The latest crisis has passed and we’re back up and running on moviemarketingmadness.com. Thanks for everyone’s patience.
The latest crisis has passed and we’re back up and running on moviemarketingmadness.com. Thanks for everyone’s patience.
Yep, MMM has been down for the better part of this week thanks to more security problems that allowed malicious code to be placed on this and other sites. I’m sincerely sorry for anyone that’s had a problem accessing the site, especially if somehow it was responsible for causing problems on your computer. I’m just as upset about the continued problems lately as you are.
It kills me that drama and music programs are being cut in one school after another across the country while a show about a high school show choir, the weekly budget of which could probably fund one school’s program for two or three years, is one of the most popular things on television.
According to numbers from Bernstein Research, Hollywood studios cut marketing costs by eight percent in 2009 to about $4.39 billion. Much of those cuts are coming through the increased reliance in those campaigns on Facebook and other social media efforts, which cost less than a full-bore advertising campaign. The push for How To Train Your Dragon is held up as an example of a recent campaign that cost a ton of money, only to require shifts in strategy – which are hard and expensive to do when you’re talking about ad buys that are planned well in advance. TV spots aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, though, since they’re still the closest advertising analog to trailers and can show off footage from the movie. Plus, as the old saying goes, no one ever got fired for buying TV time.
How a movie’s paid marketing and earned media publicity efforts differ is used to highlight the differences between marketing and public relations.
One of the panels at the first Turner Classic Movies Classic Film Festival is titled “Classic Movie Marketing” and is sure to be pretty interesting. Hopefully someone writes a recap of that session.
Anne Thompson reprints a reaction from SXSW from Zipline Entertainment’s Marian Koltai-Levine, who offers her impression that generating word-of-mouth and putting on a good show are the key tactics for marketing an independent movie. There’s no way these movies can compete on the scale of the huge campaigns mounted by the major studios so it’s necessary then for those outside that system to grasp the myriad opportunities available to them to get people talking about the movie if they want to get it seen. Can’t say as I disagree and this runs pretty close to what I was talking about the other day in how content on a consistently fresh website can be the winning factor for smaller movies who want to break through the clutter.
The challenges, opportunities and results in the social media campaign run for The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo are examined by Aliza Sherman at WebWorkerDaily. While the focus is on a “Blog Hunt” that was run online I think there was also a lot of good, solid stuff that went in to generating buzz around the movie in the press and among people on social networks.
Sony Pictures is among the companies who were given first access to Twitter’s newly launched Promoted Tweets ad system. Details on what the studio did are still few but as soon as those are available I’ll certainly be talking about them.
The “Summer Movie Preview” issue of Entertainment Weekly features a Microsoft-powered barcode that, when snapped with your smartphone, loads a YouTube page with 20 trailers to some of those summer movies. That’s cool and all, but what’s next? That seems like an awful lot of effort to put in to what then turns in to a dead end for consumers, who aren’t then presented with any action to take based on what they see. In other words, it seems like a high-tech version of traditional advertising, which is all about response rates and not at all about generating consumer actions.
An interview the Trib’s Eric Zorn conducts with a speaker at one of the tea party speakers in Chicago yesterday shows why this movement is so dangerous. In his responses, the interviewee repeatedly says that activists don’t know exactly what they want fixed, they just “instinctively” or “intuitively” know that things aren’t right and there has to be a better way to run a government.
We’re in a period of extremely dangerous anti-intellectualism. It doesn’t matter how much people who know what they’re talking about explain the reality of the situation to ordinary folks – if it doesn’t jive with what they feel intuitively regardless of their background it’s got to be wrong and just another example of the elite class trying to be better than everyone else.
Time was we respected experts and those who had made a career – or lifetime – out of studying a subject and relied on their opinions and experience to make good decisions. Now, though, these people are being pursued with torches like they’re carrying the damn plague.
There are, as we likely all know, two levels of comic adaptations. There are super-heroes that are brought to life on the big screen with lots of special effects, costumes and a little dash of questionable casting. Then there are “the others” that are adaptations of less splashy visuals and have, in most cases, a hint of the independent vibe that their creators infused them with and which has then translated to the screen.
But lately there’s a middle ground that has grown increasingly prevalent. 2008’s Wanted was based on a comic that wasn’t a super-hero story exactly, though the film certainly featured visuals that would have been comfortably at home in any of those movies. Likewise the upcoming Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is an adaptation of a comic that features exaggerated characters and situations that are born of the super-hero world but which are not about any such hero.
In that sort of middle ground also is Kick-Ass, one of this year’s most anticipated films among the geekarati. The story is about a world without real super heroes and so, some people start thinking, why can’t they become costumed avengers? You don’t actually need powers, just a mask and a mission. And so a handful of kids put together a costume and start fighting “evil” in some form or another. The source book (which I’ll admit to not having read) is reportedly crass and violent and, based on the marketing we’re about to take a look at, the movie doesn’t seem to deviate from that too wildly.
With such a colorful cast of characters there were bound to be a plethora of posters created and the marketing team has certainly delivered on that front.
The first batch of teasers placed each of the main characters – Red Mist, Kick-Ass himself, Hit Girl and Big Daddy – in that most cliched of super-hero poses, that of standing atop a building and looking over the city they’ve sworn to protect triumphantly and with a sense of entitlement and ownership. When you put the four posters together in the order outlined above the title of the movie is spelled out in the sky, which is a nice touch and certainly an incentive for collectors excited about the movie to seek out the one-sheets and webmasters to reprint this group excitedly.
A second batch of teaser one-sheets again featured each individual character, but in different poses and with more color-coded backgrounds. Each one also got it’s own little saying that deflated the idea they were actually had any powers but did emphasize what they could do, which is kick your ass. So Kick Ass’ poster says “I can’t fly. But I can kick your ass.” and so on. Each also contained a URL to what appeared to be a character-specific website but those addresses, when entered, just redirected to the movie’s official site.
Not content with two bites at the apple there was a third set created and released that toned down the clever and just presented the four characters bursting through the title treatment with a burst of color in their wake.
While three series of character-centric posters for a movie with only four main characters it’s showing off might seem…excessive…it did serve the purpose of creating a steady stream of publicity on movie blogs and elsewhere. That kept the movie in the audience’s mind and kept them talking about it in the interim between filming and release.
A theatrical poster took the same visual style as the last of the teaser series, with the bold, block letter title treatment in the background and the four characters standing in the front and above the little bit of non-credit block copy on the poster that states definitively “Shut up. Kick ass.” It certainly looks like the kind of image that might be created for a comic trade paperback and is pretty cool, finishing off the poster component of the campaign nicely, even if I think it was developed and released before series three of the teasers.
The first all ages trailer starts off with a shot of a winged hero standing atop a building ready to take flight. As he prepares we get voiceover asking why no one has thought of being a super-hero before since their lives can’t be so interesting as to not need a little adventure mixed in. When the winged figure takes off he plummets straight down, eventually landing with a deadly thud on top of a taxi as the voiceover informs us that’s not him, that’s some dude with mental problems.
After a brief shot of the main character and his friends discussing whether or not becoming a hero is possible we get a “putting on the costume” scene we’re then shown quickly the other everyday heroes before we finally get the “I’m Kick Ass” scene.
The second trailer starts off with the friends discussing how probable it is that anyone who tried to be a super hero would wind up seriously injured very shortly but then provides a little more background into the guy who would be Kick Ass before showing him suiting up. That initial appearance, we’re told via news footage, inspires others to take up similar mantles and so we’re introduced more fully to Big Daddy, Hit Girl and Red Mist as they seek to fight crime on their own terms. We also get a better idea of what they’re going up against as we see a crime leader of some sort (played by Mark Strong) and what his reaction to the rise of costumed vigilantes is and what sort of havoc they’re playing with his operations.
A third and much shorter trailer really served as a greatest hits compilation of the ones that had come before. I don’t think there’s any new footage in there but it does introduce all four characters once again and get to the idea that these are just ordinary people who have decided to take the law into their own hands. Or at least that they’ve decided to stop allowing innocent people to take a beating without doing anything.
Because the movie was rated R and it was doing so well in establishing its hard core cred, a red-band trailer was also introduced that included more language and mentions of the primary hero’s masturbatory tendencies. It also contained a few more graphic shots of the backs of people’s heads being blown off. Some of that language would come out of the mouth of the young girl who plays Hit Girl, which would result in some hand-wringing by media and other critics that we’ll talk more about later on.
When you load the official website the primary menu shows briefly before giving way to the trailer, which you can also share on a variety of social networks or embed on your own blog. Closing that you’ll see the main page has prompts to Buy Tickets Now as well as a list of theaters showing sneak peeks which seems to be generated based on the location of your computer’s IP address. So when I visited I got a list of theaters in the western suburbs of Chicago. There are also links to read reviews on IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes, which is somewhat unusual and shows what faith the marketers are putting in word of mouth peer reviews.
When you enter the site the first thing you’re prompted to do is play some light games, which if you register will get you points you can redeem later on. Each character icon brings you to a different game that’s associated with that character’s skills in the story.
Moving to the site’s content menu, “About” has a decent paragraph write-up of the film’s story and characters. The “Cast and Crew” section is one of the best-designed such executions I think I’ve seen with its big icons for each actor that leads you to information on their background and biography.
There are 12 stills from the movie in “Photos” and “Videos” contains the Teaser and Theatrical Trailers as well as a handful of clips from the movie that extend scenes that are teased in the trailers. “Downloads” has four character-centric Wallpapers and Icons that use the same images from one of the teaser poster series.
The “Restricted” section contains direct links to things like Watch Hardcore Videos (the restricted trailer) and an Adults Only Soundboard as well as more that prompts you to take various actions with foul-mouthed language, including a call to grab an embeddable widget, something I haven’t seen in a while.
“Partners” has links to the content hubs at sites like IGN and UGO as well as information on buying movie-branded goods by French Connection and Vans. There are also links to the Lionsgate YouTube channel and information on the film’s soundtrack.
The “News” section has photos from the movie’s screening at SXSW, a music video from Mika and photos from the UK premiere. There are also embedded updates from the studio’s Twitter feed and when you click “See All Updates” you’re taken to that profile.
Finally the “Store” lets you buy movie t-shirts and other goodies from Gold Label.
Each character also got their own Facebook page, something that must have cost the studio a healthy sum considering Facebook’s policies on making sure you are who you say you are on the network. When you visited the pages for Kick Ass, Red Mist, Big Daddy or Hit Girl you were prompted to both enter a sweepstakes to win a trip to the premiere or enter a contest by uploading video of you in your super-hero costume and showing off your moves. Each character’s page also had plenty of information about that particular character as well as links ot the other’s profiles, the official site, links to the Demand It campaign and a Wall’s worth of links to coverage of new marketing materials and more about the movie.
The movie’s MySpace page had the trailers, some clips and links to the same contests and sweepstakes mentioned before.
There was a sited called Real Life Superheroes that was kind of…weird. It’s obviously part of the campaign for the movie – banner ads for the flick are all over the place – but it also seems to exist in a world of such characters, encouraging people to create profiles for their own heroes.
The Lionsgate YouTube channel was retro-fitted to be a hub for people to submit their own video review after seeing the movie. The main channel page also contained a stream of commentary about the movie from Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, a stream powered by a service called @ThisMoment, integration it and the movie got a bit of press out of. Likewise the studio’s Twitter channel contained steady updates on the movie’s publicity and links to what it felt was important commentary.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
A ton of advertising has been done, including the creation of quite a few TV spots, many of which took the form of trimmed trailers and featured little new material. Still, they’re effective at conveying the overall attitude of the movie to an audience, though there’s the concern that without the additional time that can be used for more explanation there’s going to be the belief that this is a straight super-hero movie. The expanded trailers make it more clear that it’s taking a drastically different approach to the genre but that doesn’t come through as loudly in 30-second spots.
There has been a good amount of outdoor advertising as well as well as some online and, one would assume, in print. Most of that as would be expected has repurposed any of the poster campaign’s art.
Media and Publicity
After an early appearance at Butt-Numb-a-Thon, the movie had it’s official coming out party with a screening on opening night of SXSW 2010. In fact the movie’s presence there included a number of vans to shuttle people around that were decorated with key art elements, which is kind of cool since transportation at festivals is always an issue.
In terms of media coverage a good amount came after the release of some restricted clips that featured foul language, some of which came out of the mouth of young Chloe Grace Moretz, the girl who plays Hit Girl. That led to a lot of commentary about not only whether red-band trailers are appropriate given their propensity to appear on non-age restricted sites (New York Times, 2/24/10) but also on the the fact that an 11 year old girl was saying such things, including lots of references to sexual themes. That focus on Moretz and her role in such a graphic, both verbally and physically, movie continued to be covered in the press (New York Times, 4/11/10) and actually became a central component of a lot of stories (Los Angeles Times, 4/14/10) even those stories that were just about how offensive and incendiary the movie is in general, as well as leading to discussions of gender politics and related issues.
Regardless of what traditional mainstream or trade press coverage the movie has gotten, the real thing going for Kick-Ass is the word of mouth that has been building up for well on a year now. Fans have been absolutely salivating for this movie and have eaten up every new clip, every new trailer, every new preview at a festival or convention. And that campaign has fed that hunger with a steady release of material that has kept the movie never far from top-of-mind and so fueled the conversations about it and therefore the anticipation for it. Indeed it seemed to be pegged by some as the pinnacle (Los Angeles Times, 4/15/10) of the comic/movie geek’s world. As with previous movies in this category, though, how festival and convention buzz translates to box-office success remains to be seen.
For as sprawling as it can sometimes seem, Lionsgate has actually put together a tight and amazingly consistent campaign here. All the components come back to the same four or five themes and hit the same notes, even if they take different paths to get there, leading to an overall campaign that feels familiar wherever you encounter it while also seeming fresh and new in each venue.
What it does is play to its strengths – and presumably the strengths of the movie – time and time again. So there’s violence, language and a “Hey you know what, let’s just go for broke and let the chips fall where they may” attitude that pervades the entire campaign. It knows fans are expecting the outrageous and so, whenever possible, delivers on that expectation.
It also works really hard to get the audience’s approval. That’s why there are three waves of teaser posters and so many released clips and other elements to get people talking. It really wants people to like it and so will deliver just what it needs to in order to achieve that, which is actually different from most marketing. The marketers don’t just want the movie to be chosen, they want it to be chosen above all else because people are excited and have devised a campaign to create that level of appreciation and excitement, which is where it succeeds as a whole aside from any of the individual elements.
While I’ve never had occasion to use it myself, I know that the film festival world was greatly impacted by the arrival of Festival Genius, the tool from the recently shut-down b-side that allowed people to manage more efficiently their festival screening schedules. While b-side would, as a whole, be missed, the average movie blogger or festival attendee was especially sad about Festival Genius.
Which is why it’s good news that Festival Genius has been bought by a company that will now license it to Independent Filmmaker Project, the parent company of Filmmaker Magazine. That means Festival Genius not only lives on but will be in the good hands of a company that can integrate it with their existing products and really take it to the next level in terms of functionality and utility. That’s huge and is a testament to the tool b-side built.
Dark comedies about socially awkward situations are probably among my favorite. That likely has a lot to do with the fact that I just love black comedies and am, myself, socially awkward a good amount of my life. So I might be projecting a bit, or at least finding solace in the fact that at least I’m not *that* bad.
Death at a Funeral certainly seems to fall into the “dark, socially awkward comedy” category. On its surface the plot description isn’t very exciting (Family gathers after the patriarch dies, wackiness ensues). The marketing campaign, though, really shows off just what this movie is willing to do for a laugh.
(Ed. Note: Hey, if Hollywood can put such little obvious effort into recycling material I don’t feel any need to put any outsized effort into my columns.)
The film’s poster is pretty simple and makes it clear that the main attraction is going to be the ensemble cast that appears within the movie. Everyone is arranged on top of and around the casket that is the centerpiece of the comedy in the story – including Marsden who appears nude though thankfully well covered by Rock – and all the family members have shocked, sad or resigned looks on their faces.
The poster manages to pull off the substantial feat of including two plays-on-words in both of the primary copy points. At the top the “This is one sad family” bit is supposed to mean both that they are in mourning and that they’re kind of pathetic. At the bottom the “Die laughing” text is meant to convey that there’s death featured prominently in the film and that it’s funny. While this saturation of bad punning pushes the boundaries of what is or isn’t socially acceptable, I do think the designers need to have a Key Art award given in their honor for accomplishing this feat.
While not a shot for shot redo of the trailer for the original film, this trailer does make it clear that the same jokes are going to be hit if from different angles. We get the same gag about it not being the right man in the casket, the same jokes about the outsider ingesting hallucinogenic drugs instead of simple valium and the same gags about the deceased father being involved with a man half his size in secret and that man now appearing at the wake in order to extort money to keep that secret.
It works in and of itself. Knowledge of the original is not necessary but does make some of the jokes funnier as you remember how they were delivered in that first version. But the jokes in the trailer stand on their own and are still quite funny, I would guess, even if you’ve never seen the first one. Martin Lawrence doesn’t seem to be at his most annoying and Chris Rock appears to be fairly solid in the lead role of the one responsible son in the family. I twinge a bit at Danny Glover being given the grouchy old uncle role – how long ago was Lethal Weapon again? – but he manages to do what he can with it based on his couple scenes in this spot. One thing that’s clear, though, is that James Marsden is no Alan Tudyk when it comes to comedy, but I’m guessing we all kind of knew that intuitively even before it was made clear here.
The movie’s official website opens by prompting you to either Enter the Site or Watch Restricted Videos. Those restricted videos are relatively tame and are likely labeled like that because they involve either nudity or problems in the bathroom. So they’re more “raunchy” than “restricted.” There are also links to the movie’s Facebook and Twitter page as well as icons to share the site on those two networks or a couple others.
Once you do enter the site proper the first section is “About the Film,” which opens with a Synopsis that’s only a couple sentences that hint at the wackiness that ensues in the story. There are also Cast and Filmmakers areas, but they just contain lists of who was involved and not any full biographies or other information, an omission I’m not sure is the result of the size of the cast or that the studio didn’t think anyone would care.
There are about a dozen stills in the “Gallery” and “Downloads” has Wallpapers, AIM Icons and even a couple of Twitter Skins you could add to your profile. “Videos” just has the one trailer.
“Promotions” is labeled as Coming Soon, which is always a good sign considering the movie is four days away from being released.
“Make Your Eulogy” is basically a Mad Libs type of game that lets you fill in various details about the deceased and, once your done, share it on Facebook or via email or grab the permalink to your creation, which is brought to life by putting your words in Chris Rock’s mouth, which is kind of funny.
The film’s Facebook page opens with a link to that Make Your Eulogy game and also contains a Soundboard as well as the usual photos and links to some of the film’s press coverage and the cast’s promotional tour. Likewise for the movie’s Twitter profile, which is largely focused toward the end on an appearance the cast made on a Justin.tv channel.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
A pretty hefty TV campaign was run, with the biggest slapstick gags pulled out and put into some commercials. The spots were pretty funny in much the same way the trailer was funny. I even caught a couple of radio commercials that, for some reason, heavily highlighted that it was from director Neil Labute.
That’s all I was aware of, though that might not be the full scope of the campaign.
Media and Publicity
Quite a bit of the publicity and press was focused around Chris Rock and Tracy Morgan, two of the film’s biggest stars, though I’m surprised there wasn’t more that involved Zoe Saldana considering she’s one of the fastest-rising female stars of the moment after her turns in Star Trek and Avatar and the upcoming The Losers.
Because I was such a big fan of the original movie’s campaign – and later the movie itself – I can’t help but feel like this one comes up a little bit short objectively. But the marketing does work for what it’s trying to accomplish, which is appeal to a more American audience than the original was targeted at. So the campaign is structured to make the case as an outlet for Chris Rock and Martin Lawrence’s humor, which has a sizable fan base. It’s successful in making that case just as the original’s campaign was successful in appealing to fans of dry British humor as channeled through the directorial lens of Frank Oz. So to this one says the comedy is going to be broader and channeled through the lens of Labute.
PICKING UP THE SPARE
If you visited MMM after about noon Eastern yesterday you probably got a red-screen saying this site had been identified as a source of malware attacks. Apparently someone was able to exploit a vulnerability, whether it’s in WordPress or something else, and inserted some malicious code. I apologize to everyone for the problems and for playing an unwitting role in doing that. As you can see we’ve resumed normal operations and I’ll be trying to hunt down what caused it and making the necessary adjustments. Again, I apologize for the problems yesterday and hope that doesn’t happen again.
Many married couples, while completely happy, often find themselves wanting to break out of the perceived rut they’ve found themselves in. The day-to-day routines that never vary can become constricting, especially if the people have been raised to think that life is all about excitement and doing something new all the time to feel like they’ve really “lived.” Not everyone feels like that, but it’s always a good premise to hang stories on since it allows for either comedy or melodrama to spring forth.
Hanging its hat on the former is Date Night. The movie stars Steve Carell and Tina Fey, stars of NBC sitcoms “The Office” and “30 Rock” respectively and who have also carved out halfway decent film careers. The two play a married couple who, on an expensive night out in New York City to do something special for a change, get mistaken for a couple of crooks by a pair of corrupt cops. This case of mistaken identity then leads the husband and wife on a wacky romp around New York to stay alive and clear up the mistakes as well as make it back home to their nice, boring and safe life.
The first poster is really just a glorified title treatment, with the name of the movie superimposed over a photo of the two leads in nice clothing that’s been torn and tattered and whose faces are dirty after what we’re assuming is a long night of trying to stay alive.
And that’s it.
The trailer is fast-paced and relies heavily on the notion that we already like Carell and Fey. If you do you’re likely to enjoy this but if not there’s a decent chance you’ll just be kind of annoyed.
We’re introduced to the Fosters, a married couple who aren’t all that exciting, with a variation on the gag about the husband wanting to have sex but the wife needing to “wrap her head around it” after she’s already put in her mouthguard. (This would probably be funnier if we hadn’t seen the same sort of thing in the trailer for Extract earlier this year.) But then the two go out on a date in the big city, encounter a snooty maitre’d and decide to use someone else’s reservation at the fancy restaurant. That leads to a case of mistaken identity as a pair of tough guys who are looking for the people whose name the couple is using appear at the restaurant looking to kill them. That leads to a chase across the city as Carell and Fey try to stay alive and clear up the confusion, including finding the real people whose name they’re using. That second couple is played by James Franco and Mila Kunis in what I’m guessing is one of the funniest sequences of the film.
There are a few funny gags in the trailer and it’s clear that both of the leads are playing it completely straight, utilizing all their deadpan skills to make this couple as ridiculous as possible. The only time one of them cracks a smile is at the end when Carell is laughing at Fey’s worry that they’re going to get “whacked off” by the hit men, which is kind of a funny line.
The official website opens with the trailer playing and after it’s finished you’re presented with the option to share it on Facebook, Twitter and other social networks as well as the code to embed it. There are also buttons to share the whole site on social networks and social news/bookmarking sites such as StumbleUpon and Delicious as well.
The first section “About the Film” gives a decent three-paragraph overview of the movie’s plot.
Five cast members and nine of the crew are profiled under “Cast & Crew,” where you can read about their careers to date.
“Videos” should just be “Video” since all that’s there is the one trailer. A series of photos scrolls along the bottom of the page and you can click on one to expand it but there’s not a stand-alone section for them.
Off-domain, the movie’s Facebook Fan Page appears to have been given a lot more attention. There are plenty of photos, about nine extended clips from the movie in addition to the trailer and even a “Break Your Night Out Routine” app you can add to send messages to your friends encouraging them to do something unusual. There’s also a YouTube channel with those same clips from the movie.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
Some online advertising has been run that’s used the same single image from the poster key art, which was also repurposed for outdoor advertising. There was also a fair amount of TV spots run that cut down the trailer into 30-second versions.
Media and Publicity
For a movie with a decent star list there was surprisingly little media coverage, likely because the industry press was busy falling over themselves to cover the 3D phenomenon and all the implications thereof. So a story like this one (New York Times, 4/4/10) that talked about the origins of the movie’s story was at least a little unusual.
One poster? One trailer? A completely lackluster website? A perfunctory ad campaign and mostly silent publicity push?
Wow, hard to view this as being an awfully muted effort for a movie that stars two of the most popular stars on TV right now. Carell, even more than Fey right now, is even a bona-fide movie star. Maybe it’s that the studio thinks the movie is going to have limited appeal outside of married couples who are, themselves, out on a date night and so didn’t put much effort into reaching anyone outside that demographic. Regardless this is a pretty skimpy campaign.