I don’t mean to give to too much hyperbole or overly dramatic rhetoric, but in 1994 Clerks changed my life. I can legitimately say it was among the firs, if not the first, independent movie I ever saw. Growing up in a sheltered (in a good way) environment in suburban Chicago the opportunity to see some truly independent fare simply never arose. Couple that with the fact that 94 marked the rise of the independent film and, well, most of what I saw were the mainstream flicks that came to the local second run theater or the mall theaters. Since then, though, I’ve been a big fan of Kevin Smith’s movies. I even like Mallrats and Jersey Girl, though Clerks and Chasing Amy are the movies I think hit their mark the best.
12 years later, after saying a couple years ago he was closing the door on the Askewniverse, Smith is returning us to the world of Dante Hicks and Randall Graves. The two slackers, with no motivation and no direction in the first film, haven’t progressed much if at all. About all that’s changed is that they’re no longer working at the Quik Stop convenience store but at a Mooby’s fast food restaurant. That’s about all that’s changed, though, since they still aren’t going anywhere and still fill their days not trying to help customers but discussing the minute details of their lives and the culture they live in.
The character-centric posters that were created were pretty good. One featured Randall and Dante, another Jay and Silent Bob and one for Becky. They’re bright, bold and very visually attractive. Do they help sell the movie? I’m unsure of that but they do help raise awareness of the movie and that’s really their goal.
The final theatrical poster was basically a mash-up of those earlier images. While the pics of Randall, Dante, Jay and Silent Bob all work just as well as they do on their individual one-sheets, the image that they used of Rosario Dawson seems a bit weird. It almost looks like they took the same shot of her body and then used Photoshop to kind of turn Rosario Dawson’s head around. Considering that this is the one thing that’s not like the others (bonus points if you can sing the song from The Electric Company) it stands out considerably. It stands out like a sore thumb and actually detracts from the overall effectiveness of the poster.
As part of the video blog Smith had going he included a montage of footage shot at the poster shoot, a day he descrbes as being a “pain in the balls.” Good stuff.
I did not care for the initial teaser trailer that was released. The reason was that while, yes, we’re shown all the returning and new characters, the spot featured no dialog. It was, in essence, a music video. Since the strongest thing Kevin Smith has going for him as a filmmaker is his dialog, I thought that showing people talking but not being able to hear them speak was just a big tease and, actually, was kind of frustrating. You got the basic idea of the plot from the trailer, it just was frustrating not to be able to hear the characters again.
The first “internet-only” trailer was much better, if for no other reason than we finally got to hear some speaking. Smith also poked some fun at Jersey Girl’s fate at the end, which is just the kind of cool self-awareness that’s earned him such a legion of loyal fans.
Then they released the theatrical trailer . This really started showing some plot points. We see Dante opening up the familiar steel shutters on the Quik Stop only to stare in disbelief. At the time I didn’t know this was because the place was on fire so I imagined he caught a glimpse of himself in the glass and came to some startling moment of self-awareness. Not so, but it worked for me at the time. Anyway, this version of the trailer was alright but lacked that zip that Smith’s films are known for. When I first watched it I thought that yes, this was designed to play in multiplex theaters before something like Superman Returns.
There was one trailer created specifically for showing at the Cannes Film Festival. It was short, but very funny, featuring Dante and Randall in a car on the way to work. Randall complains about the annoying features of sequels, such as the shoehorning of catchphrases in. Unfortunately he says â€œ37,â€ which causes Dante to point out how it too is recycled from the first film. That causes Randall to get out of the car in disgust as it’s moving. Funny stuff.
My favorite of the bunch, though, is this red-band trailer. It’s about as offensive as you can get, with ethnic slurs, insinuations of bestiality and just about anything else that would startle the stiffs.
Smith went all out in terms of utilizing new social media for the run-up to Clerks II. When Clerks2.com officially launched it was as a blog, primarily consisting of video posts chronicling the production of the movie. This provided visitors an inside look at how Smith and crew were putting together their return to the movie that started it all. These were funny and intimate and really went far to engaging with the audience. This was actually one of two blogs Smith was running, the other being SilentBobSpeaks.com, which was the outlet for more of his personal ramblings and stories. As always, Smith is a fantastic storyteller.
“Watch the trailer” lists three trailers, the red-band version, the internet-only spot and the teaser. What’s missing from that list is the theatrical trailer that was released in April. It’s unfortunate that this section of the website wasn’t used to pull together all the video content. I can only guess that Smith and his team were only putting up the things that would appeal most to his fanbase, meaning the ones with swearing in them. That’s slightly made up for by the fact that each trailer is available from multiple mirrors, with the final two also being availble on YouTube. That’s a nice way to give people an option to view the spots without launching yet another program and allows them easy access to grab those trailers for their own blogs.
The “Train Wreck” section collects all the video blog posts into one place, again giving both the big files to view as well as the YouTube links. Fantastic. “Join the Mailing List” is just what it sounds like, but not so with “Character Profiles.” Those actually lead you to links to the MySpace pages setup for the movie’s six main characters. Finally, Smith gives you the option to purchase Clerks II swag.
So that’s it for the official site? Yep. But what Smith has done is really maximized the value of what he’s done here. But I’ll get to that a bit later.
As for those MySpace pages, here’s a list of the real ones:
And now a list of the character sites:
Thankfully Smith was smart enough not to turn these into character blogs but just to leave them as profile pages and use them as outlets for the trailers and other things going on.
One of my constant gripes in the last six months is that I just don’t see the value in studios setting up MySpace profiles. I won’t get into the whole problem I have but I just don’t see the value in them. For Clerks II, though, the people behind the campaign utilized it in the first way that I thought was good for not only awareness but potential sales. They launched a promotion where the first 10,000 people who added the movie’s profile as a friend would get their names added to the movie’s end credits. That was followed up with one for the DVD. This time, though, everyone who added the profile as a friend â€“ everyone â€“ would have their names added to the credits on the DVD.
So now not only do you have people â€œfriendingâ€ the page and adding banners or trailers to their own page, you have people with a vested interest in seeing the movie or buying the DVD. Those people who made the 10,000 cut now have a reason to go see the movie if they weren’t already planning to do so â€“ to see their name in lights. That is a great use of MySpace because it actually has an impact on that all important â€œintent to seeâ€ number.
The move was so innovative and unique that it even got some mainstream press coverage. And that’s saying something since newspapers and such usually only cover MySpace when there’s a pedophile involved or someone is pretending to be 19 when they’re only 13.
Smith also took the build-up to Clerks II to rethink what had been MoviePoopShoot.com. The site, under executive editor Chris Ryall, had flourished from a joke from Jay & Silent Bob into a pretty good source of entertainment news and especially long columns. Especially good were Christopher Stipp’s â€œTrailer Parkâ€ and Scott Tipton’s â€œComics 101,â€ where he dove into the history of comics characters, teams and creators. After Ryall left, though, the site kind of floundered. So Smith re-URL-ed and re-branded it as QuickStopEntertainment.com. While I still don’t think it’s hit the point of greatness it had under Ryall’s leadership, it is still a good daily read.
Starting about a month before Clerks II’s release, the site played host to a series of shorts created using the Inaction figures from the various Smith movies. They’re very short but very funny and act as a lead-in of sorts to the movie.
Like most of Smith’s movies, the campaign for Clerks II is aimed mostly at Smith’s existing fans. The one thing that was designed to move outside of that was the theatrical trailer, arguably the weakest of the bunch.
See that’s kind of the problem. Smith makes no apologies for his lack of growth as a filmmaker, but that means he’s never really going to move outside of his established fans. His one attempt, Jersey Girl, failed miserably despite the fact that I thought it was a really good flick. Aside from that, though, it’s been Jay and Silent Bob all the time. And that means the team marketing his movies is essentially given a product that has one core audience and a bunch of people who couldn’t pick Smith out of a lineup. I think the fact that the vast majority of this campaign is designed with that core audience in mind shows that all parties involved know this isn’t going to break into the mainstream audience and so they barely tried.
The one move that really attempted to push the boundaries of those already intending to see the movie was the MySpace promotions. By trying to appeal to a wired-up crowd, Smith and the marketing team were aiming at people who are the same age now as those people who saw the original Clerks in the theater 12 years ago. That’s a smart move since his humor and style, while still popular among those original fans, also keeps being in the wheelhouse for late teens and 20-somethings.
Overall this is a very good campaign, with mostly strong trailers, mostly strong posters, and mostly strong web efforts. The few weak elements aren’t enough to sour the campaign as a whole and the MySpace utilization more than makes up for any weaknesses.
movie marketing, weinstein