Movie Marketing Madness: Captain America

Very few comic book characters have reached “icon” status. Sure there are some that are well-known and the past few years have proven that even those who hover just below the A-List can become popular among audiences who aren’t constantly evaluating whether or not X title still belongs on their pull list or if a series of creative misfires have made rendered it no longer worth regularly reading.

While he’s never been as instantly and universally popular as his Marvel Universe cohorts Spider-Man and The Hulk, Captain America is certainly an icon of the comics world. Created during the Second World War as a Nazi-smashing figure of the American fighting spirit and then revived during the 60’s as a central component of Marvel’s burgeoning character line-up, Cap has since been a character that not everyone might be completely schooled on but they are certainly aware of.

Now he’s taking his place in the cinematic version of the Marvel Universe in the new movie Captain America: The First Avenger. The movie, unlike the other films Marvel Studios has produced recently, is a period piece that rightly places Cap – first just scrawny Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) – in the 1940’s. Desperate to do his part for the war but constantly turned away because he’s so undersized, Rogers is eventually recruited into a super-secret program to turn soldiers into the perfect fighting machine. But when Hydra, the science division of the Nazi army, destroys the formula and the process right after Rogers goes through it he’s left as the only one. It’s up to him, then to take down the Hydra’s leader The Red Skull (Hugo Weaving) and save the world.

There have been allusions and references to Cap in just about all the previous movies from Marvel (I don’t know about Thor since I haven’t seen it), including glimpses of his shield in both Iron Man movies and the prominent role the Super Soldier program played in The Incredible Hulk. But Marvel is clearly setting the table for next year’s The Avengers and the role Cap will play in it with this movie’s subtitle.

The Posters

The first poster, which debuted just days before the first TV spot ran during the Super Bowl, presented a gritty portrait of the character. Cap is standing there in the middle of the design with his head bowed and holding his shield in a moment of serious contemplation.

Across his chest is the word “Avenge,” a clear allusion to his future inclusion in the super team of that name. Dirt flies all around him as if in battle, which ties in nicely to the filmmaker’s desire to make this a war picture as much as a super hero movie.

The image is pretty similar to one originally appearing on the cover of Captain America #4 from 2005 and so is clearly meant to appeal to the comics readers in the audience.

Nowhere to be seen on this first teaser is the subtitle “The First Avenger,” though the “Avenge” here does foreshadow that. Presumably that will appear later in the campaign but on this one it’s not just downplayed but non-existent.

There was a promotional poster that was created for the crew of the movie and featured a 40’s-era type of design aesthetic. It was kind of so awesome that I almost don’t want to say too much about it for fear of getting in to a neverending rant on why this kind of cool design concept can’t be used for the actual movie marketing efforts instead of being consigned to this sort of behind the scenes promotion.

The second official poster gave us a better look at Evans as Cap. He’s right up in front of the camera looking off to the side as if evaluating some new threat, his shield taking up most of the lower half of the image space. Evans still isn’t sporting the cowl here, which makes me think that there’s something telling the studio that putting him in that mask is turning people off in some manner. There’s no other reason not to have Captain America fully decked out on the posters for the movie. Aside from that, though, this is still quite good and continues the gritty look of the first one but in more of an action sequence than before.

A final theatrical poster was released just a week before release that brought the whole cast into the picture. Cap stands there (still sans cowl) while Peggy Carter, Col. Phillips, the Howling Commandos and Bucky Barnes are arrayed around him as the Red Skull scowls in the background and explosions fly around everyone. It’s very much a traditional type of super hero one-sheet and indeed is remarkably similar to posters for other heroes like Iron Man and more but gosh darnit if it doesn’t work. It’s also nice to see the poster campaign finally catch up to the rest of the marketing in highlighting the rest of the cast, something that’s been a constant theme of the trailers and TV spots while the posters have just been focused on Cap.

The Trailers

The first full length trailer is kind of fantastic. We meet Steve Rogers as a scrawny, undersized would-be volunteer in the army who’s rejected over and over again. As we see his hard-scrabble life as the kid who’s always picked on (including getting into a fight where he grabs a garbage can cover for protection) we also hear the exposition from Jones’ officer talking about a new “super soldier” program. The footage then shifts to Rogers being put into the capsule that facilitates his transformation into the perfect soldier, including a brief shot of Howard Stark.

Finally we begin to see Captain America in action, barging into Nazi/Hydra outposts (with the Howling Commandos, which is all kinds of awesome in and of itself) and throwing his shield at the bad guys. We get a similar shot of the Red Skull as we saw in the earlier Super Bowl spot and plenty of action, especially in the last half of the trailer.

This trailer is very, very cool. it shows the look and feel of the movie (including the computer-assisted shrinking of Chris Evans) as being something that seems akin to Johnston’s The Rocketeer while also having the action ramped up a bit. It also pulls off the tricky task of selling the movie as being a pretty good straight action flick while also selling it as a fantastic comics adaptation with lots of tips to the mythology of the character. Just great stuff.

The second trailer starts with the setup as we meet Steve Rogers and see what kind of character he has as well as how he’s finally accepted in to the Army. There’s a key scene on this front where Jones’ character throws a dummy grenade in a group of recruits and Rogers jumps on it to try and save the others, a moment that tips the scales in terms of his being selected for the Super Soldier program. We then see his transformation, which is followed by Hydra destroying Erskine’s lab.

Then the action shifts into high gear as Cap starts taking the fight to Hydra and their Nazis, taking down their bases and hitting lots of them with his shield. We finally, at least in this part of the campaign, get to hear the Red Skull speak as he confronts Cap about what makes him so special, to which he replies “Nothing…I’m just a kid from Brooklyn,” a line that bookends the trailer nicely and brings it back to his humble beginnings.

If anything the trailer works even better than the first, showing a more complete and more linear story arc and really selling the all out action of the film while still very much making it a character-driven story. There are a few bad jokes in there but that’s alright.

Online

When the official website first loads you get one of those “site lite” sort of deals. You’re prompted to watch the Trailer and view a Story synopsis. The Video section here has both trailers as well as the Super Bowl commercial and finally there’s a bit over a dozen stills in the Images section.

Finally Entering the Site things load like the beginning of a filmstrip showing some sort of military program.

The first section there is “About the Film” and there you’ll find a short Synopsis of the movie’s story as well as Cast and Filmmaker bios and Production Notes – at least those sections are listed there despite the fact that each one is currently (less than a week from release) still tagged as “Coming Soon.”

The same 14 images that were on the front page are here in the “Gallery” and the “Videos” section also just has the same three videos. “Downloads” then just has Wallpapers and Buddy Icons.

The “Experience” (which is also universally accessible via the “Dossiers” navigation on the right) has information on all the major characters and organizations in the movie, ranging from Cap himself to Hydra to the Howling Commandos.

The movie’s Facebook page has updates on publicity, promotions and marketing as well as video and photos and more.

Those watching the trailer online and then later seeing the movie could check-in to GetGlue and earn exclusive stickers. There was also an iPhone/iPad app that featured a 24-level game where Cap had to kick the hinders of Hydra agents and other baddies.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Marvel, as they’ve done with other films of theirs, created multiple lists of essential readings and other comic promotions to take advantage of how the character is (hopefully) at the top of people’s minds. There was also, as many had been predicting, a relaunch of the main Captain America title that included not only a new #1 but also the new #1 that featured the return of Steve Rogers to the shield, thereby not confusing all those new potential readers with a Cap who’s not Rogers.

The comic tie-ins also included a prequel digital book that was set in the world of the movie and filled in some of the story elements from the film, giving readers a sneak peak into that story.

There was, of course, a video game that’s being released around the same time as the movie that doesn’t necessarily share a plot or tie directly in to the film but, again, is part of the overall spotlighting of the character that’s being done across all platforms.

The first look at any actual footage from the film came when Paramount ran a 30 second commercial for it during Super Bowl XLV. It starts off by showing us skinny, scrawny Steve Rogers (what appears to be a heavily computer-modified Evans) who is then placed into a chamber and emerges a moment later much taller and much stronger. We then see him in full uniform and with his shield leading troops into battle, swinging through an enemy stronghold and more. It ends with a bit of humor as Peggy Carter proves that the shield works in a very effective way. The spot includes mention of this being our introduction to the first Avenger and, most importantly, shows that the costume looks pretty darn cool on screen and in motion, which was my and others biggest fear.

Further TV commercials would play up the transformation of Steve Rogers from a frail weakling who’s beat up in city alleyways into the super soldier who takes on the bad guys single-handedly, with some showing the transformation sequence and other just hinting at it while showing lots of footage of Cap throwing his shield at various things and otherwise plowing through the enemy ranks. More commercials would feature more character moments and even feature the first look at on-screen dialogue from the Red Skull and more.

Some TV spots such as this one would include footage of Cap being found in the modern day, frozen in a block of ice, something I didn’t think was going to make it into the movie. That’s a pretty big reveal of a pretty major part of the movie and I’m more than a little surprised it’s shown so prominently here. I had kind of assumed that if this

Out-of-home standees were placed in theaters that reproduced the movie’s key poster art.

Despite the period setting of the film there was some activity on the cross-promotion front as well.

Norton security software was on board, not only with product promotions but also with a video they produced called “Behind the Shield” that featured interviews with Evans, Johnston and some of the Marvel creators and executives talking about the character and its history, focusing of course on the creation of the shield for the movie. That video premiered on Norton’s Facebook page and required people to Like the page to view it, though how Norton thought they would convert comic/movie fans to customers I’m not sure.

Dunkin’ Donuts and Baskin-Robbins engaged in some retail promotions of their own, with star-shaped donuts being available at the former along with red, white and blue Coolata drinks and the latter offering lots of new tri-colored and movie-themed ice cream treats. There was also an “Unlock the Lab” feature on the Dunkin’ website that featured exclusive movie content and chances to win prizes ranging from a trip to the premiere to movie soundtracks and other swag.

Media and Publicity

While people had obviously been talking about this movie for a while – mainly about casting and costume design but also speculating as to tone and story – the reality started to kick in around Comic-Con 2010. Not only was Evans in attendance there but just prior to the convention a very cool and artistic piece of concept art was released that showed the character in battle in WWII. Also in attendance at Comic-Con was Cap’s shield from the movie, giving everyone their first real-life look at the prop and serving to get people excited when combined with the brief bit of footage that was shown as part of the movie’s panel presentation.

Also right around the time of Comic-Con director Johnston made it clear that the story was about one man’s character and his quest to remain a good person as opposed to be a “flag-waver” (Los Angeles Times, 7/21/10) who was unquestioningly patriotic but was still a guardian of America and her people. While some people read a lot in to this, it’s clear Johnston is simply saying they had to come up with a definition of the character that would fit in the movie, which doesn’t have the luxury of changing writers in six months.

In terms of mainstream press coverage, one of the first major salvos came when the first official photo of Evans wearing the uniform and carrying the shield – but still not sporting the mask – appeared on the cover of Entertainment Weekly (10/28/10) with more photos and an interview with the star on how he overcame his fears around taking on the role inside. This first look, of course, got picked up everywhere and discussed in countless blog posts and other stories, which is exactly what the studio was hoping for.

Early interviews with Evans would focus on how he was excited to be part of the character’s history, the obstacles he knew he’d have to be overcoming and how he’s dealt with fan reaction both positive and not-so-much about him donning the flag as well as how he saw the larger Marvel Universe playing out on film.

Entertainment Weekly continued to be a significant source of early looks at the movie, later on debuting the first decent picture of Captain America in full uniform (EW, 1/13/11), including the helmet.

Atwell also become the focus of some press, even if it was just a photo shoot (Esquire, 8/11) that emphasized how beautiful she is.

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), an event Evans was in attendance at to check out toy-afied version of himself and so on.

Johnston spilled quite a few details about the plot in an interview (EW, 3/3/11) that also featured the first full look at Weaving in full Red Skull garb. And he continued talking about the thematic connections the movie does and doesn’t have to Raiders of the Lost Ark (LAT, 3/29/11) and how that movie was used as an initial template when they were outlining the story.

This was one of the movies Marvel/Paramount brought to the CinemaCon trade event, showing off about 20 minutes of the movie in a couple different segments to the theater and exhibition executives in attendance.

In the wake of reactions to the first full trailer that were generally positive but which did include some skepticism as to the quality of the effects, particularly those that involved turning Evans into a scrawny youth, the actor came out and talked about how those effects had improved (LAT, 4/27/11) and that everything was looking really good and would be in great shape by release.

The movie was one of those brought to the Hero Complex Fest, where Evans was able to do some glad-handing and the second full trailer debuted to the receptive audience, which was a mix of industry players, press and comics/movie geeks.

A feature length profile of Evans (GQ, June, 2011) seemed to be more about how charming and charismatic the actor was as opposed to anything movie-related, but that was probably the goal all along since it could potentially have the effect of bringing more female attention to a comic book movie.

There was a lot of speculation and mulling done in the early days of the movie’s production that the title would be changed for international markets where the idea of someone who is 100% American cheerleader might not be such a great idea. Ultimately, though, the decision was made (New York Times, 7/3/11) to retain the full “Captain America: The First Avenger” title in all but a handful of countries where such sentiment was most virulent since brand recognition was seen as being more important than anything else.

While the movie is opening *during* Comic-Con 2011 and no panel was being planned reports began to surface (THR, 7/5/11) that there would be some sort of presence there that would likely involve Evans. Eventually it was revealed that a special Comic-Con screening of the movie hosted by Evans would be taking place so that the assembled geeks could see the movie while they were in San Diego for that event.

Shortly before Comic-Con the theme returned to Evans’ wrestling with the decision to play the character in the first place (NYT, 7/10/11) and how he got over his nerves and jumped on board.

Overall

I’ll admit right off the bat that I’m completely in the bag for this movie. During my early comic-reading years I was always a huge Avengers fan and since Cap was an integral part of that he was constantly on my radar. I never read his solo book with any regularity (outside of a brief time around ‘88/’89 or so) but always more or less knew what was going on.

So with that being said this campaign works really well for me. The posters, the trailers and everything else come together very nicely and create something that makes me want to see the movie even more than I did before.

Even more importantly there’s nothing here that is actively discouraging me from seeing the movie. So many times these movies have built in audiences like myself that are 98% likely to see the film and the only thing that is going to turn off their desire is a campaign that shows the movie just completely botches the character, even if that’s not the case in the full film. But there’s nothing here that dampens any enthusiasm and that might just be the biggest hurdle that the campaign had to clear.

PICKING UP THE SPARE

  • 07/21/11 – Wired has some details on what exactly the movie’s Comic-Con promotions amounted to.
  • 07/22/11 – Both the LAT and the AP have takes on the challenges of selling this movie outside the U.S.
  • 07/22/11 – Christina Warren at Mashable goes a little overboard in trying to make the case that social media was a big part of the movie’s campaign. By that I mean “using YouTube” and “having a Facebook” page doesn’t exactly signal great marketing innovation in 2011 from my perspective.

Movie Marketing Madness: A Little Help

When someone turns out to be something other than what we expect them to be or have come to believe them to be we can have a number of potential reactions. It can fall off like water off a duck’s back and we can write it off or we can mightily freak out and feel betrayed. Certainly the depth to which we relate to that person – are we casual friends or are we married to them – influences how strong our reaction is going to be.

In the new movie A Little Help one person suffers the ultimate betrayal before needing to drastically change how they live their life. Jenna Fischer plays Laura, a wife and mother who finds out her husband Bob (Chris O’Donnell) has been cheating on her. Shortly after being confronted with the fact that she knows he dies of a heart attack and leaves her and their son to fend for themselves. While he deals with things by lying to his classmates that his dad actually died in the Word Trade Center on 9/11/01 she just tries to keep things afloat. The movie, then, is about how they try to pick up their lives and move on in new and stronger directions.

The Posters

Pretty basic, the movie’s one poster just shows Fischer laying in bed with the covers wrapped around her like she’s protesting the world and staying in bed that day. Fischer’s association with “The Office” is what’s called out in the copy at the top that praises her performance, a decision clearly made to make sure audiences could recall where they knew her from.

The Trailers

We start off simply enough in the trailer, with her picking up her son instead of her husband, who’s “working late.” Later on she confronts him about all those late nights and it’s revealed that he was cheating on her, something that comes out just before he suffers a fatal heart attack. But Dennis thinks it’s cooler to tell his classmates his dad died in 9/11. So the movie is clearly about the two of them coming to terms with each other in this new situation.

The trailer is kind of great. Fischer seems to give such a natural, effortless performance that, based on this, it’s easy to see her as a put upon mom who wants to be cool and can see her son’s point of view but who also needs to be an authority figure. She’s of course given a new romantic interest (the biggest cliche is that he’s someone who had a crush on her in high school) but continues to muddle through her job, which comes complete with annoying talking bird. It’s funny, light-hearted and emotional and I like this a lot.

Online

The movie’s official website (built completely on WordPress from what I can tell) is actually quite a nice affair for such a small, low-budget movie.

“About” has a Story synopsis that goes into quite a bit of detail on the film’s plot and then very nice Production notes and Filmmaker information. Next there’s the “Cast” section which gives brief bits of background on the primary cast members. And “Director” has a message from Michael J. Weithorn on what inspired the film and more.

“Video” has a ton of material, ranging from the trailer to all sorts of interviews with the cast and crew on different aspects of the production and so on.

You can find out if the movie is playing near you in the “Theaters” section and then in “Links” there are links (natch) you can use to buy tickets and find the film’s social network profiles.

“Soundtrack” has snippets of the songs from the movie you can listen to as well as information on buying the record. There are also sections on “Accolades” that lists what film festivals it has appeared at and what it may have one there and, finally, “Press” that just has pull quotes from some early reviews of the movie.

The movie has a pretty decent Twitter profile with updates on what’s happening on the official site as well press the cast has been doing. Many of those updates along with some media can also be found on the Facebook page along with conversations with fans about when the movie would be opening near them and so on.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Nothing that I’ve seen.

Media and Publicity

Mostly this has been Fischer doing a small bit of media interviews on TV and on the radio but that’s about it. No big press coverage to speak of.

Overall

While there are certainly shortcomings – though those are understandable considering this isn’t a huge film and is coming out in-between massive blockbuster releases – I quite like this campaign. Mostly that’s because it capitalizes on the strongest asset it has – Fischer’s charm and likability. So the marketing makes sure to put those characteristics on display as much as possible and, while it’s certainly not going to be on everyone’s To See List it should resonate with people who come across the campaign.

Quick Takes: 7/15/11

  • Adweek put together what they feel were the 20 best movie marketing taglines. I’m not sure what the criteria was that they used but while I absolutely agree with some of them (Clerks, Dazed and Confused and others) there are some that are so ordinary that their inclusion here is questionable.
  • On the other hand I can’t argue at all with the selection of The Social Network’s trailer for the top spot at this year’s Golden Trailer Awards. Tree of Life won best independent and you can view other winners here.
  • Panasonic thinks that poor 3D TV sales can be chalked up to Hollywood making poor movies that no one wants to see in 3D in the theaters much less at home. If you count the audience itself that makes two parties pointing the finger at the studios.
  • An interesting perspective on how pattern recognition plays in to what movies we gravitate toward and enjoy.
  • I didn’t get to a column on The Ledge despite my plans to but Fast Company has a look at the push and pull to either hide or tout the fact that the story came from an avowed atheist and how it was marketed based on that fact.
  • The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is partnering with the Alamo Drafthouse to make all the Mondo original movie posters part of the Academy’s permanent archive, making sure those very cool pieces of original art are preserved.

Movie Marketing Madness: Salvation Boulevard

Any time an idea becomes too deeply entrenched in someone’s mind that they stop listening to outside opinions things have the potential to become dangerous. We can all disagree about various topics or approaches but the conversation hopefully always remains civil and friendly. If we lose that then bad things start happening.

The new movie Salvation Boulevard, based on a book of the same name, is about just such a rivalry that goes south. Pastor Dan Day (Pierce Brosnan) is a revivalist preacher with a fiercely loyal following of people who believe he can do no wrong. In the press his chief rival is Dr. Paul Blaylock (Ed Harris), a scientist who is constantly sparring with Day over the two’s contrary world views. One day their friendly competition goes a bit far and, ultimately, complicates the life of Carl (Greg Kinnear), one of Day’s congregation who knows the bad things Day has done but who doesn’t exactly find a receptive audience in the people from the church.

The Posters

The first poster for the movie was kind of corny and ridiculous. A big set of praying hands are holding Kinnear in their grasp, a shocked expression Photoshopped on his face. Those hands are surrounded by a ring of faces of the other major cast members while the copy “Faith alone doesn’t cut it anymore” manages to be both unfunny AND blasphemous, a nice trick to pull off.

The Trailers

The first trailer starts out by introducing us to Carl, who’s held up as a shining example of Pastor Dan’s teachings. The both of them go to visit Blaylock, who wants to co-write a book that contrasts their world views. But then Dan shoots Blaylock, later blaming Carl for what he says was an accidental shooting. Carl of course denies it and points the finger at Dan but everyone around him, from his own wife to his best friend, doesn’t believe him, insisting that he needs to just confess what he did.

It’s pretty funny, obviously playing the Pastor Dan character for laughs and Brosnan seems to go all in on the portrayal, which is good. I’m kind of liking the vibe this trailer gives off, which is tongue-in-cheek to an extreme, but am unsure how that’s going to play for the entire feature length.

Online

Coming from IFC Films means the official website for the movie isn’t all that robust. Just the poster, a Photo Gallery, the Trailer and some Clips along with a cast list and plot descriptions.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Nothing that I’ve been exposed to.

Media and Publicity

The movie debuted at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival as one of a handful that looked at different forms of faith (Los Angeles Times, 1/27/11), a debut that was good enough to warrant a speedy pickup for distribution by IFC Films and Sony (Hollywood Reporter, 1/27/11).

That’s about it, though.

Overall

Certainly nothing big and the expectations can’t be very great but it’s not bad. There’s nothing here that comes off as super inventive and it’s not going to light the world on fire but it might connect with an on-demand audience who’s looking to check out an irreverent take on the televangelist concept.

Movie Marketing Madness: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

There’s always risk when you launch something new. There’s the oft-cited statistic that X number of all new restaurants that open are closed within a year and similar figures can likely be found for any category of business or other venture. While you can say the same about movies – that this or that percentage are going to bomb each month/year – there are even bigger risks involved when you’re discussing the launch of a potential franchise. Especially one that’s already proved to be popular in another medium.

Such was the case 10 years ago when Warner Bros. launched the first Harry Potter movie based on the first entry in the popular book series. If it had bombed – and we can look to adaptations of books like The Golden Compass and others – then it would have been more than just the failure of one movie; It would have meant the studio didn’t have the weight to make movies based on any of the subsequent books and a major franchise would have been, for all intents and purposes, stillborn. It would have been years before it could have tried again with a different approach.

But it didn’t bomb and in fact went on over the next decade to be one of the studio’s most successful franchises.

Now, though, we’ve come to the end of the line. While each of the first six books from author J.K. Rowling has been the subject of a single movie the last novel was split into two films, a decision likely made for equal parts artistic (it’s a big story and too much would be cut in a single two-hour feature) and monetary (two tickets is twice as much as just one), and now we’ve come to the release of the second part of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. The quests and missions begun in the first part of the story are now nearing their completion as Harry, Ron, Hermione, Ginny and all their friends and family come ever closer to the final confrontation with the evil Lord Voldemort and his armies of darkness. That will culminate in final battles both grand as masses of wizards battle for each side and personal as Harry confronts once and for all the monster who killed his parents and wants him dead now as well.

The Posters

The first poster for this half of the larger movie showed the main point of the movie, which is the final duel between Harry and Voldemort. So the two of them are shown in the extreme close-up staring each other down, both clutching a single wand between them and both of their faces marred and dirty from the fighting that’s already taken place. The copy at the bottom promises that “It all ends 7.15.”

The next teaser used a similar approach as that of the first movie, showing a close-up of Harry looking just slightly off-camera, his face dirty and bloody as sparks and such flew around in back of him. Similar posters were created for Hermione, Ron, Neville, Snape, Draco Malfoy, Bellatrix and Voldemort.

 

An even bigger batch followed that of action shots of the above characters with the addition of McGongagall, Griphook and Fred and George Weasley.

A huge banner was released that showed the Gringotts-guarding dragon that the characters encounter and which plays a rather large role in the story. While this is interesting it’s also slightly odd that such a specific plot element would be portrayed in the marketing like this when everything else is more focused on the characters and the final, bloody confrontation.

Another banner would get more on-point, with the good guys on one side and the bad guys on the other and streams of magic meeting in the middle and creating a huge flare.

The assembling of armies on both sides would be a theme that continued in the next set of two posters that were released, with one showing Harry at the front of his group of classmates, teachers and friends and another with Voldemort running point on his band of miscreants and minions. Both of these continued the “It all ends” copy theme and be similarly grimy and blood-soaked, as if we’re seeing but a pause in the middle of a larger battle.

Yet another series of one-sheets showed Harry, Ron, Hermione and Voldemort standing more or less still but still with the fire and dirt swirling around them.

The Trailers

The first trailer for this installment starts out mysteriously, with all sorts of odd images being shown before Voldemort starts taking the scene and things get serious. Explosions at Hogwarts, people being thrown around by magic and more. There are shots of armies marching and snakes crawling and people looking very, very emotional over what’s going on. The last 45 seconds or so kicks it into overdrive, with one battle sequence after another being shown as people run and scream. With all this going on the focus does occasionally come back to the final showdown between Harry and Voldemort before prompting the audience to go finish the sage in 3D.

The second and final trailer, which came just a few weeks before release and followed a ton of TV advertising, is the most violent and epic of them all for either half of this final installment. It starts out by retracing Harry’s life and pointing out that everything he’s done has been in preparation for this final moment, which he must now face with his friends and teachers. There’s not much story laid out here but there doesn’t need to be. This campaign, and this trailer in particular, is all about selling the massive scale of the final battle between the light and the dark and the relationships that go into each side, even if it all does ultimately come down to Harry and Voldemort facing off against each other with wands at the ready.

Online

The official website opens with the final theatrical trailer, which you can skip if the player makes your entire computer freeze up and crash.

In “About the Movie,” the first content section in the main navigation menu, you’ll find the usual assortment of information like the Synopsis, Cast and Filmmaker biographies and downloadable Production Notes.

“Video” has just the Teaser and Theatrical trailers, a small selection that’s surprising considering the number of TV spots, featurettes and retrospectives that were produced for this final film installment. There are 14 stills in the “Photos” sections and “Downloads” has Wallpapers, Buddy Icons, Posters and a Screensaver.

You can listen to portions of the score in the “Soundtracks” section and find a list of sites doing giveaways in “Sweepstakes.”

Things start to get a little more interactive with the “Parseltongue Translator,” where you can enter a message to hear spoken in snake-speak. The “Muggle Hub” is just a sub-site that has many of the same features and media as the main site. “The Quest” is a game where you can answer questions and win points to redeem for prizes and recognition among your peers.

“Shop” and “The Videogame” are just interested in selling you things while “Spells App” takes you to information on the iPhone app you can use to trade spells with other users and “Part One” takes you to information on the first part of the final movie.

Lots of stuff from the official website is ported over to the Facebook page, which also then adds more media (including a full collection of TV commercials and other video that was missing from the main page) to the mix along with the usual stream of updates about the movie, the cast and general fan exclamations about how excited they are.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

TV commercials began running in mid-May that, like the first trailers, made it clear this is the final confrontation between the two rivals. It’s the same voiceover of Voldemort taunting Harry over the death of his friends while he has remained safe but it’s pretty good, even in 30 second form. Some started off much more gently than others, with the drama slowly building and others took viewers right into the action but almost all of them ended with the promise of a huge battle involving all the characters we’ve seen to date but which ends with Harry and Voldemort going toe-to-toe.

A huge in-theater standee was created that mimicked one of the banners mentioned above, with the forces on each side of the battle shown as the two primary characters faced off in the forefront.

Media and Publicity

One of the first shots from the publicity effort for the movie was the announcement that a sneak peak from the film would air during an ABC Family marathon of the earlier entries in the franchise.

The movie also got some promotion at 2011 WonderCon (Hollywood Reporter, 3/31/11) where several minutes of footage was screened for the crowd of both exhibition executives and trade press.

There was also the continued travels of “Harry Potter: The Exhibition,” an exhibit that’s been touring museums across the country for a couple years (New York Times, 4/5/11) now showing off some props from the movies and other wizarding memorabilia.

The film was one of many to get some promotional time at the 2011 MTV Movie Awards, where Watson appeared and debuted a new clip (Los Angeles Times, 6/6/11) but where it failed to pick up any awards.

There was a lot of retrospective press going around, a trend that was epitomized by a story in Entertainment Weekly (6/30/11) that looked back at the histories of each of the actors, the production designers and some of the other talent involved in the film as they reminisced on their involvement with the franchise and how things have evolved over the 10 years since the first movie hit theaters.

Overall

I’m trying to figure out if there’s any one consistent theme that the campaign was hung on…I’m just not sure if there’s one phrase that was used over and over again on all the posters and in all the trailers to let the audience know that this was a big event or the end of the film series.

Oh wait…that’s almost all the campaign was; a constant repetition of the fact that this is where “It all ends.”

Aside from that this is a decent campaign that stands in stark contrast to the marketing for the previous movies, which contained bits of story that moved us toward the conclusion but which were also more adventurous and whimsical in nature. As with any finale the marketing here has to be bittersweet in part because this is the audience – and the studio – saying goodbye to these characters and this world for the foreseeable future.

Movie Marketing Madness: Winnie the Pooh

There’s so much noise in the world these days that it can be difficult to convince your brain, which is now wired to always be looking for the latest status update from friends or whatever, that it’s alright to sit in the backyard and enjoy a summer afternoon’s breeze without any technological or other distractions. We don’t always need to be doing something, we can just enjoy the simple things in life and give our over-addled minds a break every now and again.

Cinematically we suffer from much the same problem. We are so used to something – multiple things – always happening on screen that whenever there isn’t a cacophony of action assaulting our senses we almost begin to become uncomfortable. But just as in real life it can be good to to take a timeout and enjoy something that doesn’t move at 97 miles per hour just so our senses have a chance to actually take in what we’re viewing.

Filling that need this week is Winnie the Pooh. The first big-screen outings for this cuddly character and his friends from the Hundred Acre Wood in decades (apparently we’re not counting things like The Tigger Movie), it also seems to be the first time in a while that the focus is squarely on the title character and not spread out quite as much to his supporting characters. The story is, appropriately, simple: What starts out as a simple search for more honey Pooh Bear and friends wind up believing they need to rescue Christopher Robin.

The Posters

The first – and it turns out only – poster was simple and wonderful, showing the whole 100 Acre Woods crew afloat on a sea of honey like the explorers they are. It immediately tells the audience that this is a return to the simple, classy and charming roots of the characters.

The Trailers

The first trailer is every bit as charming and gentle as you would expect it to be. It’s just an introduction to the characters and an alert that there’s a new movie coming out. So we get brief glimpses of all the characters in very familiar situations. Pooh wants some honey, Eeyore mopes around, Tigger is overly energetic and Owl tries to issue plans. All of that is wrapped in and presented as coming from the same kind of storybook as the original film, with pictures being presented as if on pages and Piglet bumping into words on the page. It’s all great, even if it doesn’t get into the story but instead rests on the strength of promising the return of some old friends.

Online

After you get past the trailer that plays when the official website loads there’s a lot of good stuff. Some material is presented in a nice flip-book kind of feature in the middle of the page but we’ll focus on the main navigation schemes.

That starts with the menu off to the left where the first section is “Movie.” That houses much of what you’d regularly expect on movie sites, with sub-sections devoted to the Trailer, the Music of the movie, a Story synopsis, a gallery of Photo stills, the Posters that were created and Cast biographies.

“Characters” is next and lets you learn more about the personalities that are in the story in case you’re not already familiar with them. Each character section also has games, activities and more that are related to that character. “Fun Facts” gives you a map of the Hundred Acre Wood that you can click various parts of to learn more about the characters and the world they inhabit.

There are lots of things to play in the “Games” section. “Videos” has the Trailer, some Featurettes and character profiles and “Printables” has activities you can download and print out.

A handful of the site’s features are replicated below in big graphics that will attract young eyes.

The movie’s Facebook page opens with the Personality Quiz that was on the main site and also has photos, a bit of video and other updates, including a regular countdown to the film’s release. There were also Facebook pages setup for Tigger, Piglet, Eeyore and the other characters from the movie.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

A good amount of TV advertising was done that played up the adventure of the story as well as the gentle humor and good natured antics of the characters. A couple of spots were created and released that started off like they were commercials for Harry Potter, with dark clouds and warnings about final battles before giving way to the nice, gentle footage from this movie. This is similar to what Disney has been doing for The Muppets, which hits theaters later this year, but doesn’t work quite as well because it doesn’t commit fully to the joke.

Media and Publicity

The movie got some industry promotion when footage was shown at CinemaCon 2011 (Hollywood Reporter, 3/29/11) to exhibitors as part of Disney’s larger presentation at that event.

Other than that much of the conversations have come about as a result of the release of marketing material, including clips and so on.

Overall

There’s a lot to like here in how Disney has, with one particular exception, decided to sell the movie based on what it appears to be, which is a brief chance to enjoy something that allows you to catch your breath in a summer of sensory bombardment. The poster and trailer are both simple efforts that play up the gentle nature of the story and that’s carried over into the website, which is certainly friendly for the under four-foot tall crowd.

The one exception are the TV spots that include the Harry Potter-esque openings. I get that they’re done with tongue in cheek and that they’re actually meant to acknowledge the fact that this movie is going up against that 800 pound gorilla (the audiences probably overlap more than I’m comfortable pondering) but they just don’t work in the context of the rest of the campaign. Unlike The Muppets, Winnie the Pooh has never been meta or otherwise referential of the outside world and so to introduce that just comes off as dissonant with the rest of the campaign, which is very nice.

Movie Marketing Madness: Horrible Bosses

Everyone, if they’ve worked a day in their life, has grumbled at some point about their boss. Usually the feeling is that even if they’re not an out and out moron that they certainly don’t possess the skills or knowledge to do the job that they’ve been called on to do and have forgotten what it’s like to be a worker in the trenches actually *doing* the ridiculous stuff that they request on a regular basis and with almost no notice.

Of course I have no idea about this personally as I have the best bosses in the world who positively ooze enthusiasm and understanding.

The new movie Horrible Bosses is about a group of guys who take the usual grumbling to a new level. Jason Bateman, Charlie Day and Jason Sudekis play a group of friends who all have terrible – some might say horrible – bosses. Bateman works in an office run by a tyrannical and manipulative exec played Kevin Spacey, Sudeikis at a chemical company that has as its head the bigoted, idiotic manager played by Colin Farrell and Day works as an assistant to a sexual harassment-prone dentist played by Jennifer Aniston. So when the three workers decide they’ve finally had enough of suffering under the wrath of those above them they figure the only thing to do is kill them. This being a comedy wackiness, of course, ensues and things don’t go quite as smoothly as they hoped they would.

The Posters

The first series of teaser posters that were released showed the relationships between each of the three friends and their respective bosses. So the one with Day and Aniston has “Is your boss a sex-crazed maneater?” on it and so on, with each poster coming with a similar identification of the character defect of each boss. They’re pretty funny and certainly make it clear where the comedy in the movie is going to come from. There was also one for the “murder consultant” played by Foxx that was also quite funny.

The three images were then edited and all included on a single one-sheet that just used a word description such as “Psycho” or “Tool” for each boss, putting the image of their put-upon employee underneath them.

Six more character banners were released. Three of them featured the protagonists and had the copy “Ever wish your boss were dead” on them while the other three featured the bosses themselves along with some copy that acts as a description of what their particular claim to the “horrible” title is.

The Trailers

The first trailer is kind of hilarious. It sets up the relationship between the three friends and establishes that they all have terrible, terrible people as bosses. Nick’s is a sabotaging jerk who slips him some scotch like it’s part of a celebration only to then use that against him later. Dale’s is always sexually harassing him and even threatening to lie about their relationship to his fiancee. Kurt’s is an intolerant ass with a bad comb-over who wants him to fire the fat and handicapped where they work. So they conspire to murder all their bosses but of course hilarity ensues.

It’s a very funny trailer that shows off how things are going to go down in the movie but without spoiling things entirely. Mostly it shows off the great comedic chops of Bateman, Sudeikis and Day, who play off each other very well, though certainly Farrell really comes out here as well.

Later on a red-band version was released that was even funnier. We start off with the three friends having an awkward conversation with their “murder consultant” that shows just how inept and clueless they are. We then get a glimpse of just how bad their bosses really are and how they’re abused at work. The rest shows just how bad the communication among these guys really is, culminating with the hiring of a gentleman who they presumed to be a hit-man but who engages in…other activities. It’s really good.

Online

When the official website finishes loading the all-ages trailer begins playing in full screen video, but you can skip that and continue on to the main content of the site. Despite my instincts, there’s nothing that is clickable about the series of photos of each character that appears when you do so.

The first section in the menu that’s hidden in the lower left hand corner is “About” which is where you’ll find a pretty good Synopsis as well as Cast and Filmmaker information and PDF Production Notes for you to download if you really want to dive into the film’s making.

Next up is “Meet the Bosses” which gives you a look into just who these terrible people are and why they’ve been targeted by our story’s heroes. Since this is the central conceit of the movie it’s actually kind of cool that they decided to break stuff out like this.

“Video” has the one green-band Trailer as well as two TV Spots. There are eight stills from the movie in “Photos” “Downloads” then has Posters, Wallpapers and Buddy Icons you can grab and use.

Finally there are sections for “Tickets,” “Sweepstakes,” which has links to sites that ran contests related to the movie and finally “Soundtrack” which lets you play clips from the movie’s album.

The movie’s Facebook page has a lot more video, a lot more photos and more insights into the movie’s characters than the official website along with updates on the release of extended clips, media appearances and more.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

There was quite a bit of TV advertising done, with spots coming in both 30 and 60 second flavors. Most hit many of the same notes the trailers do and feature primarily the same clips and gags that are seen there, though a couple include some new shots. But the point that’s sold is that these bosses really are horrible and deserving of death and that the three friends aren’t exactly the most hip cats on the block.

Media and Publicity

I’m not sure if it was on other people’s radar before this but the first time it popped up on mine was after a story pegged it (Los Angeles Times, 8/10/10) as the next potentially big R-rated comedy breakout hit. It got some mentions a bit later (LAT, 3/17/11) about how it was part of a new wave of comedies set primarily at an office of some sort. And then shortly after that (Entertainment Weekly, 3/31/11) the movie got a spread collecting some of the first official photos from the film.

Later on and much closer to release there were stories about how the movie’s story was based on the real life resentment held by its screenwriter (BusinessWeek, 6/30/11) and how writing the story was basically him acting out wish fulfillment from his previous careers. There was also a profile of Bateman (New York Times, 6/30/11) and how he’s become such an in-demand ensemble comedy player.

Overall

This is very much just my perception, but somewhere about a month or so ago Horrible Bosses all of a sudden became the most anticipated movie of the summer. As comic book adaptations were coming and going and nothing was really lighting the world on fire I think people – including myself – began looking at this movie as being the brightest potential light that was on the horizon.

That more or less coincides with when the marketing for the movie kicked into high gear, with trailers and posters being released pretty regularly. Those trailers and posters have all used the movie’s strongest asset – a top-flight ensemble cast – as the main reason why people should want to come and see this movie. It might be an uphill battle against the sheer media overload that’s been utilized by campaigns for Transformers and other tentpoles but this is a strong campaign for a movie that looks really funny.