Movie Marketing Madness: We Bought a Zoo

“Pick yourself up, dust yourself off and start all over again” is a phrase that’s familiar to most parents. It’s usually recited after a toddler falls and skins their knee or has something similarly tragic happen to them and are in need of a bit of encouragement. It’s meant to convey in simple terms the same sentiment behind it not being our failures that define us but the way that we recover from those failures and move on with our lives.

We Bought a Zoo, the new movie from writer/director Cameron Crowe, is about just that kind of turning moment in a character’s life. Faced with the struggles of being a single dad after the death of his wife to a young daughter and teenage son Benjamin Mee (Matt Damon) uproots the family and buys a rural house in the middle of nowhere. But upon buying it he finds there’s a zoo attached to it that’s facing hard times. The remaining staff, led by Kelly Foster (Scarlett Johanson), though is very loyal and Mee and his family decide to make a go of running it themselves, a process that proves cathartic for all of them and has other unexpected (to everyone but the audience) consequences as well.

The Posters

You know what’s kind of fantastic? The first poster for the movie. Instead of using the very safe and predictable option of using the heads of the cast what is here instead is a tree that has as its leaves green versions of different animal’s paw prints, with a red kite floating above it. It’s original, it’s artistic, it’s creative and it works to convey what is hopefully the spirit of the movie and it’s attitude instead of just promising some attractive looking people doing something or another. Great stuff.

The second poster was markedly less awesome, showing heavily Photoshopped images of Damon with the little girl who plays his daughter on his shoulders and Johansson off to the side, all of them staring off blankly toward some middle distance object while the zoo’s sign is in the background. The top of the poster plays up the fact that it comes “From the director of Jerry Maguire” so it’s clear which part of the Crowe-knowledgable audience this one’s being aimed at.

There was also a poster featuring just a zebra with a bow around its neck that was released to make it clear to everyone that this was a Christmas release.

The Trailers

The first trailer starts out with Damon dropping his kids of at school, embarrassing his teenage son and getting hit on by one of the moms who is doing likewise, nicely setting up the fact that he’s a single dad. He’s struggling with how well he’s doing as a dad and with some other things in his life and encouragement from a friend to start over leads him to quit his job and buy a house that, they discover, is attached to a zoo. That leads to all sorts of complications but it’s clear from the rest of the trailer that it winds up being just the kind of emotional shakeup that everyone in the family needed. There is, of course, a romantic connection at this zoo in the form of Johannson’s character and it’s shown as being generally uplifting all around.

Online

The movie’s official website opens by playing the trailer again. There’s also an invitation to enter the “20 Seconds of Courage” sweepstakes that enters you to win a vacation to the San Diego Zoo.

Moving past that and going ahead to “Enter the Site” you’re immediately prompted to connect with Facebook for some reason that I’m guessing has to do with “The Zoo of You,” the first section listed in the menu bar at the top.

After that is “About the Film” which has a Synopsis, several sections of Production Notes and some background on the Music and how Crowe worked with an artist named Jonsi on the soundtrack for the film.

“Videos” has the Trailer as well as four extended film clips, all of which you can share in various ways online. The “Photo Gallery” has about nine stills from the film and the “Cast” and “Filmmakers” sections give you information about the cast and filmmakers, respectively.

The Facebook page has photos and videos as well as more information on the sweepstakes, soundtrack and more. There was also a Twitter feed that shared with Facebook updates about the movie’s marketing and publicity.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

I caught quite a bit of TV advertising that was done, with spots that emphasized the heart-warming nature of the story and such to make it as family friendly as was possible. The relationship between Damon and Johansson was emphasized in a couple of the commercials, most of which hit the same basic beats as the trailer.

Media and Publicity

The publicity for the film kind of started when Crowe joined Twitter and started sending out pictures from the shooting set.

The next big piece of news came when it was announced (New York Times, 11/16/11) that Fox would be doing a sneak-preview strategy to promote the film, showing it to audiences almost a month in advance of its release, likely in the hope that positive word of mouth would be generated that would be more powerful in the long run than whatever critics might say closer to release. That strategy seemed to turn out well, with most of the early reviews that resulted being pretty positive in nature.

Some more press was generated when a parody Twitter account was discovered (Los Angeles Times, 12/7/11). I’m not sure what made this one notable from the hundreds of other fake or parody accounts that surely exist for other movies, but it was eventually found that the creators of this one were fans who were excited about the movie and not anyone who was trying to take the film down in any way. That being said things did get kind of weird toward the end, there.

I’m sure the cast also make several appearances on TV talk shows to promote the film.

Overall

Well I like it but I’m more or less predisposed to like it being a Cameron Crowe fan. It might look quite a bit different from Crowe’s earlier movies – it certainly doesn’t look like a movie from the guy who brought us Singles though it does seem similar to Jerry Maguire. But the campaign is designed to make the film as attractive as possible to as broad an audience as possible and on that mark I think it succeeds rather well, even if it can’t quite complete on sheer volume with some of this week’s other releases. Quite a nice little campaign, though, for a movie that looks pretty good.

Movie Marketing Madness: Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol

The Mission: Impossible franchise has probably at this point gone on longer than anyone originally involved could possible. What started out as a high-concept TV series has now become a film series that’s already spawned three movies that have achieved success of varying levels under the directorship of a variety of helmers. 1996’s debut film came from director Brian DePalma and was more of a drama than a straight action flick. The second entry went in the other direction with action icon John Woo behind the camera. Number 3 in 2006 had J.J. Abrams, then mostly known for his TV work at the helm. But all three starred Tom Cruise (in what’s oddly the only franchise of his career) in the role of Ethan Hunt, the top field operative in the Impossible Mission force.

Now Cruise is back with another director calling the shots, Pixar veteran Brad Bird. Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol takes Cruise as Hunt back to the role of rogue agent. After a mission in Moscow goes pear-shaped as, oddly, the Kremlin explodes in his wake. Disavowed (again) by the U.S. government he’s intent on clearing his reputation and that of his team. So he takes tech guru Benji (Simon Pegg) along with Jane (Paula Patton) and the enigmatic Brandt (Jeremy Renner) on a mission to find out who’s behind the conspiracy he finds himself and the others caught up in.

The Posters

The first teaser poster for the movie was actually a repurposing of a previously-released publicity shot, with Cruise staring at the camera with a hood drawn over his head. Random numbers appear like some sort of code around him and the familiar M:I fuse that’s burning down appears at the bottom.

The second one-sheet was one designed specifically to sell IMAX presentations. It also reused an earlier-released publicity shot, though this one was significantly more spectacular, showing Cruise in the middle of the tower-climbing sequence that was highlighted in the first trailer. It certainly sells the big scale of the movie – at least parts of it – and that makes sense for this IMAX-specific pitch.

A third poster finally got the rest of the cast some recognition as they flanked Cruise – who was still wearing his Zartan hoodie – in walking toward the camera as sparks flew around them and the whole area was apparently in the middle of sandstorm.

Next up was a series of character banners for each of the four main characters, with a different phrase for each one.

A fourth poster was specifically meant to promote the IMAX release of the film and nicely worked the image of the Dubai tower into the lit fuse that’s so associated with the M:I franchise.

The Trailers

The first trailer opens with dire intonations about the Kremlin being bombed and warnings that the incident is going to be blamed on the members of the IMF team, who will be made into scapegoats. So their mission is to find the people who are really behind the attack and clear their own names. That’s about all the exposition we get as the trailer then transitions into shot after quick shot of very beautiful people infiltrating parties, kicking other not-quite as beautiful people and, of course, a glimpse of the movie’s key action sequence with Cruise scaling a glass tower. It’s not bad but it looks pretty generic at this point.

The next trailer, which on Yahoo started with an introduction from Bird, throws us into the middle of a mission by our crack team that goes very wrong when the Kremlin blows up and the team gets disavowed. But then the team is really on their own when their boss gets killed, meaning this mission is very personal to the remaining team members. There’s some humor, there’s lots of action and more as we see how everything plays out, including the possibility that one of the members might not be playing straight with everyone else. It ends with more of the building-scaling sequence that we’ve seen elsewhere and which is obviously the focal point of the campaign.

Online

There’s a lot thrown at you when you first hit the movie’s official website. The main element is a recreation of the final poster key art but over on the right there are a bunch of small video windows that rotate through scenes from the trailer. Then just to the side of that there’s a series of prompts to play a game on Facebook, see it in IMAX and more. There’s also a Partners box that opens up, when you click on it, some invitations to find out more about the companies that were promotional partners on the film.

Over on the right is the main content menu, where the first option is “Videos.” There you’ll find both trailers, a couple of Featurettes, some TV spots and a handful of extended clips from the movie.

By my count there are about 16 stills in the “Gallery.” “About the Film” has a decent synopsis of the movie’s story.

“Cast and Crew” has career information on the stars of the movie and those who made it happen behind the camera. Finally “Downloads” has collections of Wallpapers and Buddy Icons for you to grab if you like.

The movie’s Facebook page has videos and photos along with publicity and marketing updates, many of which can also be found on the Twitter profile that’s specific to the film.

That Twitter handle was one of the first ones to get access to new tools on Twitter that allowed brand managers to keep an update at the top of the stream, in this case an update containing the movie’s trailer.

The studio also ran an effort on Twitter and Facebook that promised fans that with people using the #mission hashtag at a sufficient volume they could unlock an exciting new clip from the film.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

TV spots like this one started running that promised the audience a rip-roaring good time. There’s lots of action sequences and lots of humor. We get the basic outline of the story – that a mission has gone so sideways that the entire IMF team has been disavowed and must now seek out the truth behind what happened – conveyed mostly through big explosions and more.

BMW signed on as a cross-promotional partner with co-branded ads running to play up the carmaker’s inclusion in the movie. Toshiba and Coke Zero were also promotional partners though their programs didn’t get quite as much press as BMW’s and less information was available on what exactly they were doing.

30- and 60-second spots were run with the NHL, another promotional partner, where it was also the leading sponsor of some special events by the league.

Media and Publicity

After all the news of casting and who would direct the movie had died down and production begun the first real bit of press came when the movie’s full title, a departure from the numeric structure of the previous sequels, was announced (Los Angeles Times, 10/28/10) though not everyone was a fan. At the press conference where that news broke Cruise said no numbers was always his goal but I’m guessing it had more to do with the overall trend of subtitled sequels that feel more like chapter installments than anything else.

It would be a little while before more press activity picked up, with marketing filling in the gap. But when it did it was in the form of interviews with Bird (LAT, 11/4/11) on how he wanted to go back to some of the spirit that the first movie had with this new entry and get some more inspired performances out of the cast.

Some decent press was generated around activities on Facebook, specifically the launch of a game there (THR, 11/21/11) that was meant to appeal to those who were no longer tied to video game consoles and the studio’s decision to make the previous three films available to rent on Facebook to appeal to those who were looking to no longer be tied to traditional rental outlets.

Brad Bird’s involvement as director generated a lot of news stories as they focused on this being a departure for the guy (NYT, 12/11/11) who usually helmed Pixar-created family friendly fare. Other stories, though, drew the line between those movies and this one in terms of Bird’s flair for visual storytelling (Wired, Dec. 2012)

When the movie opened in IMAX a week before it did in regular theaters audiences were treated to a “prologue” of footage from 2012’s The Dark Knight Rises, a promise that had some wondering of the film’s opening weekend would have a “Batman bump” (LAT, 12/19/11) from people who bought a ticket for the movie for the sole reason of seeing the Batman preview, something that would be noticable in the second week.

I’m sure the cast and crew also made sufficient rounds to the talk show circuit in the weeks before release as well.

Overall

It’s a pretty good campaign that, like the push for the last movie and even (if my memory is accurate) the one before that has zero interest in making sure the audience remembers the first one. There’s no winking at the previous installments or anything like that in the marketing that requires people to know what happened before, which is the case wiht the movies themselves in addition to the campaigns.

Everything works pretty well here. It’s nice to see Simon Pegg back in the same role from the third movie since he’s always welcome on screen. The trailers certainly make it out to be a big action movie and I like the way there’s a consistant touchpoint in the form of the sequence around the big tower break-in. That lets everyone know exactly what the movie has to offer in a clear way, marking this film as some holiday-season escapism.

Movie Marketing Madness: Sherlock Holmes – A Game of Shadows

2009’s reimagination of Sherlock Holmes via a big-screen adaptation starring Robert Downey Jr. in the title role was something of a mixed bag for me. While I enjoyed the performance and the chemistry and banter between him and Jude Law as Dr. Watson this was certainly something far different than the Basil Rathbone classics I’d grown up with. That’s not a bad thing in and of itself but I think it took a little while for me to acclimate to this far different portrayal of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous detective and accept it for what it was: Something that required little of the audience but sought to entertain by any means necessary for two hours or so.

Now Downey Jr. and Law – as well as director Guy Ritchie – are back in Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows. Picking up shortly after the first movie left off this entry pits Holmes against his most formidable adversary, Professor Moriarty (Jared Harris). Holmes is on Moriarty’s trail, believing him to be at the center of a vast web of conspiracy and criminal activity but to find him he enlists the aid of a young woman (Noomi Rapace) who has secrets of her own.

The PostersThe first bit of official marketing for the movie came in the form of two teaser posters, one with an up-close picture of Downey Jr. with Harris as Moriarty in the background and the other with Law being the focus and Rapace off to the side. They effectively showed that there would be a consistency in the look and feel of both movies as well as in the marketing efforts.

The next two posters had Downey Jr. on one and Law on the other, both of them clutching weapons and in profile to the camera with France and London, respectively, in the backgrounds. They continued the brand consistent blueish gray look from all the rest of the marketing and certainly showed some expanded settings but that’s about it.

Then a series of six action-shot type of character posters were released, with one each for Downey and Law and two each for Rapace and Harris, with everyone brandishing a gun or other weapon or in some other kind of action shot.
The final theatrical poster has Holmes and Watson in a dark Paris alley, fog behind them and the imposing shadow of what we can presume to be Moriarty against the wall to the side. It continues to sell the atmosphere of the movie and what’s hoped to be the wide appeal of the two lead actors.

The Trailers

The first trailer promises those who enjoyed the first movie more of the same here. We open with Holmes getting a tarot card reading, which of course becomes more complicated. From there we see what appears to be Holmes and Watson reuniting after some time apart, with Holmes intoning that he’s on the most important case of his career as he investigates Moriarty. From there on out we’ve done away with most exposition or plot setup as we move to straight action. There are train shoot-outs, huge cannons firing and chases through the woods. We get glimpses of the same slow-motion special effects that were used in the first movie as well as lots of inventions and tools that give the movies a distinct steampunk vibe.

The second was more of the same, though with a good amount of different footage. There’s lots of explosions and gun play and lots of time devoted to the run through the forest the main characters engage in that has lots of exploding trees and bullets whizzing by. Not much more than the barest of plot outlines is given here, though, other than some menacing glances and a bit of exposition about Moriarty being Holmes’ biggest case and the most dangerous criminal mind of their time. It’s all about selling some gothic action here and not about anything resembling a plot.

The next trailer starts off with two people playing chess, which serves as a metaphor for the struggle between Holmes and Moriarty. We see a bit of the same footage we’ve seen in other trailers but with occasional short interview snippets with Ritchie, Law and Downey talking about the conflict of the characters and the story and why people will be interested in seeing it.

Online

The official website opens by playing a nearly full-screen version of the second trailer.

Once that’s done playing the first section of content is “About” which has a short but mostly decent Synopsis, Cast and Filmmaker bios and Production Notes to download.

The “Photos” section has over three dozen (at which point it became difficult to count” stills from the movie. “Videos” has both Trailers, a couple of TV spots and two behind the scenes looks at the recording of the film’s soundtrack score.

“Downloads” has Wallpapers, IM Icons, Posters and specialized wallpapers for iPhones and iPads. You can listen to samples from the score in the “Soundtrack section.

The companies that helped to promote the film are listed under “Partners” while “Sweepstakes” has information on a contest run by the Carl’s Jr. fast-food chain.

“Special Features” has a couple games for you to play as well as a Facebook app that lets you find out who from among your friends there is a your nemesis.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

A number of TV spots were run that continued to sell the movie to the general public as a known quantity, with lots of action and humor. It’s clear this is in the same style and tone as the first movie, which was popular so the hope is this one will be likewise. Interestingly some of these spots are where we get our first look that Rachel McAdams is back but to what extent isn’t as clear.

Plenty of online and outdoor advertising was also done, mostly using the film’s key poster art and images of Downey and Law and usually also involving a picture of the train that figures into one of the movie’s key action set pieces.

Among the film’s promotional partner companies were French Connection (which displayed fashion “inspired by” the movie in store windows), Shuttle Computers, English Tea Store, Delta Airlines (which offered a contest to win tickets to the movie’s premiere), Hershey’s (which promoted theater snacks as being perfect while enjoying the film) and Hardee’s, whose Carl’s Jr. franchises have already been mentioned.

Media and Publicity

The one constant theme of the early press about the movie was “confusion.” While casting details were leaked out and reported no one involved in the production was spilling any information about the film’s story or plot (Los Angeles Times, 1/13/11), which apparently was part of the plan to keep people guessing and ramp up expectations in the audience that way. One detail that later got released was the movie’s subtitle.

Outside of that there wasn’t a whole lot that happened in the press as release day grew closer. The cast, Downey in particular, made the talk-show rounds and gave plenty of other interviews so it’s not as if there wasn’t a lot of activity happening. But there weren’t many, if any, sort of big industry stories that pegged it as an “important” picture in any regard. Or if there were they never got on my radar, which is also completely plausible.

Overall

This is one of the most clear cut cases of “If you liked the first one here’s more of the same” sequel marketing that I’ve seen. It might even beat efforts for the second Transformers movie and a couple other blatant offenders. Everything here (except the odd way Rachel McAdams barely makes an appearance…does something untoward happen to her character in this one?) is designed to make sure that the audience is completely sold on the notion that very little original will happen here. Instead it’s made clear that this is, while not recycled, certainly very familiar material that covers well-worn ground.

So if you liked the first one – and I did overall while at the same time recongnizing it was completely disposable entertainment that I barely remembered a half-hour after watching it – you should be sold on this one and will make your way to the theater. Which is fine.

Movie Marketing Madness: The Iron Lady

I was only tangentially aware of politics for much of the 1980s. I was six when the decade started and 16 when it ended so of course I knew what was going on but didn’t really have a big stake in the comings and goings of various politicians. My most stark memories of that decade’s politics are a mix of the serious (Ronald Reagan being shot) and the comedic (Dana Carvey and Jon Lovitz doing George Bush and Michael Dukakis on “Saturday Night Live”) with a few other things mixed in here and there. In terms of international politics my awareness was even fuzzier. I knew Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister of Great Britain and knew what a big deal that was in terms of both gender and friendliness with the U.S. but that’s about it.

Thatcher is the focus of one of this week’s new movies, The Iron Lady. With Meryll Streep playing Thatcher the movie is about her rise in the political theater to the role of being the first – and to date only – woman to hold the PM position in Great Britain. The movie is told in a similar style to other biopics, with the framing device of an aged Thatcher looking back at the key moments that shaped her life. Plot descriptions make it clear that some liberties have been taken with the story, though much of it is based on fact.

The Posters

The first poster for the film puts Streep at the forefront along with the story’s setting. So the photo of her as Thatcher bleeds into an image of Buckingham Palace. Above that is the copy “Never compromise,” which nicely spells out the character and mindset of the woman Streep is portraying.

The Trailers

The first teaser trailer is primarily focused on introducing us to Streep’s incarnation of Thatcher. We see two consultants staring past the camera telling someone sitting in the camera’s POV that there things that need to be changed: Her hat, her pearls and so on. There’s also the matter of her voice, which they say lacks authority. Cut to her saying she may be willing to let go of the hat but, defiantly, says the pearls aren’t an option. And she does so in the tone of voice that she says is what’s necessary for a leader.

I’m not sure how much this teaser is representative of what’s in the film. And the cheeky little smile on Streep’s face at the end tells me the marketers are being intentionally overly clever here and, at least in my own mind, that raises questions as to the tone of the movie itself. I had thought this was a drama and not Julie & Julia & Margaret.

The second trailer starts by introducing us to a young Thatcher who is unwilling to fit into traditional roles in British society. We then follow her ascent into politics, from someone who operated on the outskirts of the government to the leader of the party. But we see that rise was not without speed bumps both personal and professional as she’s faced with various crises, putting her determination and will at the forefront to get through the various trials she faces.

This is a very good trailer that shows exactly what the audience can expect from the film. Whether or not that is something that’s interesting enough to get them to come out to the theater is a separate question (as it always is) but by highlighting Streep’s performance in this way it’s obviously hoped that the same folks who make Julie and Julia a hit will turn out for this one.

Online

The movie’s official website is a little barebones. At the top the second trailer begins playing automatically, though you can close that if you don’t want to watch it again.

Once you do so the content sections are revealed, the first of which is “About.” There you’ll find a decent description of the film and the various plot devices and storytelling liberties that you can expect when going in to the theater.

“Video” has both trailers while “Photos” has nine, by my count, stills from the film. “Cast & Crew” then has bios on the major players involved in the film and “Press” has excerpts from and links to some of the reviews of the movie.

Many of those sections are repurposed at the bottom of the page along with widgets that pull in the studio’s Twitter and Facebook feeds.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

I don’t think I’ve seen any TV or other advertising done, certainly nothing that’s made any sort of strong impression on me.

Media and Publicity

The main source of publicity for the movie seemed to be in the form of either the release of marketing materials or speculation about Streep’s award season chances, which were deemed to be plentiful. I’m a bit surprised there wasn’t more press done in the big outlets but that’s all that I’ve seen for the film. Again, very surprising and something that leads me to believe TWC is putting its money somewhere else this fall/winter.

Overall

I’m going to fall back on to one of my usual cliches here and say that I’m a bit surprised at the apparent lack of a full-throated effort in support of this movie. It’s great that Streep is being positioned as an awards contender but what by my accounting seems to be a not much, if any, press support is a big missing component here.

Other than that the posters and trailers are good enough and, as I said above, the target audience seems to be at least in part the folks who enjoyed Streep’s other recent travels into celebrity impersonation territory (though I still think Dan Ackroyd did a better Julia Childs) along with those who enjoy a bit of historical fiction.

Movie Marketing Madness: Young Adult

Back before the days of channels like Disney XD, Nick Jr. and half a dozen others, when Saturday morning was the primary time to watch cartoons for hours and hours, the slogan “I don’t want to grow up, I’m a Toys’r’us kid” would be heard constantly during commercial breaks, particularly in the lead up to Christmas. The goal was to get kids to identify with that store, not just any department store toy section. But the generation that grew up listening to that has taken it to heart, constantly refusing to grow up and act its age. While we may accept the responsibilities inherent in getting older that doesn’t mean we don’t still long for our toys, with many 40+ adults proudly displaying their action figures and comic books alongside their big screen TV.

Young Adult, the new movie from writer Diablo Cody and director Jason Reitman (who previously paired on Juno), is about just such a grudging adult. Mavis (Charlize Theron) is a moderately successful writer of young adult fiction. But she’s not exactly a responsible adult. When she comes back to her home town she decides she’s going to recapture her glory years of high school, partly by finally trying to snag her old boyfriend Buddy (Patrick Wilson), despite the fact that he is now married with a baby on the way. Her lack of maturity, therefore, isn’t the only stumbling block on the way to her goals.

The Posters

The first poster for the movie made it look like the cover of a cheap book, even including what appears to be a spine groove along the left hand side and a “Bargain Price $4.95″ sticker in the upper right hand corner. The movie’s title and Theron’s name are there along with Cody’s while Reitman’s appears in a gold sticker (again playing to the book cover idea quite nicely) that also includes his previous film credits. The central image is that of Theron, face down in bed and surrounded by vodka bottles and coffee cups. To hammer home the idea that she’s not the most mature person in the world the copy above her reads “Everyone gets old. Not everyone grows up.”

While a lot of people didn’t like the poster, thinking it was too pink and not nearly effective enough, I think it works quite nicely as a teaser. It plays it’s book cover conceit all the way through to the end and, considering the writer and director involved, is self-consciously hip, which is not to be unexpected.

A fun series of posters were created and released for individual cities in a “screening series” that movie would be embarking on

The second poster showed Theron full-on, staring at the camera with some serious disdain and in the same basic outfit and attitude that we see her in the trailer as she’s checking in to the hotel. It features the same copy as the first one and makes a much bigger statement about the creative team that it comes from at the top of the one-sheet. But at the bottom there’s something new with the “A bit of baggage this December” copy point.

The Trailers

The first trailer starts out by showing us just what kind of character Mavis is as she tries to check in to a hotel while not paying for the dog that’s obviously hidden in her purse. We see she’s back visiting her home town, a place she doesn’t exactly love. She’s not exactly loved by the people who remember her from high school either, something that’s not prone to change as she engages in a plan to try and get her now-married high school boyfriend, who’s just exasperated by her antics. All this time she’s confiding in another former classmate who doesn’t actively hate her and might be the only person in town who fits that description.

It’s a fun and funny trailer that shows how funny Theron can actually be. There’s plenty of opportunities to catch Cody’s whiplash dialogue and more and the two of those things together make up the major reasons to see the movie. There’s some mention, of course, of it coming from the director of Up in the Air and other movies but that almost seems cursory here.

An “alternate” trailer was given to Slashfilm that wasn’t substantively different than the primary spot other than the addition of one scene.

A short (44 second) red-band trailer was released (many called it a TV spot but that’s ridiculous) that featured Theron making everyone very uncomfortable with some overly aggressive behavior, an extended version of a scene that we’ve glimpsed in the trailers so far.

Online

The movie’s official website opens with the same image that graces the second one-sheet of Theron standing there looking generally displeased with her situation and surroundings. Again, just below the title is the movie’s artistic pedigree for everyone to see.

The first section of content is “Videos” and it’s there that you’ll find the Trailer as well as a number of short clips that are structured like TV spots. Nothing in this section is actually labeled so I’m not sure exactly what their intent actually is.

There are 10 stills from the movie in the “Photos” section.

“About the Film” is all about the Production Notes, which is then divided into three sections. One talks about Cody’s writing of the movie and how she came up with the story. The next has her discussing that story in depth and then the final section goes into the actual shooting of the movie.

“Cast and Filmmakers” has career overviews of the major players involved here and “Reviews and accolades” compiles some key quotes from early reviews of the film.

The movie’s Facebook page and Twitter feed are filled with links to various promotional pieces and positive reviews, with Facebook also having photos and some video as well.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

As stated above there was some TV advertising done for the movie, with some spots playing like mini trailers and following more or less the same beats and showing off many of the same jokes. I’m inclined to think the clips that are on the official website above are actually other TV commercials just based on what I’ve seen but that’s still just a guess. If they are they’re very effective since they allow the audience, which was attracted to the whipsmart dialogue of Juno when these two filmmakers previously got together, to see that this movie has more of the same.

Media and Publicity

The movie, remarkably, did not play at any of the fall film festivals and so missed out on much of the buzz that could have been generated there. Considering its creators that’s even more surprising and the fact that it remained an unknown quantity was contributing to a case of nerves in Cody (Los Angeles Times, 10/26/11) who said that this and another upcoming project where getting to her.

As release neared features about both Reitman and Cody together (Time, 11/23/11) or Cody on her own (LAT, 12/4/11) would talk about the personal demons that are being exorcised through the film’s story and how it was for the pair to work together again.

Overall

The emphasis in the campaign seems to be squarely on the re-teaming of Cody and Reitman. That’s called out all over the place, both in the marketing and the publicity, in an effort to attract the same word of mouth audience that built Juno into a crossover powerhouse. The trailers, posters and everything else all make sure the audience knows who’s involved in the making of the movie and uses that as one of the primary reasons it should be seen.

Aside from that, though, the campaign works pretty well. The trailers are funny and show Theron delivering the kind of comedic performance that many people have thought she’s been capable of for a while. I’m a bit put off by the inconsistency in the posters, with the attitude there swinging from overly satiric to a focus on Theron, but that’s kind of a minor quibble. I like the campaign and think it does a decent job of selling the film to the audience, though my suspicion is that this will live or die depending on the word-of-mouth that it manages to generate and which will push people to the theaters in the weeks after release in favor of some of the other big late-year releases.

Movie Marketing Madness: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

The spy genre has a couple of acknowledged masters when it comes to the novel form. Ian Fleming is sort of the godfather of this group for his James Bond novels, giving the world a character that has gone through books and, of course, films. Tom Clancy was one of those that excelled at telling stories of spies and espionage, all tinged with so much technical detail they reportedly became required reading for government officials. Robert Ludlum’s Jason Bourne character was less concerned with being a spy so much as applying his training to find out who he was, providing an interesting twist on the genre as he applied his skills to get to the bottom of that mystery.

Another great of the spy novel form is John le Carre and one of his books has been turned in to this week’s new release Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. Set in the early 1970s and therefore in the midst of the Cold War, the story revolves around George Smiley (Gary Oldman), a retired British Intelligence agent who is asked to investigate the possible existence of a mole within operations in Hungary. He therefore has to navigate all the dangers inherent during that period and find out how things fell apart and who has been leaking information to the Soviets.

The Posters

The first poster for the movie showed Oldman’s character in profile, the image made up of a variety of words that, we can assume, describe that character along with random number strings that the audience can think of as codes or something. It clearly identifies the film as being a thinking-person’s thriller type of story and one that’s probably going to be heavy on the talking and such as opposed to containing lots of things that blow up.

The second poster took the same basic concept – Oldman’s face is made up of all sorts of numeric codes, with the copy “The enemy is within” and the general release window of “Winter” mixed in – but this time turns his face toward the camera. The full cast list is toward the bottom as is the assurance, seen also in the trailer, that the movie is based on the book that “redefined the spy thriller,” something that may be true but also makes it clear that the studio isn’t aiming for anyone under 40 here since only people in that age group were reading novels when cold war spy thrillers were still in vogue.

The Trailers

The trailer for the film is probably a lot more exciting than the film itself. We are introduced to the Cold War setting and that the story will be focused on rooting out a spy that is suspected to be at the top of British Intelligence. Oldman’s character is lured out of retirement to root him out. From there on out it’s mostly a lot of spy play, including the fact that Hardy’s character seems to have the mother of all secrets. People trade envelopes and walk purposefully around corners and all that and it all adds up to a pretty compelling trailer.

As I said, my suspicion is that there’s more immediate drama in the trailer than the movie itself. The swelling music here builds and builds as out-of-sequence scenes are shown, which is probably a bit different from the movie itself, which likely is more deliberately paced. That’s not to say it’s misselling the film, just that things are being highlighted here in a way to make it seem appealing to the masses when it’s not quite that pulse-pounding.

Online

The movie’s official website has plenty of good information, but that’s to be expected from Focus Features.

The first section of content is “Story” and is where you’ll find a lengthy synopsis of the plot and explanation of the characters that inhabit that story. “Cast & Crew” then has pretty detailed and well-written information on the folks involved in making the movie.

“Videos” has the Trailer, a TV Spot, a couple of featurettes, including a video overview of le Carré and a handful of extended clips from the movie. There’s also a video from the NYC premiere event. There are 17 stills in the “Photos” section.

“In Depth” has feature-length stories about the making of the film, the spy genre and other subjects. A lot of recent stories that have appeared in the press are rounded-up in “News” and the “Reviews” has long excerpts from reviews that have appeared already about the film.

There’s an interesting site that’s been setup called TTSSMovie.com that serves as a sort of single point of aggregation for social conversations. So there are feeds coming in from Twitter, Facebook and blogs that are talking about the movie. It’s quite cool, though it didn’t really need to be its own site.

Speaking of social, the movie’s Facebook page and the studio’s Twitter feed are both full of updates about the movie’s publicity and marketing activity, with Facebook also hosting photos and video.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

I saw quite a bit of TV advertising done. Most of the spots played in a similar fashion to the trailer, placing the emphasis on Oldman while also highlighting the rest of the cast. As with the trailers there’s a bit of a focus on what I’m guessing are just the few explosions, chase sequences or other bits of action drama that the film contains despite the fact that, again, I’m guessing it’s mostly lots of standing around and looking grimly at people and documents. But you do what you have to do to get people in theaters. I’m just saying the focus would be different if this were a PBS production.

Media and Publicity

The movie had its official coming out at the 2011 Venice International Film Festival, where it was pegged by some (Los Angeles Times, 9/6/11) as the movie to beat because of the pedigree of the talent involved as well as the fact that the release pattern seemed to emphasize European audiences before the U.S., something made more clear by the fact that it wasn’t also nearly simultaneously appearing at domestic film festivals.

A couple features in Wired covered topics like costume design (11/1/11) and how it fit into the British spy genre as a whole (11/28/11).

Overall

There’s obviously, as I pointed out a couple times, an effort to make this appear as action-packed as possible in order to try and attract people with the promise of an adventure-filled time out at the movies. But that’s contradicted by the fact that certain elements of the campaign – I’m thinking here of the posters and the publicity efforts specifically – make it clear that this is a movie best enjoyed while actually thinking about it.

Also highlighted is, of course, Oldman, who appears to turn in a great performance in the lead role. The spotlight is mostly on him throughout the campaign though there’s plenty of focus also put on the supporting cast, which includes quite a few recognizable and popular actors. But the success of the movie will likely hinge on whether or not people decide to go see a bleak, thoughtful film during the bleak late autumn season.

Movie Marketing Madness: Shame

Many of us struggle with an addiction of some sort. Whether it’s over-eating or too many chocolate cravings or something far more serious there’s something that draws us and compels us to indulge even if our conscious mind knows that it’s bad for us. For some people that’s sex. And while that is often the subject of jokes and derision it is a real thing and can cause real problems for people.

The new movie from director Steve McQueen is about just that topic. Shame stars Michael Fassbender as Brandon, a New York City professional who lives a closely guarded private life, one that allows him to indulge in and hide his terrible sexual addiction, something that leads him to sleep with an endless string of women. But that routine is disrupted when his sister Sissy (Carey Mulligan) visits him for an extended period of time, something that leads to the collision of his personal problems and the fact that he’s no longer as solitary as his addiction necessitates.

The Posters

The first teaser poster – which oddly turned out to be the only one-sheet released – got more or less straight to the point while also merely hinting at the movie itself. It showed just a bed with wrinkled covers, the title of the film over that image. So we’re clearly into some kinky territory here though the details remain unclear and vague.

The Trailers

The first official trailer for the movie offers a decent look at the themes the story will touch on. It’s all framed around the idea of Fassbender’s character running, which we see him doing in-between shots of him checking out various beautiful women. Then his sister decides to stay with him and things get even weirder. We see him continuing to hit on and make love to various women and his sister is trying to help him overcome what she sees as a problem.

It’s kind of creepy, kind of fascinating and very intriguing. It’s obviously Fassbender’s show here and so it’s going to rise or fall based on whether he can pull the character off, which he likely can. It’s a very good trailer that shows what the film will be about without giving away all the points on the story arc completely.

The second trailer features a lot of the same footage of Fassbender’s character hitting on and then getting it on with a variety of women. But this one has over all that his sister singing “New York, New York” in a plaintive kind of way, something that serves to make what we’re watching just that much more sad and kind of depressing. It’s short – only 90 seconds or so – which means we’re still not getting much of a look but what we do see is kind of fascinating.

A red-band trailer was released just a week or so before release. The core component here is an extended look at the subway sequence that’s shown in the other trailers, showing a bit more of the gaze-filled flirtation that happens between Brandon and the girl he sees there, something that ends with her apparently ditching him. Inbetween that, though, there’s lots of shots of the various kinds of sex that he has with the neverending stream of women he manages to hook up with. The only surprise here is that age-restricted material wasn’t a bigger part of the trailer component of the campaign.

Online

The official website is has a brief Synopsis, profiles of Fassbender, McQueen and Mulligan as well as the two all-ages trailers. That’s all wrapped in a nice interactive display at the top of the page that ties in nicely from a design perspective to the trailers and poster, which is good.

Also there are all the usual Fox Searchlight features: A widget taking you to the studio’s Facebook page, a scrolling box of Twitter updates mentioning the movie, a list of blog posts and news stories about the film and more.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Nothing that I saw or was aware of. Because of the NC-17 rating the film wound up earning from the MPAA (more on that below) there would have been severe restrictions placed on its advertising ability, with most all TV/cable stations as well as print outlets have a strict policy on no ads for movies with this rating.

Media and Publicity

The 2011 New York Film Festival marked the movie’s first known public appearance and was heralded as one to definitely see at that event. But before that it debuted at the Telluride Film Festival (Hollywood Reporter, 9/1/11) to generally positive buzz (Los Angeles Times, 9/5/11) though the consensus is that the movie is a tough sit and likely a tough sell to non-festival audiences.

It also appeared at the Toronto Film Festival, where the buzz around it led to a relatively quick acquisition by Fox Searchlight (THR, 9/9/11) and at the Venice International Film Festival, where Fassbender won that festival’s best actor award (LAT, 9/10). It would later go on to appear as one of the most anticipated films at AFI Fest (LAT, 10/18/11)

During the festival period both Fassbender and McQueen talked to the press about the film, with Fassbender labeling the controversial movie a social critique (LAT, 9/12/11)  and McQueen saying he was surprised (LAT, 9/13/11) by the controversy around the movie despite its graphic subject matter.

That subject matter continued to be the focal point the press revolved around as Fox Searchlight declared its intention to release the film as widely as possible regardless of the rating (THR, 10/20/11) just before it was officially given an NC-17 by the MPAA (THR, 10/25/11). Fassbender, at least, came out as being of the opinion (LAT, 11/10/11) that the rating was actually a help to the movie.

Something that got pointed out was that this was one of two movies Fassbender starred in that opened within just a week or so of each other (Time, 11/18/11) and both of which were apparent awards contenders. It was also pointed out that this was the second collaboration between the actor and the director (New York Times, 11/27/11), the first of which was Hunger a couple years ago.

Overall

Whatever your comfort level with the subject matter might be – and there have already been numerous discussions about the movie and how it portrays the nature of sexual relationships – one thing that can’t be denied is that there’s been an effective campaign built up around selling the film. With the two central components being the trailers and the publicity the focus has been put squarely on Fassbender’s performance and a sense of mystery that’s been built up around the movie.

That’s heightened by the fact that the trailers, particularly the two all-ages versions, show much of the same footage but in different ways. Where that usually creates a sense of “uh oh, that might be the only good two minutes there are” here it instead makes the audience wonder why nothing else could be shown. While it’s not likely to set the box office on fire this weekend my guess is that there will be a small contingent that seeks out this movie not based on titillation but on the feeling of this being something truly unique even if it might be largely distasteful.