I’m guessing that many guys in the audience – and even some of the girls – have in their past a person who they wanted to date but who was completely uninterested in them, someone who they thought was absolutely right for them but who remained unconvinced as to the utter rightness of this plan. Or perhaps it was someone who you were interested in but who made you jump through a series of hoops in order to win her heart. Or perhaps it was someone who still seemed to have some sort of weird connection to one or more of their exes, connections that were constantly getting in the way of the relationship you were working on building.
The latter forms the rough idea behind Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World. An adaptation of a series of comics published by Oni Press, the movie takes stories from these books and puts them in to a single film. Those stories follow the titular Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera), a hipster slacker who plays in a band (thereby hitting most all the stereotypes for such a character), as he tries to win the heart of one Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), a comely lass who delivers items for Amazon.com. But the path to Ramona’s heart runs squarely through her seven exes whom hold her romantic future in their hands. So in order to be free and clear to be with her he must defeat them in battle.
If that sounds more like the plot to a video game you’re not far off. The Scott Pilgrim books and now the movie are heavily influenced by video games, especially the early Nintendo games that introduced storylines in to the game play. Each ex becomes increasingly hard to defeat until at last Scott encounters “The Boss,” or the most difficult foe to vanquish. With its genre-bending nature it’s only fitting that the movie has been directed by Edgar Wright, director of such recent classics as Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. Wright knows how to bring disparate genres into accord with one another and create a finished product that appeals to obsessive geeks, making him a perfect fit for this material.
So all that being said let’s take a look at the campaign.
The first bit of official marketing material for the movie outside of the occasionally photo release was a teaser poster that debuted at ShoWest 2010 and went public shortly after that. The poster was pretty simple and just showed Cera as Pilgrim wielding his guitar, head bowed down to the ground in an outpouring of musical emotion. With the title treatment pouring out of the guitar like smoke and the copy “An Epic of Epic Epicness” this is a fun poster that conveys a playful attitude for the film and it works. It’s also reportedly a decent recreation of one of the first panels of the source comic so it has that geek factor going for it as well.
Later on a series of seven character posters were released, each of which featured one of the evil ex-boyfriends Pilgrim must defeat on the road to winning Ramona’s heart. The UGO feature where these posters were released also had a brief bit of background on who that guy was and and what kind of relationship they had with Ramona.
Surprisingly there does not seem to have been a final theatrical poster created and released, something that would have summed up what had come before.
The first trailer quickly shows Scott catching his first glimpse of Ramona, which has him instantly smitten. We then get shots of them having a warm and loving relationship before he’s clobbered and the premise that he has to defeat all those ex-boyfriends in order to date her is introduced. The trailer wasn’t so much about laying out extensive plot elements as it was about introducing the audience to the visual look and feel of the movie with its crazy special effects and video game aesthetics.
The second trailer (released only after Wright engaged in a little campaigning, mainly on Twitter, to get the “Likes” on the movie’s official Facebook page to 100,000) doesn’t add a whole lot to the audience’s understanding of the plot but does have a bunch of additional cool visuals. We get more shots of Scott and Ramona meeting at the party and it’s clear this isn’t love at first sight for both of them. Only after he orders something from Amazon, where she works as a delivery person, does she agree to go out with him. But from then on out it’s one battle after another as the evil ex-boyfriends come after Scott and again we get a few additional scenes from their clashes. It’s still fun – especially as you look around the screen and see all the little onomatopoeia and graphics that pop out randomly such as “dong” when the doorbell rings and the video-game power-up graphic that shows up when Scott says he’s going to “get a life.” Those are very cool touches and make the trailer worthy of repeat viewings.
Close to release an interactive version of the second trailer was released that allowed people to click anywhere withing the video at any time and access information about the movie or the specific scene, featurettes or other deeper info about the movie. Pretty cool but mostly only for those that are deeply interested in the movie and the world Wright has created.
You certainly can’t say that the opening of the official website for the movie is subtle. With video, crazy graphics and more the splash page is quite the eye-catcher.
In the left-hand column is the same key art that’s seen in the teaser poster the most static thing on the page. In the middle is a mini-menu of items that starts with “Watch Videos,” which opens up a video player that lets you check out the trailers, the game trailer, TV spots, clips and featurettes. Then there’s more video under “Remixes,” which takes you to a stand-alone YouTube channel that mashes up various clips from the movie with some funky beats.
“Socialrama” is basically a landing page for the movie’s social profiles, including Wright’s Twitter stream, a Facebook social page badge and more. “Free Ringtones” has exactly the kind of thing you’d expect to find under that section.
Moving to the right-hand column you’ll find first the “Mega Avatar Creator,” which lets you create your own avatar in the style of the original comic book art. When this feature first debuted about half my Twitter followers created theres and it became difficult to see who was who.
The i-Trailer we discussed previously is next, followed by a prompt to download the “Pilgrim’s Punch-Out” iPhone/iPad game/app. After that is an add to get the Beck tune “Summertime” by pre-ordering the movie’s soundtrack. Finally there’s a link to find out more about the source comic from Oni Press.
And that’s all before you “Enter the Site.”
Over on the right there’s a wheel of the relationships in Scott’s life. So mousing over one of the headshots of the people there shows you who they’re dating, who they’re related to and such.
The first section in the main site is “The Story,” which lays out what the movie is about and what the conflicts are going to be.
Next is “People” where you can read biographies and career overviews of the cast and the crew, overviews that are far better written than some I’ve seen.
“Pics” has about 30 stills from the movie, including a handful of behind-the-scenes shots with Wright. “Downloads has all kinds of stuff, from the usual Wallpapers and Buddy Icons to Twitter backgrounds and even CubeCraft downloads that let you create little paper figures of the characters in the movie. The same videos that were on the front page are in the “Videos” section here.
“Notes” is a downloadable PDF of production notes. What’s fun is that instead of the usual “Click to Resume” that sites show when something else is going on this site has “Insert Coin to Continue,” which fits with the video game ideas behind the movie.
Also carried over from the front page are the “Avatar Creator,” “Socialrama” and the “iTrailer.” But there’s also a “VideoBlog” that features a handful of behind-the-scenes videos from the film’s production and which are a sub-set of a larger blog on the movie’s making.
The movie’s official Twitter feed has updates a plenty on the release of new marketing materials, new publicity events with the cast and crew and other information that’s designed to get people excited about the film. Likewise with the Facebook page, which not only has similar updates and conversation on the Wall but also plenty of photos and videos as well as links to the Avatar Creator and other features from the full website. And you’ll find most of the videos that are on the official site also on the movie’s YouTube page.
In addition to those official studio-run outlets the blog and Twitter profile of Wright became pretty influential outlets for information about the movie and updates on what either had been released or was about to be released. As we’ve seen with other directors such as Kevin Smith and Jason Reitman, the ability of the director to get personally involved in the conversation has only increased the desire of the audience to see the movie and led to a lot of goodwill towards the movie among those he’s been interacting with.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
In early June the TV advertising campaign kicked off with the release of the first two spots. For the most part both of them followed the basic outline of the second trailer – we see Ramona deliver the Amazon package and then explain the conflicts Scott is about to face – but the first one diverges at the end and adds some new material, namely the showdown between Scott and the girl Ramona went through a bi-curious phase with, a girl who now according to her is a little bi-furious. Which is such a good line.
Further TV spots would similarly focus on something specific from the movie, presenting paired down versions of the trailer with maybe one or two new scenes that hadn’t been seen before.
A featurette on the movie that was largely clips from the trailers with brief interviews with the cast interspersed ran on in-theater ad networks in order to introduce the movie to other audiences.
A very literal adaptation – sort of akin to the motion comics that are being produced for various titles – of two scenes from the books that didn’t wind up in the movie was created as an animated special airing on Cartoon Network. Based on the trailer for that special it features the voices of the movie’s cast, at least for those characters who are in both things.
A massive amount of online advertising was done, most of which featured the teaser poster art of Cera and his guitar. Banners, towers and block ads were run as well as a few full video units that had the trailer or at least segments of it.
There only appear to be two promotional partners on board here. One is shoe company Adidas, though that company’s website doesn’t seem to have any efforts that are being highlighted to it’s hard to know what the specifics are.
The other partner is the Toronto Convention and Visitors Association. That’s not surprising considering the story is set there and Cera himself is from north of the border. The Toronto CVA site has lots of good stuff, including an audio interview with Cera, fan-submitted photos from Oni’s Comic-Con party and other related events and, of course, information on visiting Toronto.
Media and Publicity
Everyone loved it when the first official images from the movie were released by Wright. Lacking any other official material, these constituted the first real glimpses of the movie and how the characters were being translated to film that the audience, which was quite literally salivating over the release of such images, got.
One of the first long-form clips from the movie (outside the trailers, obviously) came during the 2010 MTV Movie Awards and showed Pilgrim going up against the action movie star ex-boyfriend played by Chris Evans. Except things get more complicated when Scott realizes he doesn’t just have to fight him but also his cadre of stunt doubles.
The select few who attended the Los Angeles Film Festival got to see another extended look at the movie – nine minutes worth of footage – accompanied by a Q&A with director Wright that was conducted by another big name director, J.J. Abrams.
Cera and Wright sat down for what was supposed to be an interview by the former of the latter but which quickly digressed into a banter session (Wired, 6/22/10) where they discussed Comic-Con, socks and whatever else crossed their minds.
Of course the movie’s comics pedigree and embracing of the source book’s myriad gaming references meant it was going to be primed for a big explosion (LAT, 7/15/10) at Comic-Con 2010. That big explosion entailed panel discussions, outdoor advertising and promotions and a big “Scott Pilgrim Experience” event that brought attendees into the movie’s world. A bunch of clips were also released right around the time of Comic-Con to take advantage of the general positive buzz that was being generated there by showing people extended scenes from the movie. There was even a special badge created by Gowalla that people could earn by attending events at the convention and a stand-alone Twitter feed just for the movie’s activities there.
Culkin even got the occasional spotlight such as this story (New York Times, 8/2/10) where he talks about his love of classic video games and otherwise establishes his hipster credentials.
Also benefiting from the increased press awareness was Oni Comics, the publisher of the source book and which actually set up a production company of its own (LAT, 8/5/10) in order help some of the titles it published make the transition to the screen.
Believe me when I say, though, that what I’ve included above is nowhere near being representative of the amount of buzz this movie has. These are just some of the highlights of the concerted and coordinated press effort. If I were to include everything that had been written about Scott Pilgrim in the last year or so this column would be somewhere around 78 pages long.
It’s really hard to argue with anything about this campaign. Not only is it fun, presenting a bright and interesting movie that seems to positively crackle with its own unique energy but the entire campaign has been designed to appeal as strongly as possible to an audience of obsessive pop culture junkies, the kind of people who immediately recognized little “1UP” graphics and who are going to find visualized sound effects on screen in the same manner they are in comics really, really funny.
Many movies that have such strong word-of-mouth elements tend to skimp on the actual marketing, apparently under the theory that spending money on formal marketing efforts is just a waste of money with so much positive buzz almost assured. This campaign suffers from a slight case of that – no final poster and just two trailers – but in this instance it makes sense. With a likable star, a director that is completely invested in helping to promote things through his Twitter account and a cast and crew in general that’s willing to shill the movie in any conceivable way, the need for lots of marketing collateral disappears to an extent.
What there is of the actual campaign, though, works just as strongly as the geek appeal portion has. The poster is kind of awesome and the trailers certainly present the movie as a fun and unique way to spend a Friday night. All that then comes together along with the other components of the campaign on a website that is more full-featured than most any of the other sites I’ve looked at recently and which showcases most of the other elements of this campaign.
A very good effort for a movie I’m excited about seeing.
PICKING UP THE SPARE
- 8/12/10 – Cinematical has a fan-made video that takes the audio from the trailer and imposes it over scenes from the graphic novel.