Movie Marketing Madness: Terri

What’s the most fundamental thing you can think of for any human being? The most fundamental need? We all just want to be understood, don’t we? We need someone – anyone – to really make a connection with and be someone who *gets* who we are and what we are trying to say about ourselves, our world and the situations that we find ourselves in. When we find that person we tend to latch on for dear life.

The title character of the new film Terri is in search of just such a connection. Terri (Jacob Wysocki) isn’t fitting in at his high school. He’s overweight and likes to wear pajamas out and about because they’re more comfortable. His behavior starts to spill over into other aspects of his academic life and eventually comes to the attention of the schools vice principal (John C. Reilly) and the two, through a series of circumstances, begin to bond as they find they each fill some need in the other.

The Posters

The movie’s one poster isn’t anything special or particularly unique. It just shows the two main characters sitting across a table from one another, Terri in his pajamas and the principal with a stern but compassionate look on his face. That shows what the movie is primarily going to be about – the two characters talking to each other – and combined with the “We’ve all been there” copy that’s on the one-sheet does a decent job of explaining what audiences can likely expect from the film.

The Trailers

The main device used in the trailer is a meeting between Mr. Fitzgerald and Terri, where the vice-principal is expressing his disappointment over the recent behavior that has landed Terri in his office. We see that Terri has begun to be seen as having an attitude problem. But then we see that the two form a friendship of sorts that has the two confiding in each other and spending more time together. There are also hints in the trailer of a budding romance between Terri and a girl at his school, something that likely holds the key to the rest of the story.

It’s a calm and focused trailer that knows to put the majority of its emphasis on the interplay between Mr. Fitzgerald and Terri, since it’s in that interchange that most of the plot will be driven by. it doesn’t try to be something it’s not, it just makes the case that if the dialogue and acting look interesting here – and the insertion of critic’s quotes playing up those elements certainly helps – you’ll likely want to check out the film.

Online

The official website opens by playing the trailer, which is absolutely worth rewatching.

Kicking off the main navigation at the top is “Synopsis” which has a great write-up of the story’s outline and the film’s credits. “Videos” has the trailer and an extended scene of the two main character’s first meeting. There are nine stills in the “Photos” section. “Theaters & Showtimes” lets you know if the movie is playing near you and when.

“Cast & Crew” contains career overviews of the talent in front of and behind the camera, “Press” has quotes from some of the film’s early reviews and “About” has extended articles covering the movie’s production and casting processes.

There are lots of updates on the cast’s promotional appearances, the release of new marketing materials and more on the film’s Facebook page along with multimedia assets like videos – including more extended clips – and photos.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Nothing here that I’ve seen or am aware of.

Media and Publicity

The movie went into its 2011 Sundance Film Festival debut as one of the most anticipated titles that were appearing there. At the festival director Jacobs was interviewed (Filmmaker Magazine1/18/11) about the themes of the movie and how he was in the relatively comfortable position of already having distribution secured. The appearance there did build up some positive buzz, with at least impression of it being that it had echoes to the work of the late John Hughes (Los Angeles Times, 1/29/11). Later appearances would include the Los Angeles Film Festival (LAT, 5/3/11).

Overview

It’s a nice little campaign that’s even smaller in scale than this week’s other “minor” release, Larry Crowne since there’s no advertising support and the different wattage of star power means press coverage hasn’t been nearly as pervasive.

For what it is, though, it works quite well. The target audience here is fans of small, independent character-driven movies and, given the movie’s word of mouth coming out of Sundance and the presence of Reilly there’s a lot for that audience to latch on to. Well worth checking out based on this campaign.

Movie Marketing Madness: Transformers: Dark of the Moon

What’s the opposite of clearing the bar? When something or someone attempts to follow-up a great success the usual commentary is that they set the bar high the first time and now will need to clear that in order for the second thing to be seen as being as successful or innovative as the first one. But occasionally despite the financial success something might enjoy the consensus is that artistically the first entry was a piece of garbage. So it’s not like there’s a bar or hurdle to be cleared…it’s more like there’s a pile of some sort to be added to with subsequent attempts.

I’ll be the first to admit that I liked the first Transformers movie more than I had any right to. No, it wasn’t quite the same version of the story or characters that I had grown up with and yes a little LaBeouf certainly goes a long way. But the movie moved along at a good clip, took itself completely and utterly seriously and featured enough bullet points of a story that the computer-generated action sequences hung on them were more or less enjoyable. When I finally saw the sequel, Revenge of the Fallen, I found it to be almost completely incomprehensible so stopped trying after about 15 minutes and, while certainly cognizant of its shortcomings, didn’t hate it. Both movies did pretty well at the box-office even as they were – especially the second one – roundly crucified by critics.

Now we have the third entry in this franchise, Transformers: Dark of the Moon. In this entry (and again the story is almost completely irrelevant) the big effing robots are back for mayhem. This time the Autobots, still working as some sort of covert ops unit ferreting out latent Decepticons around the world, discover that the U.S. government wasn’t fully upfront with them about the history of giant robots on this planet. This comes at the same time the Decepticons rally around a new push to conquer the world. Shia LaBeouf returns as the human the Autobots are most attached to but Megan Fox is out (more on that below) and has had her role as Sam Whitwicky’s arm candy replaced by Rosie Huntington-Whiteley. The two of them, of course, get caught up in the mayhem and violence that breaks out, violence that this time is centered in Chicago, specifically North Michigan Ave. Well…I guess world domination has to start somewhere.

The Posters

The first poster for the movie tells the audience just about everything they need to know about the story. The real estate is dominated by Optimus Prime, who’s standing defiantly along North Michigan Ave. in Chicago (just south of the river at the intersection with Wacker Dr. if the perspective on the Crain’s building (the slightly curved one over his shoulder on the right) is any indication) with what appears to be a Decepticon under his feet. The two humans are standing in front of him looking into the middle distance worryingly and there are a couple of menacing constructs coming in from the sky behind him.

A second poster focused on the IMAX release of the movie and featured Prime in a similar location along Michigan Ave., though this time he’s by himself with his glowing sword thing about to strike, with one of the mysterious pod things hovering above the skyline in the background.

Character one-sheets featured Bumblebee and Optimus Prime up close and personal with the camera with enemy ships and fighters flying through the sky in the background.

Special interactive posters were released that worked in conjunction with an official movie app that first let you find what theaters these posters were located at and then unlocked exclusive augmented reality content that included a game and other experiences.

The Trailers

The first trailer was a lot like the teasers for the first movie, which showed a Martian rover encountering something huge and mechanical. This time, though, we’re taken back to 1969 and the first moon landing. Instead of being a purely scientific mission, though, we see that its true hidden purpose was to explore the wreck of a huge spaceship that had crashed on the dark side of the moon and which we eventually see still has at least one huge freaking robot occupant. The footage here is reportedly also in the movie itself unlike that used in the first movie’s teaser so this is likely some of the stage-setting that’s done in the first moments of the film.

The first theatrical length trailer starts off with something crashing on the moon as McDormand warns LaBeouf that talking about anything could lead him to be charged with treason. That’s about all the plot development as we then kick fully into battle mode as a bright beam of light ascends from the Chicago Loop and things start to blow up all over the place. Chicago is later seen with smoke rising from across the city and it’s clear that something about the Decepticon attack is different this time. We see lots of familiar faces, both human and machine, running and attacking and running and attacking. It’s good but it’s not like there are major plot points unveiled here other than the attack on the earth is pretty serious.

That theatrical trailer was repurposed for 3D promotions and could even be viewed online in 3D after buying a Hasbro unit and downloading a free app for iPhones or iPod Touches.

Just before release another trailer was released that was pretty short – just a minute in length – and was all about showing the destruction that rains down on Chicago, with lots of shots of giant robots wreaking havoc and destroying buildings. Not exactly subtle but subtlety isn’t going to put hinders in seats.

Online

There’s all sorts of stuff going on when the official website first loads. There is (as of Tuesday evening) an invitation to watch the movie’s livestreamed premiere, a prompt to download the movie’s official iPhone app and stream the previous two movies somewhere online. There’s also a couple things relating to Linkin Park and their offering on the soundtrack; First a video of their playing at the Moscow premiere and then the news that if you pull out the Shazam app and use it during a commercial for the movie you can get a free download.

Once you enter the site the first two things that are offered, prompts to either watch the trailer or a featurette on the “wing man” stunt that is featured in the film.

The first section of content is “About” and has a very brief synopsis as well as Cast, Filmmaker and Notes sections that are still labeled as “Coming Soon” despite the fact that the movie opens in roughly 48 hours.

“Video” has the two trailers, the Super Bowl TV spot and a couple of featurettes. “Downloads” has Wallpapers and Buddy Icons and the “Gallery” has just eight stills from the movie.

The movie’s Facebook page has updates on the movie’s marketing and publicity efforts as well as lots of video and an emphasis on the recent red carpet premiere. The Twitter profile has similar updates sans all that multimedia.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

The first ad push came in the form of a co-branded spot with promotional partner Chevy that was aired during the 2011 Super Bowl. The spot doesn’t show any movie footage but instead appears like a local car dealership commercial that’s being filmed, only things go more than a little wrong when the car that the owner is walking around opens up and is revealed to be Bumblebee.

There was also a straight movie spot during the game. That commercial showed exactly what it needed to show, which is lots of computer-animated robots completely trashing each other on the streets of Chicago, recognizable to anyone familiar with the city or who caught all the buzz around the movie’s filming around here. The spot looks to be entirely made up of footage from the last couple of reels of the movie and is all action with no setup or anything like that. We see the returning human characters as well as Sam’s new love interest in Huntington-Whiteley but the rest is all destruction and mayhem.

More regular TV commercials would begin running a few months later, mostly showing the destruction of Chicago and the harrowing situations the human characters are put in. There were, in many of them, hints as to the back-story of the Transformers having some sort of secret history here on Earth but that’s not explored very deeply in these 30-second spots, which are more about showing the spectacle than anything else. The movie would also be among those advertised during this year’s MTV Movie Awards.

As the TV advertising progressed and release date approached the commercials would begin getting much more specific about the plot, spelling out not just the action and humor but also the idea of a global conspiracy that is leading to the Decepticon’s plans to take over the world once and for all.

Outdoor ads began being a few months before release that did little but show the audience that the movie was going to feature Optimus Prime kicking some butt and that it came out on July 1st. Later variations on the same idea shows Bumblebee and Shockwave as well. Further banners would feature other new characters whose identities weren’t immediately apparent.

Some form of partnership with NASCAR was evident with news that a couple stars from the movie would be serving as Grand Marshals at the Daytona 500, a race that would also feature the first public appearance by the modified stock cars that are featured in the film. A commercial that aired during that broadcast didn’t cut a lot of new ground in terms of footage shown compared to the Super Bowl commercial with the exception of a couple of good shots of the cars that have NASCAR paint jobs.

The robots were also again part of Chevy’s presence on the auto show circuit, with models of Bumblebee and presumably others appearing alongside their car forms. There would also be co-branded commercials run both on TV and in theaters featuring Bumblebee driving around evading his enemies. Of course the partnership with Chevrolet ran pretty deep and included the casting of the carmaker’s top cars only as good guys (THR, 6/22/11) in the movie and involved the company picking out makes and models it was looking to promote. Chevy also announced (MediaPost, 6/28/11) that it would be making and marketing a special Transformers-edition Camaro for 2012 for everyone who ever wanted to actually own Bumblebee.

Media and Publicity

While there was plenty of speculation about what robots would or wouldn’t appear in the movie, the biggest bombshell came when reports were published that Megan Fox would absolutely not be in the movie (Los Angeles Times, 5/19/10), likely the result of her public fueding with Bay during the publicity tour for the second movie. That set off a ton of speculation as to why and who would be replacing her as the love interest in the new entry.

That speculation ended when it began to be reported the Victoria’s Secret model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley would be cast. While there was a significant gap between the first reports along these lines and any official announcement, confirmation of a sort did come when Victoria’s Secret itself released a video congratulating her on getting the role.

A later story covered that but also went more into what the movie’s plot would be, the first glimpse that was given along those lines. The story (USA Today, 6/11/10) revealed the plot revolved the Transformer’s role in the US/Russia space race of the 1960’s and would feature Shockwave as the main bad guy. In there Bay also promised less goofy humor, blaming some of the second film’s shortcomings on the stress of the writer’s strike from 2008, as if anyone believed there were writers on that movie.

The tie-in toys and other products for the movie were also among those debuting or otherwise making a big show at the annual Toy Fair convention (Hollywood Reporter, 2/10/11). Shortly after that there was news (Forbes, 2/17/11) of special 3D glasses that came in the form of Autobot helmets you could wear to the theater and really let your fandom show.

First looks at some of the new robots in this entry came via the press, including a glimpse at Sentinel Prime on the cover of Empire.

The press for the movie included Bay making a sort of artistic mea culpa about the quality of the second movie, which he claimed (Hollywood Reporter, 3/7/11) was due in large part to the writer’s strike that happened just prior to that film’s shooting.

Huntington-Whitley became part of the news when it was announced (THR, 3/25/11) that she was being named Female Star of Tomorrow by CinemaCon, something that really is a testament to the power of Paramount’s publicity department since not only has she not acted before but this debut outing is in a Michael Bay movie, something that’s not generally known for its level of acting prowess. She was also later put in the #1 slot on Maxim’s Hot 100 list.

The movie itself was back in the press when some extended sequences were shown to the press, producing the very sort of “this is absolutely nuts” (EW, 4/15/11) reactions that you would expect while also showing very little of the movie’s plot.

Some press was generated by virtue of the movie’s promotional partnerships, particularly the car-based ones (AdAge, 5/3/11) since it was one of several big movies to feature substantial automotive support.

Overall

It might just be me but I feel like, with the general opinion of the second installment so very, very low there was more of a press effort for this movie to generate some goodwill in the audience. That’s shown most distinctly Michael Bay’s pseudo-contrition tour, where he joined in the chorus of people calling Revenge of the Fallen a not very good movie.

Once again the campaign here is nicely laid out, with teasers to build anticipation and then payoffs that really only *feel* like payoffs but aren’t really, because with movies this simplistic it’s best to leave lots of information (including vast swaths of the supposed story) out of the campaign so as not to give anyone the impression they’re going to have to follow anything. There’s also the desire to actually get people to talk about how “cool” the movie is, so the more the campaign can keep from showing the more potential talking points there are after the fact.

Also once again it doesn’t really matter how well the campaign works or not. Simply by creating awareness there’s a substantial percentage of the general moviegoing public that will choose this movie this weekend just because it’s there. So actually judging the effectiveness of the marketing becomes an exercise in futility since it’s all about, as I said, awareness and message repetition.

Movie Marketing Madness: Larry Crowne

It’s said there are no second acts in American life. True, the source might have been speaking in general about those who occupy a bigger stage than many of us will ever achieve – politicians, actors, sports heroes and the like. In fact, though, many of them go on to have vastly successful second careers, revitalizing themselves as something new after their initial wave of fame and fortune has subsided. So whoever it was who said that wasn’t aware that the only thing that can keep Newt Gingrich down is to say his name backwards three times.

That person would also be amazed at the tenacity of the title character in the new movie Larry Crowne. Played by Tom Hanks, Crowne is an eternal optimist. Working at a Wal-Mart-style retailer after serving in the military he’s the most popular and valued employee there…right up to the moment he gets fired because he doesn’t have a college degree. Determined to never be in that situation again he gets himself back to school, where he meets the lovely teacher of a public speaking class Mercedes (Julia Roberts) and the two flirt a bit as Crowne shows her the power of making the best of any situation.

The Posters

There’s not much to the movie’s one poster since it’s just a shot of the two stars riding a scooter (when you watch the trailer and see what a big role the scooter plays this makes sense) while a bunch of other scooter-straddling folks follow in the distant background. There’s no copy that explains the movie’s story or anything, just some soft colors and big smiles to convey to the audience that this is a gentle good time that’s being promised at the movies.

The Trailers

The first trailer for the movie comes off as enough of a mixed-bag that I’m fairly comfortable with the thought that it’s not going to follow any familiar genre guidelines.

We meet Larry as he’s being fired from his retail job because he doesn’t have a college education. So he heads back to school and get himself some learning. He winds up taking a public speaking class taught by Roberts’ character that fits right in with his friendly, out-going nature. He develops a crush on her and while she’s initially very much not interested his persistence eventually wins out and we see them get involved at least for a little while.

The trailer shows quite a bit of the romance, which unfortunately comes off at the weakest part. What’s great to see in scenes like the one where Hanks falls off the scooter is that he’s still got some great physical comedy instincts despite being decades past when such things were what he was primarily known for. It’s good and sets up the movie pretty well, presenting what appears to be a pretty pleasant and entertaining movie.

A second trailer was released not through one of the three big portals but through Hanks’ own Twitter feed and was labeled as a “Web Only” version for no apparent reason other than it must not have been sent to theaters. If possible it’s even more charming than the first one. It starts out by hitting many of the same notes as it sets up Crowne’s predicament but there winds up being much more material first about the friends that he makes when he enrolls in college and then starts the relationship with his teacher. It’s clear that Crowne is a relentless optimist, looking for the best in any situation that’s put in front of him and trying to seize the opportunities he’s presented with. In other words it’s a role that’s just perfect for Hanks and he embraces Crowne’s outlook fully it seems.

Online

In a nice change the trailer is *not* the first thing that appears when you load the movie’s official website. Instead at first you get some options to choose from including the ability to watch some behind-the-scenes videos hosted by Hanks, share your “second chance” type of story or get information on the film’s soundtrack.

Digging in to the main content menu the first section there is “About the Film” and that’s where you’ll find a Synopsis, Production Notes and biographies and career histories of the Cast and Filmmakers.

“Trailers” has both trailers, two TV spots and a Featurette on the making of the movie. There are Desktop Wallpapers and IM Icons in the “Downloads” section and a half-dozen stills in the “Gallery.”

You can learn more about each character in “Characters” as well as view the specific downloads and videos that feature them.

Many of the official site’s features are ported over to or linked to off of the movie’s Facebook page, where you’ll also find photos, videos and other media as well as updates on the cast’s promotional plans.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

There was a bit of TV advertising run, most of which hit the same basic notes in terms of story points that the trailers did as they just tried to emphasize the relationship between Hanks and Roberts instead of anything story-related. There are a few bits about how he’s been fired and trying to start a new era of his life but mostly the advertising seems to be about how people will just have a nice, low-key charming time at the movies here.

Media and Publicity

While Hanks had been actively building buzz for the movie on his Twitter account, the first real appearance I think he made in the media to promote it was on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” immediately after the 2011 Oscars broadcast, where he introduced the first clip from the film.

Vardalos was the center of attention in some other stories (Los Angeles Times, 5/1/11) talking about her experience writing the movie, including some mentions of how she had to continue tweaking the part Hanks plays and how she had to keep fighting her inclination to act in the movie herself.

A feature story in W (June, 2011) allowed Hanks to talk about what themes he was trying to communicate with the film and Roberts to talk about what attracted her to the role and, of course, how much they enjoyed working together again.

Overall

So there’s one big problem in particular with this campaign: It just can’t compete on volume.

We’re in the middle of summer movie season here, when everything is 10 times bigger than life and computer animated to within an inch of its life. And this movie just can’t compete with the big studio tentpoles when it comes to pure media saturation, no matter how many morning talk shows Hanks appears on. The movie appears to be kind of an oddball with its genial attitude and kind hearted spirit since it’s obviously not “big” enough to play long-ball with the movies this summer but it’s not “deep” enough to be released in the fall/winter season along with the serious Oscar contenders.

But in and of itself the campaign works well enough. It’s true to what appears to be the movie’s general spirit and is certainly buoyed by Hanks and his charm. So while the odds of it attracting anyone under 40 are extremely slim it may wind up providing somewhat of an alternative to those folks who are looking to not have their ears blown out and who don’t want to have to decide between a 3D or 2D presentation this weekend.

PICKING UP THE SPARE

  • 7/3/11 – There was some speculation that Hanks-esque street art might be some guerilla marketing for the movie but I find that hard to believe.

The Communications API

A while ago it seemed about 3/4s of the items in my RSS reading one morning dealt with APIs. This service was using that existing site’s API, some other had just changed the terms of service on theirs and thrown developers for a loop and so on. While I try to keep up on this sort of thing as much as possible – these developments do have some impact on publishing and other social media programs – after a while it becomes a bit overwhelming for anyone without actual development skin in the game to take in.

But it reminded me of statement I’ve made in other situations that’s very true for publishers, whether they’re news organizations or corporations running a blog: Your content is your API.

The nature of an API is that it represents, to varying extents, the core of whatever it’s building. It’s what the creator has made available to others that would allow them to build wholly original extensions off that foundation.

So to the story, blog post, Tweet, photo, video or other piece of content that’s published forms an API in and of itself. Readers and followers can share that on their own platforms in whatever form they wish absent technical restrictions prohibiting them from doing so. They can directly Retweet your update, take the link and create their own text, edit what you wrote for length. They can share your photo directly or link to the set it belongs to. They can use it as the foundation for their own blog post that points out something you didn’t think of.

Even more broadly than that, though, a company’s story as a whole is an API both online and off. People are taking what they know of an organization and remixing it into something that fits their own third party application – their lives, that is. So it’s important to communicate that story in a variety of ways so people have the correct foundation on which to build that app.

What makes these story-based APIs different from the technical kind is that they are, more often than not, involuntarily released. People will take what they know of a company and build off that, regardless of how official, complete or complimentary that knowledge is.

It’s incredibly important for communications programs to be designed in such a way to at least acknowledge if not actively accommodate this sort of behavior. Without that mindset in place the foundation that’s being laid may very well be one of sand.

Movie Marketing Madness: Cars 2

How does that song go? “We hate it when our friends become successful?” The idea, of course, is that when someone we know and who’s been close to us all of a sudden becomes successful at something not only are we jealous of them doing well where we haven’t but are also resentful of how this new responsibility of theirs will cut into the time they have to hang with us.

In the first Cars movie a handful of years ago we were introduced to not only the main character of Lightening McQueen (voiced by Owen Wilson) but also the residents of Radiator Springs, the small town where McQueen becomes stranded on his way to achieving his dream of winning the Piston Cup. When he eventually got to California and the big race he found his new friends were there to support him, teaching McQueen a valuable lesson about loyalty and the power of working as a team.

Now in Cars 2 (an effective if unimaginative title) McQueen is back along with Mater (Larry the Cable Guy) and some of the other townscars. But this time, as with most sequels, the scope of the story has expanded significantly. Now a world-famous race car, McQueen is invited to participate in the World Grand Prix, a series of races in cities around the world featuring all sorts of cars. He takes Mater with him for support but the two soon find themselves on different, albeit converging, paths. Mater becomes entwined in an espionage plot that he has no idea how to manage, though he’s kind of helped by Finn McMissile (voiced by Michael Caine) and others who mistake hm for an American spy. McQueen, meanwhile, is having increasing troubles on the race circuit as it appears someone is looking to take him out of the competition.

The Posters

The movie’s initial teaser poster was pretty simple: It’s just the film’s title treatment put seemingly inside a blue hologram-type image of the Earth. So it works in that it publicizes the film’s release and conveys to the audience that the action is probably shifting outside the comfortable confines of Radiator Springs in this second installment.

The second posters really was just an extension of that initial concept, showing the same hologram-style globe and title treatment, but this time tilted a bit and with McQueen, Mater and a couple of the new cars racing toward the camera.

As is pretty usual for Pixar movies, a series of “vintage” style posters was created. One of them looked like an old James Bond-type one-sheet, with a villain in the background and lots of action happening in the forefront while the other two used the conceit of the world racing tour that the film focuses on. Also as usual these are really cool.

Shortly after that a triptych poster was released that continued the worldwide focus, with one third focused on McQueeen in Tokyo, Finn in London and Mater parachuting over France.

The Trailers

The first trailer, released in October of 2010, was simply an announcement type of spot. It’s mostly voiceover intonations of dangerous situations and advanced technology before introducing us to the newest secret agents on the block at which point it cuts to a very confused Lightening McQueen and Mater. Like I said, not much there but it does promise that the action has shifted from Radiator Springs and into some new territory.

The second trailer made the story more clear. We have indeed left Radiator Springs and are now in the high-speed international racing world of with McQueen and Mater. But it’s while participating in a world championship race there that they get mixed up with opposing groups of spies who think they’re also intelligence agents from America.

What strikes me about this second spot is that 1) We’ve apparently left the rest of the cast behind. I get that the action has shifted and bringing everyone along on the trip would have a distinct “I Love Lucy – The Hollywood Season” vibe to it, but it’s still a little disappointing that this movie, at least based on this trailer, is focusing just on McQueen and Mater and not the whole gang that helped us fall in love with the first firm; and 2) That the two returning main characters seem to have completely different story arcs.

I’m sure we’re not getting a completely accurate picture of the movie here, but this trailer does little to make me completely comfortable with the direction this installment has gone in.

The next trailer offers even more details about the story. We open with lots of ominous stuff including Caine’s character traveling to sketchy locations to find his contact. We then get a little more background on how McQueen has been invited to a big international series of races and brings Mater along with him. The two get caught up in the spy happenings and most of the danger comes from that direction while a disturbing amount of the humor comes from areas including the bathroom.

It certainly sells the movie as being broader in scope than the first one but I’m not sure there’s much here that shows it has the same heart and emotion that the first movie does.

The next trailer starts off with McQueen starting off at the World Grand Prix along with some of his Radiator Springs friends. A rivalry starts up with one of the French racers and we cut between that and the footage of the spy plot that Mater’s involved in. This one is definitely unique from the previous versions not only in how much we get of McQueen’s racing storyline, something that’s only briefly mentioned as setup before, but in how the two stories are eventually brought together. It’s not bad.

Online

The official website opens by playing one of the TV spots for the movie. Once you go ahead and enter the site you can choose what locale you’d like for your background, with each image featuring a different set of characters as well.

The first section of content is “Characters,” showing just where the emphasis is in the campaign. When you click any of the character images in this section you’re taken to their profile, which includes a bio, videos and various downloads that are specific to them.

“Movies” has not only a synopsis of this movie’s story but also the stories of the first movie and the “Cars Toons” that were created and run on TV in the time between then and now. “Games” then has some online casual-type games to play that tie in to the movie as well as a few holdovers from the last film. There’s also some information here on the console tie-in games. Some of that is replicated in the “Video Games” section later on.

You’ll find all the Icons and Wallpapers collected in the “Downloads” section.

“Videos” is chock full of all sorts of things, ranging from TV spots and character introduction videos to behind the scenes featurettes and more. Some are organized by category, others by character but there are a ton to choose from here. “Activities” has some things for youngsters to do if you need to occupy them for an hour or so.

Sweepstakes” lets you enter to win prizes from State Farm (they get branding throughout the site, a nice perk for them that expands their sponsorship dollars). Similarly “Events” lists where a road show sponsored by the insurance company will be stopping across the country.

Disney also launched (Los Angeles Times, 2/24/10) a Cars-themed virtual world called, appropriately, World of Cars that took advantage of the talent they acquired Club Penguin.

The movie’s Facebook page either ports over or links to many of the official website’s features and also includes a few videos and photos as well.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

The first TV spot for the movie takes a similar approach as the second trailer, focusing on Mater’s involvement with the British spies and McQueen’s attempts to win the race even as some mysterious elements seek to do him in. There’s plenty of humor from Mater, including an actual toilet joke at the very end, which I’m not sure what to do with.

Later spots would also emphasize the international nature of the movie and specifically focus on the hijinks Mater gets into and the spay movie nature of the story.

State Farm, a returning partner from the first movie, launched a nationwide tour dubbed “Agents on a Mission.” Traveling to a dozen or so cities across the country the tour brought cars similar to those in the movie to malls and other locations along with events and sweepstakes for attendees to take part in. The company also ran co-branded TV spots with Mater causing problems that a team of State Farm worker cars then readily came by to help clean up.

Goodyear Tires also got in on the fun with a campaign that included a complete rebranding (MediaPost, 6/21/11) of their website for a short period of time as well as a revamp of their iconic blimp. Considering the were the focus of a good amount of good-natured gags in th efirst movie it’s nice to see they’re on board here and having fun with things.

Kimberly-Clark was a major promotional partner for the movie, putting Cars-branding on a number of products across their lines and across audience demographics (AdAge, 5/23/11) in an effort to have a big impact on store shelves. The company also engaged in some advertising to support this campaign and even some campaigns involving top parenting bloggers.

Media and Publicity

Over a year before the movie’s release was scheduled for a quick look at what we could expect came via concept art that was included as part of Disney’s annual shareholder report.

The movie came up again briefly when news circulated in the wake of Toy Story 3 that the characters from that movie would make a future appearance in a short before Cars 2.

A continued stream of publicity was created through the steady release of character images and introductions that showed that, despite the fact that they hadn’t appeared in any of the marketing to date, much of the population of Radiator Springs would be returning as part of McQueen’s pit crew. Eventually the entire cast was assembled into a character guide so we could see who’s returning and who’s being newly introduced.

Some early stories took the other approach and focused on the new characters that were going to be introduced in this second installment (Los Angeles Times, 1/16/11), including some characters that were originally considered for the first film but who then served as the inspiration for this new movie.

The tie-in toys and other products for the movie were also among those debuting or otherwise making a big show at the annual Toy Fair convention (Hollywood Reporter, 2/10/11). Also on the trade show front was an appearance by Larry the Cable Guy at CinemaCon 2011 (THR, 3/29/11) where some footage was also shown to exhibitors in attendance.

There was some publicity drummed up when a weird clip of a faux local used car sales ad popped up online that, after some decoding was done, unlocked an exclusive clips from the movie that showed Caine’s character eluding danger. It’s kind of odd but it got a lot of people talking.

More traditional press came after with a story (Fast Company, 5/11/11) about how the story in the film is, to some extent, a mash-up of elements the creators had wanted to use in the first movie but had cut for various reasons. That’s not to say it’s an after-thought, just that the sequel afforded them the opportunity to revisit some ideas they had liked the first time around and were anxious to bring to fruition.

Inevitably the focus shifted toward Pixar’s John Lasseter (LAT, 6/19/11) and how he continues to be one of the primary creative forces within the company regardless of what specific role he plays in each individual film.

Overall

I’ve pointed out in the individual sections above a few things that work for me and a few things that don’t. It’s a pretty even split between those two categories but, if I had to pick one side or the other I’d say that by and large this campaign comes up a bit short. I’m not all that surprised since the fact that I never quite wrapped by head around the campaign for the first one was a big reason why I didn’t cover that marketing push here years ago. That’s not to say there’s not good stuff here but considering the inconsistent nature of most of the marketing it just doesn’t work when balanced out.

I’m almost positive the movie works better than the campaign makes it seem but there’s a lot of places here where the movie gets mis-sold or oddly sold to the audience as it works to appeal just to kids who are paying attention with the shortest possible attention spans. That’s not a mistake in and of itself but it leads to a campaign that doesn’t have a lot that is meant to work for the older folks who are going to be buying the tickets.

PICKING UP THE SPARE

  • 06/23/11 – The movie was one of those that advertised through a tie-in with the popular Facebook-based Farmville game.
  • 06/27/11 – For some reason almost all discussions of the movie involved mentions of how it was just an excuse to move more toy cars off of store shelves, something exemplified by this story, though this is neither the first nor the most egregious example of a movie that’s been made with merchandising considerations in mind.