Movie Marketing Madness: Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip

alvin_and_the_chipmunks_the_road_chip_ver7For personal reasons I won’t go into I actually have a bit of a soft spot for the first couple Alvin and the Chipmunks movies. I know these aren’t great movies by any stretch of the imagination but if you can let go, roll with it and see it through the eyes of a younger audience that loves the goofiness of these kinds of movies you *can* enjoy them. They’re not meant to be cinematic masterpieces, they’re meant to appeal to kids who enjoy watching a bunch of animated chipmunks act crazy. So if you accept it on those terms you can go with the flow a lot more easily.

Which brings us to the latest entry in the franchise, Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip. It’s been a few years since the last one and Dave (Jason Lee) is on the verge of proposing to his girlfriend Samantha (Kimberly Williams-Paisley). But Samantha has a teenage son of her own, Miles (Josh Green) who is even more of a terror than the Chipmunks themselves are. Afraid they’ll be shackled to Miles and not get Dave’s full attention any more, Alvin, Simon and Theodore hit the road to Miami, where Dave and Samantha have gone on vacation, to try and break them up.

The Posters

The first teaser poster is pretty simple and just concerned with establishing the premise, which is that the Chipmunks are hitting the road, by showing the rear of a sports car burning rubber away from the camera. Only the heads of the Chipmunks are seen from behind and the license plate features “ALV!!!!!!N” which is an alright nod to Dave’s usual cry of frustration. The bottom of the poster promises (or threatens, depending on your point of view) the movie is coming out this Christmas.

The second teaser keeps the idea of pairing the Chipmunks with a car, but this time they’re posed on top of a hood while they wear sunglasses. The same “Begins Christmas” appears at the bottom but this time at the top we get the copy “Boys on the hood,” which is a pretty thin pun to hang onto.

A series of character posters were released that featured Alvin, Simon, Theodore and Brittany in extreme close-up. In each case some scene is visible in the reflection of the sunglasses they wear. I can’t place all of those scenes but presumably they’re places the gang passes and experiences over the course of the movie. Or at least they’re meant to make it clear that the action will span several locations.

The next series of posters kept making it clear that the action in the movie is not static, so they all put the Chipmunks on or hanging onto a moving car. Only one features Green’s Miles and all but one feature the copy “Fast & furry-pus,” which is a tagline that’s meant to make adults chuckle even if the kids in the audience don’t quite get it. Or maybe they will since apparently it’s cool for six year olds to watch Vin Diesel movies these days. I don’t know.

The Trailers

The first trailer starts off with a lot of heavy narration about how road trips are occasions where anything can happen before it finally cuts to a shot of Alvin and the boys are on a “road chip” of their own. We get shots of the Chipmunks dancing and singing to “Uptown Funk” before Dave finally comes in and ruins their fun.

There’s almost nothing about the movie’s story here other than that there’s a new Chipmunks movie coming out and yeah, it’s going to look a lot like the previous ones. It’s just about awareness and so doesn’t concern itself with plot or characters.

The second trailer starts out by evoking all the fond (?) memories we have of the previous movies before introducing us to the movie’s premise. Dave is getting married and she has a teenage son who’s a bit of a jerk. So they determine to not let the wedding happen, conspiring with the boy to stop it. But they have to travel to Miami to do so, which means gags about airport security, air marshals and more, all of which leads to them being put on the No Fly List. There are musical numbers and crotch jokes and so on.

Oh Jason Lee. Oh Tony Hale. I guess if you’re in the target audience for this (meaning kids that are now the same age as kids at the time of the first movie’s release were) this will work on you, but for adults and parents this…well…yeah.

Online and Social

The movie’s official website is surprisingly basic and a single-page affair.

At the top of the page there are prompts to “Watch the Trailer,” which takes you down the page, or connect with the movie on Facebook and Twitter.

ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS: THE ROAD CHIP Chipmunks (from left)  Alvin, Theodore and Simon face yet another challenge during their eventful Road Chip. Photo credit: Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox Alvin and The Chipmunks, The Chipettes and Characters TM & © 2015 Bagdasarian Productions, LLC. All rights reserved. © 2015 Twentieth Century Fox and Regency Enterprises. All rights reserved. Not for sale or duplication.
ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS: THE ROAD CHIP

Scrolling down the page, the first section is just about finding tickets at a theater near you. After that is “Videos” which just has the two trailers.

“Activities” has a couple of casual web-based games for you to play if you’re so inclined, including a simple driving game. The “About” section has a short synopsis as well as cast and crew credits. “Posters” just has two of the posters that were created.

There’s a section devoted to “The Musical,” which is a live stage show that’s touring the country, it seems.

Finally, “Partners” has a list of the companies who have agreed to help promote the movie in some way or another.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

There were a number of TV spots created and run, most of which are just shorter versions of the second trailer, showing a bit about the story but focused mainly on the Chipmunk-based hijinks.

There was one TV spot titled “Saga” that tried to have a little fun with the movie’s proximity to Star Wars by adding a few Star Wars references, a starfield background and other little nods to the footage.

As noted on the website, the movie had several promotional partners.

  • The Ad Council: Ran a co-branded campaign about the necessity of food safety that used footage from the previous movies then tacked on a clip and call-out for the new movie at the end.
  • Cacique: Co-branded packaging on their line of yogurt smoothie drinks as well as a sweepstakes giving a lucky winner a family vacation package.
  • Carl’s Jr.: Offered movie-themed items in their kids meals and put wallpapers, games and other information and activities on their site.
  • Chuck E. Cheese’s: Offered a free movie-themed ball with food purchase at their restaurants and ran a sweeps awarding either a family treehouse adventure or just a $50 gift card.
  • Gilt: A pretty tenuous connection, just put some local offers on select deals on their city pages.
  • Langers: Ran a sweeps for, again, a family vacation package.
  • Menchie’s: Offered movie-branded gift cards in stores and ran a sweeps for another family vacation package.
  • TWC: Yep, another sweeps.
  • Utz: Co-branded packaging on cheese balls (a favorite snack in the movies) and more and a sweeps that gave winners a trip to Miami.

Media and Publicity

There wasn’t a ton of press here, which isn’t that surprising. There were a few interviews with Bella Thorne, who co-stars in the movie, since she’s at least somewhat relevant to the pop culture moment. The characters would be interviewed – yes, the fictional characters who aren’t even IRL puppets but CGI creations – about their pre-show rituals, social media usage and so on. But that was about it.

ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS: THE ROAD CHIP
ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS: THE ROAD CHIP

Overall

Like I said above, we need to gauge not just the movies but also the campaign based not on whether it is going to appeal to a 40 year old, but to a 40 year old mother or father with a kid who has either enjoyed the previous movies and so is going to be hip to this one or a kid who has enjoyed movies like The Smurfs and other similar movies and so will likely enjoy this one.

There’s not a single part of the campaign that’s designed to appeal to someone who has gone through puberty but for those who haven’t this will be like chum in water filled with sharks, drawing them to the theaters even while at the same time they may want to also see Star Wars. This is the movie they may not drive their parents to see opening day but it will be on their list of things to see over their holiday breaks.

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