We all know the old saw about how the average person only uses something south of 10% of their brain, though Rip Torn uses significantly more. This statistic is usually thrown out when someone is discussing how much more the human race could potentially achieve if they were to unlock the true potential of our species. Wars would be a thing of the past, true justice would be available and so on is usually how such speculation goes.
But there’s also the potential for individuals to really get creative as the world opens up around them. That’s the basic premise of Limitless. Bradley Cooper plays a struggling writer who is one day offered a drug that will unlock the inhibitors in his mind and allow him to achieve fantastic success. But nothing comes without a cost and he quickly finds that while he can suddenly write anything he wants, play the stock market flawlessly and more he’s also still begotten to someone, particularly his supplier since if he were to stop taking the drug he could die. The movie seems like an interesting exercise in science fiction as it looks to examine just what lengths people are willing to go to in order to be successful.
The designers of the movie’s poster aren’t winning any awards for originality, using the tri-strip design that has been used countless times before on movie one-sheets. We see a variety of scenes, ranging from Cooper’s face set in front of a cityscape to him in the throes of passion with Cornish to about to jump off a building. All the images have lots of streaking light around and about them, something that’s probably meant to give the images a sense of whirling motion that matches how the main character is now experiencing his life. It’s pretty standard stuff.
We’re introduced in the trailer to Eddie as a writer whose life is adrift as he finds he can’t get his book finished and is having other problems. But then an old friend turns him on to this pill that lets him unlock the full potential of his mind and things turn around. He finishes his book, becomes interested in art and culture and winds up making a ton of money with his newfound math analytics ability. He becomes so successful he gets on the radar of DeNiro’s character, who wants to understand the secret behind his success. But then the dark side of the drug becomes clear as he experiences cognitive problems and finds he’s dependent on the drug to flat-out live, setting him up for conflicts with DeNiro and the others around him.
It’s a flashy, interesting trailer that presents the movie as a slick sci-fi type of story with slick performances from Cooper and the others. It’s highly likely we’re not going to get any profound messages out of the film about the dangers of moving too fast but it does make the case for enjoying the rise and then downfall off Cooper’s character, something that’s always fun to watch.
The movie’s official website (after you Enter the Site) starts off with the trailer playing. The first section of content you can access is the “Photo Gallery,” which displays full-screen photos that you can scroll through in a very inefficient manner. “Videos” just has a TV Spot and the Trailer.
“About the Film” has a Synopsis that gives some good information as to the movie’s story as well as Cast and Filmmaker profiles. The only things I saw in the “Downloads” section is a Wallpaper that can be grabbed in formats ideal for either your desktop or a varity of mobile devices. And “Partners” has links to the companies that have entered into some sort of promotional arrangement with the studio.
Finally there’s a “Take the Pill” game that has its own site ands which allows you to try and beat the stock market and accomplish other tasks. Unfortunately you need to sign-in with Facebook Connect to play so I didn’t.
The splash page for the Facebook profile has a pretty decent amount of information. There’s video including the TV spots and trailers, a link to the “Take the Pill” game and a stream of updates from Twitter that mention the movie. Elsewhere on the profile are photos and more, including updates on the wall that talk about new materials that have been released or other links back to the official site. There’s also a Twitter feed that has similar updates as well as a fair amount of conversational responses to people posing questions.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
The movie got some initial advertising exposure with a TV spot that ran just before Super Bowl XLV. The spot setup the basic premise that Cooper’s character takes some super-secret drug in order to improve his brain. We get shots of him partying and enjoying his success but there are little hints – it’s not emphasized here – about the dangers he’s going to be facing as we see him having some problems focusing and hitting other walls. The dangers are also mentioned in the text that appears on-screen, which asks people how much they think they could take in exchange for achieving our true potential.
Later TV advertising focused on the hedonistic excesses that the drug allows Cooper’s character to reach, though there’s also more than a little danger mixed in as well. It’s shown here as a thriller that has Cooper diving off cliffs and getting in subway fights for some reason or another.
A number of promotional partners are listed on the movie’s official site. Virgin America, Virgin Mobile, Starwood Hotels, Netflix and BoConcept are all given a shout-out but there’s nothing on either the movie’s site or those of the other companies. So my suspicion here is that they’re not so much cross-promotional partners but those who have some form of product placement within the movie.
Media and Publicity
The main push for buzz came about four or five months before release, when the studio sent out samples of NZT, the drug that gives Cooper his smarts, to a handful of movie site writers for them to sample. That came shortly after the release of a video of Cooper’s character giving an endorsement of the pill, though the side effects seem to be chilling since they include short-term memory loss and possible death. That testimonial also played on a phone line that people could call to find out about the drug, though that was largely a dead end. A website also supported that effort.
Other than that there wasn’t a whole lot of press or publicity outside the conversations around the release of new marketing materials.
I’m more than a little surprised by the scale the campaign has taken on, particularly in terms of the number of TV spots and the frequency with which they’re being aired. When the movie first started popping up it seemed to me a high-concept story that was being executed on a smaller scale and in a slipshod manner. That’s just how it initially played to my mind. But somewhere along the line this turned into a real marketing push.
That may still not be enough to actually get people to turn out, which is why said high concept is often superseded in the messaging by the more straight-ahead action elements. It remains to be seen, though, whether whatever audience does venture out finds the story itself interesting enough to recommend to friends in later weeks.
PICKING UP THE SPARE
- 03/17/11 – The New York Times looks at the “viral” videos that were created for the movie and how they’re supposed to get people interested without seeming like marketing.
- 03/21/11 – An online video that showed someone hacking into a Times Square billboard was part of the “viral” campaign but didn’t actually mention the movie at all.