on one of the sites it was distributed to or on this one, but only after you use Facebook Connect. That’s actually kind of a genius way to satisfy the age-gate requirement but also keep people on the site.
Below the video player is a Download the Ringtone prompt that lets you grab a section of the movie’s score (if it sounds familiar…keep reading and you’ll figure out why) for your iPhone or other device.
Diving into the content available through the Menu at the top, the first section is “About” and there you’ll find a Synopsis that explains in broad strokes what the movie’s about and gives credits to the case and crew, who are then given expanded bios and filmos in the Cast and Filmmakers areas. There are also Production Notes that can be downloaded in PDF format.
There are probably a good 20 stills from the movie – and one from production that shows Smith – in the “Gallery” section. “Downloads” then has Wallpapers, Icons, aScreensaver and the Poster you can download to your desktop.
For some inexplicable reason “Videos” just has one of the TV Spots – the same one that was on the front page – and the option to watch the Restricted Trailer again or some extended film clips. But the all-ages trailer and the other TV spots are no where to be seen just days before the film’s release. Odd.
In the “Soundtrack” section you can sample from the score that’s been composed by Harold Faltermeyer. Yes, that Harold Faltermeyer.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
There were at least three TV spots created and broadcast. 75 percent of the content of those spots is taken from the green-band all ages trailer but one of them features quite a bit more footage of Seann William Scott that shows his character is equally annoying to just about everyone. All three spots are pretty funny in the same way those trailers are and all three make it clear to the audience that most of the comedy is going to come from Morgan, an understandable sell since right now he’s on a successful TV show.
A good amount of online advertising was also done that, for the most part, melded the trailer footage and the poster key art into banners or towers or whatever would fit the space available.
Media and Publicity
Aside from photos taken on the movies set (both official and not-so-much) the major kick-off to the movie’s publicity was an appearance by Kevin Smith at Comic-Con 2009. He wasn’t there specifically to talk about the movie but has gone there for years and years to do his Q&A schtick and connect with the fans.
It was at that appearance that he confirmed what had been reported elsewhere, that the executives at Warner Bros. wanted him to change the title. That wasn ‘t news in an of itself, but he went on to explain that part of the problem was that many of the major TV networks were indicating they would not run ads for the movie before 9PM, thus limiting its exposure to the audience.
Smith also found working with a major studio was a little different when he announced, kind of off-the-cuff that as usual he’d plan to take a scene or two with him to the next Comic-Con. That announcement was met with, according to him, something like laughter as they were amused by this independent filmmaker who wasn’t familiar with how they do marketing in the big leagues.
There were also frequent stories and rumors about squabbles on the set between Smith and Willis. While the truth of these stories is probably significantly different than the headlines would portray them, they did serve to draw attention to the movie.
The issue of the title came up again shortly before the expected release of a first trailer when speculation, based on a title found on the Warner Bros. website, started circulating that the title had been changed to Cop Out, a change that had, of course, actually occurred.
And no, I’m not going to waste any time talking about the Southwest Airlines story. “Meh” would actually be overstating my feelings on the matter. Though on Twitter Smith did say once or twice that he turned down some publicity opportunities because they would have wound up being less about the movie and more about this incident.
There was also some conversation (New York Times, 2/19/10) about how this movie fit in to the “buddy copy” genre and hearkened back to some of that genre’s roots, including the fact that the pair in this movie is bi-racial.
Despite the Southwest incident there were some long-lead interviews with Smith such as this one in Wired (2/22/10) where he continues to be the most self-deprecating guy possible.
Let me unpack that a bit. The marketing for the last two movies he’s written and directed – Clerks 2 and Zack and Miri – have been fun and loose with a light attitude and absolutely filthy mouth. They have, in other words, been representative of the director himself. And that’s missing from this campaign. In the place of that attitude is a pretty by-the book effort that hits many, but not all, of the right notes but never succeeds in making a strong case for the movie.
In light of that it would have been interesting to see what would have happened if Warner had told Smith to go and do his thing and let them know how it turns out. Or at least given him the freedom to do his thing in parallel to their efforts. This kind of movie, because we all know the source material and because we’ve seen so many variations on it that have varied from really good to really bad, needs a breath of fresh air in how it’s presented to the audience.
I don’t have a problem with how Smith was (or wasn’t) included in the official marketing for the movie. It’s often the case, even with legendary directors like Woody Allen or Martin Scorcese , that the marketing will leave the director off much of the material because that’s not what’s going to draw the audience in. But when you have someone who has shown such a passion for creating his own materials in the past it can be a good idea to give him or her a little latitude in this area.
So the Chicago Cubs are hiring “ambassadors” to walk around Wrigley Field and help people, take suggestions and the like. Not a bad idea in and of itself, but let’s take a look at this graf from the Trib story:
Wally Hayward, the Cubs’ executive vice president of sales and marketing, said in that the past fans might have made suggestions to employees but there was no guarantee the suggestions would be passed on or that anyone would take them seriously. Now, the ambassadors will be part of a network collecting such information, he said.
See that’s actually a problem. Wrigley has ushers, concessions staff and other folks all around on a regular basis. So maybe before hiring new “ambassadors” there should have been additional training of the existing support staff to be more proactively helpful and teach them how not to just nod and ignore customers – fans of the Cubs who have paid a lot of money to come see a game – when they offer suggestions. Wrapping it up in a new program doesn’t mean there weren’t problems with what was going on currently.
Now while I have a few problems with how this is being presented, I do think the hiring of someone to manage “fan experiences” at the games is a good idea. There needs to be someone internal who can be an advocate for the fans and hopefully this will lead to good results.
Sad news yesterday in the film world as B-side Entertainment announced it had, basically, run out of investment money and with no new prospects at the moment it would be shutting down. B-side for a couple years helps film festivals improve their web experience and recently launched its own distribution arm.
Especially disheartening is the bit of the story that’s a bit further down, where the discussion turns to how filmmakers who might have been considering B-side for their distribution services were, in many cases, turned off by the fact that the company wasn’t focusing on securing theatrical exhibition and wasn’t spending money on high-profile (though low-effective) ad buys to promote the films. Instead it was looking at alternate distribution models and targeted marketing outreach. Unfortunately that’s a sign we haven’t pushed the conversation far enough in terms of making the case for other distribution ideas.
I’m really sorry to see B-side calling it a day. But here’s hoping the mission continues.
For as much of a fan as I am of Martin Scorsese’s films as a whole, my favorite works of his tend to be those in which he stops being Martin Scorsese for a little while and moves a bit outside his comfort zone. So movies like Cape Fear and The Age of Innocence tend to hold a special place in my heart as movies that were easily identifiable as coming from the legendary director and yet are examples of him resisting the urge to give in to his instincts to take the easy way out. It’s not that I don’t like Casino, Goodfellas, Mean Streets or any of his other movies, it’s that while those are great examples of what the director can do better than anyone else, it’s that I like to see him stretch artistic muscles that don’t often get used.
All of that is a long setup to say that I’m looking forward quite a bit to Shutter Island, the latest film from the legendary director and one that sees him reteaming with Leonardo DiCaprio, who has collaborated with Scorsese on a handful of films in the last several years. This movie casts DiCaprio as a detective sent to investigate the disappearance of a patient of a remote mental facility that lies on a small island. But once there he gets entwined in the odd goings-on at the hospital, where the patients warn him of imminent danger, the staff seem to be holding their own secret agendas and everyone seems to be conspiring against his investigation.
The first poster was appropriately creepy, with the DiCaprio’s BFH lit at the top by the flame of a single match, hinting at him being alone in a very dark place. Below him is the titular island that’s being pounded by rain. The image of the island looks normal at first but as you stare at it you realize its actually made up of a bunch of squares, like the whole has been pieced together with a series of individual photos. Scorsese’s name appears above – and much smaller than – DiCaprio’s which is placed just above a blood-red, smeared version of the title treatment.
A second version of the one-sheet retained the overall design elements but with some changes. DiCaprio’s face is bigger and less angled and the match casting its light seems to have a slightly larger flame. The island itself is still made up of blocky photos and such but the rain that added a bit of creep to the first poster is removed here. The title treatment itself is different as well as this one uses more of a fire orange/yellow and more spaced-out lettering. This version was released well after the film was delayed by the studio so it’s possible Paramount just decided a re-branding was in order with the extra time they’d bought themselves.
The trailer starts off with a boat appearing through the fog before we’re shown DiCaprio’s character talking to his colleague on that boat and giving the audience a bit of expeditionary dialogue about how he only knows the island they’re approaching is a home for the criminally insane. They’re there to conduct some sort of investigation into the mysterious disappearance of one of the inmates. But hey quickly gets caught up in the madness that runs through the asylum, with DiCaprio himself being to hallucinate and go crazy as he tries to uncover the truth behind the clinic.
It’s a fast-paced trailer with lots of mood lighting and quick cuts that add to the creepiness factor that it’s meant to create. But there’s not a whole lot of plot going on here outside of “goes to mental ward, goes crazy himself” and there’s little in the way of visual style that would identify the film as being from Scorsese if there wasn’t a title card in the first 30 seconds of the spot that identified it as such. It’s not that it’s bad, it’s that it doesn’t hit as many notes as it might need to in order to appeal to an audience outside of those who are just looking for a mysterious time at the movies.
For a big film from a big director and featuring a big name actor, the official website is pretty bare, likely the result of the difficulty creative people have in crafting something flashy and interactive when the subject matter doesn’t inherently lend itself to that interactivity.
The first section is “Videos” and there you’ll find the film’s one trailer and three TV Spots, including the one that aired during the recent Super Bowl, though for legal reasons they have to label it as “Big Game Spot.” After each video plays a box pops up giving you the option to share the video on Facebook or Twitter, embed it on your own site of social page or email it to a friend.
“About” has a brief Synopsis of the film’s story, downloadable Production Notes and a section containing excerpts of Reviews that have already been published, including links to those reviews, which is a nice touch that often gets left off.
You’ll find the usual bios, film histories and award credits under “Cast & Filmmakers.” And a handful of Wallpapers and AIM Icons found under “Downloads.”
And that’s it for the official site. There’s also a Facebook Fan Page that has been created that features a lot of people talking about how excited they are to see the movie as well as a few updates with links to film clips, trailers and other material.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
Most all the online advertising I’ve come across has used DiCaprio’s face as the central component, either pulling that image from the film itself or from the poster art. That poster art was also used for various outdoor ads, whether they were indoor outdoor or outdoor outdoor.
There was also a substantial TV push, with plenty of commercials being aired that for the most part took the route of being subsets of the trailer. That included the Super Bowl spot that aired this year that decided to sell the movie to that game’s audience as being a pretty standard genre horror entry, albeit one with DiCaprio as a detective rummaging around the spooky mental institution.
Being a period genre thriller there wouldn’t seem to be many opportunities for tie-ins or cross-promotions and, indeed, I didn’t see any mentioned anywhere.
Media and Publicity
One of the biggest of the initial waves of publicity for the movie came when it was announced that Paramount was moving it from its original October 2009 opening slot to February of 2010. That decision was made, reports said, based on the amount the studio was expecting to lay out for marketing, including a very likely Oscar push, with very little of that being recouped in 2009. This despite the priority being placed on a movie from such a high-profile director and starring such a high-profile actor.
That delay, though, allowed Scorcese and the studio to bring the movie to Harry Knowles’ Butt-Numb-a-Thon, a fan-geared screening event he puts together annually and which provided the movie with a nice kick-off in terms of word-of-mouth.
Of course since this is Martin Scorsese we’re talking about here no movie release can pass without plenty of appearances by the man himself. One such appearance (Los Angeles Times, 12/29/09) was at the LA County Museum of Art, where he discussed the role of film at museums, something that fits in nicely with his passion for film preservation and exhibition.
Some stories like this one (Los Angeles Times, 2/7/09) focused on all three of the major talents involved – Scorsese, DiCaprio and Lehane – and told the tale of how the story was an emotionally nerve-wracking one for all of them at their different levels of participation.
What to make of this campaign I’m not rightly sure. This is one of those cases where the individual elements stand up pretty well on their own – the trailer is adequately spooky, the posters are nicely atmospheric and the website, while sparse, also doesn’t waste your time on a lot of useless information – but when you put them together it seems to be less than a sum of its parts.
I think what’s missing is a cohesiveness to the campaign. Maybe it’s because of the extended gap between these materials being released and the film finally hitting theaters but there doesn’t seem to be the consistent brand feel that should come across in a campaign like this. The poster gives off a very dark tone but the trailer is more gray and brown, like the rust running off of iron bars on to the stone walls of the hospital in which the movie is set.
I’m not saying it’s a bad marketing push – it’s not. It’s just that there doesn’t seem to be an overarching idea that it seeks to unite the audience around other than that of Scorsese, but that’s not dealt with fully enough to make up for the lack of visual consistency.
PICKING UP THE SPARE
- 02/26/10: The exposure the movie got with its full-throated advertising campaign during the popular Winter Olympics broadcasts was, according to The New York Times, a bit reason for its success at the box-office in its opening weekend.
So this is my 6,000th post here on MMM. To celebrate that milestone I wanted to do nothing dramatic or profound, hence this post, which is meant to be the equivalent of that awkward thing you said to a girl in 7th grade who you were really good friends with but whom you really had a crush on and one time while riding home on the bus you might have said you’d like to take her to a movie sometime but you aren’t sure she actually heard it because it was really loud on the bus that day and when she said “What?” you acted like you had no idea what she was talking about because you didn’t want things to be weird and then in high school she started dating your best friend and you’ve never forgotten that one chance you had to just be a man about it already and might still be channeling some issues.
If you visit Hulu’s Movies section at any given time you can view what features are most popular on the site at that point. As of this writing the list is topped by the two Ghostbusters movies, which recently were added there for a limited time, as well as a couple other big studio releases from over a decade ago. But there are also quite a few smaller, non- blockbuster movies such as The Future of Food, Gunnin’ For That #1 Spot and more.
The most popular movie on Hulu of all time (as of now) is a movie that never got a theatrical release, a movie called Strictly Sexual. It’s on the site via Cinetic Rights Management, which bought the rights and is handling distribution for the movie in a way that is designed to get it seen by audiences. And after several months of availability it’s made about 10 times what it cost to produce, a success for those involved by any measure.
It’s the sustained placement of these sorts of niche films on the “Most Popular” list, though, that is most interesting to me. Hulu is a great discovery and distribution outlet and it seems that it’s proven its value not for the viewing of Hollywood blockbusters but for the kinds of movies that people would otherwise have not have been exposed to. That’s a valuable role to fill and one that could prove important to the future of independent film.
While there are a ton of online or on-demand outlets in the marketplace right now Hulu has an advantage born of the mainstream appeal it’s gained through being a place to watch “House” and “American Dad” online. And that can translate to being a successful outlet for filmmakers who haven’t been able to sign a lucrative (or non-lucrative) theatrical release deal. The audience already knows how to use it and so, through a bit of sell-promotion by the filmmakers (who hopefully have built up on audience on Facebook, their blogs and elsewhere) bring some deserved attention to their work.
(ed note: I should have published this last Wednesday but, between traveling and other work responsibilities, I just didn’t get to it. But considering I had it 85% done, though, I didn’t want it to go to waste and so I’m going ahead and publishing it now. –CT)
You have to love a good horror flick. I’m talking real horror – scary monsters and lots of shadows that might be moving – and not the recent spat of movies that are all about psychopaths torturing innocent people for no reason, movies that are supposed to be deep explorations of human depravity but which can’t hold a candle to the mythology and genuine terror the classic stories told.
Back in the early and mid-1990s there were a couple of revamps – today they’d be called reboots – of some of those classic characters. Francis Ford Coppola took on Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Kenneth Branagh directed Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (both movies I seem to have a higher opinion of than most professional critics). This was supposed to be part of a revitalization of these stories and the next entry was logically going to be The Wolf Man. But while there was Wolf, which starred Jack Nicholson and Michelle Pfieffer, there was no direct adaptation of the original story of Lawrence Talbot and his tendency to wolf-out.
Now that gap has been filled, with Universal enlisting Benecio del Toro to don the fur and become The Wolfman. The story revolves around Lawrence Talbot (del Toro) coming back to visit his father (Anthony Hopkins) at the family estate after his brother has been mysteriously killed. There he becomes attracted to his late brother’s fiance (Emily Blunt) and eventually becomes the victim of an attack that leaves him changed, with that change then making him the object of a pursuit by an investigator from Scotland Yard (Hugo Weaving).
The first two teaser posters were all about mood and attitude. The first featured half of the title character’s face, with the rest obscured by shadow, gazing menacingly at the audience. This one does a good job of showing off that character while not giving away the entire look that has been created. The second shows Blunt hiding behind a tree in a forest, obviously on the run from something. I like that what she’s on the run from isn’t directly shown but instead only hinted at with the barest of shadows on the ground in the background. It establishes a sense of terror without going over the top and that’s a rare and admirable show of restraint on behalf of the campaign. There was another teaser that showed nothing but a pair of hands gripped around the top of a walking stick, with smoke rising from those hands since there’s a silver ornamental top to that stick.
The final theatrical poster again brings plenty of atmosphere to the table but there’s also a big heaping portion of Big Floating Heads syndrome. The noggins of Hopkins, Del Toro, Blunt and Weaving are all arrayed around the top of the one-sheet and are arranged to be glaring at the audience, at each other or into the middle distance. Below them stands the wolf himself surrounded by forest trees and an eery light, while the copy “When the moon is full, the legend comes to life” is placed below the title treatment.
The look of the poster – washed out skin tones, lots of black and other such elements – all evoke to the audience that the movie takes place sometime in the 18th/19th century time period since we all know from other movies those years did not have any bright colors. The arrangement of the actor’s heads is designed to create the tension and show the audience how, in broad strokes, the characters relate to each other.
It’s not bad but it comes off as a little generic, with nothing all that striking about it, certainly nothing as striking as some of the teaser posters and the way they were able to create a feeling of suspense with simple images.
The first trailer starts off with an old man telling stories in a pub about the death long ago of a man who was torn to shreds and how the dead man’s father then wouldn’t leave home after arming himself with silver bullets. At that point we’re introduced to Del Toro’s character, who’s returned home after his brother’s death in the same manner. He begins to comfort his late brother’s fiance and the two of them begin a romance that takes a turn with Del Toro’s character is himself bitten by the beast and he begins to show signs of being something terrible. An inspector from Scotland Yard is poking around amidst all this and is on the trail of the killer, who at this point appears to be Del Toro. But his transformation is something he’s having trouble with and being tortured over, a conflict which appears to drive much the film’s story.
The second trailer takes more of a atmospheric approach, focusing less on the plot and more on the mood and look of the film as the relationships between the characters are less fleshed out while we get more shots of people being beat down here and there. There’s till the hint of romance as we see, from behind, a naked Blunt and so on and you can assume that Hopkins is the father figure with an agenda of his own, but the rest is all quick cut action that doesn’t burden the audience with an abundance of plot points.
The official website opens by playing one of the trailers but you can close that and get to the first menu. Before jumping in to the content there are a couple things here that are notable.
First, there’s a “Share” button up in the right-hand corner that allows you to post the site to your social network/bookmarking site of choice. That option is on a lot of sites but this is probably the best implementation of that function.
Second there’s a prompt to post to Twitter a line from the movie and a link back to this official site. All you need to do is select one of the three available options and enter your Twitter credentials and you can become a marketing outlet for your friends.
There are also some nods to the cinematic history of the Wolfman at Universal with a link to a “Monster Legacy” site and an ad to buy the original Wolf Man movie’s special edition DVD.
Finally on this splash page are opportunities to download a mobile game, get free ringtones and more.
Once you enter the site the first options you see are opportunities to dive deeper into the film’s settings.
“Discover Lycanthropy” which opens a new site with history on this mythological condition. “Explore Blackmoor” takes you in to the history behind the myth, including a timeline of events that inspired the story and a deeper exploration of the physical locations the story takes place in. Then there’s another link to Universal’s “Monster Legacy” site, on which the Wolf Man is currently playing a starring role.
Going back to the site and opening the Menu, the first section is a “Synopsis” that lays out the film’s story and who many of the main characters are in a decent manner.
“Cast” and “Filmmakers” are the next two, providing bios and film histories on those who contributed to the film both in front of and behind the camera.
How the film got made is covered in “Production,” though all of the six sub-sections it’s broken into are pretty safe and just discuss the casting, design and other aspects of the movie’s making without getting in to the troubles it encountered, which is understandable.
The next two sections are devoted to video content, with “Trailers” containing both trailers, two TV spots and a behind-the-scenes featurette and “Clips” giving you access to seven extended bits of footage from the movie.
The same three things that were on the front page – Monster Legacy, Discover Lycanthropy and Explore Blackmoor can be found again in the “Features” section.
“Gallery” has about 15 stills you can view and “Downloads” has Desktops and Buddy Icons you can download to your computer if you so choose.
The site also has links to Universal’s Twitter feed and to the movie’s own Facebook Fan Page, which includes an app you can add so you and your friends can hunt each other in addition to all the usual information, materials and updates.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
There was a pretty decent advertising push for the movie from Universal which seems to be born of a desire to revitalize a more…traditional horror genre, many of the characters of which they hold the rights to.
Outdoor billboards were out and about bringing the movie’s message to the commuting masses. And there were a good number of online ads that I came across.
There were also a fair amount of TV spots created which mainly took the tactic of repurposing footage from the trailers, showing quite a bit of various transformation sequences, a bit of the romance, some scowling and crazy-looking laughing from Hopkins and a bit of Weaving going on the hunt for the monster.
In addition to those regular TV commercials the studio also bought 15 seconds of airtime during Super Bowl XLIV, using it to bring an even more slimmed-down version of the trailer to that broadcast’s audience. It goes by awfully quickly and opts for title cards instead of voiceovers, the inclusion of which eats into that sparse running time and leading to a spot that features even less footage than the others.
Media and Publicity
Unfortunately most of the movie’s publicity throughout 2009 was the constantly moving release dates Universal gave it. Originally slated for November 2008, then February 2009, then April 2009, then November 2009 it eventually got pushed to February 2010, a state of flux that didn’t do a whole heck of a lot to instill a lot of faith in the strength of the finished product, rightly or wrongly.
There was also a good amount of coverage devoted to Rick Baker and his mastery over the visual effects of the movie. Baker being a Hollywood legend there was lots to discuss, including his adherence to the idea of traditional, practical effects for the title character. While he did oversee the digital process that was used for the transition from human to wolf, the end result is an actor in makeup and that’s a good thing.
Closer to release there was the usual round of press interviews with the primary cast and crew (again, often involving Baker) along with a rehashing of the many and varied problems the film had through the production process, problems that included a director leaving just weeks before filming, an editor leaving halfway through production and more. That’s unfortunate but could serve to lower industry expectations significantly so a modest win this weekend looks favorable in comparison.
There’s an odd sense of inconsistency running through the campaign that I’m tempted to say is the result of so many delays and so many people looking to get their input registered since the stakes are so high. Sometimes the materials feel very atmospheric and spooky, sometimes they feel very overt as if they’re trying to make it fit in with recent horror genre offerings.
But there’s still some good stuff here, most of which falls in to the former of the two categories above. I love the early teaser posters (especially the one that shows Blunt hiding behind a tree) and much of the trailers are well done. And you’ll never go wrong in my book by acknowledging history, in this case the prominent placements of the classic Universal Studios horror film catalog.
Unfortunately the publicity aspect of the campaign has been mired in stories about the numerous delays, reshoots and other things that hampered production. But there’s an otherwise solid effort on display here that, with a few missteps, at least should get people re-interested in the character and its cinematic history.
I finally got access to Google Buzz about 48 hours after the produce was announced. If you’re not familiar with Buzz, the idea is to bring threaded conversations to status updates, all within the most powerful social network any of us has access to: our email inbox. This coming from Google that means it’s tied to Gmail. After playing around with it for a couple days I finally shut it off and wanted to make it clear why:
- A lot of it looks like Google Reader: Buzz automatically adds items you’ve shared from your Reader profile. That seems like a good idea, but Reader already has two ways you can add your commentary while you’re sharing an item; either through Comments (not on the blog post itself but within Reader) or Notes, which puts a little blurb on top of the post you’re sharing. Buzz then allows you to have further conversations in a manner that looks a lot like Friendfeed with the people who are following you. Reader also allows you to “Like” an item.
- Information was inefficiently organized: The first items in Buzz are those with recent comments, which is backwards. That’s trying to tell me what an algorithm thinks is important for me to know, when what’s more important to me personally is the newest while also having the ability to mark those conversations I’d like to pay attention and have them sorted somewhere else.
- It’s a “middle” product: Status networks *need* that 140 character limit – maybe 200 but that’s it – in order to retain their singular focus. Buzz allows for updates with no character limit. But so does a full-featured blog. Quite simply I think there’s room for both in the market but products that attempt to blur those lines serve a vaguely-defined market that can’t commit to either.
- It’s not easily measurable: If I want to I can sit there and count how many comments something has gotten, but then it gets messy. Is a comment on Google Buzz more valuable than a comment on the post itself?
- It’s another interaction that the author can’t easily see
- It’s another publishing opportunity I can’t export
Those last two are actually the ones that are weighing on my mind the most, though the first two are as well.
I’m less and less a fan of Google Reader Shared Items for the reasons stated above: It’s not something I can export/archive, it’s not a direct interaction with the author, etc. And the idea of Buzz being more of the same means I’m not all that anxious to bring it in to my publishing activities. I’m just getting tired of the ever-expanding number of outlets that I can comment on something and honestly believe this plethora of choices is hurting the long-term value of the social web. Since few of these interactions are direct with the author they don’t contribute to how authoritative any particular post should be considered by future visitors.
You used to be able to gauge the relevance and importance of a particular column, post or think-piece by how many comments it had received and how many links back to it there were.
Twitter doesn’t contribute to that because short URLs aren’t as powerful as full links. Facebook doesn’t contribute to that because it encourages comments on its own ecosystem. Google Buzz and Reader don’t contribute to that because all the interactions are, again, off-domain.
So how does all this thinking translate to what I’m doing with my own personal publishing?
- MMM: Continues pretty much as.
- Twitter: Conversation with friends and colleagues, links to MMM, me being a general smartass. This gets archived weekly on MMM.
- Delicious: Continues to be where I save research reports, stats and such, with those being integrated into MMM’s RSS feed.
- CT.WP: Will continue to be an outlet for stuff that doesn’t fit in to the above. But I think I’m going to link out more to the kind of items I used to share via Reader since doing so will help build the web.
- I also think I’ll be making a conscious effort to comment more on posts I find interesting, whether I agree or disagree with the author since, again, that addresses my desire to increase my direct interaction point.
As with all things this is a strategy that will be revisited on a regular basis to see if it’s working and achieving the desired results, both for myself and everyone else.
The commenting…umm…comment above also brings to mind the last product Google rolled out which took control out of people’s hands and discouraged direct interaction: Sidewiki. That let people open up a browser extension and leave a comment or information on a site in a way that the author or owner didn’t have any control over, wasn’t directly and easily measurable and otherwise encouraged interaction on Google’s interface instead of the content publisher’s. And that’s a direction I’m tired of things moving in.
I haven’t had a chance to play with the newly announced Google Buzz yet – I’m sure I’ll get it in a couple days – but I fear that with all this emphasis on the “real time web” and everyone looking to have as quick a conversation as they can in as many places as they can we’re in danger of lapping ourselves.