MMM in 2010

2010 was quite a year for MMM. Despite a work schedule that’s been busier than ever (though largely because of the writing time that’s been available on long flights) I published a record 87 Movie Marketing Madness columns, began semi-regular contributions to AdAge and have been doing a bunch of other things as well. Another reason for the large number of campaign review columns is that I increasingly decided they were a priority for me and so some other things got sidelined, but I still like writing these things.

I also decided to include more smaller movies in addition to the big movies that take hours and hours to write because I think it’s worthwhile to draw some attention to these films in addition to the big tentpole franchises that most everyone already knows about. To give this some perspective I easily could have gotten that number to 1,000 but schedules and other factors just didn’t allow for it.

As always I thank you, my readers, for tuning in throughout this year. Here’s to more good stuff in 2011.

  1. Youth in Revolt
  2. Fish Tank
  3. When in Rome
  4. The Wolfman
  5. Shutter Island
  6. Cop Out
  7. Alice in Wonderland
  8. The Runaways
  9. Greenberg
  10. Chloe
  11. Hot Tub Time Machine
  12. Clash of the Titans
  13. Date Night
  14. Death at a Funeral
  15. Kick Ass
  16. The Losers
  17. Iron Man 2
  18. Robin Hood
  19. MacGruber
  20. Shrek Forever After
  21. Get Him to the Greek
  22. Winter’s Bone
  23. The A-Team
  24. I Am Love
  25. Toy Story 3
  26. The Killer Inside Me
  27. Knight and Day
  28. The Kids Are All Right
  29. Cyrus
  30. Inception
  31. Salt
  32. Get Low
  33. Dinner for Schmucks
  34. The Extra Man
  35. The Other Guys
  36. The Middle Men
  37. Flipped
  38. Scott Pilgrim vs The World
  39. The Switch
  40. The American
  41. Going the Distance
  42. Heartbreaker
  43. Lovely, Still
  44. The Romantics
  45. Never Let Me Go
  46. The Town
  47. Easy A
  48. Devil
  49. The Freebie
  50. Jack Goes Boating
  51. You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger
  52. Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps
  53. You Again
  54. Buried
  55. The Social Network
  56. Barry Munday
  57. It’s Kind of a Funny Story
  58. Tamara Drewe
  59. Secretariat
  60. RED
  61. Paranormal Activity 2
  62. Hereafter
  63. The Company Men
  64. Nice Guy Johnny
  65. Wild Target
  66. 127 Hours
  67. Due Date
  68. Megamind
  69. Fair Game
  70. Welcome to the Rileys
  71. Skyline
  72. Morning Glory
  73. Tiny Furniture
  74. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1
  75. The Next Three Days
  76. Love and Other Drugs
  77. The Kings Speech
  78. Black Swan
  79. The Tourist
  80. The Fighter
  81. How Do You Know
  82. TRON Legacy
  83. Rabbit Hole
  84. Somewhere
  85. True Grit
  86. Buitiful
  87. Blue Valentine

Movie Marketing Madness: Blue Valentine

Relationships take a lot of work. When you first meet someone you find attractive it’s all pheromones and the rush of the unknown and new as your heart beats a little faster, your palms get a little sweaty and your nerves keep you on your toes and ready to jump at the slightest chance to make things *just perfect* for the person you’re wooing. You want them to choose you as the one they’re going to be with because right there at the outset all you see is happiness ahead. Things settle down, though, and quirks become less charming and small irritants take on massive lives of their own. But if you truly love that person you work through them and don’t give up because that’s the person you’re supposed to be with.

The story of how a relationship falls apart is the one in the new movie Blue Valentine. A couple (played by Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams) have their love falling down around their ears. So they take one night to try and put their marriage back together, taking a break from their young daughter and the other responsibilities of their lives and making an attempt to get back to what brought them together in the first place.

The Posters

The poster for the film opts to display in stark imagery the emotions on display in the movie. Sitting on the sidewalk against a building wall Gosling and Williams are in heavy public affection mode, a sense of urgency evident behind their passion and a city bridge in the background. The whole image is given a blue veneer that matches the title of the film and the title treatment and much of the other copy looks as if it is written in chalk, meant presumably to convey a homemade feel. At the top is a pull quote from an early, festival-based review of the movie that makes the case for the two leads to be serious Oscar contenders.

It’s a pretty good poster but while the image of the two embracing on the street could be seen as conveying the fact that they’re just so deeply in love they can’t help themselves it unfortunately also comes off as selling the movie as the story of two homeless people who fall in love. That might be nit-picking on my part, but it’s a feeling I can’t shake and one that doesn’t jive with the rest of the campaign so it comes across as somewhat odd.

The Trailers

The movie’s trailer focuses on how Gosling’s and Williams’ characters seemingly begin their relationship. We see a cute scene of them singing and dancing but after that starts – but with the music still playing – the scenes shift to a collection of more serious and depressing moments, though still with some happiness mixed in. While it doesn’t give the audience a ton of background it is easily understood that we’re going to be watching a relationship at various stages of its life-cycle, as the couple has their ups and their downs. It’s charming and nice, but it sells the movie as a straight romantic drama, which may not be completely accurate based on other word of mouth.

Online

The movie’s official website opens by putting a recreation of the poster’s key art alongside the trailer, which starts playing as soon as the site loads.

The first section of content is “About” which just has a brief synopsis of the movie’s story, though it’s better and more informative as to the plot than what’s seen on other sites.

The “Cast” and “Filmmakers” sections have career histories of those involved in the making of the movie.

“Media” has the movie’s trailer as well as a handful of extended clips from the film.

There’s also a (now-outdated) link on the site asking people to Join the Blue Valentine MPAA Ratings Appeal, a movement that will be explained more below.

The film’s Facebook page make takes the unusual approach to opening with the photo albums, which include plenty of stills from the its appearance at Sundance 2010. There are also videos and updates on publicity and marketing activities, many of which are replicated on the Twitter feed.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

No advertising that I’m aware of. Given the movie’s ratings struggles it’s highly likely there wasn’t a bunch of time to put together an advertising push and with a small movie like this that doesn’t fit into any easy buckets there wasn’t likely to be a huge campaign to begin with.

Media and Publicity

The movie first started buzzing as people saw its premiere screening at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival, where it was pegged as one of the biggest surprises and strongest dramas (Los Angeles Times, 12/25/10) to come out of what was otherwise not a very exciting dramatic lineup there. Williams and Gosling were both there and did plenty of interviews in support of their feature, which was picked up by TWC before the festival even closed its doors, something that cemented its position as a Sundance stand-out.

Unfortunately the next major round of publicity for the movie came when it was announced the MPAA had slapped it with an NC-17 rating, something many who had seen the film at either its Cannes or Sundance appearances, debuts where it picked up a good amount of buzz, were surprised at since there wasn’t anything they felt to be overly objectionable about the content.

That ruling was a mixed blessing in that while it may have severely curtailed distribution plans that were already in the works it did bring the movie a ton of buzz as the decision was dissected and commented on. Of course The Weinstein Co. promised to appeal (Hollywood Reporter, 10/14/10) the decision and brought in a team of high-profile lawyers (Los Angeles Times, 11/18/10) to plead that case to the ratings board, though the fuss around doing so was partly to keep people talking about the film since, whatever the rating wound up being, the film was reliant on word-of-mouth to make any sort of box-office impact.

The arbitrary nature of the rating was further called into question as it was pointed out (Los Angeles Times, 12/4/10) that the recent Black Swan featured an almost identical sexual act being performed, the difference being that in the other movie it was two girls in bed as opposed to Blue Valentine’s man/woman pairing. If anything that seems less controversial than showing a brief Sapphic affair, making the decision even more nonsensical.

Eventually the affair ended with the announcement that that, upon appeal, the MPAA had redesignated the film with an R-rating (LAT, 12/8/10), likely due to the pressure applied and the other examples given.

Overall

It’s obviously not huge, but it’s a good campaign for a movie that has a lot of people talking for good or for bad. The marketing itself makes the smart decision, especially in light of the praise that came from its Sundance screenings, to put the performances by Gosling and Williams at the forefront of the campaign and make those performances the center-point of the push. That’s done at the expense of laying out the story in a clear way but that’s alright since the audience that’s going to be interested here is more likely to latch on to those performances and seek them out.

It’s undeniable that the ratings kerfluffle may be what makes or breaks this movie’s fortunes, though. While people were interested in how it had premiered and brought that back up with the release of marketing materials like the trailer, the controversy over the rating is what brought the film back to the top of most people’s minds. How much of that was manufactured by the Weinsteins for exactly that reason is up for debate but doesn’t really matter since all that conversation has worked to remind people of the movie and that’s what counts.

Movie Marketing Madness: Biutiful

The question of what we would do with our lives if we knew our time on Earth was short is one many people struggle with, particularly after we lose someone close to us or have some other sort of traumatic event. It’s been the subject of many a movie but most of those answer the question very extravagantly in the style of The Bucket List or other movies that have people climbing mountains, jumping out of planes and otherwise going crazy. Any sort of reconciliation with loved ones is sort of in the background.

The new movie Biutiful, though, takes a much smaller approach. Javier Bardem stars as Uxbal, a man who lives with his wife and children in the slums of Barcelona, eking out a meager living through largely illegal activities. While he’s always done whatever he needs to for his family, what he wants most when he finds out he’s dying is for them to know he was a good man. So he engages on a journey of redemption that allows him to learn something new about himself at the same time he seeks to set things right with those around him.

The Posters

The poster’s design has decided that the best way to sell the movie is to simply put Bardem front and center, which as a strategy is hard to argue with and is more or less in line with what we’ll see in the trailer. So it’s just his face looking of into the distance, Barcelona behind him, with the director’s and his name between that image and the title. It’s a bit raw looking, which with the expression on Bardem’s face combines to make the emotions he’s feeling felt also by the audience.

The Trailers

There’s not much story in the trailer but that doesn’t make it any less powerful. What it primarily shows is the world that these characters live in, a world of high levels of passion with lots of dancing with abandon, incredibly raw emotions and lots of love, all set in a world of near poverty, where those emotions and that passion are all that there is to hang on to.

What little of the story is laid out winds up being plenty, a testament to the fact that many trailers show just too damn much. We see in one of the jump cuts an image of Uxbal’s brain, which leads us to believe he has brain cancer or something along those lines. And in the one bit of dialogue that’s shown a woman asks him if he’s ready to leave, to which he replies that he’s not going to die.

It’s an incredibly moving trailer that really sells the fact that Bardem’s performance here is the focal point of the movie and that he absolutely kills it.

Online

The movie’s official website opens with an invitation to once again watch the movie’s trailer, which is very much worth done.

The first section on the site is “About” and is where there’s a good Synopsis that presents the film as a character study of a troubled man. The Production Notes that are there are also excellent, with brief bits of insight from director Alejandro González Iñárritu on the film as a whole and Bardem on his character Uxbel as well as Cast and Filmmaker backgrounds and bios.

“Videos” has the Trailer and three extended clips from the movie that run about 30 seconds each and which show various sides of Uxbel’s character. There are eight stills from the movie in the “Photos” section.

There’s a really good Blog on the site as well that brings in and links to some of the positive publicity and early reviews the film has gotten. There are a couple technical things I could quibble with but won’t since this is well put together from a content perspective and I wish I’d known about it sooner.

Many of those links are included in the updates on the movie’s Facebook page in addition the usual photos and videos. There’s also a place for visitors to write a note, presumably about the movie or their experiences that parallel those faced by Uxbel. They’re all in Spanish so I can’t really tell, but I like the idea of giving people a place to share.

Advertising and Cross Promotions

Nothing that I’ve seen or come across stories about. This is a small movie with a limited budget and tough subject matter so it’s not like I was expecting a massive push here.

Media and Publicity

Most of the press for the movie has been praises for Bardem’s performance that’s come from early reviews. There’s been some movement in the last couple weeks for him to get an Oscar or some other form of nomination since it’s consistently been called out as one of the most moving and deep of the year.

Overall

This certainly isn’t a “feel good” campaign by any stretch of the imagination. The marketing here sells what appears on all counts to be a depressing and heart-wrenching movie. It’s also – and largely because of that previous point – not a mainstream campaign. The marketing sells a challenging film that’s going to not only present a world that’s unlike anything the audience is likely familiar with but also one that’s going to push them outside their emotional comfort zones.

The biggest thing the campaign does right is put Bardem front and center. Not only does his performance here appear to be a tour de force but he’s modestly known here in the states. So featuring him makes a ton of sense.

The other thing it does right is convey the tone and overall feel of the movie, which appears to be minimalistic in its affectations yet with harsh tones and big emotions being presented and conveyed through that approach. It’s a striking campaign for a movie that’s high on my list of movies to see.

Quick Takes: 12/23/10

  • Gruvi is an interesting film recommendation Facebook app that lets people signal their interest in a movie, see if their friends are already fans, organize movie outings and even provides additional related content. The service is, according to its founder, gaining traction overseas and is looking to expand to both general audiences and to studios.
  • Movie and videogame trailers are routinely taken out of the chart of top viral video content assembled by Visible Measure and AdAge for the simple reason that if they weren’t they would continually dominate the chart, pushing everything else down.
  • Also on Facebook is information on a cool campaign for the home video release of Inception. Every bit of advertising for that release contained a “snaptag” that, when scanned with a mobile device, unlocked new content, with further scans of more snaptags bringing people deeper into “the dream.”
  • Terry Heaton lays out why recent comments by studio executives trying to downplay the importance of Netflix demonstrate an attitude that’s going to cost them the war for people’s entertainment dollars.
  • Cinematical rounds up some of the worst critics puns that were included in a movie’s advertising or marketing.
  • Both the NYT and LAT have stories about the changing video-on-demand landscape and the fears and worries that are head by studios, exhibitors and others as well as the potential upside for some films that VOD distribution holds.
  • Yet another piece, this time in the LAT, about how the end-of-year awards season brings with it a lot of movies that are total downers.
  • If you’re interested, Twitter has released the top-mentioned movies of 2010. Some of those titles likely appear on the list because the studios behind them paid for Promoted Trends ads that brought more attention to the titles.
  • Along those same lines, I’m not sure if Aris or Andrew is responsible for this line in AdAge’s Book of Ten: Entertainment Marketing trend-round-up for 2010, but this segment is both funny and spot-on:

Twitter is a measurable marketing tool for movies: Whether it was Disney’s launch sponsorship of Twitter’s Promoted Tweets platform for the release of “Toy Story 3,” or Paramount’s successful ability to leverage word-of-mouth to make surprise hits out of low-budget movies like “Jackass 3D” and “Paranormal Activity 2,” Twitter’s promise as a tracking tool may have finally been delivered on this year.

Twitter is an irrelevant marketing tool for movies: Whether it was Universal’s low-grossing “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” appearance as a top trending topic for a full two weeks after it flopped at the box office, or Disney’s ability to translate paid tweets into ticket sales for the under-performing “Sorcerer’s Apprentice,” Twitter’s promise as a tracking tool may still be inconclusive at best this year.