Quade

I’ve been pulling for Mike Quade to turn the Cubs into contenders. He certainly seemed to inspire the team to play more solid and consistent baseball in the final 30-some games of the 2010 season.

But his approach does not seem to be having the same impact in the first month and a half of 2011 and all the media-driven promises of how he was so good at drilling fundamentals into players seem to have been so much vaporware.

Is it alright that I’m legitimately wondering what the team would have looked like under Sandberg, who was shown the door after operating for years under the assumption the managerial job would one day be his? I have to believe that having someone the older players weren’t so comfortable with and who many of the younger players had previously known as their minor-league manager would have created a situation that would have continued to train rookies, shown veterans you actually have to try and catch fly balls and more. Because Nice Guy Quade doesn’t seem to be getting the job done.

Movie Marketing Madness: Skateland

Movies about that *one* summer or that *one* night that turned out to be pivotal in the lives of the characters in it are nothing new. Notable examples are, of course, American Graffiti and Dazed and Confused, both of which show a group of friends and others on a single night where decisions need to be made and future plans made that will insure that nothing is quite the same in their world.

Following in that tradition now is Skateland. The movie follows four friends – everykid Ritchie, charmer and bad boy Kenny and brother and sister Brent and Michelle – as they realize that their adolescent lives in 1983 are about to end and they must decide in what manner they are going to grow up.

Their choices are paralleled by the closing of the local roller rink, the most popular hang out spot in their rural suburban town.

The Posters

The movie’s first poster is pretty simple but it’s effective in establishing the time period the movie takes place in (that feathery hair can only belong in the late 70’s or early 80’s) as well as, seemingly, what the movie is *about.* Showing the two main characters lying next to each other, with Fernandez looking off into space conveys pretty clearly that we’re dealing with a movie about teenagers trying to figure out what to do with their lives. It’s also clear that it’s the male figure here that’s doing the pondering while it’s his (presumably) girlfriend who’s trying to tell him to get on the horse. Again, a simple design but it conveys at least a couple key elements of the movie.

A second poster was released later on that used a photo of the four main characters standing in front of a car as its central image, but nicely split up that photo so that you see the upper parts of their bodies at the bottom and their feet and the grill of the car at the top, with the title and credits and such in the middle. Simple but nicely done. It also more clearly conveys that we’re dealing with a group of friends here at some pivotal time in their life.

The Trailer

We start off in the trailer by meeting the two main characters, who are living the summer life by hanging out and working part time jobs as they’re trying to figure out what to do with the rest of their lives. But then we see there’s conflict between them as she realizes it’s time for them to grow up but he still feels like it’s time to party and there’s more time to work on a long-term plan. There are fights, there are beers that are consumed and so on.

I like this trailer a lot for the way it gives a general overview of the conflicts and struggles that it will put the characters through without giving a ton of details away. We certainly get the time period it takes place in and the sense that we’re going to meet an extended group of friends, some of whom are good influences on our main characters and some of whom who aren’t. It comes off as more than a little similar in vibe to movies like American Graffiti and Dazed and Confused so it will be interesting to see if the movie itself comes anywhere close to reaching those aspirational highs.

Online

The minimalist website opens with a nicely subdued image of the main characters behind the title. You can choose to just View the Trailer or Enter the Website here.

Choosing the latter the first sections the “Synopsis” which gives you a good look at what the movie’s going to be about and who the characters in it are. After that is a very cool section called “Film Notes” that contains personal notes from writer Brendan Freeman and director Anthony Burns about what they were trying to do with the story and the movie and the how they went about contracting this world.

The “Cast” and “Crew” sections have good, if brief (largely because we’re dealing with young actors without a ton of history) backgrounds on the talent involved in the movie.

“Photos” has 15 stills from the film and the “Trailer” just lets you play the trailer. “Events” has a history of where the movie has appeared at film festivals and other gatherings and “Theater Locations” will let you know if the movie is or will be soon playing near you.

The movie’s Facebook and Twitter pages have updates on the reviews of the movie and the activities of the cast and crew as they try to promote the film. The Facebook page of course has a bit more multimedia in the form of pictures, videos and more.

Advertising and Cross Promotions

Nothing here, I’m afraid.

Media and Publicity

The movie has been bouncing around for a while now, having debuted over a year ago at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival, an appearance that resulted in decent buzz and reviews. Director Anthony Burns racked up some press there, talking about how he shot the period movie on a small budget and what decisions he had to make when it came time to go into the editing room.

It later had an additional screening at SXSW 2010 where some of the focus was on Green. An initial trailer (really more of a promotional reel) was released right around then but I can no longer find a copy of that online.

Overall

This is by no means a huge or enormously successful campaign. But it works more often than it doesn’t and, more than anything, remains true to what it is. The trailer and posters are good vehicles for conveying the story of the film and present an attractive film to anyone who’s paying attention and is interested in these sorts of coming-of-age tales. It’s clear from the campaign that we’re greatly reliant on how charming and relatable the actors and their characters are to the audience. A nice effort for a movie that may very well be worth checking out.

Movie Marketing Madness: Bridesmaids

Two wedding related movies within a week of each other? That’s right it’s summer, otherwise known as “counter-programming season” as studios try to woo female audiences to the theater during a time that’s best known for being full of movies designed to attract guys, teenagers and young kids. So for every spandex-clad hero that will be gracing screens there will also be movies meant (in the most generic, stereotypical way, a position this author does not necessarily subscribe to) for the distaff set.

But Bridesmaids is a little unusual and certainly doesn’t even appear to be in the same genre as last week’s Something Borrowed except that they both do, in the loosest possible terms, deal with weddings. This new movie, though, has a much different take. Kristen Wiig plays Annie, a woman who’s more than a little directionless in her career, her romantic relationships and more. One day she’s asked by her best friend Lilian (Maya Rudolph) to be her maid of honor at her upcoming wedding. The awkward factor is only increased when she’s introduced to the other bridesmaids, who range from a bitter stay at home mom to an innocent newlywed to a gorgeous woman who has her life together to a rough and tumble lady with an overactive libido.

The Posters

The first poster for the movie certainly did quite a bit to convey the film’s attitude. All the women are standing against a plain brick wall in their formalwear with looks of extreme attitude on their faces, like a gang of tough chicks hanging out behind the high school waiting for someone to come and try to mess with them.

As i said, this one is all about selling the attitude of the movie as being something other than what’s normally seen in movie-themed films. Instead of perky and funny we get world-weary and sassy, like any of these women would as soon cut you as look at you.

A second version of the poster was basically the same image, only with a bunch of quotes from various movie sites at the top, with most of those quotes coming from SXSW and other early screenings.

Later a series of character posters was released, each one showing a different member of the cast and introducing their character with an identifying characteristic like “The Innocent One,” “The Wild Card” and such like that.

The Trailers

The first trailer immediately shows us Rudolph announcing her engagement and asking Wiig to be her maid of honor, a role that she accepts but that’s apparently before she realizes what all is involved. Meeting the rest of the bridal party is awkward all around as the other women are not at all the kinds of crazy. Then the group is off to Vegas for some cranes and it’s then that we get a fast montage of some of the antics they get into there.

The spot makes it clear the movie is being positioned as one that shows women can be every bit as crazy as guys, if not more. There’s lots of smack talk and insanity in what they’re doing and it’s clear much of the comedy comes from Wiig and her reacting to the others in the wedding party, all of whom are quite different in personality. So she gets to be the straight woman while everyone else goes for punchlines. Good stuff.

The second trailer starts out by presenting more background on Wiig’s character and the sad situation she’s in. We then see various antics that she gets in to with the rest of the bridesmaids once she finds out her best friend is getting married. There are a lot of the same jokes here that were in the first one, just with a slightly different approach to many of them. There’s also a little bit more about what kind of romantic situation Wiig’s character herself gets into but otherwise it’s not all that different from the earlier trailer.
Another red-band trailer was later released that showed how the bridesmaids interact with each other, which is the source of much of the comedy. There’s also some pretty raunchy bits between Wiig and Hamm that haven’t been seen before and it tries to milk a lot of laughs from the larger woman who has an overly aggressive libido. But other than that it’s not too different from the previous trailers.

Online

When you first bring up the official website you’re immediately thrown into pink overload. There’s a scroll of quotes from early reviews of the movie at the bottom and encouragement to connect with the movie’s official presences on various social networks all over the place. You can watch either the all-ages or restricted trailers as well.

After finally Entering the Site you see an array of the character’s faces with little placecards showing their names and character descriptions. Clicking on one of them takes you to a place where you can download and view media such as wallpapers, video clips and more that’s specific to that character. This same information is available by clicking “Characters” in the menu on the left.

“Film” has a Story synopsis, Cast and Crew histories and Production Notes to download and view.

The “Gallery” has a nice selection of stills from the film and “Video” all the trailers as well as two TV Spots and a Look Inside video that features interviews with Wiig and more.

All the material that was previously spread out amongst the characters is collected in “Downloads,” including Twitter Skins that you can add to your profile. Finally “Features” has a Trailer Maker and Photo Challenge for your entertainment.

The movie’s Facebook page has a bunch of features that have been ported over from the official site as well as downloadable photos and updates on the cast’s publicity appearances.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

I didn’t see any online advertising that was or wasn’t done but there was a bit of TV time bought, with commercials that showcased this as being very much an ensemble comedy. The ones I’ve seen have played up the rivalry between the bridesmaids and emphasized the interplay between them while still slightly favoring Wiig.

Media and Publicity

Despite the fact that it would still be unfinished, the movie was announced as the closing night feature at SXSW Film 2011. Considering the studio’s attempts to sell it as a female version of The Hangover and the fact that the crowd at SXSW is exactly the one that made The Hangover into a huge hit that made a ton of sense.

The buzz coming out of there was decidedly mixed, with some saying it was the funniest movie of the festival and others saying it’s just a mess. The movie’s screening there did give the director a chance to talk (Los Angeles Times, 3/15/11) about how he went about crafting the role for Wiig and what a “comedy nerd” Jon Hamm is.

There were also profiles of Wiig (Time, 5/2/11) and how she got the movie made, what her career has looked like to date and more, all of which is appropriate since she’s the driving force behind the film.

Overall

There’s a lot to like here, most of it the enthusiasm that’s coming off of Wiig no matter how much she plays a character who feels put upon and drifting. The campaign – and the movie as a whole – relies on her being someone who we *want* to watch and this marketing push makes it clear she’s just that and more. Really for all the emphasis that’s been put on the supporting players in the movie it’s still obvious that this is her movie to make or break and the character that’s presented here should be attractive to fans of hers.

I’m pretty sure that an audience that’s more accustomed to the more cliched and saccharine type of wedding movie might be a bit perplexed here and someone going in to this movie expecting that is going to be mightily disappointed. But if they’re expecting that kind of movie then it’s obvious they haven’t been paying attention to the campaign since that’s not at all what’s being sold here.

PICKING UP THE SPARE

  • 05/15/11 – An interesting partnership with group-messaging app Fast Society gave people promos that included audio clips from the movie and more.
  • 05/24/11 – Cole Albius at FSR calls the movie on the carpet for what he calls “false advertising” by selling the movie based almost solely on the idea that it’s a gross out movie for women.

Movie Marketing Madness: Everything Must Go

It would be easy for me to start off this column with an invocation of George Carlin’s classic “Stuff” routine. After all the new movie Everything Must Go is ostensibly about how Nick (Will Ferrell), who’s recently been fired from his job and kicked out of his house by his wife, tries to unload the accumulations of his life. So Carlin’s routine would be very fitting.

But the both that stand-up bit and the movie are about more than the physical goods we collect through our lives. They’re also about the emotional stuff that is accumulated. So Ferrell’s Nick isn’t just selling the items that are now sitting on his front lawn – a tactic he’s using so he can live there a while longer – but he’s also clearing away the emotional clutter that has come with his history with alcoholism, a now failed marriage and a career that’s ended somewhat unceremoniously.

The Posters

The movie’s poster doesn’t go out on too many limbs gut does decently show the main concept of the movie. The only image here is sandwiched between two yellow boxes of text and show Ferrell looking more than a little disheveled walking down the street clutching a couple of shirts and a tie while the rest of his clothes are strewn on the street behind him. We’re obviously dealing with someone whose life is in transition here, something that’s made even more obvious by the copy “Lost is a good place to find yourself” in the bottom half of the image. It’s certainly not the world’s most complex or visually interesting one-sheet in the world but it does what it needs to do.

The Trailers

The trailer starts in pretty familiar territory when it comes to life-exploration movies, namely with the main character being laid off from the job he’s spent a decade and a half at and uses the gift he’s given to enact some small measure of revenge on the heartless corporate bastards. When he get home he finds that very same day that his wife has left him, putting all his stuff out on the front lawn and decides it’s just easier to live outside since he can’t get in anyway. Eventually he’s told by the police and others that he can’t live there indefinitely but can buy himself a few days by calling it a yard sale. He takes a young neighborhood kid who helps him sell everything under his wing. The trailer ends on a definite upbeat note as he seems to come to terms with his new possession-less situation and may even find someone new to love in the process.

Online

The official website for the film opens with an image of Ferrell in an easy chair on the lawn and a bit of audio informing us that he’s lost his job.

The first section of content is the “Story” which has a pretty good overview of the plot. Next up is “Photos” which has 10 stills from the movie that are, awesomely, presented like they’re on a ViewMaster disc. The “Trailer” is just the trailer and “Cast & Crew” has information and backgrounds on the actors and filmmakers as well as full Production Notes to download if you so choose.

The movie’s Facebook page has updates with some of the promotional activities Ferrell in particular has been engaged in as well as quotes from his character that come from his workplace. There’s also photos and videos and other content along those lines.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Nothing along these lines that I’ve seen.

Media and Publicity

The movie’s debut at the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival was one of the first big opportunities for press coverage and word of mouth to get kicked off. Prior to that it was mostly just stories about the casting, including some questions as to whether Ferrell could pull off a mostly dramatic role. But the TIFF appearance allowed for people to actually see the film and judge it for themselves. It also provided an opportunity to spotlight Rush, the director, and have him talk about the creative process (Los Angeles Times, 9/11/10) he went through with Ferrell.

It came out of Toronto with a distribution deal from Roadside/Lionsgate (Hollywood Reporter, 9/18/10) just before the festival ended. It was later slated (THR, 3/14/11) to make an appearance at the 2011 Tribeca Film Festival.

While there wasn’t a ton of additional publicity for the movie, Ferrell and Rush were out talking about it at Apple Stores and elsewhere in the press as often as they could.

Just before release there was a feature (New York Times, 5/8/11) on how the movie was brought to the screen by first-time director Rush, who cast Ferrell slightly against type and took a chance on some some difficult material

Overall

It’s not bad. Not mind-blowingly good or anything, but not bad. Ferrell is certainly – and rightly – the focus of the campaign but it’s also pretty good at showing a taste of the journey his character goes on. The trailer in particular hits an interesting note that shows this being a different type of performance from the actor, who’s toning down his comedic instincts to play a part that’s still funny but with more serious overtones.

Success spared us these headlines

Let’s be thankful Thor did pretty well at the box-office in its opening weekend otherwise we would have been subjected to some variation on the following headlines:

“Thor Can’t Defeat Low-Key Audience Interest”

“Midgard Audiences Do What Midgard Serpent Couldn’t”

“Marvel Franchise Hopeful a Thor Loser at Box-Office”

“Thor Gets His Asgard Handed to Him”

“Maybe Portman Should Have Made Out With Mila Kunis in This One Too”

“Thor Hammered By Competition”

“Marvel Hero Not Worthy to Carry Box-Office Win”

“Thor Gets Bifrost-y Box Office Reception”

See the movie, buy the comics

My latest AdAge piece is a look at some of the tactics comics publishers use to get the people who have just seen the big-screen adventures of their superheroes, adventures that are often marketed as straight-ahead action flicks, to also buy some comics. Yes, the comics are part of the marketing campaign for those movies but the inverse is also true.

Also “Hell, that’s *every* independent film from 1996″ is the best line I’ve heard in quite a while.

What’s the after-Like plan?

What do you do when you see someone new has Liked your brand’s Facebook page? More specifically, what do you think?

One piece of advice I often come back to is something a drama coach said to a bunch of us who were involved in a summer production in high school: When you go out there tonight the people in the audience are there to see you. Likewise when you’re in the audience those people on stage are there just to entertain you. The intent behind this bit of wisdom was meant to make it clear that anything less than your full effort as a performer, someone who the audience has granted their attention to, is a violation of the relationship.

The same goes for the relationship between brands and their followers on social networks. We’ve moved past – but not transcended – the simple monetary exchange that used to define the bond between the two. Now consumers are choosing to vote with their attention what brands they’ll affiliate themselves with and are doing so in a very public manner.

Building numbers is not an end in and of itself. Like there is with a performer and the audience there are expectations on both end, particularly expectations of mutual respect.

Survey after survey shows that people unfollow or de-friend a brand on social networks because they’re not providing what’s expected, mostly coupons, insider information and variations on those two themes. But a continued emphasis on collecting fans or followers like their novelty rubber bands means you’re not looking into what the current fans or followers are expecting.

It’s necessary to, as Spike Jones recently said, go “beyond the like” and figure out what the relationship is going to look like after someone clicks that little button. If not then these networks are just going to be a constant churn of someone coming in through an ad, a QR code or some other means and then leaving when they realize they’re not getting anything of value. Or worse, they continue to linger there but are completely inactive, distorting the overall number while driving down the ratio of active members.

We leave relationships with a sour taste in our mouths when they don’t turn out like we expect. Facebook may indeed be the primary way we signal our affiliation and enthusiasm for a brand or product but work needs to be just as focused on what happens after that initial signal is made as it is in prompting someone to do so in the first place.

Movie Marketing Madness: Something Borrowed

There are all sorts of traditions to follow at weddings. This person makes a toast, that person gets the first dance in some particular category, everyone gets uncomfortable when a groomsman tells the story of that time the groom hid for three days in a storage closet on their college campus after drinking something he was clearly warned not to though to be honest that party was really loud and he couldn’t quite hear what was going on, with the entire crowd going quiet just as the retelling hits the point in the story where he says “…that’s alright, though, since the zebras will clean it up.”

The whole “something borrowed, something blue….” and so o tradition provides the title and more for the new movie Something Borrowed. The movie stars Ginnifer Goodwin as Rachel, a woman who has an unrequited crush on her friend from law school Dex (Colin Egglesfield). Enter Darcy played by Kate Hudson, a free spirit who jumps to act where Rachel hasn’t, dating and eventually becoming engaged to Dex. But Rachel still wants to take her shot and so as the wedding date nears she goes through all sorts of machinations to both hide her true feelings and make them known so that he winds up with her and not her friend. So the “Something borrowed” of the title is actually the guy, who Hudson’s character is borrowing from Goodwin’s.

The Posters

With a cast of attractive people it’s natural that they’re all going to show up on the poster and with a story that’s pretty cut and dried and predictable there’s no better way to just sell that attractiveness than with some square images. The faces of the four main cast members are put in block images while in-between these photos some colored blocks spell out the copy “It’s a thin line between love and friendship.” This is remarkably similar to the one-sheet for How Do You Know earlier this year and a number of other romantic comedies. So no points for originality here, especially since the design also uses a silhouette of the New York City skyline and replaces one of the “O”s in the title with an engagement ring, both of which are terribly common elements.

The Trailers

The first trailer for the movie starts out by introducing us to Rachel and Devon, who meet in law school and then become good friends instead of dating. But when Darcy enters the mix she seizes on Rachel’s hesitation to get romantic with him and does so herself. Fast forward six years and Darcy and Devon are now engaged and Rachel is going to be in the wedding, reconnecting with Devon and otherwise having all sorts emotions stirred up. Devon and Rachel have an indiscretion-filled evening that brings all those feelings to the forefront, feelings that Rachel’s new guy friend keeps telling her to express.

While it’s somewhat painful to see Hudson in yet another wedding-themed movie (seriously, how many can one actress add to her filmography?) the trailer is saved and made bearable by the performances of Goodwin and Krasinski, who seem to be making the best of the material they’re given and having a bit of fun with their characters. It’s certainly not the best trailer you’re going to watch this year, but those two make it somewhat enjoyable.

A second trailer was released in short order that took a much different approach to selling the movie. It’s much more focused on Rachel and presents her much more clearly as the focus of the story, from her initial meeting of Devon in law school to the journey that they all go on as she has to come to terms with him marrying Rachel.

It actually works quite a bit better because the focus is on Goodwin and not Hudson, who still gets ample screen time here but is featured much less than in the first spot. There are a lot of the same scenes shown but there’s enough that the shift in attention is notable.

This trailer, though, commits the sin of telling the audience exactly what happens in the last 10 minutes of the movie in an attempt to assure the public that there are no curveballs coming. Nope, nice and predictable here.

Online

The official website opens by playing one of the trailers in almost full screen mode but you can skip that if you like.

The first section is “Video” which just has the two trailers. “Photos” has an amazing 40 or so still from the movie, a ridiculously large collection.

“Synopsis” has a decent write-up of the film’s story and who the characters in the film are. More information can be found in “Cast & Filmmakers” which has backgrounds and histories on those starring in the movie and involved in its making.

There are six Wallpapers, five Buddy Icons, a Screen Saver, Twitter Skin and Poster in the “Downloads” section. The “Partners and Promotions” section has links to the sites of companies who have worked with the studio in some capacity surrounding the movie.

“Push It” is just a video clip from the movie showing the girls doing a dance routine that apparently originated in their school years. There’s then encouragement to upload your own dance video to YouTube and tag it appropriately to be featured on the site.

As with many female-skewing movies about rivalries there’s a quiz you can take to decide if you’re “Team Darcy or Team Rachel.”

The site also has links to the various pages, social network profiles and more information about Emily Giffin, the author of the source book.

The movie’s Facebook page has lots of updates about dating advice and links to interviews with the cast and so on.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

There’s been plenty of TV advertising done for the movie, with most of the spots basically retaining the structure of the trailers in how the characters are presented. Not much new here at all since it’s mostly about presenting the movie as a moderately if all too predictable for people to choose at the box-office.

Quite a few companies signed on as promotional partners, including Rent the Runway, which offered a trip to the movie’s premiere, Ice.com, which promoted jewelry that was also seen in the movie, Demets Turtles (no details on how they figured in), Lenox dinnerware, which offered a hometown screening for a winner and friends as well as product prizes, Almay, which shared tips on how to achieve Hudson’s looks in the movie and others.

Media and Publicity

The cast and crew have made the rounds of late-night talk shows and given a handful of interviews to various press outlets but nothing that really stood out or is particularly worth noting.

Overall

I think I’ve been absolutely restrained in not mocking this campaign to the extent I’ve been tempted to. After all, there’s absolutely nothing new or interesting going on here. It’s just about selling a safe product to an audience that’s looking for something that feels like they’ve seen it 27 times before, which they kind of have (and that’s just the movies starring Hudson). So it can’t, unfortunately, actually be faulted for not breaking any new ground since doing so would have risked turning off the audience being targeted.

Movie Marketing Madness: Thor

To date the most successful super hero movies, both in terms of critical and commercial reception, have been about very human characters. Iron Man, Batman, Spider-Man…these are all characters that may fight crime and terrorism and such like that but the issues their alter egos deal with make them very human and frail. They’re overcoming a massive father-based inferiority complex, they’re acting out after the death of their parents or they’re just trying to act responsibly while also winning the girl of their dreams.

The movies that have been more mixed bags (I’m talking conventional wisdom here and your personal mileage will vary) are the ones about the super-strong, invulnerable heroes that never seem to be under any actual immediate danger. The Hulk and Superman spring to mind here, with their recent films doing well enough but not achieving on the same level as some others. The thinking seems to be that these characters who can do just about anything aren’t vulnerable enough to allow the audience to connect or relate in any meaningful way.

So how about a movie about a mythical god?

Introduced into the Marvel Universe in 1962 and now making his big screen debut is Thor. Based on the mythical Norse god of thunder, Thor has been a staple of the Marvel line of comics pretty consistently since he debuted, eventually becoming a founding member of The Avengers, firmly affixed as one of that team’s “Big Three” characters along with Captain America and Iron Man.

With relative newcomer Chris Hemsworth in the title role and wielding the enchanted hammer Mjolnir, Goldilocks’ movie portrays the thunderer as a petulant child. Eyed (pun oh so massively intended) by his father Odin (Anthony Hopkins) as the heir to the throne of eternal Asgard, Thor’s headstrong desire to seek out battle even when there’s piece eventually leads Odin to banish his son to Midgard (Earth). There, now powerless and without his BFH, Thor is discovered by scientist Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) and her team of colleagues. Thor’s brashness has followed him, though, and he soon finds himself working to defend Earth from the machinations of his half-brother Loki, (Tom Hiddleston), the god of mischief who covets Odin’s throne.

While the plot of the film is certainly important and interesting in and of itself, it’s also a stage-setting device to introduce the character in advance of next year’s Avengers movie. There he’ll be united with Iron Man (two movies already under his armor), the Hulk (one movie under his purple elastic waistband), Captain America (his solo movie comes out later this summer and will then be under his chain-mail) and Nick Fury (who’s made small appearances in most of the mentioned films) as well as other characters like Hawkeye and the Black Widow. So it’s half about the character himself and half about getting him ready for his next adventure.

The Posters

The movie’s first poster was a stark – and dark – one. Thor stands alone with his back half turned toward the camera and hammer firmly in hand. Everything on the poster is in (glossy) black and white aside from the character’s cape, which stands out in bright red. The poster seemed designed to make a strong impact on the audience while doing little else than announcing the movie was coming out soon and giving a veiled hint as to what the character would look like.

The next poster seemed more about intimidating the audience than anything else. It just features Thor staring out at the camera, his face tinted dark read and The God of Thunder” appearing in front of his face. There’s not much there to comment on, which makes me think the studio is just going for the idea that the character will be enough to bring audiences in. Shortly after that one was released a series of similar posters for other characters. So Loki was “The God of Mischief,” Sif is “The Goddess of War,” Jane Foster is “The Woman of Science,” Heimdall is “The Guardian of Worlds” and Odin is “The King of Asgard.”

A special poster was created specifically to promote the 3D release, with a shot of Thor grasping his hammer in the middle of some sort of storm and the copy “Courage is immortal” at the top and an appeal at the bottom to see the film in IMAX 3D.

Two additional posters were released around the time of WonderCon, one with Thor and one with Loki but with both of them sporting their ceremonial helmets. Considering Thor hasn’t appeared in the trailers with this helmet on (I don’t think) this is one of the first official looks the audience has gotten of him with the helmet, something that’s pretty consistent to the character in the comics.

A special poster was created specifically to promote the 3D release, with a shot of Thor grasping his hammer in the middle of some sort of storm and the copy “Courage is immortal” at the top and an appeal at the bottom to see the film in IMAX 3D.

A couple different takes on a theatrical one-sheet were developed, though I’m not sure which one is officially the final version. One has a gallery of faces, Thor being the most prominent both at the top facing the camera and toward the bottom with his hammer raised high in the halls of Asgard.

Another had the titular character smashing the hammer on the ground as the supporting cast is arrayed behind him. Both are slick, both are fancy and both work in the same way though for different reasons.

The Trailers

Released shortly after the poster, the first trailer is primarily focused on introducing us to the main characters and showing us the circumstances that they’re operating in.

The spot opens with Agent Coulson interrogating Thor after he’s smacked around a handful of highly-trained SHIELD agents, trying to figure out who this guy is. It’s then that we flashback to Asgard, where Thor has incurred the displeasure of his father Odin by bringing war to their peaceful world. So he casts him out to Earth, where he meets Jane Foster and the two, of course, begin a relationship.

We get shots of the battles that make up the movie, including a fight with Thor’s brother Loki and, primarily, The Destroyer, who runs through a small town destroying things with his eye beams like something out of The Day the Earth Stood Still.

The trailer keeps things moving at a fast pace and it comes off as selling the movie as a big, epic fantasy-based action movie, which I think is exactly the tone it needed to set.

The second trailer played things a lot straighter and gave even more of a sense of an epic-scale story being played out. We open with two events: Coulson finding the hammer and Portman and her family hitting him with their car in the middle of nowhere. That leads to some fun interactions with Denning and then some exposition by Thor about where he comes from. When Portman asks him who he really is that’s the cue to bring in some shots of Asgard and Thor throwing his hammer around at various mystical enemies as well as showing down with first Loki and then the Destroyer. It ends with lots of quickly cut action sequences and then some more shots of Thor throwing down with a huge monster.

Again, this one plays it a lot straighter and I think shows the movie to be a more entertaining one. Where the first one seemed primarily focused on making sure the audience knew this was part of the growing film version of the Marvel Universe, this one just tries to sell it as a action-packed thrill ride with a character who solves most of his problems with a BFH.

Online

The official site opens with a pretty stripped down offering, just an invitation to watch the trailer, a Story synopsis, a few videos and a small photo gallery. I don’t mean to disparage these offerings since they’re very much just introductory content, but there isn’t the over-emphasis on flashy graphics with 28 different little things flashing and moving like are on some sites so it’s a little disconcertion.

When you choose to enter the site you can do so either through Earth or Asgard though the navigation and content are the same no matter which path you choose. All that’s different is the background of the page.

The first section here is “About” and there you’ll find The Story, the same short synopsis we saw earlier, and “Filmmakers” which gives credentials on those behind the camera on the movie.

Next is “Characters” which gives you information on the characters in the movie (naturally) as well as background and histories of the actors portraying them. That’s a nice way to inform the audience who’s not steeped in mythology some clarification on who’s who.

“Downloads” actually has a handful of games to play as well as an invitation to check out the movie’s universe in the form of an interactive guide allowing users to navigate a SHIELD installation, Asgard and more and learn about the characters and locations along the way, unlocking exclusive content as they did so.

There are about 17 stills from the movie in the “Gallery” and the “Videos” section just has the teaser and theatrical Trailers as well as the Super Bowl commercial.

The movie’s Facebook page has quite a bit of community activity, with many people Liking various updates, most of which are of course blatantly promotional in nature. There are also plenty of photos and videos on the page.

There was also a Flickr group that people could contribute to with their own photos of the Thor’s hammer theater standee.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

The big advertising push began with a spot for the movie that aired during Super Bowl XLV earlier this year. The spot doesn’t offer a whole that’s new from the earlier trailer, starting off with Thor’s escape from the SHIELD facility and including a few shots of Asgard and some of the various fights he gets in with The Destroyer, some sort of mythological beast and so on. It’s a good spot but again doesn’t show much in the way of new footage so isn’t super-exciting.

Further TV commercials would take varying approaches to selling the movie, with some playing it as a straight (though obviously huge-scale) action film and others being very clear about it being part of the Marvel Universe by showing clips from Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk before giving way to Thor. Further TV advertising would continue to pull primarily from the trailers while adding in the occasional new scene.

There was later a fun little addition added to the ad push with a Thor-version of the “Darth Vader/VW” ad that ran during the 2011 Super Bowl, this time with a kid running around in Thor gear eventually blowing up his dad’s car with a bolt of lightening.

Outdoor/in-theater advertising was done as well on a couple of fronts. A giant version of Thor’s hammer being used as a standee in theater lobbies and presumably elsewhere. And a huge outdoor billboard ad was run that was actually made up of two parts, one with Thor running toward his hammer, which is on the other sign, giving the combined image a nice sense of action.

Marvel started the ball rolling early with their usual batch of new offerings meant to get fans excited for the movie and provide those just being introduced to the character a jumping on point. Those offerings included a reworking of Thor’s origins in the Marvel Universe and a limited series about the fight to reclaim Asgard as his own. There was also a straight-to-DVD animated movie created that told the story of Thor’s early years and which is scheduled to hit shelves just a few weeks after the theatrical film is released and a four-part animated version of the “Thor & Loki: Blood Brothers” limited series that hit iTunes, PlayStation Network and other distribution points.

Marvel’s promotions of course included the requisite overviews of the character’s history and recommendations on where to read that history. The publisher also, as it’s done quite often with their characters that are about to hit the screen, launched a new monthly ongoing series for Thor that took the character in some new directions and is intended to be more broadly accessible by those seeking out more stories with the character for the first time.

In the wake of the second trailer a partnership with entertainment check-in service GetGlue was announced that awarded those who checked-in to watching that trailer and shared it with their Twitter and Facebook friends a special Thor virtual sticker.

Car company Acura was among the movie’s promotional partners and launched the JoinSHIELD site that kicked off at C2E2 but then really moved into higher gear at WonderCon 2011, with SHIELD cars (Acuras, of course) and recruitment stations at the event where video promotions were run and where people could have ID badges made. That effort eventually expanded to anyone online who signed in via Facebook Connect. Acura also ran co-branded TV spots in support of their promotion, with the usual sort of description of the car’s features running while outside the car you can see SHIELD agents going up against The Destroyer.

Retailer Walmart setup a portal where visitors could check out all sorts of video, character bios and more about the movie.

Convenience store chain 7-11 was once again a partner, offering straws with character action figures on them and special collector cups for those buying Slurpees in stores. Online ads were run as well that showed off the collector cups and encouraged people to visit stores.

Dr. Pepper was a partner and launched the “Quest for the Can” promotion that encouraged fans to be on the lookout for one of only a few special Hammer-decorated cans or caps. Finding one of those special codes meant you won a variety of experiences from flying in a fighter jet to getting a personal training session on how to bulk up. Other codes on cans and bottles awarded other prizes such as one-month subscriptions to Marvel Digital Comics, movie tickets or, of course, Dr. Pepper. The promotion was supported by co-branded TV spots that also featured Stan Lee, something I think he did for the Dr. Pepper spots for Iron Man 2 previously.

Media and Publicity

Outside of casting announcements and such, the first real publicity for the movie came in January of 2010 with the news of the movie’s May 6th release, a date Paramount seemingly jumped at after reports circulated that Spider-Man 4, which had originally claimed that weekend, was indefinitely delayed due to creative issues.

Then, unfortunately, the issue of cast came back up as Stuart Townsend, originally slated to play Thor’s friend Fandral, left the production (Variety, 1/10/10) citing the usually vague “creative differences.” Townsend was then quickly replaced with Joshua Dallas in the role.

With all the geeks wondering how Thor was going to fit into the rapidly expanding cinematic Marvel Universe it was encouraging news to hear that Clark Gregg would reprise his role as Agent Coulsen of SHIELD in the film, tying it directly into Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk and ultimately to the upcoming Avengers flick.

About halfway through the production the movie was struck by a bit of rumor-mongering that there was dissension on the set, particularly between Hopkins and Chenworth, with the former taking issue with the younger actor’s abilities. That prompted Marvel and Paramount to get Branagh in front of the press (Los Angeles Times, 4/1/10) to emphasize how well things were going and how well everyone was getting along.

On a more positive note, the release of the first official image from the movie, featuring Chenworth as the title character, got a lot more positive buzz going about how faithful, especially to the modern redesign of the character, the cinematic incarnation seemed to be.

The movie then got the glowing treatment from one of the TV entertainment magazine shows, which is where the audience got what I think was the first look at Hopkins in his Odin getup amidst all the talk about how great it was for everyone to work together and how buff Chenworth has gotten for his title role.

Various pictures were released that showed more of Asgard and other characters, all in anticipation of the movie’s presence at Comic-Con 2010, where Mjolnir and the hall of Asgard, which was featured in one of those released photos, were both setup and which people could take pictures with. Also there was The Infinity Gauntlet, a pretty famous Macguffin with the Marvel Universe and one that showed the movie was drawing liberally from the comics.

Just as Comic-Con was starting, a piece of concept art was released that was very artistic and very cool and which served to undo some of the less than enthusiastic reaction the set photos had been met with. That end was also achieved through the five-minute piece of footage that was shown at the convention, which served to show off the movie more fully and which really seemed to get the audience excited.

Interviews with Hemsworth would focus on just what a big burden the actor was taking on, not only in terms of portraying a fictional god but doing so first in his own movie and then in the collective Avengers film.

The movie was also one of those that got some attention at the 2011 Toy Fair convention, an event Hemsworth attended himself to see how he’s been translated into action figure form.

Branagh continued to talk with the press about how the story was crafted to make the character of Thor – who is, after all, an immortal and massively powerful god – relatable to the general audience (Entertainment Weekly, 2/18/11), including how they made sure he had something approaching a sense of humor and how he’s really just trying to prove himself to his father and others.

Hemsworth was the focus of the story again in the wake of the announcement (THR, 3/24/11) that he would be named “Male Star of Tomorrow” at CinemaCon this year. It was also at CinemaCon that Marvel/Paramount showed exhibition executives about 20 minutes of footage from the movie in order to get them excited about it.

The attention turned back to Branagh in a major story (THR, 4/13/11) that covered everything from Hemsworth’s casting to the history of how a Thor movie has circulated around Hollywood for over a decade. The focus, though, was on how this was not only the most ambitious project Marvel has taken on to date but how it could be the movie that brings Branagh back into Hollywood’s good graces as a director after a decade or so of movies that haven’t resonated with audiences or critics and during which he seemed to pay more attention to acting. Another story closer to release (NYT, 5/2/11) would also look at how the director was attracted to the project as a way to stretch his talents a bit and see if directing such a blockbuster epic suited him.

How exactly Acura came to be the film’s official automobile promotional partner was the subject of some news (New York Times, 4/19/11) that talked about the online game being run and more details of the deal between the car maker and the studio. The partnership with the car company continued to be fodder for stories (AdAge, 5/2/11)that pointed out it was the first such deal for Acura.

The cast of course made the press rounds, including Alexander appearing on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” with a new clip from the movie and Hemsworth hosting a marathon of Marvel super hero movies on FX. And the Marvel team showed up at the NYSE.

Overall

This campaign goes right up to that line that, once cross, almost makes judging the effectiveness of one individual element over another a pointless exercise because the scope and breadth are just too much. It’s not quite that big but it’s flirting with that line.

As it is this is a pretty good campaign that works hard to make the characters as accessible as possible to the audience. Sometimes it seems it’s making a play for the masses too much at the expense of those who already Thor/Avengers/Marvel Universe fans. The marketing certainly emphasizes Thor’s time on Earth more than anything else but it winds up working the best when it shows him swinging his hammer at Frost Giants or something similarly outsized, the kind of spectacle that people are apparently convinced will work in the movie but are afraid to play up in the campaign.

The strongest element of the campaign is, honestly, the press and publicity area. The studio has been great at getting stories about the movie in the press and that’s done more to move the needle, from my perception, on people’s interest than anything else. A big part of that is based on the movie’s appearances at conventions and other events, which have given attendees a chance to get hands-on with the brand.

But really there’s not much that could be classified as “weak” here. Some of the clips that were released to get people talking come the closest to this label since, again, they’re pulled mostly from Thor’s banishment on Midgard and come off as unintentionally funny more than anything. But they’re easily countered by some of the better elements of the marketing itself and all in all there’s a lot to like about this campaign for fans of the character as well as those just looking for some good entertainment as the summer movie season kicks off.

PICKING UP THE SPARE