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Date: Wednesday, 04 Jan 2012 18:35

As I announced yesterday on CT.WP, what was originally intended to be a month off for reflection has quickly turned into the decision to shut down Movie Marketing Madness. I’ve decided that my energies are best put elsewhere at this time and MMM will not be operated as an ongoing concern. Even more dramatically, I’m going to just let things expire and disappear over the course of the next couple months.

The content I’ve published here over the course of the last nearly eight years will be archived over there for posterity and I may revive the concept from time to time if things allow and the spirit moves me. But overall I feel things have run their course and the beginning of a new year offers the opportunity to put a nice, tidy bow on things.

Thanks to those who have been faithful readers, those who nurtured MMM through the early days and everyone else. It’s been fun but lately it’s been less so, feeling very much like an obligation, which is part of the reasoning behind my decision.

Best,

–Chris

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    Author: "Chris" Tags: "MMM Stuff"
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    Time Off   New window
    Date: Thursday, 29 Dec 2011 14:00
    #bbpBox_149213735783899136 a { text-decoration:none; color:#0000ff; }#bbpBox_149213735783899136 a:hover { text-decoration:underline; }
    Deciding to take January off from MMM. Need to recharge a bit and refocus on work projects.
    @ChrisThilk
    Chris Thilk

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  • Time Off

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    Author: "Chris" Tags: "MMM Stuff"
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    Date: Friday, 23 Dec 2011 23:00

    “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.

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  • Movie Marketing Madness: We Bought a Zoo

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    Author: "Chris" Tags: "20th Century Fox, Advertising, Contests,..."
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    Date: Friday, 23 Dec 2011 20:30

    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.

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  • Movie Marketing Madness: Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol

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    Author: "Chris" Tags: "Advertising, Check-Ins, Facebook, Games,..."
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    Date: Tuesday, 20 Dec 2011 17:00

    You would think, given the number of times that I’ve traveled in the last three years, that I would have eventually given in and read The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. After all the book is a mainstay in airport bookstores, available in at least one if not more editions at any of the 17 stores between security and gate H17 at O’Hare. But despite the repetitive exposure either on stands or as glimpsed in the hands of any number of people in the airport or even on my daily commute I’ve yet to pick it up. I’ve even yet to watch the original Swedish film despite it being available streaming on Netflix as we speak. It’s just not something I’ve yet gotten around to.

    But all that doesn’t mean I’m not interested in the new American remake of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. Based, as I mentioned, on a Swedish novel and the first story in a trilogy this version is directed by David Fincher, with Roomey Mara starring as the enigmatic Lisbth Salander. In the story Salander must work with Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig), a journalist who’s had his reputation damaged recently. She has a connection to Blomkvist, having previously investigated him for a third party previously. Now the two must work together to solve a decades-old murder, dealing with a family that has invested a lot of years in keeping many secrets among themselves.

    The Posters

    The first poster was a tad bit NSFW and I’m amazed this was released as an official one-sheet. The image has Mara standing in front of Craig, his arm draped around her. But she’s completely naked, and while the image starts to fade out below her waist and one nipple is covered by Craig’s elbow, the other one – while obscured by the title – is still clearly visible. So the studio is clearly selling the sexualized version of the character and making it clear, much as they will with the first official trailer, that there’s nothing taken down a notch for this adaptation of the film. An international version of the same image would move the title treatment completely so you could more clearly see nips.

    A second poster was a bit more traditional. It shows Mara’s head with Craig’s image within that and some floral patterns surrounding him, a icy looking setting in the background. There are two bits of copy – “What is hidden in snow, comes forth in the thaw” that tie in to some online viral action that’s outlined below. The monochromatic nature of the poster makes it all the more striking and indeed this does look like a high-end piece of art photography. It’s very cool.

    The Trailers

    The first trailer starts off down a long snowy road and then just gets montagey. We see all sorts of things – people being shot at, people coughing, people running down streets, people getting out of cars – all no more than a second in length, always coming back to that long road a car is driving down as it moves toward a house and all backed by an industrial rock remix of a Led Zeppelin song. It’s funky, it’s frantic and it works to tell audiences that this is likely not a watered down American version of the original film.

    The next trailer slowed things down a bit and actually went into the story. We see Salandar delivering her report on Blomkvist and his personal life. He is summoned to do his own investigation into the murder of someone’s wife. We see him doing that while we also see some of the emotional and physical damage that’s done to Salandar. The two are eventually paired together to investigate that murder, an investigation that takes all sorts of twists and turns as they’re obstructed at every end and each one continues to deal with their own issues.

    It’s not worth commenting on too much since it is, quite frankly, enormously effective. At least it is to the uninitiated. How well it plays to the super-excited fan base I’m not sure but I’m guessing it’s just as intriguing and attractive.

    Just a couple weeks out from release an eight-minute trailer was released that had previously been seen as part of the promotions for the film’s soundtrack. The long-form nature of this spot obviously allows for more of the story to be shown and more depth to be offered but we still get many of the same beats and scenes that have been shown in the previous videos. More footage seems to come particularly from the second half of the movie, which has not been a focus of the earlier spots.

    Online

    If you do nothing after the official website loads you’ll be treated to a slide show of a dozen or more images from the movie rotating around. All are beautiful and are therefore worth watching.

    After you do that a bit you can click the Menu and dive in to the site’s content, the first of which is “Characters,” where you can learn more about the people in the film and then the actors who portray them. Those cast bios are also available in the “About” section along with Filmmaker information and a Story synopsis that’s alright for those who aren’t already familiar with the material.

    “Photos” has some very mysterious looking pictures, not simply the promotional stills that these sections usually contain. “Videos” then has the teaser and theatrical trailers.

    There’s also a section on the “Trilogy History” that takes you into the background of the novels published by Stieg Larsson, who finished all three books but then passed away before the first one was ultimately published.

    There was also a website and Twitter account setup called Mouth Taped Shut that featured set photos (professionally taken and uploaded, not discreetly shot and posted) that showed various promotional imagery and which you’d have to be naive wasn’t official either from the studio or from Fincher himself.

    That Tumblr blog led to the discovery of another site, Comesforthinthethaw.com, that eventually featured some new images and other material. There was also Whatishiddeninthesnow.com, which seemed to play a part in a much larger effort that involved sending real packages to people to help the unlock various online clues.

    Close to release a video was added to the MTS site that was a recreation of a “Hard Copy” style TV news magazine show episode devoted to the murder/disappearance that forms the mystery at the core of the story.

    Eventually the “viral” campaign would end by leading people to early screenings of the movie designed to spark some pre-release word-of-mouth. Wired has a good recap of the ARG campaign.

    Advertising and Cross-Promotions

    In what many saw as an extremely odd promotion, retailer H&M created a line of clothing designed to help you achieve the look Lisbeth Salandar sports in the movie. So there’s lots of leather and an overall sense of wanting to look like an emotionally damaged extra from a Poison music video. If that’s the kind of look you’ve been waiting to achieve this will be right up your alley.

    TV spots were also created and run that introduced us to the characters and some of their motivations, showing lots of action and drama unfolding without (naturally) going in to all the different levels of deception and psychosis that are in play here since that’s barely contained in the full trailers. Some of these spots ran up to a minute in length and played like mini-trailers that showed quite a bit more story than is usual.

    Media and Publicity

    Some of the first publicity for the movie came in the form of a profile of Mara in particular and the movie in general (W, February 2011) that featured some of the first looks at the actress in character in a variety of provocative shots.

    After a bit of a break then things really heated up around the first of June when a European trailer was “leaked” and started everyone’s tongue a-wagging (Los Angeles Times, 6/1/11). The trailer featured lots of violence and a brief bit of nudity, something that earned it a red-band designation. The inclusion of that American rating on a European trailer caused more than a few people to question whether or not this was an orchestrated leak (Hollywood Reporter, 6/1/11), with most people being in the “of course it was” camp not only because of that but because the camera work wasn’t all that shaky and the sound was almost perfect. At the same time there was a

    Regardless of the legitimacy of that “leak” it absolutely accomplished the goal of getting people talking and excited about this remake just before the official U.S. trailer was released to the internet. Sony of course denied any conspiracy theories (New York Times, 6/1/11) but that was to be expected.

    A feature interview (Esquire, 7/6/11) with Craig gave some insights into the actor’s approach to violence, what sort of things he does in his down time and what he thought of the movie’s themes and such. Craig continued to weigh in on the subject of the film’s violence as well as the controversial poster featuring a topless Mara.

    The focus would later turn back to Fincher with stories about his career to date (Wired, 12/11) and more. And then Craig went out to talk about how this character was such a “normal guy” (LAT, 12/16/11) and how he had to work to make Blomvkist appear to be someone who actually is frightened in frightening situations.

    Overall

    There’s a lot of good stuff and some very engaging content in this campaign, but my concern is that it’s speaking almost exclusively to two audiences: First, existing fans of the book and the original film (admittedly a sizable group) and Two, fans of David Fincher.

    The campaign does, though, make it clear what audiences can expect should they make the decision to head to the theater for this movie: A highly stylized murder mystery with strong messages about class and sexual politics. That won’t be surprising to anyone familiar with the book or the original movie, of course, but I suspect the same can’t be said of the general public who, like me, has resisted the siren calls of both previous incarnations of the story.

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  • Movie Marketing Madness: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

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    Author: "Chris" Tags: "Movie Marketing"
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    Date: Friday, 16 Dec 2011 23:00

    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.

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    Author: "Chris" Tags: "Advertising, Facebook, Games, Movie Mark..."
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    Date: Thursday, 15 Dec 2011 23:00

    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.

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  • Movie Marketing Madness: The Iron Lady

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    Author: "Chris" Tags: "Facebook, Movie Marketing, Movie Marketi..."
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    Date: Friday, 09 Dec 2011 17:00

    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.

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  • Movie Marketing Madness: Young Adult

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    Author: "Chris" Tags: "Advertising, Facebook, Movie Marketing, ..."
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    Date: Thursday, 08 Dec 2011 17:00

    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.

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    Author: "Chris" Tags: "Advertising, Facebook, Focus Features, M..."
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    Date: Saturday, 03 Dec 2011 23:02

    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.

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  • Movie Marketing Madness: Shame

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    Author: "Chris" Tags: "Advertising, Facebook, Fox Searchlight, ..."
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    Date: Friday, 25 Nov 2011 22:00
    Stars can fall just as fast as they rise. The attention span of the celebrity following public is, and always has been, notoriously short. As soon as one star or starlet captures the attention of the public they’re already looking for another that is newer and more exciting to follow. The moment one is found we can’t wait for one of the older ones to fall, to embarrass themselves in some way or to otherwise do something humiliating so we can watch their descent from the limelight with the same fascination we watched their ascent.

    The new movie The Artist about just such a cycle. Set in the silent film era (and itself a silent movie, with no dialogue at all) the story follows a dashing romantic leading man George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) who on the red carpet one day encounters a female fan Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo) who suddenly captures the attention of the press. She then becomes an actress in her own right, at first riding his coattails and enjoying a great deal of success. But then his fortunes start falling at the same time hers takes off. The movie is a melodrama romance of sorts that, in addition to being silent, is in black-and-whilte in order to heighten the sense that we’re stepping back in time.

    The Posters

    The first poster featured a wonderfully monochromatic image of the two main characters looking at each other with passion in their eyes. At the top of the poster is an acknowledgement of its Cannes win for Best Actor and at the bottom is the only splash of color to be seen, the red that’s part of the title treatment.

    The Trailers

    The movie’s first trailer starts off by letting us know we’re in Hollywood in 1927 and shows us Valentin performing for an audience. He has a run in on the red carpet with an adoring female fan and the two become something of a tabloid item, much to the chagrin of his wife. We see the two performing together until there’s obviously some sort of change of fortunes and his star diminishes while hers ascends.

    The trailer shows an awful lot of the film’s story arc, basically taking us through the high points of the entire plot. I’m sure there are grace notes that make the film more interesting but we get quite a lot spoiled here I’m guessing.

    That being said it shows a movie that’s quite intriguing. If nothing else it makes you want to see whether or not a silent movie can still be pulled off, whether the performances of the actors can overcome the fact that they can’t speak to the audience.

    Online

    The official website for the movie opens by playing the trailer and, as I often say, it’s well worth rewatching.

    After that the first section of content is “About” which has a pretty good Synopsis of the film’s story as well as an About the Production section that goes into multiple areas of how and why the film was made.

    “Video” just has the one trailer while “Photos” has by my count 20 stills from the film.

    You can learn more about the actors and filmmakers in the “Cast and Crew” section and then read some of the reviews – including links – that have been published about it already, mostly based on festival screenings.

    Advertising and Cross-Promotions

    There may have been a couple TV spots I saw but that’s about it and I honestly can’t remember if that actually happened or not.

    Media and Publicity

    The movie first garnered some serious accolades at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival, where it wowed audiences and started some serious word of mouth buzz. But the fact that the industry audience there loved it didn’t necessarily translate into Oscar worthiness (Los Angeles Times, 8/28/11) since the movie had such a starkly different look and feel from anything else out there. It would later also appear at the Telluride Film Festival to additional positive word of mouth, at the Hamptons International Film Festival where it won the Audience Award (Hollywood Reporter, 10/16/11) and at AFI Fest where it was pegged (LAT, 10/18/11) as one of the top films appearing there.

    There was also some non-festival press such as this story (New York Times, 10/19/11) that talked about how it sought to recapture the Hollywood of yesteryear and how the movie worked its way through development before finally being picked up by Miramax. Development would continue to be a theme in further stories like this one (LAT, 11/13/11) that talked about bringing the cast on board such a high-concept movie.

    Overall

    There’s a lot to like about this campaign but the strongest element, and the one on which its success or failure largely depends, is the buzz that came out of festival screenings. If any amount of that can spread beyond those circles and find anyone who wasn’t confused and annoyed by trailers without any dialogue then there could be some level of success for the movie. If not it will go down as another one of those that couldn’t capitalize on early raves, something that’s far too often the case.

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  • Movie Marketing Madness: The Artist

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    Author: "Chris" Tags: "Advertising, Cannes, Movie Marketing, Mo..."
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    Date: Thursday, 24 Nov 2011 22:00

    One of the many things that can keep parents awake at night is the question of what we’re leaving behind for our children. Not just material or financial but also emotional. If we should pass away before our children are grown – or even if our passing is after they’re older – we want them to be prepared for the rest of their life and we also want to leave them something tangible that they can use, that reminds them we were there and part of their lives. We want, in short, to be sure of our legacy.

    The book The Invention of Hugo Cabaret, now the inspiration for this week’s new release Hugo, is about just that type of question. After his father (Jude Law) dies Hugo (Asa Butterfield) struggles to survive in a London train station. One day while evading the strict police man (Sacha Baron Cohen) he encounters a young girl (Chloe Moretz) who surprisingly seems to hold a very literal key to a mystery about his father that Hugo has been trying to figure out for some time. This leads to a journey of mystery and wonder, all seen through the eyes of a child.

    The Posters

    The first poster for the movie works in a lot in a single image. The primary image of a boy hanging off the hand of a large clock (an homage to a Buster Keaton movie in spirit if not intention) shows that we’re on some sort of child-like adventure of imagination, while the snow that’s circulating around him gives us the time of year that the story is set in, which just so happens to coincide with the time it’s being released in. At the top is the biggest thing, though, as it’s noted the movie comes from a legendary director and tells a huge story. The fact that Scorsese isn’t name-dropped at the top isn’t surprising since his name carries certain assumptions that the studio obviously doesn’t want to weigh the film down with.

    The Trailers

    The movie’s first trailer is kind of fantastic even if it doesn’t look anything like what you’d expect a Scorsese movie to look like. It starts off with a father showing his wide-eyed son an intricate model that’s been built and which he’s found and which has a keyhole in the shape of a heart. We then learn the father dies and the boy is to taken into another’s care. He runs afoul of a policeman while at a train station and is chased around until running in to a young girl. He shows her he still lives in the place with the figure and they discover she has the right key for it. The machine starts whirring around and that’s when things start getting fantastical as trains run off their tracks, dragon floats appear and more.

    It’s certainly sold here as a big adventure and something that shows the spirit of friendship between the two kids and the love he keeps for his father. Like I said, this is nothing like what a Scorsese film traditionally looks like but does look visually rich and intriguing.

    The second trailer starts us off in the middle of the action, as Hugo is already on his own and thinking about his father in dreams. We then get more of the backstory of the character played by Ben Kingsley and see that their two stories are very connected. But from there on out it’s just about selling the movie as an adventure from one thing to the next for Hugo and his gal-pal as they try to piece together what the mysterious message is he believes his father is sending him and how all the things he encounters are connected to that. I don’t think it works quite as well as the first one aside from those additional character details it fleshes out but it also, I don’t think, does any damage.

    Online

    The official website for the movie opens by playing one of the TV spots and then, when it’s finished, encourages you to share it on the social network of your choice.

    The first section of content is “Video” which is where you’ll be able to watch two Trailers, two TV Spots, a behind the scenes featurette and a Q&A video about the movie.

    The “Story” section has a synopsis that isn’t so much a plot summary as it is an exercise in hyperbole as well as Production Notes that go into, in the barest detail, the making of the movie.

    “Cast” lets you read about the actors involved and “Filmmakers” does likewise for Scorsese and the rest of the behind-the-scenes talent.

    In the “Gallery” you’ll find, by my count, about 30 stills from the movie. “Downloads” then has Wallpapers and IM Icons you can save. “Partners” talks about some of the companies that are helping promote the movie and “Reviews” has pull quotes from early reviews of the movie as well as a “Certified Fresh” badge from RottenTomatoes.com, which is something I haven’t seen on an official site before.

    The Facebook page for the film has publicity and press updates along with photos and videos but it’s not nearly as tricked out as some of the pages I’ve seen for other recent movie.

    Advertising and Cross-Promotions

    Lots of TV advertising was done with commercials that emphasized the magical and wonder-filled elements of the movie and made the case for it being a great family adventure for the holiday season. Those spots also played up the fact that it was coming in 3D, which is I guess a major selling point.

    Two promotional partners were listed on the official site: Audible.com, which was promoting the audio version of the source novel and the American Library Association, which was offering a promotional poster of the movie.

    Media and Publicity

    The movie first started generating buzz when it was revealed to be the “mystery movie” at the New York Film Festival, appearing there as an in-progress cut that wound up getting pretty good, though not universally positive, word-of-mouth.

    After that it was a while before the press started to pick back up with stories about how Scorsese opted to make this movie (New York Times, 11/4/11) and what it was about the story that attracted him to it when it was so far outside his normal wheelhouse.

    There were also interviews and stories about the director where he talked about how his experiences as a parent (Los Angeles Times, 11/20/11)  informed his decision to make the movie and his approach while doing so. There were also stories about him that covered his entire career (Hollywood Reporter, 11/21/11) as well as the inspiration behind the new film.

    Overall

    I’m honestly not sure what to make of this. I like the campaign a lot but I’m not sure what audience it’s being sold to. There’s too much wonder and fantasy here for it to be aimed strictly at adults, but there’s too much emphasis on the story about an absent father to be aimed strictly at kids, who may not be interested in that kind of thing. It’s not that it’s a bad campaign – it’s not – but I think this may be a case of trying to reach multiple groups and failing to reach anyone. It also has the problem of coming out against The Muppets, which is more clearly a kids flick with definite adult crossover appeal and that may draw away anyone who’s curious about this movie.

    But that’s not my concern – the campaign presents an interesting movie that, for adult fans of the director, presents something interesting he’s obviously trying that may need to be checked out. I hope it succeeds simply because I like it when directors and storytellers zig instead of zag and I hope Scorsese and others do more of just that.

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  • Movie Marketing Madness: Hugo

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    Author: "Chris" Tags: "Advertising, Facebook, Movie Marketing, ..."
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    Date: Wednesday, 23 Nov 2011 22:00
    If you ask me it doesn’t get much better than good old fashioned Vaudeville. Marx Brothers, Hope and Crosby, Burns and Allen…even one of my favorite Billy Crystal movies is Mr. Saturday Night, an homage to that era of comedy. It’s all about the writing and the timing with this sort of comedy and that’s what works for me. Talented performers delivering superbly crafted word-play is just about as good as it gets. It’s why I always preferred Looney Tunes to just about every other sort of animated short – it was just a cartoon version of a Vaudeville routing, with the funniest bits coming from Bugs and Daffy’s verbal sparring as opposed to any sort of elaborately setup situation.One of the clear spiritual descendants of the Vaudeville tradition, at least in their original incarnations, was Jim Henson’s Muppets. Especially on “The Muppet Show” but also in what are considered the three canonical films – The Muppet Movie, The Great Muppet Caper and The Muppets Take Manhattan – these characters were always at their best when it was simply about a zinger of a joke or a bit of deft word-play.

    Now these characters are back after decades of secondary status in a new movie The Muppets. Written by and starring Jason Segal, best known from his role on “How I Met Your Mother” and an avowed fan of the characters, the movie seeks to revitalize the franchise for a new generation. To do that Segal and his collaborators have created a story that has Kermit, Fozzy, Gonzo, Piggy and the others having gone their separate ways years ago after some rough times. But now Walter (a new Muppet character created for the film), the roommate of Segal’s character and the world’s biggest fan of the Muppets is trying to get the group back together to save the historic theater where they first became famous. In the best tradition of those classic films this new one features lots of star cameos and more and, quite frankly, looks awesome. Let’s see how this reintroduction of some beloved characters is being sold to the families of 2011.
    The Posters

    The first teaser poster wasn’t all that revealing, with the image being just that of Kermit, Piggy and a few others walking (their entire bodies are shown, not just their torsos and heads) toward the camera in a very determined fashion with the copy “They’re closer than you think” at the top reading just a tad ominously.

    After that a couple fun posters that were along the same lines as some of the early trailers appeared, with Kermit decked out like Green Lantern just before that movie came out, Sam the Eagle dressed as Captain America just before that movie was released.

    The next poster was a more theatrical-esque version that showed Segal and Adams in front of the mob of Muppets like they’re trying to hold the crowd back. Again it’s not all that much but it does show to the audience that the entire cast of characters will be featured, something that should have lots of appeal to those who enjoyed the earlier movies as kids and have been looking for a quality newer movie to use as an introduction for their own children. It’s quite good on that front and makes the movie look like a lot of fun.

    Four more posters were later released, three of which showed extreme close-ups of the eyeballs of Kermit, Animal and Piggy with the fourth pulling the camera out a bit and showing those three along with Beaker and Gonzo.

    The parody aspect of the campaign that had primarily been confined to trailers (see below) spilled over into the posters toward the end with a series of one-sheets featuring Kermit, Piggy and Rolf as characters from the Twilight movies.

    The Trailers

    The first teaser trailer debuted in front of Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean earlier this year but both the real-life and online versions of it took a very fun approach.

    The trailer starts out like it’s selling a romantic comedy starring Segal and Adams. The two are very much in love but he messes up and has to try and make it up to her and so on. It’s only when the voice over guy starts introducing the cast and gets to Kermit and Piggy that we realize this is a Muppet movie. The studio went all in with the conceit, initially releasing the trailer under the name “Green With Envy,” which is how it appeared on Apple’s trailer’s page – complete with poster – and was used for the YouTube channel and Facebook page as well.

    Outside of that bit of good natured bait-and-switch, the trailer doesn’t show very much. We get that there is a romantic story in here and that there will be lots of singing and big production numbers, which should be fun, but not much else. That’s alright since this is just about announcing the movie and not much else. So it works very well.

    Another one followed shortly thereafter that played kind of like a parody of The Hangover, with scenes of chaos and fake quotes from fake publication about how funny these movies occasionally are.

    The next one would use the just-about-to-come-out Green Lantern as its source material, with Kermit reciting a variation on that character’s iconic oath, before there were actually a couple of plot points revealed, the first such indicators in the campaign to date. There was also a winking at the audience about how long the creators are going to milk this parody hook before they get to the real marketing. As with the others this is kind of great.

    Finally the trailer marketing began in earnest with a spot that outlines what the plot of the movie is, at least in general. Kermit is working to get the whole gang back together again after some hard times have fallen on the franchise. While we see plenty of Walter, the new character that’s introduced in the movie, we don’t get a proper introduction to him here. There are challenges put in the groups way that lead to hijinks and all in all it looks very clever, funny and charming. While it does indeed play more straight than the previous trailers in that it’s not an outright parody of something else that doesn’t mean it’s any less meta, with lots of inside jokes and winks to the audience, but that’s all good since it comes off as being very funny. The only fear here is that all those jokes are in the trailer here so when they’re put into the context of the movie as a whole they could land more flatly than they really should.

    After that there was another parody trailer created that, in my opinion, was the best one yet. This one took on the trailer for The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, featured an awesome song and lots of winking at the audience via on-screen text.

    Then there was a “Fan-a-Thon” trailer released that had Piggy making a personal appeal for people to Like the movie’s Facebook page in order to get an early advanced look at the movie. Fozzy, Kermit and Gonzo would also appear in similar videos.

    The next trailer – not a parody or spoof – gets even more into the story by introducing Segal, Adams and their little friend – as the troop’s biggest fans. We see that they’re not exactly welcome in Hollywood anymore and that their name recognition isn’t what it used to be. So they have to pull themselves up by the bootstraps and prove themselves all over again. We get lots of scenes from the show they eventually put on and everything else and it continues to look like it’s just a lot of fun all around.

    The meta circle was complete with one that started out by having a little bit of fun by creating a parody of their own trailers while also working in some nods to Paranormal Activity, Happy Feet, Twilight and more. It was more or less exactly what was needed to put a bow on this effort, especially since this one included a “Thank you, internet” note as well as one at the end saying this completed that part of the campaign. Good stuff.

    Online

    The official website for the movie opens by playing one of the later, non-parody trailers.

    After that finishes or you choose to skip it the first thing you can do either by clicking the “Characters” menu item or just by selecting one of the images that’s presented on screen is dive into the characters of the movie. Each one of those sections has information about the character as well as Wallpapers, Buddy Icons, games and film clips that are specific to them.

    The next section, “About the Movie” has a Story synopsis that goes into the adversity the Muppets have to overcome to regain success as well as a Cast section that’s still more about the characters and a Crew section that is still labeled as “Coming Soon.”

    “Video Clips” has most of the trailers, both parody and non-parody as well as other videos, some of which are the great Muppet song covers from the last couple years, some of which are Disney channel coverage and then a bunch of other stuff.

    There are about 14 stills in the “Gallery.” “Products” has information on the stuff you can buy, from the soundtrack to a mobile game to various toys and more.

    There’s then a link to the “Fan-A-Thon” that’s been mentioned before. “Games has some fun casual games featuring different characters.

    There are plenty of Wallpapers, Buddy Icons and a Screensaver in the “Downloads” section. “Activities” stuff to make that ranges from a theater playset to instructions on making candy with the faces of Kermit and the others.

    Finally there’s a link to the “never-ending  manna manna phenomena” that asks you to make your own video with those famous lyrics, which will then be inserted in a never-ending stream of clips, which is kind of a fun idea.

    That last feature is the first thing you see when you hit the movie’s Facebook page, though there are of course lots of tabs with links to the various trailers and more along with plenty of updates on the Wall that track the movie’s publicity activity.

    The @muppetstudio has been been taken over by Statler and Waldorf, who use it to sling their usual barbs at the the other Muppets and discourage people from seeing the movie. The Muppet Studio YouTube page, which has been the hub of Muppet activity for the last couple years, has all the trailers and clips and other video snippets.

    The Muppets were also one of the first brands to get a Google+ Page, which has been used to share videos and other updates.

    Advertising and Cross-Promotions

    A new Marvel-published comic was announced that would act as a reintroduction to the characters who, in the story, trying to revitalize their careers.

    The return to the big screen also came with some promotional partners, including Wonderful Pistachios, which produced a commercial with Kermit promoting the naturally green snack.

    The Muppets would also appear in a promotional video that also served as a message to not talk or text while at the theater. The spot was produced specifically for AMC Theaters and presumably ran during their pre-show entertainment blocks.

    In addition to that there was a campaign that partnered the characters with Underwriters Labortories for a household safety based effort. There was also a cool partnership with Threadless that offered some nice custom designed t-shirts featuring the characters.

    Media and Publicity

    The film certainly got a dramatic launch. After rumors and reports had been circulating for a few months that Segal and others, avowed fans of the Muppets and such (see the inclusion of the puppet vampire musical in Forgetting Sarah Marshall) were circling a Muppets project and may have even been signed to create a new movie. Then at Disney’s D23 fan conference in September of 2009 the movie was officially announced and a title revealed, officially kicking off the buzz campaign for it.

    It then continued to solidify its hipster credentials with the announcement the film would be directed by James Bobin, one of the co-creators of “Flight of the Conchords,” which also served the purpose of giving the film some musical bonafides to fall back on. That was followed by news that not only was Segal helping to write the script but that he would star in the film as well.

    A steady amount of buzz around the Muppets in general was created through the release of a steady stream of videos featuring the characters singing songs such as “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “Dust in the Wind” and plenty of others. The idea behind these – all of which were fun and many of which bordered on brilliant – was to get the Muppets back at the top of people’s minds well in advance of the movie’s release so that when that time came the audience was large, multi-generational and comfortable with the idea of once again spending time with these characters.

    Much like the Tron sequel, the movie benefited from some insights from the Pixar crew, with reports the script was taken to Pixar HQ for a table read (Hollywood Reporter, 7/21/10) that was intended to solicit feedback from the Pixar “Brain Trust” and get their thoughts before filming started.

    After a period of silence, a new round of publicity started with an Entertainment Weekly spread that featured Segal surrounded by the characters, including Walter, the new Muppet that is the audience’s main point of entry into the story. This contained not only a good look at the characters but also the clearest and most official synopsis of the plot to date.

    Later on there was news that Disney was putting a Toy Story short, the second or third that’s been produced, in front of the movie, something that got everyone talking once again about the Muppets and also made going to see the film even more attractive.

    The movie was one of several that Disney brought to the CinemaCon exhibition trade show, where footage from the film was shown to attendees and Segal and Adams appeared (THR, 3/29/11) and talked about the film, including the challenges Segal faced in writing the movie(Los Angeles Times, 3/29/11) as he tried to stay true to the spirit of the franchise, the financial restraints he was operating in and just the logistics of shooting, all of which forced him to come up with inventive solutions to various problems.

    There were also feature stories (New York Times, 4/11/11) about how this was the franchise’s big bet on a revival and how previous efforts in the last 10 years or so have all hit some sort of roadbump that’s killed them. So Disney is betting on a big, star-studded motion picture to finally kick things off in a manner befitting the characters and finally see some value to owning the characters.

    Two years after its first appearance there the movie returned to Disney’s D23 fan convention (LAT, 8/17/11). There the studio put on a brief presentation with Segal and Kermit showing some clips from the movie that, much to her dismay, did not involve Miss Piggy.

    Unfortunately the next bit of press would not be completely positive, as many of the “old hands” that were involved with the Muppets in years past and other “purists” started to question whether the movie was a worthy entry into the canon or something that distorted the characters they loved or were involved with (THR, 10/20/11). Odds are good, though that those fears are overblown and that while maybe not the movie *they* would have made it’s still respectful of the characters while also bringing them into a new generation that’s only been exposed to the lackluster straight-to-DVD entries of the last few years.

    Closer to release things turned around with profiles of Segal (Wired, 11/1/11) and assurances from him that there would be lots of zany antics (LAT, 11/4/11) and how the mood on the set was generally upbeat (LAT, 11/6/11) with everyone having lots of fun. Further positive press stories would be scored that talked about how hands-off Disney was during the creative process (NYT, 11/20/11) despite the risks and potential rewards there were to be had by bringing the characters – and the franchise – to a new generation of moviegoers. There was also plenty of general stories about reviving the franchise (Fast Company, Nov 2011) and so on.

    The Muppets also joined Segal in the opening of “Saturday Night Live” when he was hosting just before release.

    Overall

    Hey, what’s not to like here? This is a big campaign, that’s for certain but there’s something here for everyone, from those of us who grew up with “The Muppet Show” on TV every week and saw all the three original movies in theaters to those who are the kids of folks my age.

    The main thing, at least the component that has garnered the most press attention, is the part of the campaign made up with the parody trailers. And while those were fun and all I’m more excited about the other stuff, the parts that sold the film more directly since they showed a movie that seems to be very much in line with the spirit of the original incarnations of this franchise. So the posters, trailers and website are what have me anticipating the film.

    But it certainly isn’t a small effort. Disney is obviously hoping this is the kind of relaunch that it can capitalize on for several years on a number of fronts and has given it a campaign of suitable size. But again it’s the talent of those involved and the promise of a good-natured time at the theater that has most broadest appeal here and that comes through loud and clear.

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  • Movie Marketing Madness: The Muppets

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    Author: "Chris" Tags: "Advertising, Disney, Facebook, Games, Mo..."
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    Date: Tuesday, 22 Nov 2011 23:00

    My favorite scene in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation is the one where Clark Griswold is in the department store while the family is out shopping. Distracted by the extremely hot clerk behind the lingerie counter he goes on and on about how it couldn’t be any hooter hotter in the store and how the weather outside is a bit nippley. It’s a three minute master class on the idea of the Freudian Slip, where someone accidentally says what’s really on their mind (usually related to sex) instead of what they meant to say.

    One of this week’s new releases is about the man that’s named after, Sigmund Freud. A Dangerous Method, directed by David Cronenberg, is a story about Freud (Viggo Mortenson) and his protege Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender) and a debate they have about the methods of treating patients. One patient in particular, Sabina Spielrein (Keira Knightly), forms the crux of their debate. She is suffering from problems that are related to what seems to be sexual abuse in her past. But her intriguing personality and situation wind up fascinating Jung and the two begin an affair. While not a traditional love triangle the movie is still about the relationships between the three of them.

    The Posters

    The movie’s one poster sets up the drama between the three characters nicely. Possibly the first time the principles of a Venn diagram have been utilized for movie marketing we see Knightly front and center, with the faces of Mortense and Fassbender off either shoulder, their faces bleeding into hers (or is it vice-versa) so the images overlap a bit.

    Below her face is the explanation for the audience that this is based on a true story and who the characters are that we’re looking at. At the top is a short pull quote from a review by The New York Times. Between those two elements it’s clear the aim is for a higher-level of audience here but Cronenberg’s past film titles – both of them with Mortensen – are thrown in below the title for good measure.

    The Trailers

    The first trailer (not counting multiple international versions) by introducing us to Freud and Jung before showing us Sabina and what influence she has on the dynamic between the two. She present Jung with a most interesting case as she seems to be excited by the idea of being punished. When he decides to give in to his desire and begin an affair with her it impacts both his relationship with his mentor and, naturally, his wife, who we saw previously he sometimes uses as a test subject for his treatments.

    The trailer is all about selling the idea that repression is not only bad but unhealthy. The characters frequently talk about giving in to their desires. But while there may be some titillation factor here the spot also makes it clear that the move as a whole is a much more staid drama that is meant to highlight the performances of the two male leads plus Knightly than it is some sort of sexual drama. Sure there are bits of that but I think as a whole there’s more sitting around talking than anything else, which is a pleasure when you’re looking at a cast like this.

    Online

    The movie’s official website opens by playing the trailer, which is worth rewatching if you haven’t seen it in a while. Closing that brings you to a repurposing of the key poster art. Also on the front page are prompts to buy the soundtrack album, a short synopsis and an invitation to read about the real life events that have inspired the movie, something that I always like to see on the sites for movies like this. That section lets you view a timeline of events or check out character-specific write-ups.

    The first traditional section of content is “About,” which acts like a nicely navigable set of production notes. There are sections here for The Design, The Locations and more as well as more information on the real relationships that power the drama here.

    That cool design is also found in the other sections, starting with “Cast” which lets you find out more about the actors and “Filmmakers” which does likewise for those behind the camera.

    “Reviews” has small quotes from early reviews of the movie but, as is too often the case, no links to the full story.

    There are 25 stills, including a few behind-the-scenes shots, in the “Gallery” and “Trailer” just has one video.

    The Facebook page for the film is a modest affair, with photos and videos and regular updates on the cast and director’s promotional activities.

    Advertising and Cross-Promotions

    Nothing that I was privy to or otherwise aware of.

    Media and Publicity

    While there had been other buzz around the movie prior to this some major news was made when it was announced (Los Angeles Times, 7/26/11) the movie would appear at the 2011 Toronto Film Festival. Prior to that, though, it would be among those at (Hollywood Reporter, 9/2/11) at the Telluride Film Festival. At almost the same time it appeared at the Venice Film Festival where it picked up mixed buzz as a whole and specifically for Knightly’s performance (Los Angeles Times, 9/2/11).

    Around the time of the Toronto/Telluride debut a big feature (Hollywood Reporter 9/7/11) on how the film was made and what happened with various casting just before filming was published that certainly brought a level of attention – even if it was mostly within Hollywood circles – to the film that I don’t think it had before.

    Overall

    Yeah, there’s certainly an element to the marketing here that is just hoping the promise of some 19th century sex is enough to pull in some parts of the audience. But that’s relatively mild when compared to what I think is a strong and classy push for the film. There’s a concerted effort to keep this campaign, I think, non-smutty and sell it based on the strength of the performances of the three leads and the idea that they’re all given some meaty relationship based drama to work with.

    The poster, trailer and website all add up to a nice cohesive whole that I think sells the movie pretty well and should appeal to the kind of people who look forward to late-November releases with the same fervor others anticipate Memorial Day at the theater.

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  • Movie Marketing Madness: A Dangerous Method

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    Date: Monday, 21 Nov 2011 23:00
    These days we think we know the private lives of big stars. With paparazzi taking photos of them whenever they step out for a Slurpee with their kids and countless magazines, blogs and other publications ready to run them and elaborate on what their entire outing was like there seems to be no moment that doesn’t go unexamined. The audience, in large part, enjoys these looks at celebrities because it feeds a need some people have for gossip and what the feel are peeks behind the curtain.

    There’s no starlet that did more to further the idea of celebrity press coverage than Marilyn Monroe. She’s the subject of the new movie My Week With Marilyn. With the famous actress played by Michelle Williams, the story takes place during the shooting of The Prince and the Showgirl. Colin Clark (Eddie Radmayne) is assigned to be her personal assistant by Sir Lawrence Olivier (Kenneth Branagh) and the two become close and start up a fling, despite everyone warning him away from the idea. But he’s convinced he’s seen the real, more vulnerable Marilyn and continues to pursue the relationship to the extent he can.

    The Posters

    The first poster is all about selling Williams and Monroe and so shows her walking amidst a sea of reporters with cameras and notepads while being guided by a young assistant of some sort. She looks kind of aloof and not all that happy with her situation and so it’s about making it clear that Williams isn’t playing Monroe as some sort of clueless ditz but as a genuine human being, something that may not be as sensational but is more promising from an artistic point of view.

    A second poster was a nice black-and-white effort that had Williams striking a sexy Monroe-esque pose, just her head and one hand being seen. To the side are a couple of choice quotes about the performances of Williams, Branagh and Dench.

    The Trailers

    The first trailer starts us off as Marilyn is getting off the plane in England and attending a press conference to promote her appearance there. A young man enters her life as a sort of assistant and the two of them obviously hit it off, with her using him to escape the crush of her regular life. But he’s warned off from her by just about everyone around him, warnings that he ignores since he’s seen her in very unguarded moments.

    It’s enormously effective at selling the movie as the kind of awards bait that usually comes out this time of year. It’s got lots of big names playing famous people, something that always goes over well. But it’s also clear those performances are quite compelling, with the actors appearing to really try to inhabit the skins of the actors they’re portraying. This isn’t a full-fledged bio-pic like Chaplin or others but it’s about a single moment in time and so may have more focus for everyone involved because of that.

    Online

    The movie’s official website opens with some full-screen video of the film’s trailer. After you let that play or skip it you’ll see you can scroll right or left through a series of stills or small video screens that show off most of the main cast. At the top of the screen there’s also a scrolling series of press quotes about the movie complete with the logo of the press outlet they came from though without links to the full stories. That problem is solved, though, in the “Press Accolades” section.

    The first section of content is “About” which has a Synopsis that’s pretty well written and which explains the film’s story very well as well as Cast and Filmmaker profiles. There’s also Production Notes here that can be read on the site as well as more extensive ones available as a PDF download.

    There are 13 stills in the “Gallery” though none of them can be downloaded. “Videos” has two Trailers (though they seem to be the same one), a behind-the-scenes video and an extended clip.

    At the bottom the “Social” area links to the movie’s official Facebook page, which has photos, videos and other updates, and a Twitter profile that has similar updates. Both are just called “Marilyn Monroe,” which is an interesting little bit of sideways selling there.

    Advertising and Cross-Promotions

    Nothing that I’ve seen either online or on TV. I may have missed something but there hasn’t been any advertising that I’m aware of.

    Media and Publicity

    While there had been plenty of talk about the movie’s production the first bit of substantive news came when it was announced (Los Angeles Times, 8/4/11) that it would be one of the movies debuting at the 2011 New York Film Festival.

    A sizable interview with Williams (Vogue, Oct, 2011) was up next where the actress talked about how she very much wanted to play the part of Monroe and how doing so changed things about how she herself viewed life.

    Overall

    It’s a pretty small campaign for a movie that I would have expected to have more “oomph” behind it. I’m really surprised there isn’t more a full-throated for a movie that seems to have a number of strong performances, hits a favorite theme (celebrity impersonations) of awards season and is about a person who still causes all sorts of speculation and conversation. I would have thought there’d be much more publicity from the Weinsteins about those performances and more. As it is the marketing itself isn’t bad, just feels small at a time movies like this can’t afford to feel small.

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  • Movie Marketing Madness: My Week With Marilyn

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    Date: Friday, 18 Nov 2011 23:00

    We all play certain roles within our families. Parents are particularly likely to fall into specific roles depending on how much time they spend at home, what sort of pressures are on them in the world of their jobs and other factors. So it’s not uncommon for there to be the recognition that one of them is the “fun” parent while the other is the disciplinarian or whatever the particular dynamic is in any given household.

    In the new movie The Descendants the family in the middle of the story has to go through a major realignment of roles. Matt King (George Clooney) is the father who’s not an integral part of anyone’s life. He’s there and he loves everyone, sure, but he’s not the “primary” parent. But then his wife is in an accident and ends up in a coma, thrusting him to the forefront. That transition is complicated, though, when his oldest daughter (Shailene Woodley) reveals he’s the only one who didn’t know his wife was having an affair. So not only does King have to reconnect with his family but he has to process that information as well. The movie comes from writer/director Alexander Payne (Sideways, Election), a filmmaker with a reputation for well-crafted character stories.

    The Posters

    The first – and it turns out only – poster told us, at least overtly, almost nothing about the movie’s story. It’s just Clooney shown in profile kind of looking at some kids who are playing on a beach. No copy explains what it is we’re looking at so this is very much a teaser image. Which makes it surprising that nothing came next, that there was nothing that offered even a little bit more about the movie. The assumption is that Clooney + a gorgeous location is enough for audiences. Not saying this is wrong, just that it’s surprising there wasn’t *something* else.

    The Trailers

    The first trailer for the movie is just great, selling us not only on the story but also on the performances of everyone involved.

    It starts out with King talking about how he’s the backup parent to his two young daughters compared to his wife, who’s currently in the hospital, a situation that means he has to step up and be more involved. That leads to plenty of conflict between him and the girls, especially the teenage one who’s in full rebellious “I can be my own person” mode. It’s that older daughter who, as he’s talking about how he has to communicate his wife’s situation to all their family and friends, informs him that his sick wife had been cheating on him. This new information causes him to reevaluate everything and the rest of the trailer is a montage of clips that show while there are some tough moments that there’s also plenty of love in the family.

    The best moment of the trailer is kind of a tie between the shot of Clooney rounding the corner while he’s running in flip-flops and Robert Forrester punching the snot-nosed and disrespectful boyfriend of the older daughter. Both are just fantastic.

    Online

    The movie’s official website is pretty interesting. Using your mouse you can drag the entire page up, down and sideways to view various angles and the features each one holds. Clicking on one of the photos that’s tacked to the tree, then, unlocks different content. In some cases that’s a short video clip in others it’s something else. It’s very much a family tree since most of that introduces us to members of the King family.

    At the bottom of the page there’s a link to “learn more” about the movie and clicking that takes you to Fox Searchlight’s site and their page for the film, which has more traditional content. There you’ll find a “Synopsis” and “Trailer” as well as the usual Searchlight features like news feeds of relevant information, videos and more.

    Advertising and Cross-Promotions

    TV spots were run, particularly late in the campaign, that were pretty good but which certainly appeared to play up the kind of wacky comedic angles that were present at the expense of more textured character stuff. One in particular would focus on Clooney’s character finding out about the affair and highlights Clooney’s stalking of the other guy, with him jumping behind bushes and so on. I don’t necessarily think is missells the movie but it certainly sells one particular perspective of the film.

    Media and Publicity

    Some of the first publicity for the movie came when it was announced (Los Angeles Times, 7/26/11) it would be one of those screening at the 2011 Toronto Film Festival. It was also selected as the closing night feature at the New York Film Festival (Hollywood Reporter, 8/17/11). Before that it was one of the featured films at the 2011 Telluride Film Festival, where it gathered decent word of mouth from the assembled critics.

    Payne would later talk about (LAT, 11/1/11) talking about his involvement with the book adaptation, which originally had him producing and someone else directing. Shortly thereafter profiles of Clooney (LAT, 11/2/11) and the rest of the cast would explore working with the director, shooting in Hawaii and more.

    Overall

    It’s a really good campaign that, for the most part, I think does a dead-on job of selling the movie as an interesting and entertaining character piece. It’s clear, of course, that Clooney is the main selling point though there’s enough of a focus on Payne as well to attract people who have been fans of his previous movies. What it sells is a movie that seems to fit nicely, as Payne’s other films mostly do, somewhere between commercially viable and awards worthy, something that’s a very tough line to walk.

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  • Movie Marketing Madness: The Descendants

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    Author: "Chris" Tags: "Advertising, Facebook, Fox Searchlight, ..."
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    Date: Monday, 14 Nov 2011 17:30

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  • Quick Takes: 11/14/11

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    Author: "Chris" Tags: "Movie Marketing, Quick Takes"
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    Date: Monday, 14 Nov 2011 16:00
    #bbpBox_135047907123535872 a { text-decoration:none; color:#d40f44; }#bbpBox_135047907123535872 a:hover { text-decoration:underline; }
    Voce's @ offers three things to ponder when working Google+ into a publishing program http://t.co/ejGa7pjK
    @vocenation
    Voce Communications

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  • Getting your Google+ ducks in a row

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    Date: Friday, 11 Nov 2011 22:00

    What sort of attitude you ponder the end of the world with is largely dependent, in most cases, on your religious or philosophical point of view. Christians believe the world will end when Christ returns for a final judgement, bringing the redeemed to Heaven and ending the struggle here on Earth. Other religions have their own beliefs despite the fact that we all know the world will really end when it’s blown up by the Vogons (an exceedingly stupid race of aliens with incredibly bad poetry) to make way for an interstellar bypass. Really it’s the only logical conclusion. But again how you think the end of the world is going to happen impacts whether or not you anticipate it with longing, dread or indifference.

    It’s that kind of indifference that is at the core of the new Lars von Trier-directed film Melancholia. Essentially the story of the relationship between two sisters Justine (Kirstine Dunst) and Claire (Charlotte Ginsburg) the plot then revolves around two major events: Justine’s marriage and the discovery of a mysterious planet that’s been hiding behind the sun and which is now moving towards Earth – but is it on a collision course or will is simply pass by? No one is sure but it’s clear that Melancholia – the name of the planet as well as a descriptor of the feelings felt by some of the characters toward life and others – will change everything.

    The Posters

    The first poster almost had the look of a wedding invitation. An image of Dunst in a wedding dress clutching a bouquet while lying down in some sort of pond is in the middle of the one-sheet, with Von Trier’s name above that along with the title while the names of the three main cast members are below that photo, which has been repurposed from one of the first publicity photos that was released.

    The second poster wasn’t all that much different. This time the photo of Dunst takes up the entire frame, giving more color to the one-sheet right off the bat. At the top is a critic pull quote from a festival screening of the movie along with mentions of its award from Cannes. Toward the bottom are the cast’s names along with the copy “It will change everything” which is meaningful enough if you know the director’s previous work to get you interested but also vague enough to not tip the audience to any clues as to the story. That may or not be a great tactic to take but it’s unlikely there will be much mainstream crossover for a movie like this so it’s fine since the film is being sold primarily to von Trier loyalists.

    Up next was a motion poster that featured an image of Dunst and Skarsgard on the verge of a kiss while a star chart materialized on top of that image. The motion poster even featured a bit music, in this case a little Wagner for people to enjoy while the image transitioned from one phase to the next.

    The Trailers

    The movie’s first trailer lays out the story in broad strokes but, as you would expect from von Trier , there’s a lot more under the surface.

    We start with images of Dunst in her wedding dress running through a garden talking about how life exists only on earth. After some family drama at the reception we are introduced to Melancholia, a planet that seems to be heading right toward us. So the impending arrival of that interstellar visitor – it’s not clear whether it will pass by or crash into the planet – is played as a metaphor for the relationships that exist between the characters, none of whom seem to be all that emotionally put together.

    The trailer sells a film that is beautiful to look at and somewhat mysterious. It’s obvious that there are a lot of threads we’ll be following and that, as is often the case with von Trier, he doesn’t put a lot of faith in the kindness of people as a whole.

    Online

    The movie’s official website is interesting if a bit perplexing and offbeat, a description that likely matches the movie and most of von Trier’s work. It’s arranged as one big scrolling page that you can navigate using the menu at the top or just by moving your mouse down the page.

    The first section after the “Welcome” screen is a “Director’s Statement” from von Trier where talks about…I’m honestly not sure what. It’s a bit of a screed mixed with thoughts on German romanticism and more. After that it’s more from the director in an “Interview” that allows him to expand his thoughts about the themes of the movie.

    Following that is a “Filmography” that isn’t really what it sounds like and is instead just a list of the major actors and talent involved with the movie. Then there’s “Technical Info” which is exactly what it sounds like and is mainly for those wanting to confirm what aspect ratio the movie was shot in.

    “Trailer” is next with just the one video followed by “Social,” which has a little widget of Facebook updates and then “Download” which is where you’re able to grab some stills from the movie and of von Trier as well as the movie’s one-sheet.

    If you want some background on the production house operated by von Trier and his partners you’ll find it in “Zentropa.” The site then ends with some “Contact Information” for PR, sales and other needs.

    In between all those sections, though, are some of the stunning photograph stills of the movie.

    The movie does have a Facebook page that features updates on the release and other posts. Not much here, though.

    Advertising and Cross-Promotions

    At least one TV spot was created that played up the dramatic elements of the story and was designed to promote not only the upcoming theatrical release but also the movie’s on-demand availability. It’s short but pretty good at hitting some of the same major notes the trailers do.

    Media and Publicity

    The movie got its first major publicity push when it was announced (Los Angeles Times, 4/14/11) that it would screen at the 2011 Canne Film Festival alongside features from other big-time directors like Woody Allen, Terence Malick and others.

    That Cannes appearance wasn’t all sunshine and roses, though, with the director making comments he had to have meant jokingly about Jews and Nazis (Hollywood Reporter, 5/18/11), comments he later apologized for (LAT, 5/18/11) but which still got him declared “persona non gratis” at the festival, meaning the film could stay in competition but he may not be welcome to pick up any prize it might win.

    Overall

    Well it’s certainly not going to bring any new fans into the von Trier fold is it? No, it’s not as outright offensive, particularly to American sensibilities, as Dogville (a movie I greatly enjoyed as a sort of visualized theater experiment) and the like but it’s also not nearly as accessible as most people will be looking for. The campaign makes it clear that there will be thinking involved in this particular trip to the theater and that’s going to turn off certain audience segments even as it attracts others.

    That being said this is a very cool and very cohesive campaign that, I suspect, represents the movie well. The posters and trailer all work well together and the website compliments that nicely with a unique experience all its own. Good stuff from my perspective.

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  • Movie Marketing Madness: Melancholia

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    Author: "Chris" Tags: "Advertising, Cannes, Facebook, Magnolia ..."
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    Date: Thursday, 10 Nov 2011 17:00

    The new book Drew Struzan Oeuvre is a mixed bag. There’s no doubt that it contains stunning representations of Struzan’s work from throughout the years and across genres and categories of media. Projects not just from his movie-related work but also music, general entertainment and even personal commissions are included here and there’s little way they could look better. But while it reaches broadly across what the iconic artist has produced it doesn’t go very deeply into those works of art.

    The problem is that this new book comes on the heels of the previous one The Art of Drew Struzan. That may have contained less examples of Struzan’s work and been focused exclusively on his movie poster work but the stories from Struzan himself that went along with each one of those were invaluable and often provided interesting insights into the artistic process. This book doesn’t have that and instead simply lists what’s what at the back.

    But enough of the comparisons. What this book gets right is the high quality presentation of Struzan’s artwork. And the fact that it goes beyond the poster work he’s so well known for makes it a must have for completists and those who are able to appreciate his consistent and instantly recognizable style beyond just the movies that people like in and of themselves.

    If there’s one other quibble I have with the book it’s that the “Personal” section – the book is divided by category – is largely unnecessary. We get it. People like to commission works of female nudes. We don’t need endless examples of it.

    In the end, though, this is a great addition and works to complement the earlier book quite well. The fact that things are categorized nicely makes it easy to bookmark your favorite sections. It’s certainly something that can serve as a wonderful present for Christmas or whatever other holiday might be to your liking.

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  • Book Review: Drew Struzan Oeuvre

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    Author: "Chris" Tags: "Off Topic, Reviews"
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