Movie Marketing Madness: Mission Impossible III

It’s funny how the Mission: Impossible franchise has moved along. The first movie was a pretty big success but then the sequels have progressed with fits and starts amid rumors of directorial choices, potential co-stars and when star Tom Cruise would have time in his schedule to fit them in. For such a big name star and such a money-making opportunity the players involved almost seem to need someone to drag them to the set to film these things.

I have to admit to never having seen the second installment. The first was good enough but something about the second one never pushed it into the “must-see” category for me. I’m more interested in seeing this new sequel based largely – if not almost exclusively – on the participation of Phillip Seymour Hoffman as the main bad guy. This is quite an accomplishment since, in the six years since M:I 2, Cruise has gone from being a stalwart leading man who maintained a boyish playfulness to being widely considered an all-out whack-job. His public performances, from trashing Brooke Shields’ use of anti-depression drugs, to almost trading blows with Matt Lauer, to the much-publisized Oprah couch-jumping to the engagement to Katie Holmes and the birth of their daughter, have all been part of a shift in perception from all-American to borderline psychotic.

Even more so than last year with the campaign for War of the Worlds, the marketing team at Paramount has their work cut out for them to overcome the spectacle Cruise has become. In retrospect he was really just getting warmed up back then and is really in full gear now. Everything the studio does to promote M:I 3 has to counter wacky behavior of Cruise and the fact that so many of his interviews talk more about his personal life and issues than about the movie he’s supposed to be hypeing. So how good a job did they do? Let’s dive in.

Trailers and TV spots

It took me two times to put my finger on it, but after I watched the first teaser trailer twice I figured out what it was that I was noticing: The complete silence of Tom Cruise. The star – one of the biggest in the world – does not get a single line in the trailer. Instead, Hoffman gets to glare and make a series of threats and Ving Rhames gets one line while embracing Cruise. That’s it. The rest was all action shots. I have to believe – as I mentioned then – that this was a conscious decision by the assemblers of the trailer to keep his mouth shut, something the star wasn’t doing on his own. The trailer was alright but after you realize this it’s impossible not to watch it in whole new way.

The official trailer was more of the same. All action shots that pretty much show how every chase scene is going to end. Cruise gets some dialogue in this one, but that’s about the only thing that substantively differentiates this trailer from the teaser.

The first official TV spot for the movie debuted during this past February’s Super Bowl. It and the subsequent spots have all recycled the same footage from the trailers and done absolutely nothing to break out of the mold. It’s all action, chasing and explosions with absolutely no hint as to what the plot of the movie is. If you’re looking for nuance, character development or anything else you won’t find it here or in any of these video spots. There’s nothing wrong with that, necessarily, but it is disappointing in that the first movie was very much about plot and the series seems to have de-evolved from there. Also notice the complete lack, save for a 1.5 second glimpse here and there, of co-star Keri Russell. Considering her casting was one of the big stories people were talking about during the making of the movie that’s a bit surprising. I guess the studio felt it was more important to play up Cruise and Oscar-winner Hoffman than anyone else. There have been quite a few additional TV spots, none of which really veer from the formula.

Posters and artwork

Big. Heads.

That sums up all the posters and artwork for this movie. They’ve all had a nice, consistent design with the slightly grainy-looking photography but that’s the best I can say for them. Cruise is shown in a variety of positions like he’s dodging this, that or the other thing while decked out in full combat gear. Posters like this one have been all over Times Square in New York and here in Chicago they’ve been on bus stands and he sides of buses throughout downtown.

The teaser poster was probably the best of the lot, with the graphic of a lit fuse below the movie’s title and opening date. That worked much better than the various incarnations of Tom Cruise acting like a kung-fu grip enabled G.I. Joe figure.


Wow. For a high-speed, big budget action movie Paramount has created an incredibly – and it really is quite impressive – lame website.

“About” has The Story, Photos, Cast, Filmmakers and The Production, all of which are exactly what you think they are. The Photos is pretty good-sized and The Production gives some good information, but only if you’re coming at it from knowing nothing about the previous movies.

You can find all the trailers, nine TV spots and whole lot of other video clips, including some behind-the-scenes stuff, in “Videos.” That’s a good thing, but it’s been done before and better. “Downloads” has Wallpapers, Buddy Icons, Posters to download and a section for Mobile content, most of which you need to go somewhere else to find. “DVD” is just information on and ability to purchase DVDs of the first two movies, either separately or in a Gift Pack. You can find a list of promotional partners, as well as websites who ran M:I 3-related contests, in “Partners.” There’s also a link to the “Global Hunt” game that was launched back in February and concludes May 22nd.

Promotions and other deals

Unsuprisingly for a movie likely to be this big, a number of companies have signed on to partner with and cross-promote the movie. One of the biggest is package shipping service DHL. They initially made an announcement that they would be/were providing the shipping to and from the set of M:I 3. At the time, that was it. There was no mention made of any sort of product placement. That’s what the deal turned out to be all about though. Was the initial announcement a bit disingenuous? Possibly. I hate to acuse anyone of such outright deception but that seems like at best a drastic oversight on the part of those putting out the press release.

Yahoo! is helping out by creating a unique branded landing page for movie content. There you’ll find exclusive goodies, such as film clips with commentary from director J.J. Abrams and more.

Finally, there’s the Los Angeles Times displays that were rigged to play the Mission: Impossible theme song, one of which was blown up by police after someone thought the music player was a bomb. That might be my favorite story.


For as much as the artwork for the movie is all about Tom Cruise, the campaign in general doesn’t rely solely on his personality and charm. Perhaps that because those two things don’t carry quite as much weight as they once did. It’s a pretty good campaign but plays by the numbers far too much. There’s no boundry pushing or true interactivity that would be a natural fit for a movie like this. The way Cruise didn’t get a single line in the teaser trailer didn’t say “tease” to me so much as it said “we’re afraid of this guy.” The rest of the trailers have been OK, as are the posters. They all very much look like they resulted from meetings of over a dozen people who had to offer their own suggestions on every aspect of the campaign. It’s been tuned just a little to tight, if you know what I mean. Not a bad campaign, just bland for what is supposed to be such an exciting movie.

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Subscribe to MMM emails

Some of you may not be hip to the whole RSS subscribing game and that’s cool. There’s now a way to get MMM updates delivered to you everyday via email. Down on the right, under the “Subscribe to MMM” heading there’s now a box for you to put in your email address and get automatically subscribed to MMM. Many thanks to the FeedBurner team for putting together this tool and making it so easy to put up on the site.

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Deep Focus launched Deep Dish blog

Movie marketing agency Deep Focus has launched a blog called The Deep Dish. Being from Chicago that name is sure to get my attention. Looks like Deep Focus CEO Ian Schafer is writing the blog himself and that’s a good thing. Schafer is one of those guys who just seems to get “it.”

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