Movie Marketing Madness: Tiny Furniture

Everyone has their eccentricities. Our personalities are, to a large extent, a collection of the quirks and behaviors we’ve developed over the years, most of which are the result of the environments – both physical and emotional – we find ourselves in either by choice or happenstance. We move through the world relating to others the best we can based on that.

Written and directed by Lena Dunham, who also stars as Aura, a barely fictionalized version of herself, Tiny Furniture tells the story of Aura trying to find herself amidst all her quirks. Just out of film school with no future ahead of her, she moves back to New York and begins living with her mother and sister. As she tries to figure out where she fits in to this world she engages in all sorts of reckless behavior, whether it’s letting a man who has nowhere to stay she just met move into her apartment or hanging out with her equally directionless best friend.

The Posters

The movie’s poster certainly works to convey it’s quirky sensibilities. The image of Dunham and the titular tiny furniture is crammed to the very top of the image while most of the design is dominated by a description of her character’s mindset. The slightly muted colors work well against the white floor that she’s laying on and so it makes it clear to the audience that we’re watching a dry indie comedy about a particularly eccentric but largely unmotivated person.

The Trailers

The trailer, which debuted in advance of the film’s debut at SXSW, introduces us to Aura and her situation – recently moved back to New York from Ohio and living with her mom and younger sister. She gets introduced to Chad, who’s described as being “internet famous,” who she begins an unusual relationship with as she’s trying to figure out the rest of her life. It’s clear her relationship with her old friends and family is a big strained.

The trailer has several opportunities to go for an easy joke and the fact that it doesn’t do so makes it clear to me that it’s trying to sell the movie as more of a heart-felt piece about coming to terms with your place in the world and accepting who you are than a straight comedy. Sure there are some funny moments likely to be there, but this is a gentle trailer with a definite indie vibe that should appeal to a good range of the audience for such films.

A shorter and more official trailer was released later on that featured much of the same footage, though many scenes were cut down to shorter snippets and one or two new bits were added. It works just as well as the longer teaser but in a more structured and traditional way.

Online

The official website for the movie is pretty sparse but there are some nice elements to it. The front page features the trailer and a stream of News updates from the film’s Twitter account that mention the movie or Dunham. There’s also the ability to download the movie’s Soundtrack in a ZIP file.

“Story” has a good synopsis of the film’s story as well as a bit of background on the movie, including pointing out that most of the cast are Dunham’s real life family basically playing themselves. There’s more information on the players in the “Cast & Crew” section as well.

Links to some of the movie’s press is in the “Press” section, obviously, and you can also grab a collection of stills and a press kit there. Finally “Screenings” lets you know where the movie is or will be playing.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Nothing at all that I’m aware of.

Media and Publicity

As mentioned above, the movie had it’s coming out party at SXSW 2010, which helped it rack up a significant about of praise out of the gate. It was there the movie won the Best Narrative award and shortly thereafter was picked up for distribution by IFC.

Around SXSW there were also profiles of Dunham (New York Times, 3/23/10) that focused on not only how the movie was a thinly veiled autobiography, complete with her real life family portraying her on-screen family, but also the payoff of a year that began with her bringing her first movie to SXSW a year prior.

Dunham was also profiled as one of a new string of filmmakers who make movies that are, in essence, about themselves (Filmmaker Magazine, 10/10) or at least some slightly fictionalized version of themselves. I don’t know that that’s as new a trend as the story makes it out to be, but I get what they’re going for.

Overall

It’s a nice little campaign that works by playing up the eccentric nature of Dunham’s story and characters while also presenting them as pretty easy to relate to, seeming more like just one of the people you know who marches to their own beat as opposed to an extreme oddball such as you’d find in a Coen Brothers movie. It’s all very ordinary even as we see a character who’s so caught up in herself and her naval-gazing that she can’t see how oddly her relationships are playing out.

The fact that there was plenty of publicity around this movie, particularly around its festival appearances, is nice to see since marketing components of the campaign aren’t going to reach a huge audience. The trailer and poster are good, as is the website, but the press coverage is what has the most potential to get people talking and for a movie of this size it’s certainly not lacking on that front.

Movie Marketing Madness: Morning Glory

There have been quite a few movies over the years that attempt to take the audience behind the scenes of the news world. From relatively recent entries such as Broadcast News and Network to classics of the old school of journalism such as The Front Page (and its classic remake His Girl Friday) we are often presented with an interesting, though of course, highly fictionalized version of what goes on to make the newspapers, radio and TV that we all then enjoy. And those movies overlook the dozens where a character being a journalist is just one part of the story and not the entire focus of the movie.

Entering the sub-genre of newsroom movies is Morning Glory. The movie tells the story of a young up-and-coming TV producer (Rachel McAdams) who is hired to take charge of a morning news and talk show like “The Today Show.” She inherits one anchor (Diane Keaton) and brings aboard another, a grizzled serious news man (Harrison Ford) who sees entertainment and lifestyle pieces as being beneath him. She’s tasked with turning the sinking ship around but comes up against a variety of obstacles not the least of which is the disbelief of her co-workers that she can succeed. But she keeps fighting and finds that doing a job well isn’t important if you don’t have someone to share that with.

The Posters

The first posters to be released for the movie were a series of three character-centric one-sheets, one each for McAdams, Keaton and Ford. Each one features a black and white photo of the character in what’s supposed to be, one would assume a pose that is designed to highlight their character. So Ford looks cocky and suave, Keaton looks bouncy and happy and McAdams looks a bit pensive as she sips her mug of coffee. Over the photo is the “‘What’s the Story?’ Morning Glory” combination of the tagline and title.

The theatrical one-sheet basically takes those three images and mashes them together, only in this case the photo of McAdams has the coffee cup a little bit lower so we can see her entire face. The copy is also toned down a bit so that it’s not covering the entire image and drops the “What’s the story” bit in favor of something a little more conventional, “Breakfast TV just got interesting.”

The Trailers

The trailer might have been the very definition of “charming” and sets up the movie quite well, cutting an attractive picture for the audience.

We first meet McAdams’ character as she’s being asked by her mother, presumably, about her job prospects. Shortly after that she gets a job producing a local morning news/talk show, a job that she’s assured will come with all sorts of headaches and problems, not to mention a low salary. One of her first acts is to recruit a grizzled old newsman, Ford, who immediately begins sparring with his co-host Keaton, looking down his nose at the soft news they handle on the program and her attitude toward reporting it. But it winds up being his combative and negative attitude that winds up causing her to begin truly effecting some changes on the show as well as in her personal life, which we’re shown is a mess due largely to her concentrating only on work. Wilson, who plays her co-worker, is thrown in as a love interest and is likely tied to that personal revelation as well.

Despite of it’s overly slick manner, the trailer works because you’ve got a bunch of veterans and very good actors doing what they do in a very natural way. Ford rarely seems this relaxed on screen and plays his misanthropic veteran well. Keaton is always good and it should be fun to watch her and Ford recreate select scenes from Anchorman. McAdams glides through the frame looking cute as a button but also believably playing, at least based on this, someone who’s trying to make their way in a new job. It just comes off as very believable, which is actually quite tough for a movie like this, both from a subject matter and a star-laden cast point of view.

Online

The movie’s official website opens by playing one of the TV spots in a video player window on the page. Below that are a rotating series of quotes from early reviews of the movie and above that are links to iTunes that take you to where you can buy a couple new songs that are featured in the movie.

“About the Film” has a good Synopsis as well as Cast and Crew, which have some of the best and more extensive bios and histories I’ve seen recently, and a pretty well put together set of Production Notes that primarily goes over the casting of each role.

“Videos” has the Trailer, a couple of TV Spots, a Featurette as well as a collection of seven extended Film Clips. After each video plays you get the option of sharing it on Facebook, Twitter, email or by embedding the video elsewhere.

There are about 15 stills from the film in the “Photos” section.

Finally, “What’s Your Story” is a contest where you can submit a video explaining why you’re a star to win a trip to New York City and a tour of a morning TV set.

The Facebook page for the film brings in much of that video and photo content as well as occasional updates on the star’s promotion and publicity efforts.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

A series of three TV spots all hit similar notes, presenting the movie as the story of McAdams’ character striking out on her own and having it all in a very empowering way – She gets the dream job and overcomes her co-workers’ skepticism, she gets the guy (at least one of the spots presents it as “her first true love”) and so it’s very much the ideal life that is being sold. Ford gets a couple good lines as does Keaton, but it’s clear that this is McAdams’ movie based on these commercials.

While a couple companies are listed on the official website, the one true promotional partner is Emergen-C, makers of an energy and vitamin drink, who ran a contest asking people to upload videos of them hosting their own morning news to try and win a trip to New York City.

Media and Publicity

A few weeks prior to release there was some buzz that began around the notion that this was going to be McAdams’ breakout performance, something she’s lacked despite being very good in a number of decent and well-liked movies. That sort of culminated in a New York Times story (10/31/10) to that effect and which included praise from some of her co-stars.

Overall

I said above that the trailer on its own was exceedingly charming, with a light and bouncy attitude but also the promise of some really fine performances, especially from McAdams and Ford. The rest of the campaign continues that same sort of attitude and feeling, assuring the audience that there’s an uplifting and empowering story here but also promising something that might be a little more interesting for those that are looking for it.

I really am struck at how the campaign doesn’t completely give in to the impulse that must have been felt to excise everything that wasn’t about the romance between McAdams and Wilson since that would have been a very easy angle to take in selling the movie to the public. Instead that element feels very much like a sub-plot that is just part of the overall story of how the main character proves herself and doesn’t give up on the success she wants. So it earns points in my book for that. It also gets some credit for showing off Ford and his grizzled anchor shtick, which looks like it might be worth the price of admission in and of itself.

Movie Marketing Madness: Skyline

There are two kinds of alien invasion movies that are generally made: Either the action unfurls on a global scale and we see the world uniting against the new and unknown threat in a massive display of cooperation as we all realize we’re human beings. Or the camera stays firmly on one person, family or group of people – be they friends or individuals who find themselves in one place completely by happenstance – as they seek to just stay together and stay alive amidst the surreal day they’re having.

Firmly in the second camp, apparently, is the new movie Skyline. The movie, which stars a bunch of relatively unknown actors or those who are mostly recognizable as “that guy,” follows a group of friends and random Los Angeles apartment building neighbors on the day the aliens appear. Far from establishing first contact, the visitors are simply harvesting humans, dispersing a mysterious blue light that, once you look into it, captures you and sucks you up into the ship, where things are probably going to go downhill quickly. The same ships and events are unfolding around the world but our group of survivors see escaping out of the city is their only chance to survive.

The Posters

The movie’s first teaser poster takes us to ground level of the alien’s invasion, with the city of Los Angeles shown as thousands of people are drawn up in to the hovering ships by the ghostly blue light. It sets the expectation that the movie will be operating on a massive scale.

The second, theatrical one-sheet used a combination of that same sort of image, the masses being pulled by the alien’s mysterious blue light up to their fate on the massive ship, with that of the first promotional image that was released of the two guys standing on the rooftop surveying the carnage, guns in hand as if that’s going to do something against the huge ship that’s hovering over the city.

Both posters work alright and certainly show that the Earth, as represented by the citizenry of Los Angeles, is having a very, very bad day.

The Trailers

The initial trailer starts off with dire warnings, including some brought to us by newscasters, of what might be the outcome of any aliens were to actually land on Earth. Shortly after that the camera cuts to mysterious blue lights landing in the middle of Los Angeles (I think) and spreading from their points of impact. We then see ships begin to appear above where those flames are engulfing the city.

But the really freaky stuff happens next as those ships open from the bottom and begin to lift people off the ground as you hear them screaming.

As a vehicle for setting the stage for the movie and creating a definite tone for what’s to come this trailer works very well. It’s largely wordless save for those news broadcasts and aside from the screaming at the very end. So all in all a very good launch to the mainstream audience for the movie.

A second trailer offers a bit more of the story. We again open in L.A. with mysterious blue lights descending from the sky, but this time the action moves into an apartment bedroom, where one of the occupants makes the mistake of looking into the light and is then sucked through the window and into the hovering ship.

The small group of people we’re going to follow are introduced – though none by name – as we see them trying to figure out just what’s going on and then, once they realize what that is, try to survive as long as possible. While we get plenty of shots of the ships that are hovering over cities around the world we get only a few quick glimpses of the aliens themselves, which appear to be huge and almost seem like a techno-organic mix. We do see lots of military fighters taking on the alien crafts, telling us that this is going to be another take on the “Earth vs. Aliens” theme.

It’s a pretty cool trailer that makes it clear the movie is about the spectacle and that the characters are simply vehicles through which we witness the scope of what’s going on.

Online

The movie’s official website starts off, as so many do, by playing the second trailer. There’s also here on the opening page a photo-upload tool called “Experience the Tranceformation” that allows you to see what you would look like under the thrall of the alien’s blue light capture beam.

Entering the full site, the first section is “About” and its there that you can view a Synopsis, bios and film histories of the Cast, Crew and Production Team as well as download full Production Notes if you wish to do so.

There are about a dozen stills in the “Gallery” and the “Videos” area has both trailers, a half-dozen TV Spots and a collection of extended Film Clips. Finally, “Downloads” has eight Wallpapers for you to grab or a few AIM Icons if you so wish.

The film’s Facebook page opens by showing a bunch of videos that act like found footage in a way that’s related to the movie. So there’s a couple taking video of themselves driving down the highway who encounter the aliens suddenly and are caught up. The offer is there to “Like” the page so you can share your own videos, but I’m not sure how that works. There’s also a “Check-In” tab that allowed you to check in as having watched the movie using GetGlue and add a comment about having done so. There are also plenty of photos and videos and the other updates that are common to these pages.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

While there weren’t any promotional partners there was quite a bit of advertising done. As mentioned above, there were a half-dozen TV spots that were created and which were run in pretty heavy rotation particularly in the last weeks before release. Each used a sub-set of footage from the trailers but without, at least as far as I can tell, anything new. But this set of commercials worked in and of themselves and do a good job of selling the movie to the public as, actually, a pretty standard alien invasion movie.

Media and Publicity

Before Comic-Con 2010 it was a movie no one had really heard of. But after a panel presentation there that showed the trailer and some footage there, enough that it wound up on everyone’s lips and came out as one of the most-anticipated films to make an appearance there. All of that without, apparently, a distributor yet since it was made outside the studio system and completely independently.

A lot of the publicity, which there actually wasn’t a ton of, focused on the technical development of the movie and is exemplified by this profile (Los Angeles Times, 11/5/10) that had them talking about how they tried to do something a little different with the sci-fi genre by creating a movie with top-shelf effects but as independent creators.

Overall

I like just about everything about this campaign. The trailers are really effective at establishing the mystery about the story and the other materials, particularly the website and posters, work to support those in making the case to the public. And while I didn’t come across a massive amount of publicity, the campaign strategies did do a good job of getting some word of mouth started and start people talking.

As I said, though, the TV campaign hits all the same notes as most any other alien invasion movie and so there’s a slight disconnect between that portion of the campaign, which doesn’t break any new ground, and the way it was presented to movie and genre fans at an event like Comic-Con as well as in the press, where it was placed squarely in the “doing something different” category. But most of the audience probably isn’t aware enough of those efforts to be put off by all that so it works well enough to probably get a good audience this weekend.

What the heck is with the disrespect toward marriage?

I’m not usually one to jump on the “Hollywood hates marriage” wagon, but a slew of just-released trailers has me about ready to do that. Take the following:

In Just Go With It, Adam Sandler plays a guy who pretends to be married in order to score with other women, giving them a sob story about his broken marriage to win their sympathy and ultimately his way into their beds.

In Hall Pass, the main male characters are portrayed as helpless horndogs who can’t help but ogle other women. Instead of asking them to respect the sanctity of marriage their wives give them a “week off” without consequences to get this out of their systems.

In No Strings Attached, Ashton Kutcher and Natalie Portman play lifelong friends who wind up having sex but with the understanding that there won’t be any deeper commitment.

(Later Update – There’s also the trailer for Friends with Benefits that’s been released, about two friends who decide to just use each other for sex occasionally. That makes four. Yikes)

Come on, Hollywood. Stop mocking the idea of marriage as something that’s constrictive and only barely tolerable that must be avoided if the chance arrives at all.

I know there are other, more egregious examples, but the triple-punch of all these trailers being released inside of about 24 hours just brought this into stark relief.

Movie Marketing Madness: Welcome to the Rileys

When a couple has their first child it can take some time to get used to the fact that the number of people in that relationship has just doubled. The husband and wife often have to reevaluate and adjust how it is they relate to each other in light of the fact that there’s now this extra person they have to pay attention to, often at the expense of each other.

If that child should die, this all has to be done again only this time with the heartbreaking loss to cope with as well. Some people just can’t do it.

The new movie Welcome to the Rileys is about a couple who’s still reeling from the death of their young daughter. Doug (James Gandolfini) and Lois (Melissa Leo) have pretty much stopped being a couple since their daughter’s death. Doug, though, is getting tired of Lois being so emotionally shut down. On a business trip to New Orleans he happens across a young girl who’s about the age his daughter would be and, learning she’s a runaway, is working as a stripper and is living in a rundown house, decides to take her under his wing and help her restore her life. Eventually Lois overcomes her anxieties and joins him and, while there’s some friction, the three begin to form a new bond of their own choosing.

The Posters

The movie’s one poster takes a pretty standard approach to how it lays out its introduction to the characters. Photos are arranged on the design in such a way that each actor gets a big color photo while next to them is another, more washed out image that’s supposed to either show them kind of watching the others or portray something important about their character. So Gandolfini and Leo are kind of watching the other two interact while Stewart’s image is positioned next to a photo of a stripper wearing platform heels and fishnet stockings.

It does what it needs to do and sells the movie as an ensemble character drama, but this sort of collage tri-band design is used pretty frequently.

The poster also contains a couple of pull quotes from early reviews of the movie as well as its badges from some of the film festivals it was selected to screen at.

The Trailers

The movie’s trailer first introduces us to the Rileys themselves. They’re obviously a broken married couple, with the wife unable to stop grieving over the loss of their daughter and having pulled away from everyone, including her husband. One day he has to go to a convention in New Orleans and happens to come across Stewart’s character, who he befriends in a fatherly way. Seeing her as someone he can help fix – she’s a broke stripper who lives in a rundown mess of a house – and someone who is about the age his daughter would be he becomes a surrogate father of sorts. After a while his wife comes to him in New Orleans and the three begin to form a family unit of sorts.

It’s clear that all three characters will be going on emotional arcs in the movie. Stewart will find the parental figures she lacks and the couple will find someone who not only needs those roles in her life but also finally begin to once again relating to each other as a husband and wife, something that’s apparently been missing for a long time.

Online

The official website for the movie opens by playing the film’s trailer and that’s actually the majority of the site’s content. There’s a Synopsis that is pretty well written and the ability to see which Theaters the movie is playing at but that’s about it.

The Facebook page for the film is slightly more robust, with a Wall of updates and discussions about the movie from fans who are obviously eager to see it along with a selection of photos and extended video clips from the film. There was also a Twitter feed that had a similar stream of updates.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

I think I may have seen a little online advertising done, mostly with images that are pulled from the poster key art, but that’s about it. To my knowledge there was no TV advertising done or anything else.

Media and Publicity

The movie’s buzz initially started when it debuted at Sundance 2010, where it picked up some good reviews and healthy word-of-mouth before being picked up by Apparition. It then appeared at the Los Angeles Film Festival, which gave the stars an opportunity to talk about the project (Los Angeles Times, 6/29/10) and what drew them to it.

Of course you can’t have a movie with Stewart without plenty of discussion not only of Twilight but also the actress’ penchant for being massively uncomfortable whenever any sort of fan attention is brought to her (Los Angeles Times, 10/28/10). But that story and other press coverage also goes in to how her role in this movie is different from those movies and more in line with what she’d like to be doing on a more regular basis.

Gandolfini got some press as well, particularly because this sensitive nurturing character couldn’t be more different (New York Times, 10/27/10) from the one he’s famous for playing on HBO. So the overarching narrative of the press coverage for both of these actors has been that this movie represent something of a departure for them, or at least that they’re trying not to be pigeonholed into one type of role, even if that is kind of ridiculous.

Overall

The poster and trailer make a nice pair, even if there are some problems with each one. Both explain as well as they can the relationships between the trio of characters and try to draw the viewer into their lives. No, the poster isn’t very original and yes, the trailer seems to devolve to melodrama a bit, but that’s alright since they each do most of what they need to do, which is sell the audience on a character driven drama featuring some decent actors.

The rest of the effort is more of a mixed bag, with a decent publicity effort that’s been mounted even while the website is only one step removed from simply having the URL redirect to the Apple Trailers page. More effort was obviously put in to the Facebook page and that’s more or less understandable, even if I’m not a huge fan of such reallocation of efforts.

Overall it’s an alright campaign for a movie that’s going to live or die theatrically based on word of mouth from its initial limited run and then will likely go on to find a broader audience on video.

Movie Marketing Madness: Fair Game

Stories about the abuse of power are almost always interesting. But they tend to take one of two directions: Either they focus on those who are doing the abusing and how they’re ultimately brought down by their hubris or they look specifically at the investigation into what they’ve done and how they’re ultimately brought down by their hubris. Few, though, look at what impact the abuses perpetrated have on the victims of that abuse. They might be mentioned or a poor widow who had her house taken from her shown briefly, but that’s about it.

The new movie Fair Game is all about how the abuse impacts the lives of the victims. The movie tells the real-life (though obviously with embellishment) story of Valerie Plame, the CIA operative who was outed by the administration of George W. Bush in apparent retaliation for her husband, Joe Wilson, daring to question the validity of their justifications to go to war with Iraq. Naomi Watts plays Plame while Sean Penn stars as Wilson in the film, which is based on Plame’s book of the same name.

The Posters

The movie’s first poster is pretty typical of a political drama in that there’s lots of shaded, muted colors and everyone looks very serious. Watts is shown most clearly here walking toward the camera with a stylish yet intimidating outfit on and a look on her face that’s all business. In the background over her shoulder is Penn, who’s obscured slightly, a choice that may reflect his character’s role as an instigator or thing or otherwise as a largely behind-the-scenes actor.

The only teases as to the story are the standard “Inspired by true events” disclaimer and the “Wife. Mother. Spy.” copy at the bottom that spell out the simultaneous yet seemingly disparate roles Watts’ character holds in her life.

A second poster didn’t change the design all that much from the first. Both actors are closer to the camera and the CIA logo seems to be more prominently displayed but that’s about it. The copy remains the same and the overall look and feel remains. But this does appear to be more traditional the moving the actors closer to the camera increases the sense of immediacy, which adds to the drama that the audience can then expect.

The Trailers

The first trailer starts out like any traditional spy thriller. At first Watts’ character is shown as a loving mother and wife but then she’s in a car promising an Iraqi safety as long as he stays in the car. Soon the drama shifts to the more political, though, as we see Penn intone that a question of nuclear material sales is not really believable. That embraces the White House, who then decide they need to “change the story” by outing her as a CIA operative, something that has not only personal implications but also professional as it endangers people in the field. By this time, though, the damage has already been done and she’s feeling the pressure, which she then says she’s not going to fold under.

It’s a high-pressure trailer that acts more like an action movie with its fast cuts and pounding music instead of a more staid political drama. Can’t fault it for that and it certainly makes the movie appear as an intelligent thriller but it will remain to be seen if it manages to overcome the problems that have sunk other intelligent thrillers in the last couple years.

Online

The movie’s official website loads and immediately begins playing the trailer in a video player that also lets you choose to watch a TV spot, both of which are also found in the first content section, which of course is “Videos.”

The next two areas are all about connecting the audience with the movie. “Reviews” contains the same sort of pull quotes that can be found in the TV spot and “Theaters” lets the visitor know where they can find the movie, hopefully near them.

The “Timeline” section is pretty cool and is exactly the sort of thing I like to see for historical movies such as this. It takes you through the real life of Valerie Plame beginning in April, 2001 and including links to read Wilson’s actual New York Times op-ed and other supporting documents and news stories.

The “Gallery” has eight stills from the film and “Synopsis” has a two-paragraph overview of the movie’s story.

There’s also a section to “Speak Up” that includes everything from a stream of Twitter updates of mentions of the movie to an area where you can join the nuclear nonproliferation advocacy group near you. It also includes video of news interviews with Plame and archived news coverage about the scandal around her outing in the press.

Much of the content from that site is what greets you when you visit the movie’s Facebook page, which also includes the same Timeline feature in addition to a Wall of updates and a collection of photos and more.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

A bit of TV advertising was done, including the creation of a spot that mostly mimics the trailer but adds on a voice-over narration about how these people, Plame and Wilson, are taking on the highest halls of power. It also tries, using a couple quotes from a review or two, to position it as being in the same vein as The Bourne Identity and so we get lots of shots from the movie’s handful of action sequences. It’s a pretty good spot, but audiences are more likely to encounter a procedural drama than a movie filled with chases through the streets of Baghdad.

Media and Publicity

The film’s publicity effort received a strong start when positive buzz about it emerged from the debut screening at the Cannes Film Festival. The movie was described by some as Liman’s strongest effort despite whatever weaknesses there might be in the material itself. Though as some people pointed out (Los Angeles Times, 5/20/10) the talky nature of the movie might make it a tough sell to audiences. The one missing component from the Cannes effort, one that was consistently pointed out, was that Penn was not in attendance. While the official reason given was that he was testifying before Congress, the feeling was that he was just reluctant to go through the motions.

Aside from a few early reviews and other buzz, there was little outside of stories like how well Watts got to know the woman she was portraying (Los Angeles Times, 10/24/10) and such, including how she toughened up a bit for the role (Boston Herald, 11/1/10).

There were also even updated profiles of Plame herself (Interview Magazine, 10/10) that talk about how her life has evolved and what her feelings are about a movie being made of a particularly traumatic part of her life. Liman got in front of the press as well, talking about his aspirations for the movie (Philadelphia Daily News, 9/2/10) and how he hopes it will serve as an easily consumable public record of the events it chronicles for the audience.

Overall

It’s a tightly constructed campaign that has a lot of nice brand consistency running through it, meaning the trailer, poster and TV spots all have a singular look and feel that makes them pretty recognizable wherever the viewer might be coming across them.

I’m a bit surprised there wasn’t more press about the movie considering the source material, which would have allowed for a nice hook of revisiting the story from several years ago. Perhaps there was little interest in doing that given the current political climate.

Regardless, the campaign gels nicely. It will likely resonate most with an audience that was the most disgusted by the real life events that took place and offended by the blatant political maneuvering that was done. It’s almost like a documentary in that regard in that it’s unlikely, I think, to find an audience outside those already predisposed to assuming the worst tricks were possible from the previous resident of the White House.

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.