Take a minute today and consider how much, and in what context, we all use the word “sacrifice” in our daily lives. And hoist at least one of the beers you’ll have today to the men and women who have found their eternal reward in the defense of our freedom.

Quick Takes: 5/28/10

AdAge has named Sony Pictures its #1 entertainment marketer based on what the studio has been able to do with the campaigns for its movies. The studio has mounted a number of interesting campaigns – the story cites 2012 and District 9 efforts – but also has put together solid efforts for movies that are less events as well.

I know I wrote about how there was still life in the simple numbering of sequels a few weeks ago but that doesn’t mean that movie titles aren’t getting longer, something that’s very much happening. Just like 3D, though, there’s going to be a tide against this in just a short while so even though it’s interesting to see what’s happening now I doubt this trend will last very long.

Matt Dentler is discussing the rise of interactive trailers that deliver facts about the movie that’s being promoted or allows the viewer to dive deeper into the movie’s world. I have more to say about this but need to find the time.

The campaigns for Paranormal Activity, Alice in Wonderland, Kick-Ass and The Hangover get examined in iMediaConnection. The overviews are a good look at what made each online effort unique and interesting from not only a marketing but also audience point of view.

Not shockingly, the rise of DVD kiosks as a renting option has changed broader renting and buying behaviors. That’s not news to anyone who’s been paying attention but Nielsen puts some nice numbers behind that statement.

Summer’s indie movies

My latest contribution to AdAge is a reaction to seeing quite a few movies that have more than a little indie cred being scheduled for the summer. Thanks again to the guys over there that give me a chance to write the occasional opinion piece.

Out and about

The first week of June will be a busy one for me as I’ll be attending two events in Chicago, both of which are likely to be pretty cool.

First I’ll be at WordCamp Chicago the weekend of June 5 and 6. I’ve been a big fan of the WordCamps I’ve been to previously in San Francisco 2009 and Orlando last year and am looking forward to this one. Joining me there is Voce’s Jeremy Harrington, who is speaking at the event as well attending it. Jeremy’s one of our user experience leads on the Connect Platforms team and a heckuva nice guy to boot and it’s going to be fun hearing him give his spiel.

Just a couple days later, June 8, I’ll be attending PR+MKTG Camp, a one-day event downtown that’s more general to the PR and marketing industries. The lineup of speakers looks very interesting and it promises to be more than the usual presentation of the same eight case studies we’ve been hearing about for the last two years, so I’m hoping to get a lot out of it.

If you or someone you know will be at either of these be sure to drop me a line so we can meet up and otherwise get in touch. You can also keep up to date on where various folks from Voce will be by tuning in to the Appearances page on the Voce site.

Nope, we’re good

It’s worth noting that the changes to Twitter’s terms of service for third-party ad networks don’t impact all a well run corporate account that’s managed by humans and has strategic business goals and the best interests of the audience in mind.


All those stories about how much productivity was lost by people playing Pac Man on Google when the game appeared on the homepage in honor of its 30th anniversary are based on the assumption that instead of people playing Pac Man they would have been hard at work and not playing Farmville instead. Which might not, you know, exactly be the case.


Click here if the video doesn’t play in your RSS reader.

Developing a content publishing platform

If you’re not reading Voce Nation (and you really should be) I’ve started a series of posts there over the last couple weeks on the nuts and bolts of beginning a content publishing program. That’s something we do exceedingly well at Voce so I thought it would be appropriate. Right now the first three entries in the series are live and a bunch more are coming over the next several weeks.

Part 1: Form Follows Function: The initial step in the process is one that can be alternatively gut-wrenching, thrilling or a little of both. It starts with sitting down with a client and trying to find the answers to a number of questions: What goals are we trying to achieve? How are we going to measure them? Who will be contributing? What platforms will be used? What communications are already being developed that we can build off of? Those are just some of the potential questions to get asked.

Part 2: Choosing the Platform: In my first post I steadfastly avoided pigeonholing what was being discussed by avoiding identifying it as being a corporate blog program. While a blog might be the primary platform people think of when discussing publishing plans it’s far from the only option. Programs such as these can be run solely on social/status networks, within the comments on third-party blogs or elsewhere. They can also be solely internal-facing and happen on intranets, corporate wikis or even plain old fashion inter-office email.

Part 3: Developing Internal Policies: It might seem unnecessary to have these policies developed and in place since the issues they address may not exactly match what the program is meant to be about or deal with. Why would there need to be policies dealing with, for instance, employee misconduct if the program is about influencing industry peers and potential customers? For the simple reason that all social media programs are, by their very nature, wide open to the entire public and so tinges may need to be dealt with on those platforms regardless of their original focus. Even if those policies and agreed-upon procedures say “Maintain a staunch ‘no comment’” they need to be there so those involved in the program are not left swinging in the wind when something comes up.

Click through for the full posts and, as I mentioned, stay tuned for future installments.

Why I stopped linking to MMM on Twitter

A while ago I wrote about how I thought that, with short links and micro-blog updates, we were breaking the web because the lack of tools that had built it up to that point were being torn down and bringing ideas such as relevance and authority with it.

I bring that up because I want to offer my own perspective on something Mack Collier wrote about an experiment he ran with linking to his blog posts at various times on Twitter in an effort to raise his traffic numbers, or at least see what the results would be. Mack reports that his blog traffic went up about 300 percent in one week after putting in place a system of systematic posting links to his posts.

A while ago, shortly after I wrote the post I mentioned at the outset, I stopped linking to MMM posts on Twitter. I think in the last month and a half I’ve linked to one post and that was not to one of my columns but to a response that I wrote to something someone else had written.

In the time since I went cold-turkey (more or less) on posting links to my stuff to Twitter I’ve seen MMM’s traffic numbers rise – well, they’ve stayed pretty level but considering the handful of outages I’ve had because of various problems with my webhost and its security system I’m confident that my traffic would have continued rising and will continue to do so. I’m not talking about sporadic bursts from day to day, I’m talking sustained growth month-to-month.

Why? Well the only assumption I can make is that by pushing out so many Twitter updates with shortlinks that aren’t parsed as effectively (if at all) as regular links I was artificially keeping other sources of traffic, especially search, down. In other words, by chasing quick clicks from Twitter and Facebook I was killing my blog’s long-term health.

I’m not saying my experience is going to be universal. But I’m guessing Mack’s experience isn’t going to be either. So while I think it’s great that what he tried has worked for him, I’ve had success by doing the exact opposite thing.

Which means – and this is a point that I hammer home over and over again whenever I’m given the opportunity – that there are no one-size-fits-all solutions and people or organizations need to see what works for them and do that. Make a plan, measure it, make changes and measure again. Repeat ad infinitum. If you think the “10 Tricks for Twitter Success” or whatever are going to work for you, great. But the reality is probably a lot more complex, which is why a trusted partner that isn’t just going to scratch your itching ears but instead tell you what’s really going to happen and then stick with you as things are executed is essential. Mack did what worked for him, I did what worked for me and we both wound up with an outcome we were more or less happy with. I’d really love to be able to give a more “Here’s what to do” type of conclusion here, but that’s not going to happen.

Movie Marketing Madness: Shrek Forever After

All good things must end, right? Movie franchises are no different, really, and despite the fact that series eventually run their course and it’s better if they’re put out to pasture the studio can always look forward to, assuming things have been successful, enough years of continued income from licensed goods until it’s no longer awkward to discuss a reboot with fresh actors and a fresh story.

After three successful movies beginning back in 2001, Shrek Forever After is being heralded as the last in the popular Shrek series. In the previous three films we’ve followed Shrek from a simple – and feared – ogre to happily married ogre to father of his own little baby ogres, all with his friends such as Donkey (Eddie Murphy) and Puss in Boots (Antonio Banderas) beside him as well as his wife Fionna (Cameron Diaz). The latest movie finds Shrek growing uncomfortable in his role as respected father and husband and so winds up making a wish to Rumplestilzkin that he could just go back to being a regular ogre. He finds himself in a world where he’d never been born and where he must undue whatever caused this situation if he hopes to live happily ever after.

The Posters

The first teaser poster simply presents a confused Shrek standing amidst variations on the familiar characters that aren’t familiar at all, all in front of the “S” logo that has been used in the campaigns for all the previous movies.

It’s clear something is amiss in how Fiona is sporting armor and carrying an axe and Puss in Boots is a bit rounder than we remember him. Shrek simply looks confused as to what’s going on and Donkey doesn’t look that different but it’s clear there’s something out of place in this scene. So the audience at once gets something that’s completely familiar and the promise of the unexpected, which is something this series could use.

A later series of teasers featured Shrek, Fionna, Rumplestiltzkin, The Gingerbread Man and Puss in Boots on individual one-sheets with dialogue that was specific to each one. These are pretty funny and work to make sure the audience knows that their favorite characters are back as well that a few new ones will be introduced to mix things up a bit.

The final theatrical poster played up the movie’s battle setting, with Shrek on one side leading an army of ogres and Rumplestiltzkin on the other leading his army of witches. The copy “It ain’t ogre till it’s ogre” let’s the audience know that this is the final installment in the series in a relatively playful and fun way.

It’s worth noting that the posters for this movie as well as the three previous films have all done a fantastic job of maintaining brand consistency. They all have the same lettering and the same sky blue background that the characters are set against. It’s a testament to whoever has been overseeing these campaigns that this level of consistency has been achieved since it would have been easy for someone to come in and try something new and different for any of these movies. Instead you have a nice set of posters that are instantly recognizable by the audience not just because of the characters but also the designs surrounding them.

The Trailers

The first trailer betrays a slightly darker tone that’s being taken in this (supposedly final) installment. We’re quickly introduced to the notion that Shrek has fallen victim to some sort of curse and has landed in a version of his world that’s vastly different than his own. Fiona is wanted by the authorities, Donkey doesn’t know him and Puss in Boots is quite a bit more rotund. It doesn’t hint at all as to what’s caused all this, which is a bit weird. Overall the tone of this spot reminds me somewhat of It’s a Wonderful Life in that this seems to be showing us what the land of Far Far Away would be like if Shrek had never been born or something like that.

The second trailer laid out more of the story and just what the stakes are. It opens with Shrek talking about how different his life is and how he wishes he could just go back to being an ogre, complaints he’s sharing with Rumplestiltzkin, who tells him that is a possibility. One signature and a whirlwind later, Shrek is in the distopian version of his world and surrounded by familiar faces who don’t know him at all. His only hope is to get Fiona, who now leads a band of ogres and other rebels against Rumplestilzkin, who reigns as king in this land, to kiss him before the end of the day. It’s a little more in-line with what we’ve come to expect from the franchise but it still strikes a markedly different tone from previous installments even while the gags – including one where the chubbed-out Puss in Boots gets Donkey to do some hygienic maintenance for him – are still what we’ve come to expect here.


When the official site loads you see a big banner across the top of the page that has most every character that’s appeared in the franchise to date, giving the visitor a good indication that this movie goes out on a big scale. Below that are various buttons that prompt you to do various things.

“Create Your Ogre/Join the Resistance” is a way for you to create your own ogre and enter it in the conflict of the movie. “Do the Roar” is really just a little thing to click a button a number of times before Shrek gets annoyed and yells. You can then share that experience, such as it is, on Facebook or Twitter if you like.

The rest of the buttons on this opening page are more standard. There’s a window where one of the TV spots plays, one where you can get Tickets & Showtimes, one that lets you Watch the Trailer and a link to the movie’s Facebook page, which has even been updated with the new “Like us” terminology.

Clicking the big banner at the top lets you enter the site and visit most of the content. Rumplestiltzkin appears and if you click the contract he’s holding takes you to a section of the site that’s primarily games for you to play, showing the emphasis once again is on kids with the online campaign.

Back to the main content, the first section is “The Story.” Arranged as a series of short sentences that outline the basic plot of the movie, you read each one by clicking through a series of rotating stills from the film, a presentation that is very kid-friendly and designed to keep young visitors engaged.

“Videos” has a couple of the Trailers, a Music Video from Landon Pigg and a spot called Discover the Forest that was created in conjunction with the Ad Council and which is designed to get kids outdoors and exploring nature.

“Downloads” has a set of Wallpapers and email Signatures that you can grab that mimic the poster art. Interestingly, then, those posters from the official campaign are not under the Posters section here. Instead what you’ll find a are a series of propaganda/recruitment posters from the ogre resistance. They’re neat, but it’s odd that the official posters aren’t here.

You can meet most of the main characters from the film in the “Characters” section, another part of the site that clearly has kids in mind. Each character gets a description of varying size as well as a Gallery of stills featuring them. Some characters also have Video clips of a starring moment from this movie.

There’s lots of stuff to download and do under “Games & Activities.” The Activities tab has PDFs of coloring pages and more that can be downloaded and printed out for the little ones to busy themselves with. Games takes you back to the Games Forest, where you can play till your heart’s content. There’s also the Do the Roar thing here as well the Join the Resistance ogre creator. Down at the bottom of the page there’s a section called “Alternate World” that does the same thing.

Also down at the bottom is the “Partners” tab that gives some time to the companies that helped promote the movie.

The movie’s Facebook page has updates on the promotional efforts, photos from the movie and such and links to some of the main site’s activities like the Ogre Resistance and so on.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

More than a little TV advertising was done for the film, with most of the spots building off the trailers and simply cutting them down. Because of the shorter running time a lot of the nuance was lost, with the audience presented with the idea that something was wrong in the land of Far Far Away but with little context given for that.

While I’m sure there was plenty of online and outdoor advertising done as well I haven’t seen much of anything.

In terms of cross-promotions, first up is the Ad Council and U.S. Forest Service, which partnered to create the spot mentioned earlier that encouraged kids to get off the couch and discover what’s outside their doorways.

Blue Bunny, ConAgra Foods, General Mills and Hostess all created movie-branded products ranging from ice cream treats to Kid Cuisine meals to Twinkies that featured the characters from the film on the boxes at least as well as various things that had been turned green to tie in with the movie. Most of these also had some sort of contest or sweepstakes associated with them. Similarly Langers Juice offered a free Shrek game for the Wii with the purchase of 10 bottles of juice.

McDonald’s also brought Shrek and his friends to their Happy Meals with a variety of things from the usual toys to collectible glasses to watches. The fast feeder also created a Shrek-sized Chicken McNuggets meal guaranteed to kill you on the spot or your money back.

Vidalia Onions (cause ogres are like onions) created an interactive experience on their website that tied in to the movie and encouraged people to learn more about onions as a whole and what recipes you can include onions in.

Outside of food there were promotions from S.C. Johnson, which offered a trip to L.A. to meet Shrek, but only for residents of Canada. Cosmetics company O.P.I. created a series of nail polish colors inspired by the movie.

Also listed on the Partners page of the website are Bank of America, Comcast and Visa, though what their involvement with the movie was isn’t clear since there are no details offered and no stories that I could find offering information. The only one that there was any information on was Visa, which offered cardholders discounts on tickets bought through Fandango.

A couple technology companies are on-board as well. HP is a long-time partner with Dreamworks and is using this movie to promote their “Keep Forever Green” environmental-consciousness campaign. The deal includes a number of online and downloadable actives from the company.

Intel also gave the movie some love. While no details were findable on what sort of cross-promotion there might have been, scenes and characters from the movie featured prominently in the CES presentation by CEO Paul Otellini.

Media and Publicity

There was some notable questioning going on around the decision by programmers of the Tribeca Film Festival to put the movie in the opening slot this year, a slot that’s usually reserved for movies that sport a tad more…prestigious lineage or at least have a New York connection to make them relevant.

A planned photo spread in the newly launched Vman, a glossy men’s mag, didn’t turn out as the studio was hoping. What they thought was going to be a very classy feature spread with photos of the movie’s characters turned out to be one with those characters interacting with scantily clad models in suggestive poses and layouts, leading Dreamworks to disown the spread. As with all things like this there are better than even odds that this is more or less exactly what was planned as a good way to get people talking about the movie, but that’s not the official line.

There was also some discussion of just what the movie’s title was anyway. Starting life as Shrek Goes Fourth, then becoming known as Shrek Forever After but with some advertising and press coverage referring to it as Shrek: The Final Chapter, there didn’t seem to be a consistent identity for the film, likely coming about as a result of some competing interests within the studio.

The cast got interviewed as well with much of the press, as is certainly the case with this story (New York Times, 5/14/10) focusing the actors looking back on what drew them to the project in the first place and what sort of fun they’ve had in the process.


It’s amazing how similar this campaign seems to the one for Shrek 2, reviewed six years ago. The entire thing is meant to create a sense of familiarity among the audience with the return of the characters, the website is geared solidly and primarily toward the younger crowd with its emphasis on easily-digestible content and games and the posters are, as I mentioned earlier, similarly branded.

But it’s a good push and certainly does what it needs to do, which is primarily sell the audience on a familiar property. The emphasis on this being the final chapter in the series seems a little odd considering it’s just unwise to definitively close the book on anything, but then again the studio is likely trying to bring in audiences by trying to create an event mindset around the movie that it was otherwise missing. That’s an important idea when going up against Iron Man 2 and in the wake of previous movies like Alice in Wonderland and Avatar that certainly *were* events for the public.


  • 05/25/10: Paramount/Dreamworks Animation created a mobile display ad for the movie that used HTML5, the new video standard that’s set to compete on mobile devices with Flash, which is famously non-appearing on Apple phones. When a viewer taps the ad it expands and prompts them to watch the trailer.
  • 06/04/10: The promotional glasses from McDonald’s had to be recalled because they were found to contain a chemical that was potentially harmful.