Movie Marketing Madness: Megamind

“Nature versus nurture” is an age-old discussion. The theoreticians among us will debate endlessly on the fates of twins born to the same parents but raised in drastically different environments, discussing how each one will go through life as they grow from children to adults. Getting even weightier, each Christian denomination has its own view on the topic of pre-destination, that is, how does God determine who goes to Heaven and who, in a word, doesn’t.

This, though, is a slightly lighter topic and gets back to the first question of “Do children become evil because of their environment or are some kids just born bad?”

The kids in question in the new movie Megamind are extreme examples of that. On the one hand you have Megamind (voice of Will Ferrell), an evil and ego-maniacal villain who, practically since birth, has been engaged in a rivalry with the child who would one day be known as Metro Man (Brad Pitt), defender of Metro City. Both dispatched from their dying worlds and sent to Earth, they fight over the fate of the city time and time again. Most of their fights are covered by news woman Roxanne Ritchie (Tina Fey) and each is assigned his appointed role in those news stories. But one day Metro Man steps aside and, in the face of a new threat, Megamind has to try and step outside his evil comfort zone and, perhaps for the first time, fulfill his destiny.

The Posters

The first poster for the movie just showed off Ferrell’s title character, standing there in all his pompous and slightly misplaced egotistical manner. It’s just him pointing to his head with “it’s big for a reason” in relation to his head.

A second was just close-ups of both Megamind and Metro Man, with both the actor’s names and the promise that “The superhero movie will never be the same.” That’s a bit of hyperbole and aside from a sense that Metro Man’s sparkling white teeth might be a bit tongue-in-cheek there’s not much to the poster that hints at the story in any way.

A series of five posters followed that as release date drew within a couple of months, with each one featuring a different individual character. So there was one for Megamind, Metro Man, Tighten, Minion and Roxanne.

After that one more came out that had Megamind in the same style as Barack Obama’s “Yes We Can” image but this one had him leering at the camera as the text promised “No You Can’t.”

The Trailers

The first of the trailers is basically just an introduction to the titular character and gives us a sense of just how full of himself he is. It sets out the struggle between good and evil but then it’s all ego as Megamind shows just what he thinks of himself, though it’s obvious his Minion isn’t quite the go to guy he should be, not even being able to handle a boom box.

The second trailer starts off with a little bit more setup. We actually get an origin story not unlike that of Superman as the future Megamind is launched by his parents off their home planet, which is about to be destroyed. Then we see he’s not the only one, as the man who would be Metro Man is similarly dispatched and, we find, is kind of a jerk. So begins their rivalry, which comes to Earth as each takes on their appointed role. Metro Man is hailed as a hero while Megamind is feared as a villain, one who frequently captures an intrepid reporter to the point where she’s bored by the whole routine.

A third trailer opens with a slightly different take on the same opening sequence from the second spot and then gets much more into the plot. When Metro Man decides to retire from the superhero game, a new force emerges who is meant to be a hero but who quickly turns evil. So in order to save the city and show that he’s not actually evil at heart Megamind must take him on and become a hero himself. So toward the end we actually see him rescuing Roxie as opposed to taking her hostage.

Online

The official website opens with a brief video, kind of like a TV spot, playing and then you can also play Megamind’s “Vote for me” video there as well.

Once you enter the site you’re greeted with a lot of options as to content areas to explore.

First up if “The Story” which just has a three or four sentence synopsis of the plot. “Downloads” emphasizes the fact that you can grab a movie Mega Ringtone but there are also Wallpapers and even an email Signature of Megamind doing his little dance that you can grab.

Two of the Trailers as well as a video of the movie’s Comic-Con Panel Discussion and a Mega-Rap music video featuring clips from the movie are all under “Videos.”

“Characters” lets you get to know all the main characters in the movie by providing a brief write-up of who they are along with stills, video clips and downloads that are specific to that character.

There are lots of ways to distract yourself in the “Games” section, which has a couple of games as well as printable activity pages, a link to download the Disguise Generator iPhone app and information on the movie’s tie-in console games. Separate from that but in the same vein is the Megatizer, which allows you to upload photos of you and your friends that are inserted onto the character’s bodies. Then you can create a custom video to share with your friends through email or social networks.

“Comic” is just that – a comic that tells another story in this universe.

There are also sections that take you to information on “Sweepstakes” that were run in conjunction with the movie, the “Soundtrack” and where to buy it and the film’s “Partners.”

The movie’s Facebook page has some good updates on the cast’s publicity tours, the release of new marketing materials and more, including photos – with a lot of these coming from Comic-Con and the other usual content. There was also a Twitter feed that contained similar updates.

In connection with the “No You Can’t” poster mentioned above, a whole contest was run on Twitter that prompted people to tweet out a message using the #noyoucant hashtag if they wanted to enter to win a 3D IMAX screening of the movie for them and their friends. Obviously this was meant to appeal to the older members of the audience, the ones who might be prompted to see it because they’re big Will Ferrell fans or something, since I don’t think (I would actually hope not) the average third grader is big on Twitter hashtags.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

TV spots for the movie were…interesting. One spot in particular almost completely excised Metro Man in favor of showing Megamind as a sort of unusual hero but a hero nonetheless. It went through, in musical form, Megamind’s arc from villain to hero and showed lots of adoring people cheering him on. So it differs from the trailers quite significantly but is kind of fun and will likely be showing during some kid’s programming so may work to get that song stuck in their heads.

The movie had a number of promotional partners.

On the food front, always an important one for movies aimed at kids, there was Air Heads, which put movie branding on some renamed products such as “Minion-ade” and such. McDonald’s also was on board and put a number of movie tie-in toys in their Happy Meals.

No less important to kids movies are the reading tie-ins, in this case through Penguin on the physical front and iStoryTime, which created a story-telling iPhone app.

A couple of other, more adult partners were on board as well, including Chase Freedom and Starwood Hotels and Resorts.

Media and Publicity

The cast made an appearance at Comic-Con 2010, with Ferrell decked out in a handmade version of his character’s costume, delighting fans with some of his trademark wit and allowing Fey to wax on about just what a geek she really is, endearing her even more to the hearts of the assembled fanboys. The entire cast was there save Pitt, though Ferrell brought in a cardboard cutout of him just for the sake of completeness.

Later on Ferrell again got involved, this time with a stunt designed to set a Guiness World Record for the most number of people in some sort of superhero costume in one place at one time, a record it seems to have achieved.

A little less than a month out from release the studio took the approach of releasing the first five minutes of the movie online for people to check out.

There was coverage of the movie’s technical elements (Fast Company, 10/28/10), including just how groundbreaking some of the systems that were used to make the movie were and what level of involvement partners such as HP and Intel had in their development.

There were also basic profiles of the cast that are very light-hearted (Los Angeles Times, 10/31/10) as well as more in-depth examinations (New York Times, 10/31/10) of what went into the creating the story and what inspirations the filmmakers drew from to create the characters and the world they existe in.

Overall

I’ll admit that the first few bits of marketing for this movie left me cold. It seemed like kind of a ridiculous concept and the first few looks at the movie just didn’t do anything for me. But, it should be noted, the same thing happened with the initial waves of marketing for Despicable Me and I wound up enjoying that quite a bit.

But as things continued on it worked better and better for me. Basically once the second trailer came out my attitude started to come around and I think by the end of the campaign a nice push had been created that held a lot of appeal, especially for kids. I can’t say that this looks like it has the emotional heft of Toy Story 3 or the other recent Pixar entries but it does look to contain enough genuine humor that kids who see the trailers are going to be looking forward to seeing it. And it looks like it’s not ridiculously bad so the parents who have to take them may have an alright time as well.

Based on the synopsis and some of the press coverage that’s been circulating, most of the campaign leaves out a pretty major plot element or at least plays it down quite a bit. That happens pretty often but it will be interesting to see if there’s any reaction to that once people start seeing the movie. But the campaign as it is sells what appears to be a more or less entertaining movie that should be good for much of the family audience the campaign is targeted to.

PICKING UP THE SPARE

  • 11/04/10 – The genesis of the story and the role Ben Stiller, who produced the movie after bringing it to Dreamworks, was explored by the LAT.
  • 11/04/10 – The studio advertised the movie within the popular social game FarmVille, giving players a movie-themed experience as well as items they can use on their own farms to help promote the film.