Movie Marketing Madness: Barry Munday

“I know what you’re asking yourself and the answer is yes. I have a nick name for my penis. Its called the Octagon, but I also nick named my testes – my left one is James Westfall and my right one is Doctor Kenneth Noisewater. You ladies play your cards right you just might get to meet the whole gang.”

While most men’s relationships with their junk may not be as deep as Brian Fontana’s, it’s certainly a sensitive topic and we will go to great lengths to make sure nothing bad happens down there. Some might even consider an injury there the worst thing that happens to them.

Such trauma is at the core of Barry Munday. The movie stars Patrick Wilson as the title character. After an altercation one night he wakes up in a hospital room to the news that he’s lost his berries. While pretty depressed about that he also finds a woman (Judy Greer) who he can’t remember ever having slept with has identified him as the father of the baby she’s pregnant with. So with no more children in his immediate future he tries to make the best of the situation that’s been placed in front of him.

The Posters

The movie’s one poster does a decent job of setting up the story and introducing us to the characters. Wilson and Greer are in an OB-GYN’s office, both with shocked looks on their faces, which makes it pretty clear that we’re dealing with a pregnancy comedy here. Each character has a little outline drawn on them that represents what’s missing from their lives as well. So on Greer there’s a drawing of a heart on her chest to symbolize love while there are two circles drawn on Wilson’s crotch, which doesn’t lend itself to much symbolism.

It’s not the funniest poster on the planet but it’s dry and amusing and gets the point across as best it can.

The Trailers

The trailer starts off by introducing us to Barry, who fancies himself quite the ladies man despite the fact that he seems to have no quantifiable success with actually picking up women. His attitude comes off as more than a little clueless. But then we see him on a date with, it turns out, a young girl that results in the injury at the hands of her father that’s at the core of the story. After finding out the bad news we then see him learn he’s being tagged as the father of a woman’s baby. So he goes along with it, meeting her family and trying to dive in to being a father the best he can.

It’s clear in the trailer that much of the comedy comes from Barry’s general cluelessness and kind of ridiculous and immature attitude about life in general. We see shots of him giggling at a support group for men who have suffered injuries to their area and acting like kind of a doofus in other situations. While Greer’s character isn’t exactly the most mature on the planet, her role seems to be primarily to react to him and his antics.

Also – Billy Dee Williams is in the movie. Just thought that should be noted.

Online

The movie’s official website is not all that robust, but that’s excusable since this is a small release with limited distribution.

The main page plays the Trailer automatically and has an About the Film synopsis of the plot as well as Cast & Crew credits, though no further information about those folks. There’s also a rotating series of pull quotes from early reviews of the movie from various outlets.

Towards the top of the page are sections where you can find out what Theaters are playing the film, view a Photo Gallery, download a Press Kit or Buy Tickets.

The Facebook page for the film doesn’t add a whole lot of information but does have a handful of video featurettes and a bit of information on buying tickets in addition to a couple photos and some more.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Nada.

Media and Publicity

Most of the movie’s publicity came either from the release of the couple bits of marketing materials or from its debut at SXSW 2010.

That appearance actually brought with it quite a bit of buzz from the movie press in attendance. Not only was it pegged by a few folks as one of the funniest films at the festival but it allowed for the cast and crew to talk about just how traumatic such an accident could be and about the film and working together in general as well.

Overall

Being a small film there’s an obvious reliance in the campaign on word of mouth in addition to the standard elements like the trailer and poster. Since those components work pretty well – indeed I doubt the movie would be on many people’s radar to begin with if it weren’t for the buzz coming out of SXSW – it winds up being a decent campaign. There’s not a lot to it and so can’t be judged against some of the bigger marketing pushes, but it gets its message across, even if the trailer and poster don’t quite display the humor and warmth that those SXSW reviews proclaimed it has. Still, it presents what looks to be a mildly entertaining movie to the audience that may be looking for something along these lines.

Word of mouth largely offline

Here’s some numbers that back up my feeling, which I’ve had since the meme first appeared a long while ago, that the so-called “Twitter Effect” that was killing movies in 2008 was bunk.

According to research (MediaPost, 9/23/10) from word-of-mouth firm Keller Fay Group, 93 percent of brand discussions happen offline. The number is lower when you look at just teens – 87 percent – but is still small enough that any impact of those conversations is likely to be negligible.

Now a rebuttal could be made that online conversations travel farther because it’s a one-to-many model. But the study shows that just three percent of teen conversations happen on social networking site, with the remainder going on through email or IM/texting, which are by and large one-to-one or one-to-a-few models.

As Spike Jones points out, it’s all about finding the balance that’s right for any particular project. Online strategies are what I do, but those online strategies have offline consequences that are no less important than what’s happening online. Blinders that assign all the importance – or blame – to online aren’t helpful.

Social media for social change

Being somewhat of a realist, it’s hard to argue with any of the points Malcolm Gladwell makes in The New Yorker about the relatively weak power of social networks to activate significant social change:

But how did the campaign get so many people to sign up? By not asking too much of them. That’s the only way you can get someone you don’t really know to do something on your behalf. You can get thousands of people to sign up for a donor registry, because doing so is pretty easy. You have to send in a cheek swab and—in the highly unlikely event that your bone marrow is a good match for someone in need—spend a few hours at the hospital. Donating bone marrow isn’t a trivial matter. But it doesn’t involve financial or personal risk; it doesn’t mean spending a summer being chased by armed men in pickup trucks. It doesn’t require that you confront socially entrenched norms and practices. In fact, it’s the kind of commitment that will bring only social acknowledgment and praise.

Read more http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2010/10/04/101004fa_fact_gladwell?currentPage=all#ixzz10rF2G2Ge

There is power, if done correctly, to activate small bits of change or to push someone toward a behavior they were already inclined toward: If you’ve following a brand’s Twitter account it means you already have some level of affinity for them and so are likely to buy something from them. But really changing the world? That’s going to be done by people in the real world with guns, determination or any combination of those two.

Movie Marketing Madness: The Social Network

Believe it or not – and based on the extent to which issues surrounding it are discussed both amongst friends and colleagues but also in the press – there was a time where online social networking did not exist. Back in the dark days of 1999 there were no sites where one could upload photos, post status updates on what you were feeling, watching or thinking about or feel really conflicted about the fact that someone who used to beat you up in high school has sent you a friend request and maybe that means they’ve grown and want to amend for past problems and maybe it means they just want to laugh at how your life has played out and ask if you still drive that ’92 Cavalier that you put white-wall tires on because you like them, dammit.

The extent to which you miss those days is probably largely dependent on how closely you can relate to the above.

Facebook certainly wasn’t the first social network and it probably won’t be the last. Friendster was launched in 2002, MySpace in 2003 and there have been a host of others since then. Facebook itself didn’t launch until 2004, and then only to students of Harvard, where Mark Zuckerberg and his friends and cohorts were attending college. It wasn’t until 2006 that the company dropped the requirement in order to join you had to be enrolled either in high school or college, a milestone that opened up the floodgates and started it down the path to where it is now – trying to take over the world.

It’s the days before all that, when Zuckerberg was still a student and hacker, that are chronicled in The Social Network. Written by superstar writer Aaron Sorkin and directed by superstar director David Fincher, the film stars Jesse Eisenberg as Zuckerberg and takes us back to the halls of Harvard and the years immediately following that, as Zuckerberg and his allies, including Napster founder Sean Parker (played by Justin Timberlake), fight various attempts to either wrest control of the nascent network from his hands or score a payout that’s commiserate with just how big Facebook seems to be getting.

The Posters

The movie’s first and only poster took a number of unfamiliar paths to presenting what should have been a straightforward sell. First, the movie’s title is hidden over in the right side of the design, in the toolbar where the Facebook name and logo would usually be appearing. Second, the face of Eisenberg is largely obscured by the copy “You don’t get to 500 million friends without making a few enemies” in the middle well of the poster. Lastly, because of the arrangement of the navigation bar on the right side, it throws off the viewer’s orientation a bit since it, combined with the fact that the scroll bar is along the bottom, means we’re in essence looking at a computer screen that’s sitting on its side. So that’s a bit disorienting until you overcome that.

All that does work, despite the unconventional manner in which the movie is presented to the audience. Also working is the way Eisenberg is standing there in a hoodie with his mouth slightly agape, like he can’t even believe you just said that. So he comes off as someone who knows he’s smarter than you or at least doesn’t care about your opinion.

Sorkin and Fincher are nowhere to be found on the poster, which makes the fact that this was the one and only poster a bit more surprising than it would their absence would have been if this were just a teaser.

The Trailers

The movie’s first teaser trailer wasn’t all that much different from the first teaser poster. A series of words describing Zuckerburg flash on a black screen while snippets of dialogue beginning with a conversation about the initial launch of Facebook right through one about a federal lawsuit play over the visuals. At the end of the spot the mosaic that’s slowly been building finally comes in to focus as the same image of Eisenberg that was seen on that teaser poster.

The spot works primarily for those members of the audience that are looking forward to the writing of Sorkin in that it shows off the dialogue without the actual performances getting in the way. For those looking for their first real glimpse of Eisenberg in action as the founder of the titular social network it probably came off as a little disappointing. But with its appearance shortly after that of the teaser poster it came off as a nice one-two punch to get people talking about the movie and raise some anticipation.

A second trailer took a similar path by featuring primarily dialogue presented as voice over on the screen. But this time, instead of the camera pulling out to reveal the movie’s poster, the dialogue was accompanied by similar text that appeared on the screen in the form of Facebook status updates. So as the character was saying something the text appeared alongside an avatar of theirs, news feed style. Clever.

The third trailer starts out making you think it will be in a similar vein to the first two. A choral version of Radiohead’s “Creep” plays while we see a montage of Facebook photos and updates, all with the “Like” or “Comment” features alongside them. But then we start to see some actual footage from the movie, most of which features the same dialogue we’ve heard in the previous trailers and which now we can finally see come to life.

It’s clear that Eisenberg is comfortable making Zuckerberg seem like an arrogant bastard who is focused on making a splash and achieving the status he sees himself as deserving of.

There’s not a whole lot more to say since, as I stated, the scenes we see here we’ve heard before in the previous trailers. So there’s not a lot of new ground being broken in this spot, it’s just finally presented in a more traditional way. Notably, though, that more traditional way wouldn’t work nearly as well, I don’t think, if the groundwork hadn’t been laid by the earlier spots.

An interactive version of that third trailer later debuted on MySpace (more on that later) that let the audience click in to the video to learn some factoids about movie or the subject matter that inspired it.

The trailers and their unique visuals inspired a host of imitators, most of which transferred the action from Facebook to some other online entity, from MySpace to YouTube to Twitter, each with varying results but all generally pretty funny.

Online

The movie’s official website opens with a huge reproduction of the poster art alongside a rotating series of quotes from early reviews of the film. Also along the right rail on the site are prompts to watch the interactive trailer and read some news, which actually takes you to a Tumblr blog where the studio has put some of the choicest bits of press and publicity the film has received.

That use of Tumblr is interesting since, as we’ll see later, the movie didn’t have a Facebook page and so was in need of an outlet for this story-sharing feature. Plus it comes with Tumblr’s built-in sharing features, which are significant. I could be wrong but I think this is the first time I’ve seen a studio use Tumblr like this and it’s cool, but I wonder if anyone realizes what a full-featured blog could do for them?

Entering the site you’re greeted with a mosaic of images and when you mouse-over some of them you can find bits of content such as video clips, filmmaker profiles and more. That’s a cool and engaging way to access some of that material but if you’re concerned you’ll miss something, all of that is also available via a more traditional menu at the top of the screen.

Actually what happens when you click on, say “Video” at the top is that the squares containing video material are lit up and the rest dimmed. But no matter what you click here you’ll have access to the rest of the videos, in this case all the trailers, a TV spot and four Movie Clips that extend out scenes, most of which we’ve seen teased in the trailers.

Clicking “Photos” you’ll see that the stills on the site are broken up in to sub-galleries by character for the most part, with a few general catch-all groups as well. If all the photos in each gallery are unique and there aren’t any dupes (which I can’t confirm) there are well over 80 stills here, the largest amount I’ve seen on just about any site.

“About” will highlight the sections where you can read a Synopsis, Cast and Filmmaker information and download Production Notes.

“News” opens up the same Tumblr blog that was on the front page and the last two sections are just for the i-Trailer and the movie’s Soundtrack where, in a much-publicized stunt, you can download five sample track’s from Trent Reznor’s album.

For obvious reasons, the movie did not have a Facebook presence. But on the official site there is a button where you can “Recommend” the movie’s site on Facebook.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

As mentioned above, the movie did not have a Facebook profile but the studio did take part in Twitter’s “Promoted Trends” ad option to raise awareness of the movie, specifically right around the time the third trailer debuted. And while it didn’t have a Facebook presence it did get an ad run on the *other* social network, MySpace, where it was one of the premiere advertisers in that network’s new Movies section. It would later essentially take over MySpace for a day (Mediaweek, 9/22/10) with ad units both static and video in nature.

While there don’t appear to be any specific guidelines that would be violated by advertising the movie on Facebook itself, the studio – and third parties such as online movie ticket sites – shied away from it (ClickZ, 9/27/10). Since, if followed, the rules wouldn’t rule such ads out entirely my guess – and this is just a guess – is that part of the discussions between the studio and Facebook included an agreement that they wouldn’t run such ads, which would put Facebook in the awkward position of becoming an ad platform for an unflattering portrayal of itself.

More traditional TV advertising was also done, basically beginning with a spot that aired during MTV’s 2010 Video Music Award broadcast (Hollywood Reporter, 9/13/10) and then expanding to the rest of television. These spots weren’t nearly as artistic and etheral as the trailers, instead opting for more club-sounding music and a series of clips that emphasized Eisenberg’s somewhat sleezy portrayal of Zuckerberg and the relationships he left dead in his wake.

Media and Publicity

Interestingly much of the early publicity came from Caroline McCarthy at CNET, who was among the first to notice that Sorkin had created a Facebook profile and group and announced there that he was writing a movie about the network. She later reported on the casting of that movie as well as an edict issued by Facebook to its employees not to cooperate in any way with its production.

Of course the movie got a ton of free publicity in the form of the continued privacy hand-wringing about the site and how much information it was collecting from users and what it was doing with that. As McCarthy states in the story, all of that news and commentary was coming just ahead of the anticipated marketing for the movie and so was going to put the spotlight on the site in a bunch of unfavorable ways.

Some more buzz picked up when it was announced it would debut at the New York Film Festival, an engagement that meant it would not be appearing at other festivals in the fall. That announcement along with the positive buzz generated by the first few components of the marketing created the sense that the movie could be (Los Angeles Times, 7/8/10) this year’s big word-of-mouth hit.

Related publicity came when Facebook announced it had indeed reached the 500 million user mark that was touted in the movie’s campaign to that point. That milestone was accompanied by a TV interview with the real Zuckerberg where he addressed some of the issued facing Facebook at the time and in which he stated he would not be running out to catch the film.

Despite the movie’s negative tone, though, it was roundly agreed that it was unlikely to do any serious damage to Facebook itself.

That didn’t mean Facebook was taking a “whatever” attitude toward the movie though. While the public face may be one of benign disinterest, behind the scenes things are reported (New York Times, 8/20/10) to be a bit more tense. Zuckerberg himself has been trying to minimize the damage the movie might do to his personal reputation and other executives at the social network are said to be less than thrilled with how the film depicts the circumstances surrounding the site’s founding.

As things moved toward the release date, legitimate questions were raised as to whether the movie would be hit or a flop (CNET, 8/27/10), largely depending on the audience’s taste for seeing its own generation on screen, how effective the cast would be at drawing in crowds and what impact the early reviews would have on perceptions.

Sorkin himself even had to come out and make statements on how the movie was not meant to be an attack on Zuckerberg (LAT, 9/13/10) but instead is intended as a dramatization of the events that led to Facebook’s launch and eventual rise.

While the movie didn’t screen at the Toronto International Film Festival (though it did sneak to various reviewers around that time), Kevin Spacey, one of the producers on the movie, took time from promoting his own film that was at TIFF to talk about the somewhat unorthodox path (New York Times, 9/13/10) the movie took during production.

After those press screenings talk began to turn to the possibility of awards nominations (Hollywood Reporter, 9/17/10) and how the studio wanted it to be the kind of movie that got some serious kudos and critical recognition along with box-office success with the audience.

Close to release press started to appear (NYT, 9/19/10) that had the creators and producers pointing out that really it’s a timeless story of betrayal and ambition that just so happens to take place just moments ago. Whether stories like this were meant to calm concerns that it was perhaps too timely a topic or whether this was to make the movie more palatable to critics and taste-makers who want nothing to do with anything Facebook-related is unclear.

There were also stories about how executives at Facebook, while obviously still not thrilled with the whole thing, were at least complimentary of the producers of the movie and the experience they had working with them. Still, it was company was in full “prepare for impact” mode (LAT, 9/24/10) leading up to its release because of the way it portrayed its history.

Perhaps to counter the negative press that had been accumulating and was sure to only get more intense, Zuckerberg (the real one) announced just a week before the movie opened a major charitable contribution to New Jersey schools, part of a PR tour that included a stop at Oprah’s show.

Just a week or so before release it was announced the movie would open the 2010 New York Film Festival (NYT, 9/24/10), marking its own festival appearance this season.

Overall

This is a really good campaign that works so well because it establishes early on a clear brand identity and then sticks with it throughout the rest of the marketing. All the material here on the marketing side works well together and is instantly recognizable by the audience as being for the same movie no matter where they encounter it.

It also strikes the right tone because there’s a definite sense of artistic vision about the entire campaign. The trailers all come off not so much as advertisements but as mini-films in and of themselves, albeit ones that tease a much longer one but one that isn’t going to be markedly different in style than the trailers you’re watching. That artistic tone is all the more attractive if you already are familiar with Sorkin and Fincher, especially the former since it’s his writing that really is the star of the campaign, starting with the first teaser trailer and continuing through the release of several clips and other promotional material.

Where the movie really gets a boost, though, is by virtue of the fact that it has been endlessly covered not just by the movie trade press but also the tech and social-media press, who have been all over many of the film’s elements due to its overlapping with their own coverage areas. That’s allowed not only for plenty of discussion about whether the movie is or isn’t close to reality and how Zuckerberg and the rest of Facebook is reacting to it but also for guys like Sorkin and Fincher to come out and make their presence known, which plays in to the campaign’s overall strengths of putting them on the front lines.

PICKING UP THE SPARE

  • 10/01/10 – The Hollywood Reporter goes into detail on how those within and working with Facebook chose a strategy of non-engagement to deal with the movie, instead opting for chances to brush up Zuckerberg’s image and make him a more fully understood, and therefore hopefully more relateable, person and character.
  • 10/04/10 – While the face Zuckerberg was on the big screen, the real one was on the small screen portraying himself in an episode of The Simpsons.

Where are the theatrical check-ins

The theatrical exhibition industry has been assaulted on every front. It gets overlooked when people focus on what impact falling home video sales are having on studio revenue numbers. It gets picked on for $5 boxes of candy. It gets the fuzzy end of the lollipop as studios speed up the release of their movies on DVD, shortening the amount of time it can play a particular movie.

So it’s odd to me that exhibitors haven’t latched on to Foursquare, Gowalla, Loopt or any of the other location awareness services/apps that are gaining such buzz as a way to make going to the movies more of a social event. More than that, they have the potential to turn movie-going in to a game or competition, the exact purpose many of these services have been created to facilitate.

While there are plenty of opportunities for studios to, as I stated in my last AdAge column, get involved in the check-in space, theaters have the advantage of being able to tap into the services that people are already using instead of hoping people will download another app specifically for entertainment. The tools are there and are just waiting to be used.

Why to not divert the audience’s attention

The most precious thing your audience can give you is their time. We all only have so much of it to devote on any given day to any particular task, so much attention to give any one topic.

So it’s extremely important that you use the time those people have chosen to devote to you – your company, its message and more – in the most effective way possible.

Take a minute and consider whether it’s a good idea to launch yet another micro-site for a campaign that’s going to last six months or if the same goals can be achieved through using platforms that are already in place such as a corporate blog. It’s a vastly better idea to direct people to a central hub that is updated constantly than to confuse them by creating all sorts of mini-executions that each serve an individual purpose when that one purpose may not be what any particular person is looking for.

Not only do these offshoots often divide the audience’s attention but they also take the focus internally off of that central and long-lasting hub. Instead of concentrating on that core component and building the audience for that – an audience that is broad and which has value today and far down the line – everyone shifts to building and promoting that secondary platform.

When the strategy calls for it it can be valuable to build a second outpost, of course. But such considerations need to be weighed against, again, how much of what’s being proposed can be accomplished on the existing outlets and what value will be lost by dividing the audience’s attention.

Movie Marketing Madness: Buried

Much of the time the term “desperate situation” get thrown around in relation to situations that aren’t actually all that desperate. The local fast food location being out of special sauce is not exactly something that is life or death, no matter how badly we’d been craving that hamburger. Not only is that not the difference between eating or not eating, but it’s likely the other location of the same chain that’s .75 miles away is well stocked. So it’s more of a moderate inconvenience.

What could actually be described as a desperate situation would be finding yourself trapped in a box that’s been buried somewhere in the Iraqi desert with only a cigarette lighter, a cell phone and 24 hours to have someone on the outside either help you or raise the ransom money being demanded by those who put you there.

That right there is the story in the new movie Buried. Ryan Reynolds plays Paul, a U.S. contractor who wakes up to find himself in a coffin-like box somewhere underneath the deserts of Iraq. The entire movie is told from his point of view as he tries to use the limited tools that have been buried with him to escape in some way or another. But the people who put him there want to make sure he doesn’t get out without them getting paid and so the tension continues through his attempts to contact anyone on the outside who can help him.

The Posters

The first poster was, well, perfect. It’s all black save for the single image toward the bottom of Reynolds lying in the coffin in which he’s been buried, visible only because of the lighter he holds.

It’s simple, it’s striking and works tremendously well at setting the tone of the movie as well as the setting, which is obviously a single location that’s just lightly larger than a human body. And by not going over the top with a huge picture of Reynolds’ face or anything it actually works at being scarier than many of the “torture porn” genre entries. That works to bring in a different audience while the similarities to that genre might bring in those fans.

Later on a “motion poster” was released that basically mashed up the poster art and the trailer (discussed below) by taking the design of the poster but putting in the video elements of Reynolds trying to spark his lighter and gasping in desperation.

A second poster was more artistic. Clearly inspired by the classic Saul Bass posters of years gone by, especially the one for Vertigo, it shows a man lying still at the end of a series of maze-like lines. Monochromatic save for the red lettering of the title and all the more striking for it, this is an incredibly powerful poster that really raises the game for the campaign as a whole. This isn’t selling the movie simply as the story of a man trying to escape from an underground box, this makes it look much more mysterious and…artistic, if you get what I mean. It’s as if the poster is telling the audience that there’s more to the movie than they had previous expected. Whether or not that winds up being the case remains to be seen, but this is a big step up for the campaign.

The third poster took a similar approach as the second one but instead of concentric lines coming down to the picture of someone in a box it’s a collection of pull quotes from various critics’ early reviews that are hemming in Reynolds in his confined quarters. So the claustrophobic sense that’s created is more or less the same but the way it achieves that is a bit different while at the same time the studio gets to show off some of the praise the movie has already accumulated, something that may be viewed as an important way to draw people in to an unknown product.

The Trailers

The first trailer (I think there was a promotional one created around the time of its Sundance debut but this is the first one after the Lionsgate acquisition) was just as simple and terrifying as the first poster. With a completely black screen the only sound that’s heard is Reynold’s voice as he tries to dial 911 and get someone to help him. But when the signal is lost his voice becomes more frantic and you hear him fumbling with a lighter. The only visual on screen comes when that lighter comes to life, when a small segment of the screen shows the box that he’s trapped in. When he sees his situation the cries become more desperate and the lighter goes out, once again leaving him and the audience in the dark. It’s pretty cool and a wickedly effective way to sell the movie without giving almost anything away.

second trailer featured a bit more dialogue but actually less film footage. The spot is made up of snippets of phone conversations Reynold’s character is having, either with a (supposed) 911 operator, the person who’s put him in that box or his wife. But shown along with that dialogue are just stills from the movie, often wrapped in solid lines that mimicked the look of the movie’s second poster.

Obviously for a movie that takes place solely (or at least mainly) in a small pine box the challenge here is to create a trailer that isn’t just that and this does a pretty good job of rising to it. There’s little to actually show the audience so it doesn’t even try, instead working to amp up the tension by playing that increasingly panicky dialogue at a high speed so the audience begins to feel unnerved by it.

Online

When the official website loads you may thing it’s having problems since it stays pitch black for a couple moments. But eventually images start appearing of Reynolds trying to escape as text appears on-screen that details his situation.

Moving over to the content, first up is “About” where you’ll find a brief (though better than some of what I’ve been seeing lately) Synopsis that lays out the movie’s storyline. There’s also Cast, which just one entry for Reynolds, and Crew where you can learn more about the filmmakers.

“Video” has both the Teaser and Theatrical trailers as well as a TV Spot. “Photos” just has four images that appear full-screen in the browser window, three of which are from the movie and one from production.

Finally, “Downloads” just has al three of the movie’s posters that you can download and save.

While some movie websites with this same amount of content have seemed rather skimpy this one isn’t nearly as frustrating for its lack of material. That’s because the expectation is that the movie is a bare-bones production, taking place in one location for the entirety of its story and focusing just on one character. So the website not exactly being extravagant is, contextually, appropriate for a movie of that scale.

The movie’s Facebook page has a Wall full of updates, with photos and more also on the profile, including showtimes and other information. You have to Like the page in order to fully experience some features, a hurdle I’m seeing more and more not only on movie pages but also in general.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

TV spots for the movie began airing in mid-September that certainly highlighted the drama of Paul’s perilous situation in the coffin. There may have been some online advertising done as well but I don’t remember seeing any.

Media and Publicity

Buzz first started to percolate coming out of an extremely successful Sundance screening (Los Angeles Times, 1/24/10) where the movie press got their first look at the movie and seemed to embrace it. After that it wasn’t long at all before it was announced Lionsgate had picked the movie up for distribution.

Despite not exactly being a geek-leaning property, the movie was brought to Comic-Con, where a booth was setup that allowed people to enter a makeshift coffin and have a video shot of their reaction, video that was then posted online for people to share with their network of friends. The attraction soon became one of the first break-out hits (New York Times, 7/22/10) of the convention, with lines forming quickly as people were eager to check it out.

Also on the convention front was the film’s appearance at the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival and then at Fantastic Fest 2010. But before Fantastic Fest a publicity stunt was held at the popular Alamo Drafthouse in Austin that screened the movie for just four people who were “buried alive” in the theater while watching the movie.

Most of the press focused on how shooting the movie was still haunting Reynolds (LAT, 9/8/10) but, at the same time, allowed him to express how interesting the experience was because of the limitations of the shoot. Along the same lines were stories about the physical constrictions of the production (New York Times, 9/16/10) and how they were largely borne of the filmmaker’s desire to do something interesting without a lot of money to work with.

It wasn’t all doom and gloom, though, as other profiles (Vanity Fair, 10/10) took an overview of the actor’s career to date and pointed out that Buried is among the more serious work he’s done amidst other films that are lighter and more comedic in tone.

Overall

I really, really like this campaign, especially from an artistic point of view. The posters in particular reflect a desire to go beyond the obvious – a huge version of Reynolds’ head in close up – and instead explore more interesting design territory. All three one-sheets work for different reasons: The teaser because it’s minimalist and creepy, the second one because it’s an interesting and disorienting design and the third one because it uses a similar design but also leverages the positive word-of-mouth that had been generated at early screenings.

The rest of the campaign works just as well. The trailers are creepy and give the audience a distinct sense of claustrophobia and the website, while a bit under-stocked, is representative of the scale of the movie.

Buried has benefited from having Reynolds as the star, of course, especially since the publicity is beginning to start on his next movie, Green Lantern. So it was able to piggyback off some of those efforts and gain some additional exposure.

This one’s going to come down to audience reactions, though, as it will be people who tell their friends it is or isn’t too bad to sit in a theater and watch a guy in a box for 90 minutes.

PICKING UP THE SPARE

  • 12/10/10 – In a discussion of why Buried flopped at the box-office while the thematically similar 127 Hours didn’t no blame is assigned to the marketing campaign. It’s cool retro feel was simply overlooked by audiences who have been trained now to expect more gore and horror from marketing materials and, as someone says in the story, they “cheated themselves” out of seeing a worthwhile movie.

Movie Marketing Madness: You Again

I’ll be honest right off the bat here: The main reason I’m reviewing the campaign for this movie is that I’m absolutely thrilled to see both Sigourney Weaver and Jamie Lee Curtis in a movie together. These two comediennes are some of the most talented actors of the last 30 years and have a string of classic movies in their pasts that Jennifer Lopez could only dream of. So while this movie is nowhere near my interest area otherwise, the presence of these two in addition to Kristen Bell makes it almost a must-see for me.

You Again is the story of holding a grudge over past wrongs. Bell plays Marni, a young woman whose brother is about to get married. Only late in the game does she realize his fiance (Odette Yustman) is a girl she went to high school with and who made her life miserable. As the two families prepare for the wedding more connections are revealed as it turns out Marni’s mom (Curtis) had a similar relationship with the aunt of the bride to be (Weaver). So what should be a wonderfully happy day turns into the re-airing of grievances from years past and this, of course, provides much of the movie’s comedy.

The Posters

The one poster makes it pretty clear that we’re dealing with a lot of rivalries between the characters. All of them are shown here standing in a line with the photo of their rival torn in two in their hands. The only one not acting vindictively is White, who is stuck between the two mother/daughter pairs. It’s a simple poster but it gets its point across decently, making the case that the movie is worth seeing for this collection of actresses.

The Trailers

The movie’s trailer does a good job of setting up the story – it shows how all the characters fit together and conflict with each other through the course of the film. There’s fake niceties, barely concealed passive aggressive tendencies and other catty behavior from all four of the leads as they old wounds are exposed to the light of the day.

It’s also designed to sell the movie as a cross-generational film, with three generations of comedians on-screen here. So not only will it likely appeal to women to whom these sorts of rivalries may seem all too familiar but it also hopefully appeals to those people who appreciate the skills Weaver, Curtis and White bring to the screen, skills Bell may have over time as well.

Online

The official website contains the bare minimum information possible, I think.

In “Videos” you’ll find the Trailer and three video interviews with the cast, a few of which are serious and one of which is actually from FunnyOrDie and has the leading ladies getting all up in each other’s grills.

There are 10 stills in the “Photos” gallery. And “About” has a brief Synopsis and Bios of the characters. Not the actors but the characters.

The movie’s Facebook page has updates including promotional and marketing activities for the film and more, including photos and polls. There are also quizzes to see if you’re the ultimate Betty White fan or to see if you would, indeed, decide to go back and do high school over again if you could.

The same sort of advice can be found on the Twitter profile, which is heavily branded with Betty White’s image. And there’s a heavy emphasis on Touchstone’s YouTube page on the “Ask the Cast” videos, telling me they want to make sure the cast seems relatable and is seen as interacting and engaging the audience.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

While they’re not on any of the movie’s official online outposts, there were a number of TV spots that were run, especially in the last two or three weeks before opening. They were all pretty funny and were mostly sub-set of the trailer, showing off the strongest selling point, the interaction between a bunch of really talented actresses.

Media and Publicity

Not much here aside from the usual promotional activities and tours from the cast. Most of the activity seems to have centered around the studio-produced “Ask the Cast” videos and there wasn’t much press outside of the release of various marketing materials.

Overall

The campaign works well enough for me. Again, I’m not the target demographic for the story but am for the performances by the actresses involved and so because it lets them show off what they can do it’s pretty good in my book.

White, because she’s such a pop culture phenomenon right now, gets a good portion of that spotlight, which probably wouldn’t have been the case if she hadn’t made such a splash in the last nine or 10 months. All the cast get their moments, though, and that’s good to see.

Movie Marketing Madness: Wall Street – Money Never Sleeps

The financial world sure has changed in the last couple of years. In case you missed it, news stories have been circulating in the last week or so that the recession which brought so much havoc to the banking world and which sent so many people out of work was the longest in U.S. history since World War II and, while it ended last year, a full recovery is still quite a ways off. In the time since mid-2007, when things started turning downhill, we’ve all become some level of financial market expert and more people can probably name a major investment house than ever before.

Compare that to the go-go 1980s, when personal ambition was the ultimate good and global-level bankers were still held in some sort of awe. These wheeler-dealers must know what they’re doing because look at the cars they drive, the places they live in and other marks of success. This was the height of the de-regulation era, when just about anything was forgivable in the name of profit.

That was the world in to which director Oliver Stone brought the classic Wall Street 20+ years ago. But the more down-to-earth one, where greed is no longer as good as it once was and philanthropy and humanitarian concern is held in higher esteem, is the one which Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps is being released.

The new movie catches us up with Gordon Gecko, the slightly slimy finance banker played by Michael Douglas. Gecko is being released from prison, where he’s spent the last 20 years, and is looking to get back in the game. His estranged daughter (Carey Mulligan) wants nothing to do with him but her fiance (Shia LaBeouf) is in awe of Gecko and angles to become his apprentice. That puts him in-between Gecko and his new rival (Josh Brolin) as they seek to out-scheme each other and may come between him his fiance as he gets deeper and deeper into something he can’t find a way out of.

The Posters

The first poster takes the two main stars and puts them back to back. Douglas and LaBeouf both stare down the camera as they look somber in their expensive suit. The photo looks kind of grainy, which is odd, like the designers couldn’t decide whether to make it a straight forward photo or something a little more painted looking. There’s no copy other than the names, the title treatment and the credit block.

The primary problem is that, even discounting their age difference, the poster shows the difference in the two actors in stark contrast. The one looks like he’s been there before and will command any scene he’s asked to be in, thank you very much, and he’d appreciate it if you would not get in his way or he will absolutely bury anyone who feels differently.

The other looks like he’s just trying to keep paddling strongly enough to keep up.

I’ll leave it to your imagination to decide which is which.

A second poster, a theatrical one, was later released that was really just a rearrangement of the actors from the same shoot. This time instead of standing back to back, LaBeouf is seated and that takes some of the pressure off of him to go toe-to-toe with Douglas, something that makes this one work just slightly better that the previous version.

The Trailers

The first teaser trailer brought us up to speed on where Gordon Gecko is in 2010: In prison. He’s seen collecting his personal belongings from the desk (try not to think of the same scene in Blues Brothers…I dare you), a sequence that ends with him being handed a mobile phone, which is supposed to get a laugh from the audience since it’s a 1988 brick-sized phone. We get brief glimpses of the supporting cast – including LaBeouf and everyone else as Douglas reprises his “greed is good” line from the first movie but with a slight twist. It then ends with him telling LaBeouf’s character to call him “Gordon,” which decently sets up the relationship those two will have.

The second trailer goes a bit more in-depth on the story, showing some of the same footage but also giving more background on the broken relationship between Gecko and his daughter, a relationship that then impacts the ambition of her fiance as he gets more involved with Gecko’s business. It also shows more of the rivalry that exists between Gecko and Brolin’s character. All that adds up to a more compelling picture of the movie, even if it does still primarily skirt the details of the story.

Online

The movie’s official website is surprisingly sparse. The trailer begins playing in the background of the site and continues playing as you navigate through the content.

“Synopsis” has a brief outline of the movie’s plot that highlights the conflict of the characters. “Video has the trailer and “Gallery” has 11 stills from the movie and its production.

That’s it. That’s the sum total of the official website for a major release and a sequel to one of Hollywood’s most recognizable director’s return to one of his defining movies. I’m not even sure where to start with this. Was there a sense that more content was unnecessary? Or was there little else produced? Whatever the case, putting less effort into the website than most independent movies seems like an odd tactical decision.

The movie’s Facebook page has updates on the cast’s promotional tours, the release of new clips and other marketing materials as well as photos, links to early reviews and more. Most of those updates are also found on the Twitter profile while clips, the trailers and TV spots have been put on a YouTube channel.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

A good amount of TV spots were created and broadcast. They’re all arranged slightly different from each other and take most of their footage from the trailers, but there’s enough new footage there to make them worth watching and there are some nice moments that aren’t seen elsewhere.

I’d be surprised if there weren’t some online and outdoor advertising done as well, though I can’t say there definitely has been since I haven’t been made aware of any.

Media and Publicity

Outside of the usual initial news about casting, filming starting and other more production-oriented events, the first big publicity splash came with a full spread in Vanity Fair (February, 2010) that really gave the audience their first official look at, as the article title says, the return of Gordon Gecko. The article not only gave some background on the film and, as many such stories about big upcoming films do, features photos by Annie Lebowitz.

There were later rumors the film would debut at the Cannes Film Festival, a major coup for a decidedly Hollywood movie, especially one that was a sequel to a 20+ year old movie.

When that rumor did indeed become fact, the result was a ton of press about Stone’s return to mainstream filmmaking, the return to the wheeling, dealing era of the 1980’s and other topics. There were stories about how the movie was spurred in no small part because of the financial meltdown that’s occurred over the last couple years (New York Times, 5/13/10). According to reports the reception from the foreign press was a bit chilly (Hollywood Reporter, 5/14/10), but generally among the U.S. press it was seen as a return to fine form (Los Angeles Times, 5/17/10) from Stone. It also gave the famously opinionated director a chance to opine on the state of the financial system (Los Angeles Times, 5/14/10) and talk about other upcoming projects.

There were other occasional stories like one about how LaBeouf engaged in some trading of his own and other activities (New York Times, 9/13/10) in preparation for the role.

Overall

I’ve found myself more and more liking this campaign in the last couple weeks as the elements have come together in a more cohesive way, largely because the TV spots have focused the marketing in an interesting way. They’ve condensed the trailer in to the essential elements and so made it more immediately engaging.

The poster is alright, though as I said it can’t help but show off just how mis-matched the power of the two primary players really is. The skimpy official website, though, is ridiculously low on content and provides almost no reason for anyone who stumbles upon it to see the movie. That’s not completely undone by the inclusion of more media on Facebook and YouTube.

But the marketing, primarily through the trailers and TV spots, does present the movie as being an intriguing update to what was, more than 20 years ago, a snapshot of an era by presenting this new one as a snapshot of a more recent one. How many people will be interested in that, especially considering the general loathing with which Wall Street is now regarded, remains to be seen.

PICKING UP THE SPARE

  • 9/29/10: Oliver Stone said the movie’s production benefited greatly from product placement deals that helped it stay within its budget but, he says, in a very organic way that didn’t dilute the film or its story.
  • 12/16/10: The movie’s home video debut came with an outdoor ad campaign in New York City that wrapped subway cars that provided free rides to professionals, shoppers and others through the holiday season.