Ahhh…the star-struck romance. It’s such rich material for filmmakers when they’re telling the story of two people who meet by happenstance and proceed, over the course of a short period of time, to fall in love. Before Sunrise covered this over a decade ago, tracing one night when Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy walked through Vienna, realizing they were soulmates as they discussed politics and societal issues and everything else that came to mind.
Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist mines similar territory. Both the main characters are on the rebound after some sort of heartbreak or other romantic problem when they arrive at the same bar. In order to avoid a situation with her nemisis, Norah (Kat Denning) grabs Nick (Michael Cera) and convinces him to be her boyfriend for five minutes. But of course the story doesn’t end there as they bond over their musical tastes and go on an adventure through New York City that will wind up with them…well…you know.
I love this poster so much it’s a little bit insane. This single image is pretty much what the movie is all about, the two characters hanging out and talking between themselves. Oh sure, there might be more plot than what’s presented here, but this is what everyone is going to want to come and see so it’s smart to make it the focal point of the poster campaign. The New York cityscape and the small yellow car at the bottom do a good job of filling in the remaining blanks, alerting everyone to the location and an item that apparently will play a large part in the movie’s story.
Let’s talk for a second, though, about the typeface used for the title treatment. It looks very much like the way someone would scrawl something on a Trapper binder they had filled with poems and short stories they’d written out while drifting off during Sociology. It’s rough, unfinished. That sort of look and feel is likely meant to appeal to a young audience that embraces do-it-yourself projects, sifts through Etsy looking for unique items and creates their own iPod mixes of music that’s been released under a Creative Commons license. So it’s an appeal more to an aesthetic than an audience.
Of course not everyone was a fan, with Caroline McCarthey saying it verged on annoying and blaming it for eventual applications to NYU, which I think may be the funniest speculated problem ever. Others took issue with it as well, all identifying how overly clever and artsy the title treatment was. Despite all that, though, I still think it fit in perfectly with the tone of the rest of the campaign and, more importantly, is kind of what the audience would be expecting here.
The trailler carries over that same sort of loose, underground feel. Everyone that’s presented here is trying to strike out and find their own identity while traveling the murky waters of relationships, both romantic and otherwise.
We’re introduced to the main characters, Nick and Norah, who are both having problems with their lives. We’re then shown the main conceit of the movie, which is that she grabs him at a club to pretend he’s her boyfriend in order to get her out of an awkward situation. The two wind up hanging out all night, though, which brings the various things they’re each going through to a head and forces them to strike out on unexpected paths.
It works really well as a promotional piece, showing off the strengths of everyone involved and showing the audience pretty much what they can expect to see, which is a lot of romance and a lot of Michael Cera acting gangly and awkward, which is what he does best.
Most of the time when you hit a movie’s site and it starts playing a trailer there’s something you can click to skip it or a link to directly enter the site.
But the official website for Nick and Norah starts playing the trailer without those options being available. They only appear after the trailer has stopped, at which point the screen rearranges itself to allow you to enter the site. In addition to that you are also given the options of watching the trailer again, register for updates, create a mixtape (more on that later), check out the source novel or get some free voicetones of dialogue from the movie.
Also there are links to the movie’s MySpace and Facebook pages. The Facebook page includes the trailer, a bunch of photos, some assorted videos and, quite frankly, a buttload of widgets. There’s one for a Virtual Book Club, the Sprout FanKit widget and two that are more traditional, bringing features from the official website to the audience in an embeddable way.
The MySpace page doesn’t have it all on display like Facebook does but does contain many of the same features. Instead of listed top to bottom these widgets are mostly contained in a single frame just below the top of the page, just below the trailer. There’s also a “Grab a Skin” feature that lets you customize your MySpace profile if you’re anxious enough about the movie to do so.
Back to the official website, where the navigation of the content is laid out like a map of “Manhattan,” which I can only assume is a magical mysterious land somewhere in the wilds of the South Pacific.
On the map the major locations from the film are shown. When you click on one the little car drives there and you can finally see what’s there since it’s not labeled as to what the content of each location actually is.
Starting at the top of the map, Saint Patrick’s takes you to some pretty rudimentary “Downloads,” containing just a couple of Wallpapers and four Buddy Icons.
The good news is that once you’re into the content you can navigate via a menu at the bottom and can ditch the map concept so let’s do that from here on out.
“About” contains a one-paragraph Story synopsis and a list of the Actors and Crew, though those don’t link to anything and there’s no full biographical information or filmography about the players and other talent. Big missed opportunity there, something that’s pretty standard on almost all websites so its omission here is a bit startling.
“Photos” contains a scant nine photographs and “Videos” should actually just be “Video” since there’s just the one trailer there.
Next up is “Where’s Fluffy,” which ties into the idea first forwarded in the outdoor game that is covered below. On the site it’s an instant win game with an icon spread throughout the site that, if you find it, enters you to win one of a number of prizes. Next to that is a link to the “Virtual Book Club,” which looks like it rewards you for starting a book club with your online friends.
There’s then a link to the widget building feature, covered below as well, and to the movie’s MySpace page. Finally is “Promotions,” which is just more information on the Where’s Fluffy and the Virtual Book Club.
Scattered around the site are little magnifying glass icons that, when you click on them, bring up hidden content, most of which are posters and iron ons for the band that Cera’s character is in. There are also some other hidden icons that make you think you’ve found exclusive content but which are actually just short clips from the trailer.
Sony used this movie as one of the first test-beds for Sprout’s new Fankit widget builder. This enabled them to offer not just a standard widget but one that could be customized by the end user with a variety of stock items such as layouts, photos and more. Streaming music from the soundtrack was also available through the widget via a deal with imeem.
Attendees of the Toronto Film Festival, where the movie had its public debut, were driven to the official website through a series of outdoor flyers with the message “Where’s Fluffy” and a hand-drawn picture of a rabbit on them. The posters actually had a different URL on them but it just redirected to the official site. Still, a nice little way to drum up some publicity and traffic at the festival.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
Sony, to a great extent, laid bare what it considered to be its target demographic for the film when they appeared as one of the premiere sponsors of MySpace Music, the recently launched music site from the social network. A movie-themed skin was added to the site’s player for a week after launch while ads for the movie appeared throughout the site.
Other ads were scattered around the internet and some TV spots made it on to my radar. Aside from the usual stuff like that I didn’t see or read about much in the way of advertising and no promotional partners were listed on the official site other than those associated with the Virtual Book Club or the Where’s Fluffy game.
Media and Publicity
Most of the publicity surrounding the film came around its appearance at the Toronto Film Festival. Karina interviewed both star Michael Cera and director Peter Sollett while she was up there. And Cera was the subject of plenty of other stories like this one in The New York Times as well, being kind of nationally beloved after his role on “Arrested Development” and starring turns in Juno and Superbad.
It’s hard to come away from this campaign with any other notion than that it was completely and utterly geared for an audience below the age of 20 and almost no one else. While I did find the trailer and poster charming and entertaining, the rest of the campaign sort of falls down around itself. I agree that sponsoring MySpace Music is a great idea, but that’s about the best part of the campaign that I can point to.
Especially disappointing is the movie’s website. No character descriptions (other than the five word versions that appear in the various sections)? No filmographies? No biographies? No additional trailers? That’s just odd is what it is.
That’s especially because this movie is all about customization and personality. And yet there was none of that spirit on the site. Considering that’s a big part of the mindset and media usage of the target demographic I have to wonder how that was overlooked.
Unfortunately the missed opportunities here overshadow how some of the components are put together. I’d love to be more enthusiastic here but just can’t.