Movie Marketing Madness: Clash of the Titans

Clash-of-the-Titans-2010-Movie-Poster-Sam-WorthingtonI can’t imagine I’m the only member of my generation who remembers clearly the VHS tape that contained a recorded-off-HBO version of the original Clash of the Titans, a copy that was all but unplayable after countless summers of playing it over and over again. I probably haven’t seen it in 20+ years but can still remember Zeus moving his little action figures around the game board, the Kraken being turned to stone by Medusa’s disembodied head and countless other scenes that were genuinely thrilling for 1981, mostly because of the masterful special effects work from the iconic Ray Harryhausen. There was action, there was adventure and there were a couple of hot chicks in tight-fitting white robes, meaning it had all the essential elements for a sub-10 year old boy of the time.

That classic movie has now been remade into a new version of Clash of the Titans. This one stars Sam Worthington, who is seemingly in every other movie being released, as Perseus, taking that role from the original’s Harry Hamlin. Where the first movie had Perseus on a quest to save and marry the beautiful Andromeda, this one has Perseus going up against the gods themselves, particularly Hades (Ralph Fiennes) who is attempting to unleash hell on Earth and stop him from taking over Olympus from Zeus (Liam Neeson). So the plot seems to have shifted from one of chivalry to one of embracing your inner hero and embracing the power you have, which is very 21st century I guess. Joel Osteen would probably love this.

The Posters

The first poster features Worthington as Perseus in one of the iconic scenes we all remember from the original film as he victoriously holds up the severed head of Medusa. The look and feel of the poster is certainly meant to evoke memories of 300 with its washed out background and dust and dirt flying everywhere. But it’s very cool and shows this is a high-emotion swords and sandals flick that’s coming our way. The copy point “The clash begins” is a bit on the nose but hey, what are you going to do about that.

A second poster put Worthington on Pegasus as they fly into battle. Again, this is about recreating an image from the first movie that’s going to be recognizable to fans, though in this version Pegasus is obviously a bit darker – blacker and almost more lizard-looking – than the pure white steed that he originally was.


The third teaser one-sheet unveiled the look for the Kraken, the monsterous beast from the depths of the sea that Perseus must defeat when his love is about to be sacrificed on the cliffs. Again, Perseus is seen riding Pegasus into battle, and the long horizontal mouth of the monster draws more than a few comparisons to the creature in 2008’s Cloverfield.

There was also a triptych of images that had the same kind of color-saturated look and feel but different photos. One was of a set of mystics that appear in the trailers, one had Worthington’s Perseus fending off Scorponok in the desert and one of the three blind witches that help, albeit unwillingly, the hero on his journey.


What I’m not seeing anywhere in this campaign is a final, more traditional theatrical poster. All the one-sheets have teaser-focused language but there’s nothing that combines these elements or creates a new image where there’s a stronger central image and a full credit block. That seems like a huge missing gap in the push but might, I suspect, be a symptom of the “franchises, not stars” mentality that’s currently gripping Hollywood. It’s not important that the audience know who the director is, I guess, because what’s being sold is simply the visual rush.

Also notable in this aspect of the campaign is the fact that 3D presentation is being put at the forefront, with the fact that it’s “Also Playing in 2D” put below the title in small type on some of these posters. Avatar’s posters, of course, were all about promoting the fact that people should watch it in 3D but they didn’t include that caveat, which is now mentioned as an afterthought for audiences to consider.

There’s also the issue of the copy that appears on the posters, “Titans Will Clash,” being completely redundant considering two of those words also appear in the movie’s four-word title.

The Trailers

If you grew up like I did with the original movie you’re going to recognize a one of scenes from the first trailer. From the giant scorpion to the hunt for Medusa to the eyeless witches there’s a lot here that’s familiar, even if it does look quite different from the versions we might remember. There’s no dialogue aside from an intonation that “someone’s going to have to make a stand” and this very short spot is full of special effects, quick cuts and an orchestral hard rock score that highlights how this new movie has been updated somewhat in an attempt to appeal to a new generation.

The second trailer contains a lot of the same footage, with a few additions that primarily make it clear to the audience that the story is about the gods unleashing their fury by turning humans against each other in attempt to instill a sense of humility among the mortals. It’s a bit more fleshed out but not by much, though the added sense of perspective make the trailer feel more complete, I think, and presents a better end product to the audience.

Plus we get to see the updated Kraken, which really does look like a reworked version of the monster from Cloverfield but still looks pretty cool.

Both trailers are fast-moving, full of gritty visuals and slick effects and both are absolutely wafer thin. They’re as easily forgotten as a Filet-o-Fish. I’m sure they’re going to evoke some levels of nostalgia among people of my age and more than a few younger folks but in terms of substance there’s nothing there.


The official website starts with the second trailer, which you can skip to get in to the site. Once you do so there’s full-motion video, much of which is pulled from the trailer.

The first section under the Menu is “About” and that section has a Synopsis that lays out who the characters are and what the stakes are for Perseus and his band of heroes. It also includes the following bit of copy which I can’t decide is awesome or awful:

“The Film will be presented in 3D wherever possible, making the gods even more formidable, the creatures even more fearsome and taking audiences even deeper into the mythological realm of Perseus’ quest.”

(Note: I’ve not included a comma that shouldn’t be there and have included an apostrophe that they missed. Cause I can.)

Grammatical notes aside, I can’t help but think making such a case for the movie being markedly better because of the presentation is an admission that judged on its own merits it’s a little weak. Direction, set design, acting, cinematography and screenwriting should be what add weight to the movie and its story, not post-production 3D formatting.

Having seen Avatar in 3D I can honestly say it looked great but the 3D presentation did not add anything at all to the stakes I felt like the story was trying to convey, which didn’t come through at all anyway. And that was shot specifically for 3D so if any movie was going to it should have been that one. So I’m not overly optimistic that Clash is going to be all that much better simply because it’s been modified to be in 3D at the last minute and making that argument shows a knowledge of the movie being, as I said before, wafer thin.

Back to the content of the site, the rest of this section is filled with Cast and Filmmakers areas that have backgrounds on the folks who have mad the movie.

There are 12 stills in the “Photos” section and “Videos” just has the two trailers. I’m shocked by the latter since there have been a ton of TV commercials and extended scenes that were released.

“Downloads” has all the Posters and banners that can be grabbed as well as Wallpapers, Buddy Icons and a Screensaver.

You’ll see all the tie-ins and other promotions under “Partners & Sweeps” which I’ll dive into more later. “Soundtrack” has snippets of the movie’s score that you can sample.

“Games” has a couple of light games that pit you against either the Skorpioch or Medusa.

Most of the website’s content as well as features like a Profile Picture Generator and Twitter Skins are on the FanKit site, which is similar to what WB has done with Watchmen and other movies recently.

“Release the Kraken” is an augmented reality tool but, since I didn’t actually waste the printer ink to try it and since there’s no explanation as to what it is given I’m not sure what the tool actually is. Similarly, “The Mark of Medusa” is a photo-upload tool that turns your picture to stone.

There’s also a Facebook page that has showtime information, a few photos and some of the TV spots in addition to the trailers and links to some of the external promotional coverage of the movie.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Quite a bit of TV advertising was done, especially during the broadcast of the Winter Olympics, with spots airing there that used imagery of athletes and voiceovers about champion spirits eventually leading to footage from the movie that was for the most part pulled from the trailer. The spots also emphasized that not only was the movie coming soon but that it was coming soon in 3D, something the marketers obviously felt was going to appeal to the guys watching Olympic Games.

The rest of the TV spots, many of which are viewable on Warner’s YouTube channel, are variations on the trailers, though most all of them have some new footage and dialogue that’s also been included. They work on about the same level as those trailers, which is to say good enough.

Yoplait was one partner, signing on the movie’s Izabella Miko, who plays Athena, to help launch its new line of Greek yogurt. The idea is to encourage women to embrace and unleash their inner goddess, which apparently is done through the consumption of Greek yogurt. A PDF download on the Yoplait site also has a few Greek-inspired fashion tips as modeled by Miko.

Tablet PC company Shuttle has a variety of exclusive downloads that are tied to the movie as well as a prompt to enter to win one of their devices.

Visa is a partner though there aren’t really any details on the extent of that.

Retailer Hot Topic doesn’t have a Clash section on their site but it’s safe to assume their mall stores will have movie-branded merchandise available to sell to DJ Jazzy Trevor and his cohorts who are cruising down from the food court.

Buttkicker, a company that sells devices which enable you to rig up your couch or chair to make them rumble with the movie you’re watching or game you’re playing, has a sweepstakes to send people to Las Vegas and award them a bunch of electronics gear.

Finally, Floyd’s Barbershop (yeah, really) lets you enter via text message to win a trip for two to Greece.

Media and Publicity

Being a high-profile remake of a classic movie there were lots of stories about the film’s production and such, especially since it stars Worthington, who gained a lot of residual buzz from his appearance in Avatar just a handful of months ago.

Star Sam Worthington, seemingly in half the movies that have been released in the last 12 months, was given one of those conveniently timed awards when it was announced (Hollywood Reporter, 3/1/10) ShoWest would name him Male Star of the Year at their trade show later in the year.

Other than that most of the press coverage focused on the film’s conversion to 3D despite not being filmed in that format. The move was one designed to take advantage of the buzz around 3D and the success of other movies released like that. The theory seemed to be because it was filled with special effects the audience would clamor to see those effects flying at them from the screen and be more than happy to pay the premium ticket prices – which have even gone up at many chains in the last couple weeks – for the privilege.


There are some great visuals in this campaign but ultimately I think it falls flat. Those visuals do nothing to sell any sort of story or impart any sense of the stakes the characters are facing other than a couple of toss-off lines in one of the trailers and a paragraph of copy on the website.

The campaign doesn’t seem to care, though, and knows all it has to do is keep hitting the audience with those visuals since they’re going to be what the studio thinks people are going to be swayed by. It may very well be right, but I also think what we might be seeing is something that falls in the middle ground between effects-driven movies that are grounded in good acting and decent writing (Iron Man being a great example here) and ones that are gigantic spectacles with little in the way of story (I’m looking at you, Avatar). So this kind of movie that just seems generic might wind up connecting on neither level.

I may very well be wrong, but this campaign has left me cold on the remake but with a powerful desire to reconnect with the original.


  • 04/02/10: There was a really, really awkward marketing integration with “American Idol” the week the movie opened, with footage from the movie being interspersed with the usual shots of contestants lining up to hear their results. It was just…odd.


Hard to see the problem with a Christian organization having a hiring requirement that one must be a Christian to get a job.

The problems with opening up jobs in this field to those of any denomination in the name of charity occur when people are actually out in the mission field. Part of the goal of an organization like this is to comfort people with their message of, hopefully, Christ crucified for the forgiveness of sins. That’s what they see as their job.

So now put someone of a non-Christian denomination in their ranks and that role is lost, potentially leading to confusion among those the group is trying to help.

There are plenty of non-denominational charity groups people can work for that aren’t going to cause these sorts of problems. Religious groups need to be free to hire who they want free of any any burden to be inclusive. That’s not their job.

Marketing integration

One of the questions that often gets asked of those how social media efforts can be integrated with other marketing programs. Looking at it from the other side of the equation is a new report from marketing management firm Utica that looks at what sorts of social media aspects are being integrated into marketing campaigns.

It’s easy to see why “product reviews” comes in first since it’s dead easy to add consumer reviews to a product page, which is technically part of marketing. But I’m surprised to see such low adoption of “blogs” as an integration point since they’re so easy to put just about everything on. I’m constantly surprised by how many corporate blogs are devoid of any news about new TV spots, writes-ups about interesting new banner ads and so on. Yeah, there’s something to be said for the argument that the readers of a blog don’t want that kind of information, but if that kind of content makes up one out of every six or seven posts it’s not like there’s an overwhelming amount. And all corporate blogs are, by their very existence, a marketing tool.

Let’s also think of it this way: It’s a lot easier to integrate news and information about a new marketing campaign into an existing blog or social network than it it so setup new profiles for each campaign. And doing so adds more value than the latter approach since it has a longer life and doesn’t require people to subscribe to/follow a new profile every time only to have that die out in six months.

Movie Marketing Madness: Hot Tub Time Machine

One of my favorite sketches from “The Kids in the Hall” is one titled Premise Beach. With a band playing surf tunes, Kevin McDonald and Dave Foley scream an insane story idea – a man with a meat hand runs for office, a couple with gift-wrapped presents for heads are happy to survive Christmas – in a loud and enthusiastic way and the camera cuts away to show just how that premise would play out. It almost seems like a sketch created as a way to get a couple of absolutely whacked out ideas they come up with on the air despite knowing they weren’t strong enough for an actual sketch.

But sometimes one of those kind of ideas – the kind that come to you at 2:38 in the morning and which make you chuckle but which you know you probably shouldn’t tell anyone about for fear of, let’s face it, mob actions – actually get fleshed out enough to make it a whole TV episode or, perhaps, even a full-length movie.

The latest example of that is one of this week’s biggest releases, Hot Tub Time Machine. It’s one of those movies that also serves as a succinct plot description. What’s the name of the movie? Hot Tub Time Machine. What’s the movie about? A hot tub time machine.

Sure, there are more details but that’s the gist. More fully it’s about a group of friends who visit a ski resort they once frequented in their younger days and, after a wild night involving the titular hot tub, find themselves transported from 2010 back to 1986 as their younger selves and with a chance to relive those days or maybe do things a bit differently. Let’s take a look at how the campaign has sold a movie whose title says, quite literally, it all.

The Posters

The one poster takes the main cast and puts all four of them on each side of the one-sheet, one side showing how they appear in 2010 and one side showing how they look when they travel back to 1986. In-between the rows of pictures we’re shown just how they got into that predicament, with some alcohol, a squirrel and the titular hot tub positioned like a mathematical equation that results in those younger selves. At the bottom of the poster Chevy Chase is seen in his repairman’s outfit, lounging on a chair.

It’s not a hugely funny poster in and of itself, but it sells the premise fairly well, especially if you’ve seen the trailer and recognize the younger versions of the characters and can place just what Chase is doing there.

The Trailers

The first rumblings about the movie came with the release of a pseudo-trailer that was all about setting up the premise. It’s more a clip montage even though it’s structured like a trailer, but contains quite a bit of foul language and even more ridiculousness. In retrospect a lot of what’s here has been recycled into the rest of the campaign, even though this particular component seems to have been un-remembered in the official push.

The two all-access trailers (one’s 2:30 or so, one’s 1:30) both do a very decent job of setting up the movie’s plot and just laying out how much the movie wears its ridiculous premise on its sleeve proudly.

We’re introduced to the four central friends who have rented a house at a ski resort but, being mostly single and older, their nights seem to be filled with drinking alone. Then they stumble across the fact that their house has a time machine and things quickly get out of control. But when they wake up they find they’re surrounded by leg warmers, cassette players and horribly shiny hair products. Eventually they discover they’ve not only gone back in time, they’ve gone back in time and are once again their younger selves, at least all but the one that’s only 20 years old, and are reliving a trip they took there in 1986. That leads to all sorts of potential and potential problems as old romances are relived and new hook ups tried.

The trailers work incrementally better each time you watch them, probably because you’re able to move past the premise and stop feeling bad for Cusack a little bit more each time. Eventually you give in to the comedy and realize that the absolutely ridiculous title is just a hook it’s being hung on.

A red-band version spent a little more time on the setup, specifically one of the conversations leading to the guys arriving at the ski resort, and then gets really crude. F-bombs are dropped and breasts are exposed and it’s all quite funny, actually. What works about it is that there’s a nice mix of new scenes and ones that we’ve seen before, only expanded to include the raunchy dialogue and such.

What’s notable is just how little dialogue Cusack gets in any of the trailers. That tells me, and what scenes he is in and what few lines he is heard speaking seem to confirm this, that his role is as the straight man, the one who keeps his cool and who we’re supposed to be rooting for as the heart of the movie. Corddry and Robinson, by way of contrast, gets lots of punchlines so it seems they’re going to be the funny ones while Cusack is the good guy.


After a hot tub thermometer counts down the official website’s loading status we get the same mathematical equation that is found on the poster, which in turn gives way to the content menu and the all-ages trailer, which starts playing automatically. Below that player are signs that let you watch the red-band trailer or find out how to demand a free screening in your areas. The ability to actually host a screening and invite a handful of friends is kind of a neat way to drum up some word of mouth for the movie, though most of the screenings are already over with.

When you mouse over the content menu at the bottom one of the cast’s heads pop up just as they appear on the poster.

“About” has a simple one-paragraph synopsis of the story (what more do you need?) that does a decent job of laying out the story, including some hints that there are actual emotional stakes involved.

There are only two stills in the “Photos” section and “Videos” just has the two trailers.

The “Games” section has a few things to pass the time, but be prepared to enter your age credentials to play. There’s Lou’s Whack-a-Douche, where you have to keep the headband wearing idiot away from the hottie, Nick’s Strip Quiz, where you have to answer questions correctly in order to coax the hottie out of her bathing suit and a Soundboard filled with audio clips from the movie.

At the bottom of the page are links to the MGM Studios Twitter profile, which has been pushing out links to some reviews and having fun trying to get #hottubtimemachine trending over the last few days. Part of that has been through the Twitagra (something that’s mentioned in the trailer) site, which prompted you to send a movie-related update with the promise of getting your follower count up through mentions by either the studio’s account or that of Rob Corddry as well as an 80’s outfit from Vans.

There’s also the Facebook Fan Page, which opens with another opportunity to watch the trailer or download the soundboard iPhone app. While the page has the usual photos and such it seems like the studio has turned the Wall over completely to the fans. I don’t see many official updates from the studio but a ton of conversations and comments from fans of the page.

Advertising and Cross Promotions

There was a whole lot of TV advertising done as well, including not only traditional TV spots – and some that were quite raunchy such as this one that primarily shows a woman writhing up and down apparently sans any clothes – but also with a targeted spot for the audience of “Jersey Shore” that tied the two together through their hot tub settings.

Quite a bit of online advertising was also done, most of which featured the same headshots that appear on the poster key art and which promised a look at the restricted trailer.

On that Facebook page is a link to a Tauntr Totally Necessary NCAA Tournament Bracket that’s about picking the hottest chicks that’s sponsored by the movie.

Media and Publicity

In addition to the general buzz about a movie with such a ludicrous title, much of the publicity, understandably, focused on the ’80s nostalgia the movie is all about embracing. That included multiple roundtables with the cast that quizzed them (New York Times, 3/19/10) about the major cultural milestones of that decade all under the pretense that this is interesting to the audience.

But let’s not discount that without word of mouth coming out about the movie on a regular basis – word of mouth that was intentionally generated by the studio through the use of very particular tactics, especially those that have centered around online platforms like Facebook and Twitter – much of the mainstream publicity would not have happened. In other words, if it weren’t for the studio getting the movie seen and people talking as a result of that, it’s doubtful many of the mainstream press outlets would have picked up on the movie as being anything other than a lark. That can’t go unremarked on and the studio’s efforts here should not be discounted or underestimated.


What can be said here? We’re on a level of craziness that rivals that of Snakes on a Plane. But unlike that movie there don’t seem to be the outsized expectations that the movie will the biggest thing ever because it’s generated some positive online buzz. I’m inclined to think that’s because the studio very deliberately did not open content generation up to be a free-for-all like the SoaP campaign did. So there isn’t the perception that people are going to turn out in droves because they have some sort of skin in the game.

The campaign itself kind of wears you down until you admit it’s funny, at least that’s what happened to me. I was initially of the mindset that this would come and go and not be a big thing and I had no interest in it, either in seeing it or writing up a review of the marketing campaign. But eventually, through sheer repetition, it broke through my wariness and I have to admit that this is a very funny and engaging campaign for a movie that probably has more than its share of laughs.

Most importantly, though, the campaign doesn’t pretend the movie is something that it’s not. The marketing is aware that this is bizonkers and doesn’t suffer any delusion about being a great work of art. So it has fun and plays it loose and sells the premise, which is all it needs to do.


  • 3/28/10: MGM partnered with check-in service Miso, which is focused on what you’re watching and not where you are but which is built on the Foursquare API, to create a special Hot Tub Time Machine badge people could get if they were seeing the movie.

Movie Marketing Madness: Chloe

Marital infidelity is always a great hook for a story, whether it’s something that’s played for laughs or for tears. There’s always drama, or at least pathos, to be found in a story about one spouse cheating on the other with someone else. Most of the time the hook is the revelation of that cheating and we follow the characters as the deal with the fallout. Some movies, though, deal more with the suspicion that one spouse might have about the other’s actions and how they go about confirming or disproving those fears.

That such suspicions are somewhat easier to investigate in the age of camera phones and text messages is the topic of Chloe, the new film from director Atom Egoyan. Starring Liam Neeson and Julianne Moore as a married couple the movie revolves around the fears Moore’s wife has that her husband has been unfaithful on his frequent travels. So instead of simply confronting him she decides to enlist a prostitute (Amanda Seyfried) to seduce him so she can catch them in the act and deal with it that way. But her plans become more tangled as boundaries are crossed and Chloe’s behavior becomes more unpredictable than she bargained for.

The Posters

The one-sheet that was produced pretty clearly sells the movie as a relationship thriller. Neeson and Moore look pensive and more than a tad wary in the background as Seyfried stares directly into the camera intensely, the latter being an image that we’ll see again later in the trailer.

The pull-quote at the top of the poster makes sure to highlight the words “sexual obsession” and “seduction,’ ensuring that the audience is going to go in to the movie with the expectations of lots of sexual content and mind-games being played among the characters.

There’s not a whole lot more to the poster than the photos of the three lead actors but that’s kind of the point, I think. Seyfried is pretty hot right now with a number of movies coming out recently and the teaming of Neeson and Moore is sure to excite a good portion of the audience that’s attracted to character-study type small movies.

The Trailer

The film’s one trailer is a good one, setting out the plot nicely and also making it clear there are some messed up relationships that go into every aspect of the story.

We start out with Moore’s character being obviously jealous and suspicious of the behavior her husband exhibits around pretty young women. So after her fears continue to grow she decides to setup a sting operation, enlisting the services of a prostitute to catch the eye of her husband and confirm those fears. But the young lady, Chloe, who she engages for the operation takes things further than originally planned. And that’s when things get even more uncomfortable as then Moore’s character herself finds herself emotionally – and physically – entangled by Chloe and all of a sudden a pawn in whatever game she’s playing. The trailer ends with a close shot of Seyfried’s eyes as they seem to convey a mix of conniving and uncertainty.

It’s pretty effective as a sales tool for the movie in that it shows off the performances by the three main characters nicely and makes it clear that if you’re a fan of movies that will smack you about the ears repeatedly for a couple hours then this is a sure bet for you.


The first section on the movie’s official website is a “Synopsis” that takes us through what is, I’m guessing, the first half hour of the movie, which sets it up nicely and provides a reason to see the full film so that the audience can see how that build-up plays out.

There are somewhere north of 25 stills from the movie, including a handful of the production, in the “Gallery.” The “Theatrical Trailer” section is exactly what it sounds like and there’s no additional video there.

“Cast” has a full cast list as well as expanded profiles of the four major actors. Same type of deal with “Filmmakers.”

There are five sub-sections in “Production Notes” that cover everything from casting the roles to how the cinematographer got the look he was going for and more.

“Reviews” just has a handful of excerpts from early reviews but there aren’t any links to the full pieces, which is disappointing. Finally “Links” has links to the IMDb and Wikipedia entries for the primary cast and crew.

The movie’s Facebook page has links to some of the film’s media coverage as well as updates on the cast’s promotional rounds and the usual content like video and photos.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

I believe I’ve seen some online advertising done, mostly recreating the key elements of the poster art, but that’s about it.

There was also a TV spot created and presumably broadcast that mostly took from the trailer but upped the dramatic ante by including lots of smash-cuts and big, shouty title cards that asked the audience if they could really trust who they were with. It hints at most of the same things the trailer does and gets to the same conclusion, that Chloe is a bit disturbed in how she takes what should have been a simple job too far and becomes emotionally entangled in this family.

Media and Publicity

A New York Times piece (8/30/09) about the movie and the talent involved – from the director to producer Ivan Reitman to Neeson in the role he was shooting when his wife died suddenly – served as a big kickoff to the movie’s visibility and publicity. Director Egoyan was the main focus, though, since this star-studded film marked somewhat of a departure from the smaller fare his past is made up of. The NYT story eluded to the belief that the movie would be playing at the upcoming Toronto Film Festival, something that would certainly raise its profile even higher.

That NYT piece came just a few weeks before the movie’s hinted-at debut at the Toronto Film Festival, an appearance that brought about a bit more discussion of the film and the personal tragedy that had befallen Neeson in the middle of shooting.

The movie eventually landed a distribution deal with Sony Classics four or five months after that TIFF debut.

Getting closer to the film’s release there were more stories like this one (Los Angeles Times, 3/21/10)  that took a big-picture view of the movie, its story and the players.


There’s a good campaign here that strikes a lot of the right notes for the audience, especially those who are predisposed to the kinds of movies where right and wrong behaviors aren’t always clearly defined. The trailer is stronger in this regard than, say, the TV commercial that was produced, which discards some of the moral ambiguity in favor of a tone that’s heavier on thrills than puzzling questions.

One thing that’s nicely done from a branding standpoint is that the same materials are used in new and different ways from one element to the next. So the image on the poster of Seyfried looking directly – and intently – at the camera is a recreation of a shot from the movie that shows up in the trailer and that image is reused on some areas of the website. There’s been a nice steady drip of publicity as well that has served to keep the movie in the mind of the public in conjunction with the release of official marketing materials.

Add everything together and you have a solid campaign for a mid-tier release that is looking to appeal to a broadly narrow audience.

Movie Marketing Madness: Greenberg

greenberg-movie-poster-1Many independent and smaller films fall into the sort of macro-genre of being a “character study.” By that I mean they take one, maybe up to three characters and attempt to fully immerse the audience in their world so that that can experience those character’s world-view and attitude more wholly. These are movies that are long on dialogue and short on special effects for the most part since every single sentence acts in service of the story and provides the audience an additional bit of insight into what makes that character or those characters who they are.

Seemingly very much in that category is the latest film from writer/director Noah Baumbach, Greenberg. The movie stars Ben Stiller as the titular character, someone who is all intellect and discontentment in his life. House-sitting in Los Angeles for his brother he meets Florence (Greta Gerwig), his brother’s personal assistant who’s also dealing with trying to figure out how to bring some meaning to her life. So these two wandering souls wind up helping each other navigate their lives and get things back on track.

The Posters

The one poster for the movie is pretty simple, in keeping with the low key nature of the film itself. Stiller appears with wild, unkempt hair, at the bottom of the design with a word balloon appearing above him. within that balloon is the solitary text “He’s got a lot on his mind,” which appears in tiny type within a bigger area, a design that implies this is not literally true and in fact while he thinks he has a lot on his mind he doesn’t have very many thoughts at all. At the bottom we get a reminder that this comes from the writer and director of The Squid and the Whale, something that’s going to make the film at least halfway appealing to fans of Baumbach’s in general and especially people who appreciated that previous movie.

The Trailers

The trailer starts off with Greenberg complaining about how no one calls on each other’s birthdays for anymore, telling a friend that he’s “not doing anything for a while” and then writing a letter to Starbucks about how they suck. All of this is meant to position the character as someone who thinks he’s an intellectual but is actually just kind of odd. Then we’re introduced to his latest girlfriend, who wants to take things slow and realizes he’s “vulnerable.” His kind of lameness is shown as he asks a doctor if he can catch the sickness his dog. Then we get a montage of scenes that make it clear he’s continuing down his aimless road with the help of his good friend and girlfriend – who’s briefly shown in the hospital – and continuing to show just how he wants to see himself as a deep thinker when he’s actually not, though a resolution of him becoming finally comfortable with himself is hinted at with one or two lines.


The official website opens with a recreation of the movie’s poster art with Stiller staring upward with an empty thought bubble above him.

That thought bubble is eventually populated, though, with short tweets from a handful of Twitter accounts, those of @greenbergmovie, @fmylife and @rushmoreacademy. I get that FML is kind of contextually relevant with how the title character is always complaining about his lot in life and the inclusion of the Wes Anderson fan account makes sense since Baumbach is an occasional Anderson collaborator. But the @greenbergmovie is just weird. The background makes it look official but there’s no link in the profile and the updates are, quite frankly, awful. If fhere’s a strategy there I’m not seeing it. Why not make what appears on the website a stream of fan mentions of the movie or something like that? This is just odd.

Moving into the site’s main content, the first section is “Synopsis,” where you’ll find a very well written description of the movie’s story that lays out who these characters are and what their primary motivations are pretty clearly.

“Articles” is chock full of content that you can dive in to at your leisure. There are profiles of Stiller, Q&As with Baumbach, photos from the Berlin premiere, lists of Gerwig’s favorite movies about Los Angeles, production notes and a lot more. The sort of effort on display here – along with the fact that each article has a “Share” and “Email” button – is great to see since it’s the ability to create and aggregate such content that sets the sites for smaller movies apart from the blockbusters.

You’ll see the usual biographic and film credits information under “Cast and Crew.”

“Videos” has the film’s Trailer, a handful of extended clips from the movie and an Extended TV Spot that runs as long as a trailer but is a mix of cast interviews and footage from the film. That’s an interesting label for that concoction. I can see the footage running as a traditional TV commercial but can also see this extended edition running as a long-form spot on niche cable channels. There are also a bunch of featurettes that cover different aspects of production.

Eight stills, mostly pulled from the film, are found under “Photos.” “Community” has links to the Focus Features Twitter profile and the Greenberg Facebook Fan Page. Finally, “Reviews” has snippets from a half dozen early reviews of the movie and links to read them in their entirety.

The Facebook page is among the better ones I’ve seen for a movie recently. Not only are there updates on the cast’s publicity appearances and other information but there are also prompts for the audience to respond and talk back, which is a level of interaction not seen on most pages. There’s also a “Greenbergisms,” which has user-submitted lines that are as dryly pessimistic as those form the title characters.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

There was a very cool online ad unit for the movie that started out playing full-motion video from the trailer. It then prompted the viewer to share a line from the movie that was applicable to their life with their Twitter followers. Eventually the ad resolved into a form that allowed the viewer to enter their Twitter username/password and said line from the movie. That’s an interesting way to spur engagement with the ad and seems to feed the “Greenbergisms” section of the Facebook page mentioned above.

That extended TV spot did indeed air on cable, the Sundance Channel to be exact. Not sure, though, if any pure TV commercials were run and there weren’t any promotional partnerships that have been publicized at all.

Media and Publicity

Unsurprisingly a good amount of the press focused on Stiller (New York Times, 3/14/10) who was returning to what might be considered his more independent-minded roots. Baumbach got some press as well, though, including this profile in the Los Angeles Times (3/21/10) that focuses on how and why he crafts the characters he does. And Gerwig, who has been known to fans of independent films for a few years now, even gets a little press of her own, even though this story (New York Magazine, 3/7/10) uses the slightly easy hook of labeling her the poster girl for early adulthood angst.


More than the brand consistency, more than the way I like the way the website provides a plethora of material to enjoy, more than just about anything about the individual campaign elements I like the fact that this campaign feels like it sells the movie accurately. Looking at it from top to bottom I don’t sense a false note in the entire marketing push and have the feeling when I see the movie I’ll think about the campaign and come away with the sense of, “Yeah, that was just about right.”

But the elements do work in and of themselves. The poster is simple and funny, the trailer gives the audience a good primer on who the characters are and why we should be interested in watching them and the website, as I mentioned, is deep and rich in parts. There’s also some interesting advertising going on that takes advantage of rich media’s possibilities to increase engagement, a key needle to move on the way to generating interest. If nothing else, people are going to take a longer look at that ad and, even if they don’t participate, they may come away thinking about the movie. And that’s kind of the point.

Not everything is universal

Despite what you might read elsewhere, there aren’t 10 secrets to using Twitter. There also aren’t five things everyone should know about Facebook or seven sure-fire things to do to drive traffic to your corporate blog.

That’s because the corporate blog for a movie theater chain isn’t going to have the same audience, content strategy or tone as a corporate blog for a company that sells lawnmower parts to retailers.

The seven things that are going to drive traffic to a corporate blog can only be devised after scoping out what the market is, listening to relevant conversation and developing a content strategy based on that. That’s by no means the entire list – and in fact much of that should be done before a final strategy is decided on – but it should get across the point that stock Powerpoint presentations aren’t going to get you very far down the road in terms of running a successful program. In fact they’re more likely to cause problems since programs built on a one-model-fits-all philosophy are going to suppress what’s special a company in order to make it conform.

One of the things I’ve discovered about Voce is that there’s incredible bench-strength here. Not only are the people bright but they’re smart enough to know that every situation they find themselves is unique. Just because a current client might be in the same industry as a previous client it doesn’t automatically mean the same tactics can be employed.

Don’t get me wrong – there are a lot of good posts and stories out there that pass along five useful tips for this, that or the other strategy., but I always assume people who are trying to sell me “secret tips” and other such hokum are more interested in my money than they are in me. It’s when someone takes the time to listen and evaluate that I know they feel like they have a stake in my well-being and that guides my decision-making.

Making your point

We all strive to be this clear when making our point.

PBS documentary to debut on Facebook

PBS appears to be pushing the boundaries of what I call the social viewing trend by premiering a new documentary titled Earth Days on Facebook (New York Times, 3/15/10) in advance of its television broadcast.

By doing so, PBS is encouraging viewers to engage with each other and comment on the documentary itself during the April 11th social network “broadcast.”

I can’t wait until some enterprising distribution company tries this for something akin to college screenings of an upcoming movie. Limit the viewing to, say, 500 invites and plan the online broadcast for two weeks prior to some actual on-campus screenings. The Facebook streaming builds awareness and anticipation but the limited number gives it the air of exclusivity. Those that get in are sure to have friends watching it with them, but that’s alright since you’re still not talking more than 500 locations. Then they can spread the word in advance of the on-campus presentation.


Can someone please admit that maybe, just maybe, it’s not that the keynote Q&A by Twitter’s Evan Williams at SXSW was so incredibly disappointing. It’s that the expectations by those in attendance were so incredibly outsized that nothing shy of announcing an ad platform that would result in everyone in the room getting…serviced…in the back of the brand new Cadillac he was giving them would have actually satisfied them.