Leaks reporting

So here’s my question around the WikiLeaks controversy:

Instead of – or in addition to – reporting on what the documents published by WikiLeaks actually contain, has there been any investigative reporting done on who might be the one who provided those documents to the site? That seems like some actual reporting that might be of interest and would certainly shed light on what the motivations would be behind providing the documents. Is there a criminal investigation underway?

That all would be just as much in the public interest as what the documents contained and isn’t simply the rehashing of the meta-narrative of reporting on the reporting but would require actual shoe-leather journalism.

Movie Marketing Madness: The King’s Speech

We all have our troubles to overcome in life. Some people might be incredibly shy and have problems interacting with others. Some people might have some crippling emotional issues that impact everything they do. We all have some sort of hurdle to clear before we can work and play well with others.

Me? Being incredibly handsome haunts me every day.

Britain’s King George VI had more than that which he needed to work on and it’s that story that’s told in The King’s Speech. As the country he (Colin Firth) governed moved more and more quickly toward World War II he found himself needing to address his citizens over the radio. But the man suffered from a terrible stutter when speaking in public that wasn’t going to help inspire confidence in anyone. So his wife Queen Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter) helped him seek out the help of a specialist to help him get around that problem and found Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush). The relationship between the king and his therapist provides the driving force for the movie as Logue helps the king help his country through that traumatic period.

The Posters

The movie’s poster is a nice one even if it is pretty basic. Firth, Rush and Bonham-Carter all are there in big-non-floating head form, with Firth looking grim and serious while Bonham-Carter has a more entertained look on her face and Rush looks more than a little mischievous. The copy lays out most of their roles in the movie by declaring “When God couldn’t save the King, The Queen turned to someone who could.” That’s a nice little play on the popular British anthem and, while just a little bit offensive, is also a nice enough turn of a phrase that it doesn’t really matter. The overall design, though, particularly the look of the actor’s faces, has rightly been much-derided as being the worst kind of BFH syndrome.

While the poster makes it clear this is based on an “incredible” true story it oddly doesn’t include any of the endorsements the movie has racked up to date, either in the form of showing off its festival appearance badges or by using some of the press quotes that have praised the movie based on those screenings. Not sure if that’s because they were deemed not important or if the marketers are going for a more mainstream audience and so are wary of all that critical acclaim turning off the general public. It’s not likely, though, that that general public is going to rush to a British historical drama in the first place, so the absence of those achievements remains puzzling.

The Trailers

The first trailer released for the movie begins by setting the stage for the drama, with Bonham-Carter seeking help for her husband, the king. We then get a bunch of funny scenes with Firth getting to know Rush and trying to get over his stammering through various lessons and tricks. But then the tone shifts from comedy to drama as we see the stakes – World War II – and see what it is that King George is trying to accomplish not only for himself but for his country.

The trailer certainly shows off the performances of Firth and Rush and they seem formidable here. It’s well put together and will certainly appeal to audiences who enjoy period dramas such as this. It’s not incredibly inventive but it hits all the right notes and certainly exposes the film in a positive way to an audience that’s been primed to some extent by the positive word of mouth that came before it, which I’ll go into more below.

Online

The movie’s official website is pretty sparse. The trailer plays when the site loads and there’s an “About” section that has a synopsis of the film’s story.

The film didn’t have its own Facebook or Twitter profiles, instead being promoted through the studio’s pages and feeds. Those had plenty of updates about the movie including the usual notes about the movie’s marketing and publicity.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

There may have been some online advertising done that used the poster’s key art but that’s about it.

Media and Publicity

Word of mouth buzz for the movie really came out strong after its debut at the 2010 Telluride Film Festival. There it racked up some serious positive press not only for the movie as a whole but also for Firth’s performance as the man who would be king. It became an almost immediate awards contender (Los Angeles Times, 9/11/10) and was even labeled (Hollywood Reporter, 9/13/10) as the movie that might bring The Weinstein Co. back to the glory the brothers enjoyed during the heyday of Miramax.

Still, it was Firth who was singled (Reuters, 9/11/10) out (New York Times, 9/12/10) most often, though the actor played down (THR, 9/12/10) the early speculation that he would wind up an awards front-runner. The first of those was the Audience Award at Toronto.

More intriguing was the story behind the creation of the film and its source stage play, as it turns out the writer suffered from a stammer himself (Los Angeles Times, 10/31/10) and is of British birth, having lived through some of World War II there and hearing for himself what King George IV sounded like after he’d already made progress with his own impediment. So the project is very personal for him.

There were also those stories that pointed out just how perfect the movie seems to be for awards consideration (Time, 11/29/10) with its combination of a British historic setting, a physical impediment to overcome and other factors all going for it.

Overall

The reality of this campaign seems to be that the word-of-mouth that’s been generated in the press, particularly that coming out of the festival appearances, is going to be the make-or-break factor in determining the movie’s success, both at the box-office and in terms of eventual awards. The other marketing materials have served to keep those conversations going but my sense is here that those assets are going to have minimal impact, particularly since I’m assuming the movie won’t get a release (at least not at first) that will bring it to a general audience.

Those marketing materials are alright – the trailer is the strongest component for a number of reasons – but are unlikely to actually bring in any new converts who aren’t already fans of period British films that have more character development and wordplay than broad physical humor. Basically, though, every bit of energy TWC hasn’t put in to fostering and encouraging word of mouth has been mis-directed.

PICKING UP THE SPARE

  • 12/06/10: A second and much better poster was released less than a week after the film was released that simply featured a close up of Firth’s mouth coming up to the microphone.
  • 02/17/11: The movie continues to garner positive word-of-mouth as it expands into more and more theaters in Middle America.
  • 03/31/11: The poster for the edited and newly PG-13 rated version of the film is all sorts of awful as it tries to shoehorn a demographic into the audience that doesn’t really belong there. More to the point, the movie will likely attract a family audience already even without this pandering so this winds up being just a horrible example of marketing to the lowest common denominator.

Movie Marketing Madness: Love and Other Drugs

There are few things that make me uncomfortable.

OK, that’s just an outright lie. Just about everything makes me uncomfortable. I wake up feeling awkward and it just gets worse form there.

But very few make me as uncomfortable as the commercials for erectile dysfunction drugs. Stuck in-between the beer spots and ads promising us that every kiss begins with the letter it starts with are ones that feature middle-aged folks who are planning a night of romance with some pharmaceutical help.

The new movie Love and Other Drugs is about the introduction of those little blue pills to the world. Specifically it’s about a pharmaceutical salesman (Jake Gyllenhaal) who charms his way through doctor’s offices racking up sales figures and receptionist-shaped notches on his bedpost. One day, through a bit of deception, he meets a young lady (Anne Hathaway) and the two begin the purely physical relationship they’re both looking for, he because he’s a player and she because she’s in the early stages of multiple sclerosis. But of course things get more complicated and the relationship grows despite the initial intentions of both people.

The Posters

I was more than a little shocked when I first saw the poster for the movie since it doesn’t try to be anything other than plain about what the story involves. The only thing on the poster is Gyllenhaal and Hathaway luxuriating nakedly in bad, pillows covering up their naughty bits. That makes it pretty clear to the audience that the movie is about these two people finding themselves in bed quite a bit but that they seem pretty happy about that. Which, lets face it, is pretty easy to understand.

The Trailers

The trailer starts out by showing us how much of a player Gyllenhaal is and what tricks he has developed to charm the ladies, which has its benefits for both his personal life and his professional one. But when that crosses a line and he observes Hathaway’s breast exam she beats him up in the parking lot before going out for coffee and winding up in bed together for, the dialogue implies, a no-strings-attached fling. But then things get more personal and it winds up being him that wants more of a relationship while she wants to keep him at arms’ length. The trailer doesn’t go in to why, though.

It’s a decent trailer that shows the movie will live or die based on how much the audience feels the connection between the two leads. It also presents the movie as a known quantity with few surprises – it includes what I presume to be the finale – that may upset people’s expectations. Knowing what is keeping Hathaway’s character emotionally detached there may be some problems with that as they find elements to the story that aren’t hinted at here, though. But the trailer makes the case for the movie being a light, breezy and amusing romantic comedy that isn’t going to upset any apple carts.

The movie then got a red-band restricted trailer that starts off establishing Gyllenhaal’s character as a ladies man in a much more explicit way than the first trailer did. We then get more explicit versions of other scenes we’ve seen before, mostly in terms of the language that’s used in those scenes. We’re also shown that the movie’s focus on erectile dysfunction drugs does pay off in a scene in which Gyllenhaal has to visit the doctor because he’s having an extended reaction to the same thing he’s selling to doctors.

Online

As usual the official website opens by playing the trailer. Once you enter the site and stop the full-screen video from playing there as well the first section of content is “About the Film” which just has a three sentence synopsis of the story.

Second up is “Video” which just has the trailer and then there’s the “Photo Gallery” that has just six stills from the movie in it. “Downloads” has just three Wallpapers. Lastly there’s a “What’s Your Love Personality” quiz that you can take if you’re so inclined.

Much of what’s on the movie’s Facebook page appears to be hidden behind the “Like” wall, meaning you have to Like the page before you can see it. But if you go back to the Wall there are the standard sort of updates about the film’s marketing and publicity. There’s also video, photos and even a Check-In partnership with GetGlue.

Advertising and Cross Promotions

I think there’s been some TV advertising done, much of which has just re-edited and shortened the trailer to fit the 30-second time limit. These have played the movie up as a straight romantic comedy without any of the melodrama or heart strings that the end of the trailer hints at.

Media and Publicity

Since the movie is about finding love under difficult circumstances, much of the press involved Hathaway’s personal romantic life (Vogue, 11/10) but which also took a look at the actress’ career to date.

Hathaway also got creative adoration from her director in the press (Los Angeles Times, 11/2/10) where he went on about how dedicated she was to her performance and how she was, in his words, at “the height of her powers” in this movie.

Some stories also focused on how the movie diverged from the real life (Fast Company, 11/15/10) of the man who Gyllenhaal’s character is based on and who wrote the book that inspired the film while still retaining its spirit.

There was coverage too of the fact that this fell well out of director Zwick’s usual filmmaking scope (New York Times, 11/19/10) since he’s usually more prone to sweeping epics that have a ton of emotional undercurrent than a movie that’s focused on relationships and, to the point, a lot of sex.

The fact that the two stars saw each other naked a lot – and how they went about dealing with that and approaching a story filled with sex and nudity – was the subject of a number of stories (LAT, 11/21/10) that also focused on the fact that this wasn’t the first time the two had been paired romantically on film.

There were also the usual other profiles and interviews with the two stars as they made the rounds of the press and the talk shows and everything else.

Overall

I’m not sure what audience is going to latch on to this campaign since it doesn’t seem to fall in to any of the usual easy-to-define buckets. While at one point it seems to embrace the idea of it being a romantic comedy at other times it almost seems to actively reject that label by showing two people who are only out for their own pleasures. It also seems to be making an active appeal to men with the way Gyllenhaal’s character is portrayed, which is a bit unusual for a pure-play rom-com. So there’s a bit of a disjointed feel about the campaign not because it doesn’t know what it is – I actually think it has a strong and consistent identity about itself – but because it defied conventions.

But the campaign does know what it’s doing and so presents a movie that’s definitely geared toward adults and so doesn’t shy away from being graphic about selling the film for what it is: the story of two people who are just looking for a little physical pleasure in their lives but who realize there might be something more in the relationship they’ve reluctantly started on. All the elements of the campaign work well together pretty well and it’s all complimented by a decent publicity push that allows the issues within the movie – specifically all the sexual content – to be addressed in ways the paid push just can’t.

Movie Marketing Madness: The Next Three Days

Many movies are about examining the lengths one will go to in order to save someone we love. That could mean fighting the pharmaceutical/medical/insurance industries for a treatment that will save a child, it could mean plowing through the ranks of French soldiers during the French-Indian War to save a woman after promising to find her no matter the cost, it could mean simply standing up and doing what’s right in the face of some sort of authority that’s trying to sweep an incident under the rug.

The Next Three Days tells just such a story. An everyday family is torn apart when the wife (Elizabeth Banks) is suddenly arrested for murder, is convicted and ultimately sent to prison for that crime. After a few years have gone by her husband (Russell Crowe) realizes his wife is not going to make it through the rest of her sentence. So he works up a plan to break her out of prison and enlists the help of a criminal who escaped himself (Liam Neeson) to help him formulate that plan, including how it’s going to impact the couple’s young son.

The Posters

The first poster for the movie features a collection of photographs, maps, drawings and notes that have pinned up and wall and which roughly form Crowe’s face, with the title and the copy “Lose who you are to save what you love” at the bottom.

It’s a visually interesting one-sheet, but honestly comes off more like a stalker’s shrine wall than where he’s planning how he will break his wife out of prison. It’s look what you’d see when you first discover where some creep was plotting an assassination more than anything.

The second poster was a little better, at least in terms of selling the story behind the movie. The copy “What if you had 72 hours to save everything you live for” at least gives the audience an idea that Crowe is the protagonist in the story and not the victim or creepy stalker.

The burnt orange look to the image combined with Crowe’s feathered hair and huge sunglasses kind of give the impression that this is a 70’s throwback design, which doesn’t really match up with anything else in the campaign even if it is a more interesting look than had been used on the previous poster.

A third and final poster once again used Crowe’s head as the main design element, only this time it’s partly transparent and within it you can see he and Banks running through a subway station. And instead of a bright orange 1976 aura about it this one features a more somber and serious gray color scheme

This one probably works the best of the collection since it simply lays out the movie’s premise simply and in the most clear manner of the entire set. We get that Crowe’s character is very serious and pondering something that is likely life changing. And we get that the main focus of the movie is on the chase that he and Banks will be engaged in.

The Trailers

The trailer opens, as many such spots do, by showing us just what a loving family it is that’s at the heart of the story. Crowe’s a good dad and Banks is a loving mother who takes daily pictures of them all. But then the police break up breakfast and she’s in jail. We see her attempt suicide, which leads to his seeking out Neeson, an escaped convict who warns him not to start down this road if he’s unwilling to commit fully and do things he finds morally wrong, which of course he is in order to bring his wife back.

The rest if car and foot chases as we see Crowe is successful in his attempts to get her out, it’s what comes after that which proves a bit trickier as they attempt to allude the increasingly tight police net that’s being dropped.

The trailer is good enough but spells out the entire movie, leaving little but the last 10 minutes in doubt for the audience. We see he’s able to become a bad person and that that pays off by him getting his wife out so very little is left to the imagination. I’m sure that’s by design as the goal here seems to be to make the audience feel as familiar and comfortable as possible with the product before they make the decision to go see it.

Online

The movie’s official website opens with a bunch of full screen video that’s pulled from the trailer before eventually stopping and allowing the trailer itself to play in full.

The first section here is “Story,” which gives a decent one-paragraph overview of the movie’s plot as well as the names of those involved. Further credits and more background information on those folks, both the cast and crew, can be found in “Cast/Crew.”

“Video” has the movie’s Trailer as well as one TV Spot and the “Gallery” has about 20 stills from the movie.

There are also a couple contests on the site. Plan Your Escape lets you enter to win a vacation trip or you can win a Vizio TV by making a personalized music video for a song by Moby that’s featured in the movie and on the soundtrack.

The film’s Facebook page immediately prompts you to Like it in order to unlock whatever content is hidden behind that barrier. On the main page are updates as to the film’s marketing and publicity efforts as well as the usual collection of videos and photos. The movie also had its own YouTube channel where they put the trailer, TV spots and extended clips.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

There was quite a bit of advertising done for the movie, all of it selling the movie as a dramatic chase film.

TV spots, of which there were two or three by my count, all basically re-cut and condensed the trailer, including the scene between Crowe and Neeson. There’s little in the way of setup, dispensing with the scene-setting of the family being all together and instead focusing on the planning of the escape and then the escape and chase themselves. They’re tight spots that present the movie as a hopefully entertaining option at the theater for people looking for something that’s not going to challenge them all that much but instead just keep their heart pounding.

Online ads mostly, based on what I saw, on the third poster, with images of Crowe’s transparent head showing up on a number of sites and in other places.

Media and Publicity

It’s not surprising that Banks was one of the first of the major players to get profiled (Los Angeles Times, 10/31/10) in advance of the movie, especially since taking on such a dramatic role is a little out of the norm for the actress, who’s primarily known for her comedic work though she has more serious credits as well.

The cast also made the rounds of talk-shows and other outlets to get the word out and make their appearances. Occasionally Crowe put his foot in his mouth, but that’s to be expected with the actor just about any time he goes out and hob-nobs with the press.

Overall

As I said about one of the posters above, the overall campaign works to make sure the audience knows that there’s little that’s going to challenge them in this movie. Most everything presents it as a safe bet with lots of drama and even a little action for people to enjoy. There’s nothing cutting edge at all about this campaign as it plays it safe on just about every front in order to convey that message of it being an essentially known quantity. Some of the posters get a little interesting in their design but that’s about as risky as anything gets.

I like that the campaign found some consistency in the home stretch as the online ads and other materials all sort of rallied around that third poster, though the look of the minimally-stocked website then recalls the first one-sheet. So it’s a good campaign in terms of selling the movie to a middle-of-the-road audience  but certainly nothing to get all excited about.

Hollywood’s Super Bowl plans still unclear

The AdAge story from a couple weeks ago (11/1/10) that provides the first round-up of what advertisers have already made plans to appear in Super Bowl XLV oddly includes no movie studios. That doesn’t mean there won’t be any movie commercials within the game’s broadcast – that would be extremely odd – it likely just means that details on what movies the studios had bought time weren’t locked down.

Looking at what’s coming out in early to mid-2011 there are a number of contenders:

  • Drive Angry 3D
  • Hall Pass
  • Just Go With It
  • Rango
  • Battle: Los Angeles
  • Sucker Punch
  • Fast Five
  • Thor
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
  • The Hangover Part II
  • Kung Fu Panda 2
  • X-Men: First Class
  • Green Lantern
  • Cars 2
  • Transformers: Dark of the Moon
  • Zookeeper
  • Captain America: The First Avenger
  • Cowboys and Aliens
  • The Smurfs

So mostly I’m guessing it will some combination of those since they’re the films that are coming out between late February and early August, which tends to be where most Super Bowl movie spots are picked from. And all these are either broad comedies, tent-pole sequels, comic adaptations, kids films or effects-heave action movies. There may be some surprises but I’m willing to bet those who wind up getting advertising slots come from this group.

Settling down

I might be reading this a tad too optimistically but these moves by WGN Radio, which come on the heels of the ousting of the program director who had caused much of the upheaval that had alienated me and likely a lot of other folks in the last two years, seem like good things and a return to some sense of stability for the station.

Movie Marketing Madness: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1

Earlier this year I covered the campaign for Shrek Goes Fourth, the fourth and reportedly final chapter in that saga. The extent to which you may have bought that story depended on a number of things, I would suppose, including the extent to which you’ve felt the recent resurgence in “reboots” of classic franchises were more about artistic expression and not just shameless money grabs. The original Shrek was based (loosely from what I understand) on a children’s book but the movie franchise extended from there since everyone was making money and there weren’t really an limitations on the stories that could be told.

See the number of stories that can be told when we’re talking about adaptations is, in many cases, directly limited by the amount source material that’s available. In the case of something like Shrek it was possible to transcend and escape those limitations because the original source book wasn’t something that was generally considered to be hallowed or untouchable so the filmmakers could go off in a number of different directions.

Try to do that with a beloved – and current – series of books and you’ll find yourself facing a world of backlash you wouldn’t believe. That’s why those behind The Lord of the Rings movies are so eager to make The Hobbit, because it’s the one thing they can still do. They can’t very well continue the saga into realms Tolkien didn’t explore or they run the very real risk of being slain by people who take the whole “dressing up as an orc” think a bit to seriously.

Which brings us to the latest entry in another wildly successful science fiction series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. The last book in the series by author and creator J.K. Rowling, the story is actually being split into two parts for its theatrical release because of the scope of the story being told, with Part 1 being released now and Part 2 early next year. And while I’m sure there are legitimate artistic reasons for the split – it is a big book – it’s also an opportunity for Warner Bros. to delay the inevitable a short while and get two event releases out of its last grasp at the franchise since any extension that doesn’t begin with a Rowling book is almost entirely out of the question.

The movies have gotten progressively darker with each installment just as the books did and that’s coming to its culmination in this movie as everyone realizes the ultimate stakes are on the line. Being the (pen)ultimate book in the series the story also features the coming together of the plots, both laid out and hinted at, advanced in the previous six books/movies. Without going into too much detail, the characters Harry, Ron, Hermoine and all their family and friends all now realize they are engaged in a full scale war.

So the time for learning at Hogwarts is done and it’s time to confront Voldemort’s forces of evil for once and for all and for Harry in particular to accept his destiny, even if he’s not sure what that destiny is. Add on top of the very real physical danger that is in front of them the fact that they’re all getting older and are more…romantically inclined and the story is veritably boiling over with everyone’s emotions, which makes for high drama combined with lots of action.

The Posters

The first teaser poster features a most disturbing site – the dual release dates for the two parts of the movie.

No, I kid. The main feature here aside from the note that Part 1 is coming this year and Part 2 in 2011 is the site of Hogwarts in flames against a dusk sky. That, accompanied by the “It all ends here” copy at the top makes it clear there are bad times afoot for Harry and the gang.

I like the fact that the campaign starts off with a clear intonation of the stakes that are on the table here and that Hogwarts, which has been the one symbol of stability in Harry’s – and therefore the audience’s – life in these stories is seen suffering a massive violation at the hands of his enemies.

After that a series of three posters, one each with Harry, Hermoine and Ron, were released that put each character in a different setting and showed them looking very much on-alert and on the ready for whatever dangers they were about to face. Each one featured the copy “Nowhere is safe,” making it clear these characters are on the run, with enemies all around them. A companion series featuring three of the villains also came out at this time but on their images the copy intones that “The hunt begins.”

Right after that another one-sheet was released that had all three of the main characters on it. This one featured the three of them running through the woods, either from or to the danger, with embers or some sort of magical sparks falling down around them. This one has the same dark and dreary look as those three character-specific ones and so continues that branding feel nicely.

In short order after that eight more character-centric posters were released featuring not only the standard trio of heroes but also some of the movie’s villains, including Snape, Voldemort, Bellatrix and Greyback. These were extreme close-up shots and designed, apparently, to make the viewer vaguely uncomfortable, especially if you suddenly find yourself counting the pores on Emma Watson’s face.

Even more shortly after that four more arrived, this time pairing the characters up in a series of four one-sheets, two for the heroes (though Hermoine gets put with both Harry and Ron) and two for the villains. All four in this set feature “The hunt begins” copy, again making it clear this is just the opening chapter of a larger story.

The Trailers

The first teaser trailer aired during the 2010 MTV Movie Awards and certainly laid out the setup of the (almost) final chapter. While there’s little in the way of direct plot given, we do see bad guys lurking around in spooky forests, friends standing against unseen dangers, nerves being rattled that some friends are fighting with each other, a dragon chasing someone and even a brief kiss between Ginny Weasely and Harry. So the movie promises, based on this, the same thing the source book did, which is lots of culminations and passion.

The first full trailer, released shortly after that, certainly presents dark tidings for our hero and his friends. Starting off with a showdown between Potter and Voldemort we then get a series of scenes from the movie, some of which show the power of the dark forces massing or attacking and some of which show the good guys defending what they can. There’s lots of running around, lots of standing awe-struck by something fantastical happening around them and so on. We see many of the characters from the franchise, if only briefly.

But what the trailer shows isn’t half as important as the event atmosphere that’s being created in between the scenes. “The finale of the worldwide phenomenon,” “The motion picture event of a generation” and more are thrown on screen to make sure everyone knows just what a big deal these movies are. This trailer does act as a promotion for both parts and shows the release date of both Parts I and II as well as the obligatory notice that this will be in IMAX.

The second trailer continued the themes of darkness and despair that have already been communicated.

We start out with Bill Nighy intoning that dark times are here and then are shown a ton of scenes of battle commencing between the forces of light and those of darkness. There are a few shots of the efforts Harry’s friends and protectors are taking to keep him safe – including casting a spell to make a bunch of his friends look like him – but mostly it’s various people flying around in combat or otherwise chasing each other around.

There’s a ton of new footage here but very little in the way of story aside from the broad point of “Keep Harry safe while Voldemort tries to kill him.” It’s effective in that it sells the massive scope that this movie takes place on but in terms of details all that’s really added is Snipe’s comments about infiltrating the Ministry of Magic.

Online

The official website opens by playing the most recent and final trailer.

Once you get past that and into the site itself the first section under the Menu that’s at the top is “About the Movie. There you’ll see a Story synopsis that covers what parts of the plot are going to be included in this installment as well as Cast and Filmmakers sections with backgrounds and information on those folks and Production Notes you can download if you choose to do so.

THere are about 20 stills you can view in the “Gallery” and expand as you see fit. “Videos” just has the two trailers but not any of the TV spots or anything else that’s been produced, which is unfortunate.

“Downloads” has 19 Posters (which I think is most all of them), seven Wallpapers and some Buddy Icons and a Screensaver you can use to display your fandom to your friends and co-workers.

The “Soundtrack” section opens up a new site’s that’s devoted to the album of the movie’s music and showcases the different formats you can buy it in if you want to. “Promotions” has links to some of the sites that have run promotions around the movie.

A bit of commerce is up next as “Previous Years” shows you the DVDs for the previous movies with links to buy and “Shop” takes you to the WBShop.com site with a ton of Harry Potter items to purchase. “Videogame” is dedicated, obviously, to the tie-in game for this movie.

A couple of social sections are found in “Join the Final Battle,” which is a Facebook App that pits you against your friends and “iPhone App,” which takes you to iTunes where you can buy the app, which has all sorts of spells and such, including the ability to duel with your fellow iPhone users.

Also online was the latest variation on the “upload your photo” concept in the form of Undesirable No. 1, where you can put yourself or your friend into one of the movie’s Wanted posters.

Muggle Hub” is kind of a stand-alone multimedia site for the movie, with all the same downloads, photos and more that are on the main site as well as a countdown clock, Firefox of Google themes, Twitter Skins and a couple other additional goodies.

Finally there are links to both the “Mobile Game” and the online “Motorbike Escape” game you can play during your free time.

The movie’s Facebook page imports much of the official website’s content – or at least links to it – but adds more video (which I’ll never really get) and of course the updates on what’s going on with the film’s publicity and marketing, many of which can be found on the Twitter profile as well.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

The TV spots for the movie certainly ramped up the sense of danger that the movie is meant to convey, with virtually every scene of the first commercial released being devoted to how much imminent peril Harry in particular is in. Voldemort almost gets more screen time in that spot than Harry and most of Harry’s seem to have him lying down in agony.

There were a ton more TV spots that all played up the danger and the high, high stakes that all the character were put up against.

Plenty of online and other advertising was done as well, of course, most using the imagery of the three main characters running through the forest.

Media and Publicity

Much of the initial publicity and buzz was centered around where, exactly the book would be split. This followed, of course, the announcement that the planned adaptation would be too long for just one reasonably-lengthed film and instead would be two. There was all sorts of speculation and rumors and reports but not much in the way of official announcements.

There was also movement on a front that began in advance of the previous film, Half-Blood Prince. Around September of 2009 more details were released about The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, a new attraction at Universal Studios that would recreate Hogsmeade and other locations from the books and movies and, of course, sell lots of related items (Time, 9/15/09) to the flocking faithful. More press, of course, appeared (New York Times, 6/7/10) just as the attraction was opening.

To help win the hearts and minds of geek webmasters and fans the movie made a brief appearance at Comic-Con 2010 where there was a bit of new footage shown off but not much else. This seems to have been a box to check off the list but with the knowledge by the studio that the crowd at Comic-Con wasn’t going to make or break the movie.

Some surprising news came with Warner Bros. announced (New York Times, 10/8/10) that Part 1 would not be distributed in 3D. The studio gave a pretty sound and laudable explanation for that decision, that the timeline just wasn’t working out and it would not be ready and at the level of quality they wanted it in time for release. The news was just about universally praised since it showed them standing up to do something right instead of just making a cheap move to make extra dollars.

The fact that this was the (next to) last installment in the franchise also prompted some looking back at that franchise (Los Angeles Times, 11/5/10) and how it’s been managed both as a series of films and as part of a larger brand that, not taking the books into account, includes just a ton of tie-in products, all of which have depended on the success of those movies.

Overall

There’s a good campaign here, but I’m left with kind of a mixed feeling overall. On the one hand, it feels too big, especially when it comes to how many posters were thrown out there and the regularity of the TV spots, if not their volume. On the other it feels like it’s all build up with no release, largely the result of the fact that the campaign is advertising Part One of a story we all know is being told in two parts. So it’s being sold as an epic, but much of the epic-scale marketing is being held back as the studio keeps its powder dry for the second film in a few months.

Trying as much as I can to judge the campaign on its own merits, though, it’s not bad. Again, there’s plenty of material to work with here and most all of it strikes the same tone of danger lurking around every plot turn. All the posters and both the trailers work to bring this message home, which completes the pattern of all the movie’s campaigns that have progressively sold darker and more dangerous movies.

A full recap isn’t really possible until the second part comes out. But the studio has done a good job, to the extent it even needed to, to build up the audience’s expectations for this next-to-last movie in the wildly popular series.

PICKING UP THE SPARE

  • 11/16/10 – Andrew Wallenstein at PaidContent wonders aloud whether the leak of the movie’s first 36 minutes to Torrent sites was actually accidental or in fact part of a plan (though one the studio is denying) by WB to see if giving people an extended taste translates to even bigger box office numbers. The same thought had fleetingly occurred to me so it’s hard for me to argue with his thinking.

Quick Takes: 11/12/10

  • Anne Thompson talks about The Way Back and how it’s indicative of the state of independent film right now, including how it’s going to run up against the issue of not having a huge marketing campaign behind it.
  • Movie studios were the single biggest category of advertisers for the first episode of Conan O’Brien’s TBS show, hoping to catch the eyeballs of the young, hip crowd the show was expected to attract. There were a couple exceptions but just about all the studios got in on the game.
  • MarketingVox rounds up some of the social media advertising that’s been done for movies in the last few months. There are other, older examples as well of studios that have advertised within virtual worlds and elsewhere but this catches you up on more recent news.

Technorati’s 2010 State of the Blogosphere report

The number that sticks out at me most from the latest Technorati State of the Blogosphere report is that 81 percent of those surveyed have been blogging for over two years. Many of those who consider themselves professionals – either because they work with a corporation or are their own media business – are writing more than they were in 2009 while those who are approach it as a hobby are doing a bit less.

What that first statistic says to me is that there are very few new people jumping on the blog bandwagon, most likely in favor status updates on Facebook and Twitter. That’s actually more than a little disturbing to me since, to some extent, it means we’re moving away from long-form critical thinking in favor of pithy one-liners.

The thing is, without blogs and news outlets, those pithy one-liners are empty. There’s no knowledge sharing. It becomes mere conversation, but a conversation about nothing since no one is putting more than a couple seconds of thought into what they’re saying. We need more people to not only continue but also newly take up long-form writing so that the next generation of thinking can take root.

The new report also shows a shift away from free hosted blogging platforms and toward those that are able to be more customized such as WordPress or TypePad across user categories.