Movie Marketing Madness: Submarine

We’re all just a collection of our various learned and inherited quirks, aren’t we? We react this way or that to whatever situation we find ourselves in based on how we’ve been taught through one means or another to react. Sometimes that’s in what are deemed socially acceptable ways and other times it’s not so much that. 

Nowhere do those quirks come to the forefront, particularly for guys, as when we’re dealing members of the opposite sex. The pressures put on us when a girl is in the room are extraordinary and so we wind up dropping silverware, tripping over our own two feet and otherwise making an ass out of ourselves. The good news is that this only lasts from age 10 to I’ll Let You Know When Even.

The quirks of one particular romance are explored in the new British film Submarine. Teenager Oliver Tate (Craig Roberts) is trying to explore the ways of love with his classmate Jordana (Yasmine Page) but he is so genuinely odd that it’s a bit difficult. Part of his odd nature comes from what he perceives to be the demise of his parent’s (Craig Roberts, Sally Hawkins) marriage. So with a mix of insecurities, misinformation, ego and charisma Oliver sets out to woo Jordana in the best way he can.

The Posters

The movie’s poster shows Graham half underwater, a wide eyed, bewildered look on his face. There’s not much to it but it’s clear that we’re watching his story of discovery in the movie. A slightly revised version was released later on that added critic quotes but other than that it’s essentially the same image.

The Trailers

The first trailer, which debuted just after it showed up at Sundance, introduces us to Oliver as a very strange young man who likes to pretend he’s being filmed as he goes about his life. We see lots of his flirtation with Jordana but there’s also lots about his parents and what their story is going to be, both on their own and in their interactions with him. The trailer has all sorts of fast, unique cuts that build to a crescendo with the French music that plays in the background and it comes off as really interesting and funny.

In the second trailer, which is much more straightforward, we meet Oliver as he’s searching for some idea of who he is or who he’s supposed to be. He’s tried a number of quirks and such on for size but none have stuck. Then he meets Jordana and the two begin an offbeat and unusual romance, including his clumsy and preposterous attempts to seduce her, something that seems to be largely what he thinks he’s expected to do. It’s clear in the trailer that there’s the prerequisite period where everything goes somewhat south for the couple but hope is presented at the end that they work things out because their own version of love is just too strong and unique to not exist. It’s funny and amusing and works quite well.


There’s not much on the official site. The trailer is there and you can click links to some reviews of the movie on outside sites, visit the studio’s Facebook page and read about the source book but that’s about it.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Nothing that I’ve seen.

Media and Publicity

The movie premiered at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival, where it picked up some good word of mouth for director Ayoade and for Roberts’ performance in the lead role. That was followed by reports that after the Weinstein Co.’s purchase of the movie it was undergoing some serious recutting at the hands of Harvey Weinstein himself, who was apparently concerned the movie didn’t play as well for general audiences as it did for the festival crowd.


There’s not much too this campaign so the overall effectiveness is going to be judged by the two components of its Sundance appearance and the trailer that was released. By those measures it’s a pretty good effort, getting people talking at the film festival and then working that general awareness into something more with the trailer. It certainly seems to have a unique rhythm, which as a movie is its greatest asset in terms of finding an appreciative audience. I wish there had been a bit more marketing work done but instead this seems like one of those movies that’s picked up after festival buzz and then unloaded into theaters on a wing and a prayer.

Can 3D really be marketed more?

I’m confused by the following statement in the Hollywood Reporter’s piece on how a smaller percentage of ticket sales for Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides came from 3D screens:

Some say Pirates is nothing short of a wake-up call and that the appetite for 3D is waning in the U.S. because of the extra cost of a 3D ticket. But others insist that’s not the case. One point everyone agrees on — more and more, companies must market the 3D aspect when plugging a movie.

Its that last part that particularly sticks out for me. I’m not sure there’s more that Hollywood studios can do to include 3D presentation on posters, in trailers and across the rest of the campaign. Indeed sometimes it seems the emphasis is so strong on pushing people to see it in 3D that I feel the caveat “Also available in 2D presentation” needs to be added to materials. There’s such a strong appeal made to go to 3D screens – something that’s outsized compared to the number of screens actually available – that audiences are more than likely just becoming immune to it. The experimentation phase is over (it started around fall of 2010) and people are balking at the higher ticket prices, saving the 3D experience for something where it might truly matter.

Part of this is the fact that, since Avatar, we haven’t seen another movie that was specifically made for 3D, at least not to the extent that that film was. So we’re in a period of post-production conversions and movies that may have been shot in 3D but where the extra dimension doesn’t add much to the overall experience.

Anyone who didn’t think 3D was going to be a quickly-fading fad was kind of fooling themselves to begin with. But as home video continues to decline everyone really wanted to see it as the savior of the movie industry, something it had very little chance of ever being in the long term.

Movie Marketing Madness: The Hangover Part II

We all, I would imagine, have that one night. The one where things were running on all eight cylinders with your friends, refreshments (of whatever sort) seemed to magically replenish themselves, you were the funniest and most charming you’ve ever been and everything just went incredibly right. For most people this happened at some point in college and, despite the feeling the next morning that everything went absolutely right, there were major gaps in everyone’s recollection about what exactly transpired. The attempts to piece together where everything went right (or wrong) may ore may not have taken place on a fishing trawler headed to Nova Scotia.

In The Hangover two years ago, director Todd Phillips took audiences into just such a night for a group of friends. More specifically he took us into the events of the day after the friends tore up Las Vegas while celebrating the impending nuptials of one of their group, who was missing in action and who they needed to find before he was supposed to get married.

The Hangover Part II is, then, operating on familiar territory. Once again we are at the scene of a wedding, only this time in Thailand and not Vegas. And once again the group of guys go out for a low key celebration and wind up completely hammered and trying to connect the dots of the various clues as to what happened during the previous night’s debauchery. And instead of trying to find the groom they’re trying to find the younger brother of the bride, who tagged along and is now nowhere to be found. 

The Posters

The first poster was all about making sure the audience realized we were going back to very familiar ground. So it just shows the three main characters – and a monkey – obviously recovering after a night of hard living. The copy at the top promises “The Wolfpack is back” while the bottom lets us know the setting has changed by intoning that “Bangkok has them now.” It’s alright and certainly is consistent color-wise with the look and feel of the campaign for the first movie so it’s hearkening back to that first installment in a number of ways.

Much like the first movie a set of character posters was created and released that featured a different quote for each person/animal. Each one also guaranteed again that the Wolfpack was indeed back and so on.

The Trailers

The first teaser trailer doesn’t give the audience a whole lot of information. As the camera slowly pans over the scene of the previous night’s debauchery a series of critics quotes from the first movie are shown. We finally see the three guys walking down a foreign market street. The only dialogue we get is from Galifianakis, who remarks that it’s nice that they’re all back together again.

The full-length trailer that followed continued to make it clear that we’re on familiar territory with this sequel. We’re in Thailand (hilariously misprounounced by Galifianakis) for Stu’s wedding and his bride to be encourages the guys to take her little brother out for what’s planned to be a subdued night out. But once again the gang wakes up with no idea what has transpired the night before and with someone – this time Teddy, the little brother – the one who’s missing. So they set out to first figure out where they are and what happened. Once again they conveniently run in to Chow, who seems to be helping them but is really just a loose cannon. There are plenty of laughs here but mostly this is about selling the audience on a return to these characters and on that front it works pretty well.


The movie’s official website begins by playing the trailer as full screen video but you can skip and close that. After that the first section is “About the Film” which has Cast and Filmmaker bios as well as a Story synopsis and Production Notes you can download and read if you so choose.
“Videos” has both of the Trailers and “Photos” has just over two dozen stills from the movie that you can view in full screen mode. You can grab Posters, Icons and Wallpapers in the “Downloads” section.

A list of sites that participated in giveaways and movie-related contests can be found in “Sweepstakes” while the companies that had some sort of tie-in promotion are in “Partners.”

Finally “Soundtrack” lets you sample some tracks from the movie’s soundtrack and “Crouching Monkey, Hidden Chow” is some sort of game that you have to verify your age using Facebook Connect to play so I didn’t do so.

The movie’s Facebook page pretty much just has the usual array of photos, videos, prompts to visit features on the main site and updates about new material as it’s released.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

A number of TV spots began running in late April that largely played up the audience’s affiliation with the first movie and made it clear we’re watching the same group of people get involved in a situation similar to what happened in that earlier film only in a new location. They’re all pretty funny but don’t go out any much of any new ground, though to be fair they probably don’t need to. Further spots would continue to hit the “it happened again” theme but also be, for whatever reason, much funnier in their own right and show off the movie as its own thing and not just a bit of deja vu.

In what seems to me an extremely odd promotion, there was a game utilizing location-based service SCVNGR that was run with convenience chain 7-Eleven. Stores hosted a mobile scavenger hunt that encouraged people to take pictures with Big Gulps and so on. Those Big Gulp cups featured the faces of the cast. It’s odd to me because 1) It’s not a toy- or comic-based franchise picture and 2) Because it’s an R-rated movie. On that last point I have to wonder if this even comes close to passing the requirement that most of the audience that’s going to see the ads and promotions are going to be of an appropriate age.

Other promotional partners included Last Round hangover support supplement, Singha Beer and t-shirt maker Ike Behar.

Media and Publicity 

Aside from updates about location and such the first real big piece of news took the form of rumors that the movie could possibly be the first stop on Mel Gibson’s rehabilitation tour, with the actor said to be making a cameo as a Thai tattoo artist. Whatever good that news might have done was soon undone by reports (Los Angeles Times, 10/21/10) that while the director and other executives others that were involved – presumably the cast – had shot the idea down. Gibson was quickly replaced Liam Neeson at the behest of Cooper, but he was eventually replaced when he wasn’t available for reshoots (THR, 4/10/11)

Leaks of various shots both official and behind-the-scenes continued and sort of culminated in an “Entertainment Tonight” interview with the cast where they talked about the different tones between this and the first movie.

There was a small presence for the movie at 2011 CinemaCon, with the trailer debuting for the attendees there.

The first full length trailer became the subject of more stories when it was reported (LAT, 4/6/11) that it was being pulled from theaters because it had not been “properly vetted” by the studio before it was sent out. Much of the outrage seemed to be in relation to a simulated sex act performed by a monkey as well as the fact that this hard-R trailer was playing in front of the PG-13 thriller Source Code. It’s hard not to think this was all calculated by the studio to hype up a trailer that basically played like the spot for the first movie, just with a Find/Replace command run on references to the setting.

Phillips and his predilection for pushing boundaries became the focus of some press (LAT, 5/1/11) where the director talked about how he knows when to pull back with the raunchiness he has a tendency to put on screen. Further press also focused on the outrageous antics in the movie (Entertainment Weekly, 5/12/11) and how the cast and crew tried to ramp up the funny in this sequel.

Galifianakis was the subject of some solo press as well, being interviewed at length about how he might actually detest his audience (Time, 5/19/11) or, alternatively, is never dropping character in some sort of career-long performance art piece.


There are definitely some things to like about this campaign but, as I suspect is the case with the movie itself, they’re mostly the same sort of things that worked about the campaign for the first movie.

No, the marketing doesn’t exactly break any new ground here. In fact it seems to be very calculated about how it steadfastly refuses to try and break any new ground, instead insisting at every opportunity that the film will be an absolute return to the first installment and promising that if you liked the notes that movie it you’ll also enjoy this one. That might be a problem artistically, but from a selling point of view it makes a ton of sense.

Movie Marketing Madness: Kung Fu Panda 2

Once someone embraces their destiny what comes next? Like after they decide to just be the best whatever they can be and stop fighting things what happens the day after that? When it comes to movies the sequel usually covers similar ground, finding some reason to bring the character back to a starting point of some sort so the filmmakers can have the character go through the same process, once again discovering their true path and coming to terms with who they’re meant to be.

Kung Fu Panda 2 seems to be doing just that. In the first movie from a couple years ago Po (Jack Black) finally realized his dream of learning Kung Fu, becoming part of a team and breaking out of the boring life he thought he was living. In this installment Po is still part of the Furious Five but now is told that there’s a threat to Kung Fu itself that only he can confront. This journey to discover who it is that is behind this challenge comes at the same time Po is looking to uncover the secrets of his own past and find his true parents.

The first movie was far better than it had any right to be – refreshingly devoid of the non-stop pop culture references that are usually sprinkled so liberally into Dreamworks’ movies and full of genuinely funny moments – so here’s hoping the sequel follows in that same path.

The Posters

The first teaser poster just features Po coming toward the audience in mid-kick, with the “2” coming out of “skadoosh” so that we all know it’s a sequel. Like the teaser trailer below there’s not a whole lot going on here outside of simply setting up the movie’s existence for the audience. A second teaser was similarly simplistic, just showing Po looking very confused at the camera and picking up the “2” with a set of chopsticks.

A later poster also featured Po on his own, though this time he was standing balanced on the number “2” and looking more like he’s about to kick some kung-fu butt. Same basic visual treatment, though, so it’s continuing to give a consistent look and feel to the campaign. And still another showed him coming down with the Furious Five in full attack mode.

So there doesn’t seem to have been an actual final, theatrical poster for the movie for some reason. Maybe it just didn’t need one here since the audience is more than likely able to make the decision to see the movie or not based on the materials already available – or even just on basic awareness, which these posters more than achieve.

The Trailers

The first teaser trailer has Po sauntering up to the camera as if he’s going to be intimidating and ready for a fight. Then we get a stomach growling joke before he engages the audience in a “kung-fu staring contest.” It’s a simple teaser but serves to alert the audience that there’s a sequel coming and that it’s going to be filled with much of the same humor that was enjoyed in the first movie.

The second trailer gives us more of the story of the movie. It starts out with Po giving a demonstration of his prowess to the anxious onlookers before Shifu comes and tells him a new threat has emerged that he must battle in order to save kung-fu. So he and the rest of the Furious Five travel to confront these new enemies, which he dos in his usual clueless manner that nonetheless will likely let him win because his enemies aren’t expecting to do *THAT*.

Overall it’s a good second trailer but I think it works a little too hard to play up the new threat that Po and the team have to face. It makes the audience very aware that they’re going to be watching a sequel instead of a new and interesting story featuring the same characters. I know it *is* a sequel but the fact that that line 1) made it through the scripting process and 2) is included in the trailer negatively balances out much of the hope I have in this movie. It’s a minor gripe, sure, but it’s enough that it pulled me out of the experience of watching the trailer.


When the official website opens you have the option of watching the trailer or taking any of the other actions that you’re invited to at the bottom of the page. That includes playing some games, watching some videos or visiting and signing up for Kung Fu Panda World, a virtual world that allows you to do all the sorts of things virtual worlds let you do. It looks pretty similar to Webkinz and similar ventures.

The first thing you can do on the site is view profiles of each character that includes not only their biography but also information on their fighting style. You can scroll through all the characters and view whomever you want.

“Videos” has the Jack Black Epicness video (more on that below) as well as the Teaser and Theatrical Trailers and the Super Bowl commercial that aired.

There’s a one-paragraph synopsis of the plot in “Story” and “Downloads has Wallpapers, Create & Print crafts and email Signatures. There are games to play online as well as other stuff to do like  “Games”

Part of the official site also let you connect with Facebook and add your face and those of your friends to a parade of virtual characters that also included the animals in the movie.

The movie’s Facebook page opens with a prompt to enter a sweepstakes and also links to many of the features that are on the official site. Of course there are photos and videos and updates on the Wall about what the cast is doing on the publicity front and what new marketing materials have been released.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

TV advertising began before 2010 was over, with brief spots that didn’t show much outside of Po and the rest of the Furious Five descending into battle, with Po of course not being quite as on top of it as the others.

The advertising continued with a spot that aired during Super Bowl XLV that was all about showing Po and the rest of the Furious Five in various fights but without any context around them. There’s one or two gags in there about Po’s stomach being his primary motivation in life but there’s nothing about what the movie’s story might be or what the plot is. A later TV spot would take a more comedic tack and mostly show more scenes involving Po’s love of food with only a little hint of the whole “must save kung-fu” plot.

Future commercials would more or less jettison this hook and just sell the comedy of Po and his girth, which is still in stark contrast to his teammates. There’s still very little plot being put on display in these spots but that’s alright since their goal is just to make kids laugh at the big panda and not bore them with a story.

Some pretty epic advertising was done on YouTube (AdAge, 5/12/11). A teaser video showed Black rehearsing the “skadoosh” line eventually leaving and a prompt appearing that promised more if you clicked on it. Once you did an ad unit showing Po came back along with a list of videos that you were encouraged to drag over to Po. Doing that the played that clip, followed by the trailer on a page that also displayed all sorts of other assets. That’s multiple levels of interactivity that couldn’t have come cheap but which garnered a lot of press and some great video viewing numbers.

Sun-Maid raisins put Po and the movie’s title on some of its packaging (MediaPost, 5/6/11) and included a QR code that took people to a mobile site where they could view exclusive content and enter a sweepstakes to win a trip to the Giant Panda Conservation Center in Atlanta along with other secondary prizes. The brand’s Facebook page was also put into service to promote the contest and the movie tie-in in general.

Airheads, General Mills and bottled water company Hint also released co-branded packaging for some of their kids-targeted products. There was even a partnership with tofu maker House Foods America that put the movie’s imagery on packages, an unusual deal that raised some eyebrows.

Hewlett Packard and Intel were partners as well as they always are with Dreamworks movies since those companies power the studio’s technology. And McDonald’s put KFP toys in their Happy Meals.

In addition to the stand-alone Kung Fu Panda World mentioned above there was an integration of the movie into Zynga’s popular CityVille game (AdAge, 5/20/11) that allowed players to insert a movie-themed drive-in theater into their cities and collect points for completing various quests.

Media and Publicity

At the same time the first batch of teaser marketing materials were released it was also announced Po would be participating in the 2010 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade with the character taking the form of a huge inflatable balloon floating down the street (Washington Post, 11/25/10).

Toward the end of 2010 the studio also sent some swag packages out to various movie sites that declared 2011 to the Year of Awesomeness along with some movie-themed goodies for celebrating New Year’s Eve.

The tie-in toys and other products for the movie were also among those debuting or otherwise making a big show at the annual Toy Fair convention (Hollywood Reporter, 2/10/11).

The producers got out to the press at one point to talk about how the movie’s story would force Po – and presumably then the audience – to deal with some bigger issues (THR 2/27/11)than were presented in the first movie.

The movie was one of a handful that was brought by Paramount to the annual exhibitor trade show CinemaCon (THR, 3/30/11), where Jack Black entertained the crowd in his usual manic manner. The movie would make another industry/promotional appearance when it had an out-of-competition screening (LAT, 4/14/11) at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival.


As I said at the outset, the big thing I’m hoping for here is that this movie continues the first one’s ability to dodge “hip” jokes in favor of genuinely heartfelt humor and emotions. The campaign for this one has me hopeful that’s true for this installment as well. The trailers certainly show that to be the case. Once again we’re relying on the charm and humor of Jack Black to carry the day and recently he seems to be doing his best work in the voiceover world so this should be pretty good.

The appeal here to kids is obvious and appropriate and should work to bring in the kids that may be too young for movies like Thor and other superhero adventures. Everything about the movie is so outrageous and filled with epicness that those kids should be really excited for this to hit theaters.

Movie Marketing Madness: The Tree of Life

We often say that people are a product of their environment, that who they are as adults is dependent on where they come from. But often that is limited in meaning to the home they grew up in. What about what influence them? And then the generation before that? And before that? There are things that are shaping who and what we are that go back hundreds, if not thousands of years and each one of us is, ultimately, the end (for the moment) result of millions of small decisions being made by anyone and everyone who’s touched the lives of any of our ancestors.

That seems to be the premise behind the new movie from director Terence Malick, Tree of Life. The movie tells the story of Jack (Sean Penn) who is looking to deal with issues still lingering because of the complicated and dysfunctional relationship he had with his father (Brad Pitt), who was far stricter and much less emotionally available than his mother (Jessica Chastain). But Malick’s brush is broader than just the time between the 1960’s and early 21st century. So the movie also goes back to the beginning of the universe itself and explores many issues that he’s interested in dealing with.

The Posters

The first poster is pretty simple and ties in nicely with the first trailer, both of which were released at the same time. It’s just a shot of an infant’s foot being held in an adult’s hands, as if the latter is examining that footprint and soaking in the preciousness of it. That’s a shot that is taken more or less from the trailer and which demonstrates the beginning point of the “tree” that’s in the film’s title.

The second poster is much more complex, though at the same time design wise it’s very simple. Instead of being just one or even a handful of images, fully 70 images are featured on the one-sheet, which acts as a sort of collection of stills from the throughout the movie. What it seems to be trying to do is showing that the movie’s story takes place over many generations and with some fantastically shot visuals. So we see shots of Penn as an adult, of his character as a child, of Pitt’s character, of the solar system and planets and more. It’s pretty fantastic in how it shows off multiple aspects of the movie at once and while it’s likely to attract people who are looking for complex, brilliantly shot narrative features it’s also just as likely to turn off people who are looking for something much more simple in their movies. Despite being “just” a collection of still images it’s probably one of the more artistically interesting one-sheets I’ve seen recently.

The Trailer

The movie’s first trailer starts out with some definite spiritual leanings, as shots of spinning stars and such play out as the voiceover talks about choosing between the paths or nature or grace. We then follow the young life of a couple boys from birth through the toddler years and into the pre-teens as they grow up. The focal point of that development is in how they relate to their father, played by Pitt. As little kids he’s loving and playful but as they get older he gets harder and more demanding, telling them how hard and tough they have to be in order to survive.

After a trippy kind of transition we see Penn, the grown adult version of one of those boys, who’s still wrestling with the psychological damage done by his father’s attitude. That’s not the end of the flashbacks, though, as the rest of the trailer mixes stunning photography of waterfalls and other natural landscapes with more footage of the children and a couple more shots of Penn.

It’s a stunning and powerful trailer that seems much more grand and sweeping than it’s two-minute running time would suggest. It conveys how Penn’s character is looking for bigger answers to overcome the issues of his childhood clearly while still promising more to come in the film itself.


The first official online presence for the movie was, interestingly, a Tumblr blog called Two Ways Through Life. The site featured more stills from the film that showed off its beautiful photography and acted as a sort of choose-your-own-adventure that let visitors decide which path to follow. It was interesting to see how many reblogs, follows and such each photo received by other Tumblr users and it’s just that sort of tapping into a community that was likely the goal of putting the site there.

The movie’s official website is, despite being from Fox Searchlight, a pretty sparse one. While there’s the usual mix of photos, news about the movie and such like that which Searchlight always puts on their sites there isn’t the other stuff that is often added to the site. The only thing that’s available in that top section is a “Synopsis.”

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

A bit of online advertising but that’s about it. Nothing on TV and nothing anywhere else. And this isn’t the kind of movie that lends itself to lots of promotional partners so there’s nothing on that front either.

Media and Publicity

Many gallons of ink were spilled in covering casting and other production details all the way up to the movie’s non-appearance at Cannes 2010, something that was rumored but which never materialized because Malick said the film wasn’t ready. It was ready, though, when a release date was finally announced (Los Angeles Times, 10/22/10), amounting to just about the first official bit of news on the movie since it started.

While there was plenty of buzz about the movie as it went through its protracted production cycle, which included it not being ready for the 2010 Cannes Film Festival, the first real bit of news that showed it was moving toward completion was the announcement Fox Searchlight had picked up distribution rights (Hollywood Reporter, 9/9/10) from River Road.

Another wave picked up when it was announced the first trailer would be debuting in front of the Darren Aronofsky film Black Swan, which likely spoke to a similar audience of cinephiles.

The marketing strategy became the focus of some press (Los Angeles Times, 12/8/10) as the studio outlined the slow leak approach it was taking in releasing information and materials, seeking to create a sustained level of buzz and conversation about this long-anticipated movie as opposed to a few huge spikes and equally deep valleys.

The film’s cinematographer, Emmanuel Lubezki, got some press for comments he made that this movie was unlike any he’d previously worked on (LAT, 1/16/11), comparing the way the movie looks to a symphony and saying it’s so powerful it will trigger memories in the audience in the same way a familiar smell does.

When the time came there was once again speculation (THR, 3/16/11) about it appearing at the 2011 edition of Cannes, something that seemed much more likely considering by this point the marketing for the movie was finally underway. That speculation was later officially confirmed as fact (LAT, 4/14/11).

That appearance included a press conference at which the director did not appear (LAT, 5/16/11), though he did show up later, and a screening that reportedly elicited boos (Entertainment Weekly, 5/16/11) from some of the people in the audience, something later accounts described as being limited to just a handful of people and not part of any sort of mass dissatisfaction among the audience with the movie.

Despite all that – or maybe because it elicited such strong reactions, something art is supposed to do – the movie won the Palme d’Or at the festival, something that might or might not mean positive things for its box-office prospects (Los Angeles Times, 5/23/11)


It’s really difficult to review the campaign without defaulting to words such as “etheral” and “impressionistic” and many such reviews and other early press of the movie have indeed used those terms in abundance. The problem is they certainly do apply here, since the marketing seems to be daring the audience to work through how dense and complex the story of the movie is before they can be interested in seeing it.

For those willing to wage that battle, though, there’s a lot to really enjoy here. The trailer is wonderfully interesting, giving just hints of the story while making it clear the movie’s story will be told more through visuals than through easy-to-digest narrative structures. And the second poster and Tumblr blog have kept people guessing and talking consistently with every new nugget that’s uncovered.

It’s certainly not a campaign that’s going to be drawing in casual fans. But those who are interested in Malick or in more complex movies in general there’s a lot to latch on to here.


  • 05/27/11 – The Los Angeles Times takes a look at just how difficult a sell this movie is to mainstream moviegoers, though I’d point out that any attempt to reach them would be almost futile.
  • 05/29/11 – PRNewser rounds up a bunch of stories under the heading of asking whether this could be this year’s Inception, meaning a movie that has artistic aspirations but mainstream appeal. Considering the reactions coming out of Cannes I seriously doubt this.
  • 06/16/11 – Searchiight took a video of directors Christopher Nolan and David Fincher praising the film and Malick that had been made prior to acquisition and used it to continue its post-release word-of-mouth.

Nice recommendation

That link goes to my Tribeca Future of Film Blog post on how independent filmmakers need to get out there and sell their movies themselves instead of hoping it someone magically finds an audience. Considering the piece was partly inspired by Burns’ work on promoting Nice Guy Johnny I’d say it reached the intended audience, which is nice.

Broken directions

Seems like I should be able to, after looking up directions online ahead of time, have those directions pushed easily to my iPhone’s Maps app, which uses Google Maps. Yeah, this is a #firstworldproblem but I like being able to look things up when I have the time but then want to use my phone when I’m actually driving and need the directions. The alternative is printing them out, which I really don’t want to do.

Quora Answers Marketer’s Questions

Quora has been the belle of the social media ball for a while now, attracting the attention of early adopters and quickly turning into an outlet for people to share their expertise. As noted in a recent Wired story on the company much of that early audience has been in the tech start-up and social media circles where the service itself lives, though strides have been taken to expand the audience.

Now it’s looking to expand even further by dropping – or at least significantly lowering – the barriers it had in place to corporate participation in answering questions left by individuals.

The change coincidentally comes at the same time my own thinking about Quora and its potential usage has begun to come around. At first I pretty firmly dismissed it as a tool for little else than polishing one’s own ego and “personal brand” but have begun to think of it as a potentially valuable tool for directly answering questions on the same platform that they’re asked.

And that’s kind of the key detail. As I said on Twitter a while ago, if the presence of Quora or other platforms that are just about the question/answer interplay is the first time you’re considering responding to the audience then you kind of need to take your online communications program back down to the studs and rethink things. That should always be an element, which is why the term “participation” is used so often.

The more welcome attitude Quora now has toward corporate participation means a whole new field of legitimate subject matter experts can now weigh in without their responses potentially being flagged.

Of course it also means the potential for spammy, content farm-esque material to be posted has risen significantly. So it’s on the Quora community to police what’s posted and throw flags when necessary.

There are still problems I have with how Quora is setup that keeps me from being 100% sold on integrating it into programs – the biggest being the ability of someone else to edit a response – but as I said my thinking is coming around and have put it back on my radar as something to keep in mind for the future.

Movie Marketing Madness: Midnight in Paris

When someone begins acting strangely out of character it’s easy to suspect the worst. Certainly in the movies anytime someone starts going out in the evenings with some vague explanation of where they’re heading the spouse or significant other will begin to suspect that person is having an affair or engaging in some sort of shady activity. About half the time, then, the eventual explanation is that they’re taking acting classes, are taking classes to convert to their loved one’s religion or is some sort of other wonderful surprise. The other half of the time Sonny comes and beats the snot out of them for treating his sister like garbage.

The new movie from acclaimed filmmaker Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris, is about how some unexplained outings begin to come between an engaged couple. Gil (Owen Wilson) and Inez (Rachel McAdams) are accompanying her parents on a trip to Paris. While there they run into some casual acquaintances, including Paul (Michael Sheen) that Gil’s not to keen on spending time with. So he goes off walking through the city at night, only to happen upon a magical part of the city that transports him back in time to the era of flappers and underground jazz clubs, something he enjoys so much he begins to focus on visiting it – specifically the lovely Adrienne (Marion Cotillard) – even during the day.

The Posters

The first poster for the movie was pretty simple but suitably artistic, showing Vaughn walking along a Parisian river. But the image behind him wasn’t just a photo of the city but was instead a slightly modified version of Van Gogh’s painting “Starry Night.” You know the one. You or your roommate probably had it hanging in your dorm room. So it’s goal is seemingly to establish both the location and the idea of Vaughn’s character as some sort of lone artistic wolf, which it does pretty well.

The Trailers

The movie’s trailer starts out by introducing us to both the main characters and the setting. We see Wilson and McAdams strolling through Paris, which they’re visiting with her parents. They run into another couple they know, people she likes but which he can’t stand. So he decides to take his own little constitutionals at night and discovers a whole other side of Paris filled with dancing, music and unbridled romance. He seems to become intrigued with one young woman and soon begins sneaking off on his own every night to revisit this other world, soon raising the suspicions of his fiancee and future in-laws.

It’s unmistakably Allen on display here, something that’s apparent in the rhythms of the dialogue and even the theme of being completely in love with a city, something he revisits often in his movies. The combination of Wilson and McAdams seems interesting and for fans of the writer/director this will probably remind them of some of his earlier works, just transplanted to Paris.


The official website starts playing the trailer after it loads and you can close it and then enter the site proper.

The “Synopsis” that’s up first just has a brief one-paragraph write-up of the story. If you want more information the notes in the “Production” section give much more background into that story and all the players and characters in it.

Both “The Cast” and “Fllmmakers” sections give backgrounds and varying levels of histories about the folks involved in the making of the movie.

“The Trailer” has the trailer, of course, and the “Gallery” has 15 stills from the movie.

The “Reviews” section is still blank despite there already being some reviews that have been posted while “Links” has links to the IMDb profiles of the talent involved.

The movie’s Facebook page has updates on new marketing materials, cast publicity, photos and videos and more.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

I think there may have been a bit of online advertising done but that’s about it. I didn’t see nor have I heard of any TV spots being run or anything else along these lines.

Media and Publicity

The first bit of publicity and news for the movie came when it was announced that Sony Classics had picked up distribution for the movie. Shortly after that the movie was slated to make its debut at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival (Hollywood Reporter, 2/2/11) where it would open the festival as a first-ever screening for both professionals and the public and where it would be greeted with pretty favorable reactions as some people hailed it as his most assured and fully-featured movie in a decade or more.

There were also features on Wilson and how this role allowed him to stretch a bit (USA Today, 5/16/11) at the behest of Allen. There were surprisingly few career reassessments of Allen himself, though, despite this usually being a staple of the press since it’s easy to dig up whatever someone wrote last year and just update it with the new movie’s title.


The campaigns for Woody Allen’s movies tend to not work too hard, kind of like the movies themselves. They’re made primarily for fans of his previous movies and film critics, with any additional folks more or less a bonus.

That being said there’s a lot to like here. The poster is quite attractive and the trailer shows a nice, bubbly and entertaining movie here that should bring in some people who are fans of either Wilson or McAdams and romantic comedies in general. It’s funny and interesting while not betraying too much of the movie’s actual plot.


  • 07/07/11 – Patrick Goldstein at the LAT looks at some specifics about how the studio appealed to mainstream moviegoers to build some anticipation outside of Allen’s usual audiences.

Movie Marketing Madness: Pirates of the Caribbean – On Stranger Tides

We do love a good anti-hero these days, don’t we? Back in the 70’s and 80’s audiences flocked to screen stories of lone heroes who defied procedure and all common sense to protect the streets of their city, defend a tower full of people from exceptional thieves or otherwise Do What Needed To Be Done regardless of the dangers to their own persons or the advice that more reasonable people were giving them to stop trying.

But somewhere in the early 90’s a trend started that continues to this day of heroes who are more conflicted or who at least don’t have the clear moral compass that their predecessors did. Some of those seemed to be doing what was right only accidentally or coincidentally because it matched up at the moment with their own selfish motives.

For the last several years audiences have been enjoying the anti-heroism of Captain Jack Sparrow and now he’s back in the new movie Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. The fourth entry in the popular franchise isn’t so much a reboot of the series as it is a fresh start. While many of the characters from the first three movies are back gone are Elizabeth and Will and with them much of the convoluted plot that dominated the second and third movies. Instead we get here a much more straightforward story about Jack trying to find the Fountain of Youth at the behest of Angelica (Penelope Cruz), a quest that finds him crossing paths with Blackbeard (Ian McShane) and a whole host of new dangers that he will work to either charm his way out of or run away from.

The Posters

The first teaser poster for the movie followed the same pattern that had been laid out with the previous movies by showing a skull adorned with pirate decorations, with various things hanging off the bandanna that’s wrapped around the forehead and decorations in its long beard as well as two swords crossed in back of it.

Again, this is similar to the teaser posters for the first and second movies in the series, each of which had the same sort of pirate skull, though the one-sheet for Curse of the Black Pearl featured a less ordained skull and the one for Dead Man’s Chest had torches and not swords in the background. So, with the exception of At World’s End (which deviated from the previous branding throughout its poster campaign) it’s a nice continuation of the way the audience has been first introduced to the previous films.

Character posters were shortly thereafter released that featured up-close images of Captain Jack, Angelica, Blackbeard and Barbossa. Even the mermaids got their own one-sheet.

The next and final poster, a theatrical version, put Depp front and center on the one-sheet as he’s positioned standing in front of mermaids, burning pirate ships and more. This one is apparently designed to position Jack Sparrow as more of a hero instead of a conniving pirate since he looks like he’s readying to valiantly take on half the fleet, something that’s a bit unusual since the character is often more ready to hide behind something solid until he’s forced by circumstances to come out.

The Trailers

The first trailer sets up the basic outlines of the plot, that the pirates are now looking for the Fountain of Youth. That quest is at the instigation of the British monarchy

Honestly there’s so much going on here in an effort to convey the film’s scope it’s hard to keep up. We see Barbosa is now working for the British Navy. We meet Blackbeard, the most feared of all pirates. We meet Blackbeard’s daughter, who has a romantic history with Jack. We see Jack’s father make a brief return. We’re told – and we later see – there will be mermaids and zombies in-between the characters and their goal.

There are also plenty of shots of Captain Jack’s signature wit, which is the real drawing point of these movies even more than the spectacle of the adventures. So for a first effort this is a tight and yet sprawling spot that tells the audience there’s plenty of both new and familiar material for them to enjoy.

The second trailer is much more interested in setting up the stakes that are in play in the story. We’re quickly introduced to the fact that Jack and his band of cohorts are in pursuit of the fountain of youth, that he’s been conscripted by the British government in some regard and that Blackbeard is currently in possession of the Black Pearl, something that doesn’t sit well with either Jack or Barbossa. So the group sets out to find it, a task that in some manner involves a mermaid, which are beautiful but also apparently deadly.

We get glimpses of all the main returning characters as well as plenty of McShane as Blackbeard and a brief look at Keith Richards, who returns as Jack’s father. It’s a much better trailer overall than the first one, probably because it’s less about selling the audience on just having a rollicking good time and more on actually presenting the movie’s plot. There are some funny moments that are patched together by taking unrelated dialogue and making it seem like one’s a reaction to the other but that’s common and this is still a tight and amusing trailer.


After the skull finishes burning as the official website loads it gives way to one of the trailers and after that’s done there’s a bit more loading that needs to happen.

The first section of content is “About” and that’s where you’ll be able to read a Story synopsis that lets you know we’ll be encountering characters both new and old on this particular adventure.

“Videos” is up next and is especially well stocked, with trailers, TV spots, extended film clips and exclusive video featurettes that go into the movie’s plot and locations. There are even promotional videos for the Lego video game tie-ins.

There’s information on who all the people in the movie are in the “Characters” section, which loads a brief background of that character and allows you to pick out some downloads specific to him or her.

Just (surprisingly) nine stills from the film can be found in the “Gallery” while the “Games” section is about promoting the online multiplayer game, the console editions or other versions. “Products” also has information on the video games as well as other stuff you can buy and “Activities” has stuff you can interact with either online or in the real world by downloading and making yourself.

The site finishes up with sections on “Community,” a place where you can check out Jack’s “Past Voyages” and more.

The movie’s Facebook page promotes many of the interactive features of the official site in addition to hosting its own selection of video, photos and a list of updates as to what the latest information on the movie and its cast and crew are.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

The advertising push for the movie kicked off with a commercial broadcast during Super Bowl XLV that, unfortunately, wasn’t all that different in substance than the first trailer. We get to see Captain Jack again and are introduced to the mermaids, zombies and other obstacles he’ll encounter on this quest. An extended version was released after the game that was a bit better, showing more of Blackbeard in the extra 30 seconds it had to use and so that longer one comes off a bit better because of the extra detail.

A later TV spot would build largely off the second trailer, giving the audience hints about the Fountain of Youth and what it takes to get there and such. It’s not all that different from the earlier commercial, so it could generously be called “consistent” though “unoriginal” would be a less charitable reading. The “live forever” theme would also be hit in a commercial that ran during one of the NBA playoff games, giving the movie a pretty broad audience.

Further commercials would take narrower focuses, including on the mermaids and other specific facets of the movie.

The movie also got a new video game tie in, this time in LEGO form, becoming the latest franchise to get a brick-based incarnation.

Verizon was one of the promotional partners for the film, creating a site that allowed you download exclusive wallpapers, watch videos and more. Pirate’s Booty, the popular all-natural treat, created limited edition movie-themed packaging. Beauty brand OPI released limited edition finger nail polish that tied into the film and you could buy exclusive shirts and other clothing at Hot Topic, jewelry inspired by the movie from Swarovsky. Best Buy and Visa were also promotional partners but to what extent isn’t clear.

Media and Publicity

While rumors had circulated for a while about who would be directing, what cast would be returning and such, the appearance by Johnny Depp in full Capt. Jack Sparrow garb at Disney’s D23 (Variety, 9/11/09) fan expo in September 2009 was the first full-bodied confirmation a new movie was underway. At the same time the film’s title was released and a title treatment revealed, though little about the plot was spilled by anyone.

In April 2010 news began to circulate that Disney was keeping a tight hand on the budget (Los Angeles Times, 4/27/10), at least making sure it would not expand beyond that of the previous movie. That got bandied about a bit and some people wrongly inferred that meant the studio was cheaping out, but all it really indicated as that even people there realized the third film was kind of an overly complex mess that could have used a bit of trimming in a number of areas.

A filmed intro from Depp in costume and character was screened at Comic-Con 2010, with the actor teasing what the film would or wouldn’t be about, who might or might not be in it and otherwise clarifying things for the audience there. Served well to give the movie a slight presence at the convention and make sure the folks there were reminded the movie was coming in the midst of the onslaught there.

News broke that Disney had brought in a special marketing consultant (Hollywood Reporter, 9/7/10) for the movie, something that was widely seen as a vote of no-confidence in relatively new marketing chief M.T. Carney but which in actuality is probably not that big a deal considering this movie presents a number of challenges in its potential marketing.

Just before the release of the first trailer it was announced that release would be part of a huge movie-themed event at Disneyland (a Voce client) that gave fans special treatment and the first look at the first trailer in exchange for dressing up as pirates and other opportunities for an enhanced experience.

The release of the first batch of official photos became a press event (USA Today, 12/9/10) of course, since there’s so much anticipation for this movie. The timing of those photos was right around the release of The Tourist, another Depp film, though that may not have been the best idea considering the reviews that movie was getting.

There was also talk about how this was somewhat of a thematic departure for director Marshall (Los Angeles Times, 12/14/10), who was attracted to the project by the prospect of working with Depp and taking on a different type of story than he usually tackles.

The tie-in toys and other products for the movie were also among those debuting or otherwise making a big show at the annual Toy Fair convention (Hollywood Reporter, 2/10/11).

More events were held at Disney theme parks, which hosted nights where extended sequences of the movie were shown in 3D to park-goers, who were once again encouraged to come dressed as pirates for the screenings. The movie was also promoted to a more industry-centric crowd at CinemaCon 2011 (THR, 3/29/11), the exhibition trade show. More industry and promotional efforts were likely the impetus behind scheduling a screening (out of competition) of the movie at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival (LAT, 4/14/11).

Inevitably the attention to turned to Cruz (LAT, 4/29/11) and how this was the actress’ first foray into big budget, effects-driven blockbuster territory.

Depp also would weigh in on how the filmmakers sought to simplify the story this time around (Entertainment Weekly, 5/5/11) and eliminate all the interconnectedness of the last couple movies, which you needed a proverbial pirate’s map to navigate.


There’s some good stuff here, but at some point like this the elements that work actually get drowned out by the fact that such a broad appeal is being made here. But with a campaign like this that’s trying to bring in as many people as possible that’s kind of the point. The audience needs to be convinced to come back for more adventures featuring these characters for the fourth time and after a four year hiatus.

The posters, as I point out, position Capt. Jack as more of a hero than he’s previously been while also working to introduce the new supporting characters and villains. The trailers only half-heartedly discuss the film’s plot while mostly being about promising a good, adventurous time at the theater.

As with the movie itself the campaign depends greatly on Depp’s charm, which is substantial. As the star of the film he’s been front and center in the ads, in the publicity and more as the public is wooed.


  • 05/20/11 – ClickZ covers some of the online advertising, which was certainly sizable, that was done for the movie.