Movie Marketing Madness: When in Rome

Kristen Bell is on a role recently with roles that seem designed to show off not only her comedic chops – which are decent – but also make it clear to the audience that she actually an adult young woman (she’s almost 30) and not still the teenager we all met during her run at the title character on “Veronica Mars.” That show, running from 2004 to 2007 had her playing seven or years younger than she actually was at the time. So her recent turns in Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Couple’s Retreat – where she’s the other half of a relationship with grown men – have been part of the plan to position her as a viable leading lady, albeit one that seems to be able to out-think everyone in the room.

The latest effort in that plans is When in Rome. Bell plays a young woman who, finding herself depressed with the state of her romantic life, flies to Rome to attend her sister’s wedding. While there she finds a fountain that’s supposed to have the power to grant the wishes of those in love who throw a coin in. But she instead takes a few coins out, resulting in the men who threw those coins in inexplicably falling in love with her out of nowhere. All this while she begins to see a guy she met at the wedding (Josh Duhamel) but who she can’t be sure is actually interested in her or just under the power of the fountain.

The Posters

The movie’s single poster is alright but nothing special. Focusing on how cute and charming Bell is she gets most of the one-sheet’s real estate, though she’s forced into a weird pose with her biting her fingernails, seemingly trying to portray her to the audience as the kind of girl who is unsure of herself and for whom thinking big thoughts is just hard. Duhamel is positioned behind her and off to the side and we’re meant to assume by the leering look he’s giving her, the day’s growth on his face and the unbuttoned tux that he’s kind of a cad – the typical movie bachelor type of character who probably gets around a lot but who will find redemption by finding the right woman. The setting for most of the action – Rome – is displayed behind them with one of those funny little European mini cars in the foreground, making it clear that the car will factor into some portion of the film’s hilarity.

The Trailers

The trailer starts off as most romantic comedy spots do, showing what a strong, successful and independent woman Bell’s character is. That is, of course, until her ex-boyfriend shows up at a work gig and tells her he’s going to be engaged – not that he is engaged, but that he’s getting engaged. Then she has to throw her life to the ground and jet off to Rome to try and make something magical happen. At the same time Nick, Duhamel’s character is heading to the same wedding for some unstated purpose. The two meet and flirt briefly before she heads out to try her luck with the fountain of love.

It’s then that we see this is going to be a more wacky than usual romcom. Dax Shepherd, Will Arnett, Jon Heder and Danny DeVito all play guys who have their coined picked up by Bell’s Beth and they’re all clearly insane comedic figures who go to outrageous lengths to win her heart. We even, as suspected, see that the mini car comes in for a gag that plays off its compact nature. There are a few laughs here but for the most part we’re not veering into anything resembling unfamiliar territory here.


The movie’s official website opens with the poster key art behind the auto-playing trailer. Indeed the entire “Video” section is what more or less greets you when the site comes up. Under the Video label there’s the trailer, a video from the Katy Perry song that appears on the soundtrack and two TV spots, though they’re not labeled as such. Next to that is “Film Clips” which gives you four extended scenes from the movie that are longer versions of the looks we get in the trailer. There’s also a “Featurette” that has interviews with the two principle cast members and a couple behind-the-scenes clips.

“Photos” has just about eight or nine stills and “About” has a one-paragraph synopsis of the plot, Cast and Crew overviews and some Production Notes, though the latter three sections are all marked as “coming soon” just days before the movie’s release date.

There’s a big emphasis on social networks on the site, with a prompt at the top to connect with the site via Facebook Connect and a stream of Twitter updates that have mentioned the movie at the bottom. The film also has it’s own Facebook, Twitter and MySpace profiles, with all of them being used to varying degrees for messaging and content distribution.

There are a couple “Promotions” mentioned at the bottom but without clickable links, which makes it tough to find out what they’re all about.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

As the website showed there were at least two TV spots created for the campaign. One takes a pretty standard approach – basically a trimmed down version of the trailer. The other, titled “He Said, She Said” is a bit different, featuring stand-up interviews with the characters as they talk about how they met and such. I’m not sure if this device is used in the film itself and it comes off as sort of odd but overall they’re not bad.

There’s also been a bit of online advertising that I’ve come across that has used the core components of the poster art.

Media and Publicity

Plenty of interviews with Duhamel and Bell and some coverage about how the movie, for apparently no real reason, has Heder reverting to Napoleon Dynamite and interacting with Pedro.


This is one of those campaigns that just comes off as kind of “light.” It’s late January – notoriously a dead period at theaters – and this campaign seems to be built around the idea that not much in the way of a sales pitch is actually needed when you have the charming and attractive Kristen Bell to show off.

The trailer is alright, as is the poster, though neither are going to blow your doors off and, again, seem to rely heavily on us all being in love with Bell. While more or less a safe bet it seems like a risky marketing proposition. The official site is pretty weak and doesn’t actually come across as being nearly as social as the designers likely thought it was going to be.

At the end of the day this is a fair campaign to support what appears to be mildly amusing romantic comedy. Will it pull in the audience? Not sure since there are still some strong contenders at the theater that this has to compete against, so a campaign that comes off as half-hearted might not do the trick.

By Chris Thilk

Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist with over 15 years of experience in online strategy and content marketing. He lives in the Chicago suburbs.