Capturing attention

I really think this post by Louis Gray on the deluge of information streams that are vying for everyone’s attention is among the smartest and more important things I’ve read recently. Gray focuses on the social technological interruptions that are impacting our lives but all that has application for those who are creating “bigger” content in the form of the books, TV shows and movies that he says are being interrupted. Not only is it harder to have a nice, quiet experience with those things but the decision is occasionally made to skip them altogether because we’re afraid we’re going to miss an email or can feel the RSS items building up in the two hours we’re in a theater seeing a movie.

He’s dead on when he says that early adopters are already burning out on this constant drumbeat of updates and have begun not only pruning our inputs – cutting down on our RSS subscriptions, trimming the number of people we follow on Twitter – but personally I’ve just had to make a concerted effort to turn these things off. For an hour a day I sit down and actually read a book. On the weekends I barely open the computer. These are coping mechanisms to get out of the rush of information.

Gray says this non-stop influx of information is creating short-term memory loss and I think he’s right. We’re also losing some critical thinking skills. If someone were to ask what the latest study on Facebook usability said what would I do? Run a search and accept whatever the first seemingly legitimate result was at face value? Search my RSS feeds for the latest information? Those both are full of potential problems. What needs to happen is more concerted study that looks at a handful of results, measures their scope and takes into account any potential gaps or biases and delivers a thoughtful result. But it’s easier to say “Oh, someone just talked about that on Twitter.”

We need to reclaim our attention and prioritize it effectively. It’s a problem I have myself and need to work on and it’s the only way we can slow down and maintain our sanity.

Movie marketing in an on-demand world

Reports have been circulating recently of Netflix’s plan to launch a streaming-only plan (Los Angeles Times, 10/20/10) and Redbox looking for a partner to help launch a streaming effort (LAT, 10/28/10), both for customers who feel they have no need of any discs whatsoever. Couple that with this trend story (LAT 10/19/10) about consumer behavior increasingly shifting to emphasize renting over buying, whether we’re talking about physical discs or on-demand, and the question has to be asked: How will movie marketing change when we live in a fully on-demand world?

This question might be limited to the home video market, but the it’s increasingly common for movies to get simultaneous theatrical and on-demand releases. Barry Munday and other recent titles from Magnolia and a couple other distributors have been available on-demand at the same time as they receive a limited theatrical run. And this week’s Nice Guy Johnny from Edward Burns is forgoing theatrical release completely and is available immediately either on-demand through cable providers, on iTunes for rental or purchase and as a physical DVD, again for either renting or owning.

What Burns has done for Johnny is, I think, indicative of what’s going to happen when movies are available through online outlets. He’s been out there beating the bushes to raise awareness and spur interest himself since he lacks a studio’s usual support mechanism. And since he’s built up a personal brand (yes, I’m going to go play in traffic after using that phrase) he has been able to leverage the fanbase he’s built up over the last 15 years to promote this new movie.

More importantly, all of that press has the potential to pay off in immediate action on the consumer end because the movie is available, as Burns has often intoned, everywhere and in whatever home viewing format people prefer. So if someone sees him on “The Today Show” (where he appeared the morning of 10/27/10) and is interested in the movie they have the opportunity to turn that interest in to action by going to their computer and searching iTunes or checking out the VOD options during the next commercial break.

That’s where the future of marketing in an on-demand world lies. Whether we’re talking about a “Today Show” interview or a profile on a niche interest group website, the availability of the movie at that particular moment makes all the difference. Connecting the marketing and the ability of the audience to take immediate action is going to be extraordinarily important.

Even today, that importance is evident by looking at examples of that connection not being made. Word-of-mouth might be great for a small movie that is just loved by those who see it. But if the people they’re talking to don’t live in one of the 12 markets that it’s been released theatrically to the hearers are unable to complete the circuit. But as more of these movies move to hybrid or strictly on-demand/home video release patterns that barrier will fall and we’ll see more success stories where these releases are able to find their audience strictly because the audience was able to act on their interest and find the movie.

Movie Marketing Madness: Wild Target

What compromises or last-minute adjustments have you made while doing your job for some personal reason? Maybe you were having a good day and so decided not to impose a late fee or some other penalty. Or maybe you made the decision to skip doing your job altogether because you realized life was short and hey, you can’t beat an 85-degree day in Chicago when the Cubs have a 3:20 game. Depending on the type of employee you are and how forthright you are about that call will likely impact how your employer reacts to such as decision.

The new movie Wild Target is about someone making just such a compromise. A hit man (Bill Nighy) decides not to actually carry out the contract he’s been handed by an art-loving gangster (Rupert Everett) to kill the woman who conned him (Emily Blunt) in his attempt to buy a famous painting. Instead he winds up saving her and protecting her from other assassination attempts, eventually picking up a young straggler (Rupert Grint) and the three form an unlikely trio as they attempt to stay one step ahead of those who are gunning for them.

The Posters

The poster makes the character the focus, with Blunt up front (well that’s just common sense) looking lovely, Nighy in the middle ground looking armed and Grint in the back looking slightly confused. The copy at the top gives a brief description of each character and it’s pretty clear that these three are going to be bound up together in some sort of misadventure, though what that is isn’t spelled out or even hinted at here. The only clue as to what the audience is being sold is the gun that Nighy is holding, and that’s not much.

I like the bright red block at the bottom, complete with the white cat sitting in the middle of the title for an absolutely unknown reason. The copy below the title is a little on the nose, but I think graphically the differentiation between the photo of the actors and the title/credits at the bottom works.

The Trailers

The trailer starts off by introducing us to Victor in the middle of the act of carrying out a hit and then Rose as she pulls a job of her own, pulling a con on a shady art collector. That puts Rose in Victor’s sites, but he can’t pull the trigger and in fact winds up saving her from another hit man. Escaping that brings Grint’s character into their path and the three have to rely on each other to stay safe as they’re still being sought by the unhappy mobster.

It’s a fast and funny trailer that relies heavily on the charm of Nighy to propel the action and make you care about what happens to the whole lot of them. It’s clear there’s just one insane situation after another and that the three characters really do begin to see each other as a family of sorts, though an extremely dysfunctional one.

Online

The movie’s official website opens with the trailer playing over a variation on the poster’s key art and “Trailer” is the first section of content listed in the menu below.

After that is a “Synopsis,” which gives the audience a decent overview of the plot. There are about 17 stills in the “Gallery” and the “Cast” section gives us the bios of the players in front of the camera.

Finally, the “Press” section has assets including Photos, Clips and the Synopsis that can be downloaded for use in write-ups about the movie.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

There have been a few banner ads that I’ve come across, mostly on sites geared toward independent film fans, that have used the poster art as the main graphical element.

Media and Publicity

Not much here, either, outside of the release of marketing materials and some casting news coverage.

Overall

It’s not a bad little campaign. The poster and trailer are obviously the most important components and those sell the movie pretty well, showcasing its story and overall sense of humor. Those people in the audience who are fans of British comedies are likely to find this an attractive option at the box-office. It’s nice to see some advertising has been done since that will raise the movie’s profile a bit as well.

Planning for disappointment

My latest AdAge column is my thinking-out-loud about the fascination the Hollywood trade press (and the blogs that riff off them) with writing postmortems on those movies that fail to live up to the expectations that have been set out for them.

One point I didn’t make in the column is that many of the movies that get Monday-morning-quarterbacked seem to be those that have accumulated a fair amount of positive buzz from the movie geek crowd and taken on something akin to the role of a cause for them. Scott Pilgrim, Kick-Ass, Buried…these are all movies that have become much beloved through their production cycles and subsequent festival appearances but, after failing to find a mainstream audience, had their obituaries written by the press.

I’m not sure what to make of that, but it does seem to say to me that the influence of these professional opinion-havers and aspiring tastemakers isn’t as widely felt as conventional wisdom might dictate. So even if these guys all rally behind a movie it isn’t enough to push it into mainstream success because their reach isn’t broad enough and the movie winds up not living up specifically to the amount of hype that has come to surround it.

Movie Marketing Madness: Nice Guy Johnny

We all are, to some extent, the amalgam of the expectations those around us in our lives have had for us. We act this way to please our parents, that way to please someone we’re dating or married to and another way to please the people we’re friends with or work with. The best that can be hoped is that what we feel most passionate about matches up with at least some of those expectations and that we’re able to go through life doing what we love with the approval of those most important to us.

The story of living up to someone else’s expectations is at the core of Nice Guy Johnny, the new movie from writer/director Edward Burns. The movie tells the story of Johnny (Matt Bush), who is giving up his dream of continuing to host a sports talk radio show to meet the desires of his fiance. On a trip that’s supposed to be about him interviewing for a boring day job he spends time with his Uncle Terry (Burns), who’s still a roustabout bachelor who thinks Johnny’s getting married is ridiculous. So he takes Johnny to The Hamptons for a few days and into Johnny’s life comes Brooke (Kerry Bishé), who proves a disruptive influence on his decision making process.

The Posters

The poster is pretty simple, just showing a shot of the two main characters walking along with a minor lens flare in the corner. There’s no tagline, no description and no overdoing it. it makes the clear statement that what you’ll be getting with this movie is the story of these two people and almost nothing else. So it works on that level.

The Trailers

The movie’s trailer is just fantastic as a piece of work in and of itself. The trailer starts with a guy and a girl sitting on the hood of a car, she telling him that he needs to tell some other girl how he really feels, something he’s not sure of himself.

That’s as much of the plot as you’re going to get, though, as the rest of the spot is all about showing how these two are not dating but are obviously enjoying each other’s company. they hang out on the beach, they go for drives together and otherwise hanging out. It’s also obvious, even without the one shot of them almost kissing, that these two have feelings for each other that they’re not quite ready to admit or deal with.

While, as I mentioned above, the trailer shows almost nothing of the movie’s story it does show that the film will live or die on the performances of the two leads, both of them unknowns. The performances seem raw and emotional and promises that the audience is going to live and die based on what these characters do and the choices they make.

It doesn’t hurt as well that the music playing over the visuals is perfect and the cuts to the scenes are often timed to the beats, adding to the overall enjoyment of the trailer.

A second trailer was much more traditionally structured. We meet Johnny as he’s about to go off on a trip for an interview for a “real” job as opposed to the sports talk radio host gig he currently has. It’s on that trip that he spends time with his Uncle Terry, who’s an aging man-boy who still runs around and is perplexed why Johnny is both getting married and taking a job he has no passion for. So Terry takes Johnny to the Hamptons, where he sets him up with Brooke, who he starts hanging out with and is just as confused about Johnny’s choices. Eventually we see he has to make a decision between what’s expected of him by those around him and and what he really wants to do, a decision that the combined influences of Terry and Brooke push him to make.

Online

There’s unfortunately not very much information about the movie at all on its official website. The trailer is there but most of the emphasis is, rightly in the case of this movie and how it’s being distributed, on selling things. There are many packages that are available that give you everything from just a digital download of the movie and its soundtrack to one that includes a t-shirt and the physical media in addition to digital downloads.

There are also plenty of links to Burns’ personal website, Twitter account, Facebook page and YouTube channel, showing that he understands that selling himself is just as important – if not moreso – than selling this particular movie. Fans of his who connect with him on multiple platforms are likely to be repeat buyers, interested in this and his future movies, so playing up that connection has long term benefits.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Not much that I’ve seen.

Media and Publicity

Most of the movie’s publicity, as exemplified by this profile (Chicago Tribune, 10/6/10) around its appearance at the Chicago International Film Festival, focused on the film’s low budget and non-theatrical distribution, which Burns is quick to emphasize are all by design and attempts by him to maintain his artistic freedom and bring movies more directly to the audience.

Burns’ do-it-alone thinking continued to the focal point of much of the movie’s buzz as he discussed why, creatively, this approach works well for him and his movies.

It all amounted to what was probably the largest amount of buzz for a Burns film in quite a while. Like one of his other recent movies, Purple Violets, much of that is about distribution (Violets debuted on iTunes at the same time it got a limited theatrical run) and has positioned the writer/director as one of the biggest names to do truly innovative things in terms of distribution.

I also have to mention that Burns co-hosted a recent episode of Filmspotting, a movie podcast that originates from Chicago and he absolutely killed it. Not only did he do a good job talking movies with Adam Kempenar but he also did a good job of selling his new film.

Overall

It’s a good campaign with engaging and interesting trailers and a clear, uncluttered poster. The website is obviously a sparse affair even as measured against some other independent movies, but the fact that so many people were talking about the movie and it’s innovative distribution model makes the case that Burns is still able to get people buzzing about his movies. That buzz really comes off as the strongest part of the campaign. And considering the movie will be available to just about anyone immediately, that word-of-mouth is going to be crucial to the movie’s success in a way that other limited-release movies can’t capitalize on because their distribution patterns don’t match the spread of the audience’s recommendations.

The continued relevance of corporate blogging

My latest post on Voce Nation deals with a study on the continued rise of blog use as a corporate communications and marketing tool.

Again, I think studies like this – and the points behind the decision to launch a corporate blog, many of which are articulated in the study I reference – are important for Hollywood studios to consider since they are in, by and large, an industry that leaped over blogging but has embraced social networking as part of their marketing strategy.

Movie Marketing Madness: The Company Men

I thank my lucky stars every day that the longest period I’ve been involuntarily unemployed for since the age of 16 (meaning I’m not counting periods in college where I didn’t work) was about four days. Only once have I gone through the humiliation of actually losing a job and even then, well, I couldn’t really blame them. Besides, it led me to the job I have now and I’ve never been more satisfied. So, praise be to God, I don’t have horror stories of my own. But I know people who do and it scares me to know end.

Too many people are in that kind of situation in recent years and the story of corporate downsizing is the one that’s told in the new movie The Company Men. Three men played by Ben Affleck, Tommy Lee Jones and Chris Carpenter all lose their jobs at a company and all three deal with it in different ways. They cycle through denial, anger and the other stages of grief as they try to deal with a life they’ve never known, one without gainful employment.

The Posters

The movie’s poster takes an interesting tone and one that doesn’t seem to be fully in line with the marketing materials that had been released before it.

All four of the men – Jones, Affleck, Cooper and Costner – are shown here along with Maria Bello, who’s only briefly seen in the trailer but who’s included here for some reason I’m not quite clear on. They’re all looking up at a couple of figures who are walking on tightropes above them, an image I assume represents these characters being on the outside of the corporate stresses and looking in on them from that vantage point.

It’s an alright poster but it doesn’t really provide any interesting points that it’s trying to sell the movie by. Having a bunch of actors standing around looking at something isn’t exactly the most dynamic image in the world and there’s little here that goes in to the movie’s story or makes us care in any meaningful way about the characters.

The Trailers

The first trailer, released just a week or so in advance of the film’s debut at Sundance ’10, is wordless but full of emotion. Because no dialogue is featured it can be, at times, hard to follow completely but you do get the general overview of this being a film that follows the three main characters as they navigate the difficulties resulting from major life upheavals. Most of the relationships are more or less sorted out but there’s very little time where all three core actors are on screen together so it’s assumed that it’s a sort of “bobbing in and out” story with everyone’s arc touching the others at various points.

While that was more of a promotional reel, the first official trailer was much more traditional though no less impactful.

The official trailer sells Affleck as the main focus of the movie as we follow his story from an ordinary day at the office through the process of finding himself laid off and struggling to find a new job to the extent that he agrees to sign on with his brother-in-law’s construction company and through him eventually on the verge of starting something new with Jones’ character, who also finds himself without work. Jones’ character is obviously a high-ranking executive who attempts to struggle against the massive layoffs coming. Cooper is shown only a few times but it’s clear he’s a mid-level executive who is laid off along with thousands of others but who takes it particularly hard.

As I said, the trailer emphasizes Affleck and makes the movie appear to be a vehicle for him but the hints there involving Jones and Cooper make it appear to be more of an ensemble movie, which is actually more interesting.

Online

I’m not even entirely sure the movie has an official website. Back around the movie’s appearance at Sundance a teaser site was put up but it very much looked like a small affair that was meant to act partly as a sales tool for interested distributors to find or for people to check out after hearing some of the festival buzz.

When the movie was acquired by TWC it got one of their placeholder sites but with a full site promised there. But it opens tomorrow and that link to the site is still labeled as “Coming Soon” and doesn’t go anywhere, so it’s entirely possible there is no site to even discuss here other than that placeholder, which just has the poster, a synopsis and the trailer

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Nothing here that I’ve come across.

Media and Publicity

The vast majority of the movie’s press and buzz have come either the movie’s appearance and activities at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival or the release of various marketing materials. It’s been mentioned as a movie some people were excited about seeing in the last part of the year, but there haven’t been any major stories that I’ve seen that have been coordinated to help raise the movie’s profile.

Overall

It has a good trailer and a decent poster, but the missing components of this campaign are just too glaring to really overlook. No website to speak of? That’s just bad. And while the lack of advertising isn’t completely surprising, the fact that press opportunities don’t seem to have been taken is, and all that combines to a lackluster campaign for a movie that has some decent word-of-mouth behind it.

More than a little disappointing for a movie that has such a hefty cast.

PICKING UP THE SPARE

  • 10/23/10 – The movie’s place in Hollywood’s history of examining the issue of jobs, success and related topics gets examined by The New York Times.
  • 11/07/10 – Another story along the same lines was published by The Los Angeles Times, though this time looking at how Hollywood doesn’t seem to be paying attention to focusing on recession themes.