Posts Tagged ‘marketing’

Playing with firehoses

Monday, July 19th, 2010

TOY STORY 3 opens today in the UK.

Yes, that’s right. On a Monday.

Used to be that movies opened on Fridays. That was before the studios figured out that if they ran nationwide paid previews on a Thursday, maybe even Wednesday, they could game their first week figures and get their movie the best possible start in life. Now it appears even Monday and Tuesday are fair game when it come to achieving that all-important, record-breaking, box-office-shaking opening ‘weekend’.

Bottom line is that it’s more important than ever for big movies to open big, and that films are more than ever finding themselves made or broken by the web, specifically the real-time web, more specifically Twitter, Facebook and various other social networks built around high-frequency refresh rates and status updates.

With that in mind, it definitely made a lot of sense for Disney to get on board with Twitter and bring us the world’s first ‘promoted topic’ (see right, grab care of Techcrunch).

Coming hot on the heels of ‘promoted tweets’, this saw Toy Story 3 listed at the bottom of Twitter’s trending topics – a list of the ten words and phrases being used most often at any given time.

This feels like a win-win for Disney – as the first ever promoted trend they were able to capitalise on all the additional attention being given to Twitter’s second experimental foray into paid-for placement, as well as netting all those eyeballs drawn instinctively to an unfamiliar new smudge of yellow nestled below the ubiquitous top ten.

Since the debut of promoted trends it seems to have been all film releases occupying this spot – four or five different ones to date.  At one level it’s no surprise that studios are falling over themselves to ‘trend’ on Twitter.  Only recently two researchers at HP Labs hailed Twitter the most accurate available method for predicting a movie’s overall success.

If, as they say, Twitter mentions equate directly to box office return, trending topics are money in the bank – they show evidence of widespread existing awareness and word-of-mouth, and have the capacity to amplify it into a self-fulfilling prophesy of free publicity and bums on seats.  Provided, of course, it’s good publicity.

Except that what Twitter are offering with ‘promoted trends’ is something completely different – it’s an opportunity to line up alongside whatever’s genuinely capturing their users’ imagination at any given time, and to hope a little bit of that topicality and ‘talkability’ rubs off.  They’re trying to build that same self-fulfilling prophesy out of nothing more than media spend.   And I’m not sure you can do that.  I’m not sure it’s even all that good an idea to try.

Because what does it actually say to me-the-movie-goer if your movie is sat at the bottom of that list as a promoted topic, and there at the top another movie, a competitor title even, is trending organically, on its own steam, completely unassisted?

It says something bad.  It says your movie needs help, that maybe it isn’t popular or interesting or important enough to be worth tweeting about in its own right.  It says you can’t cut it on the level playing field of perr-to-peer referral and recommendation, and have had to resort to trying to buy back your advantage.

Even when you put aside the potential presence of a competing film release, it’s still worth thinking about the wider company a promoted trend will likely end up keeping.

These days trending topics seems to be comprised of a who’s who of the UK’s least-wanted, and a what’s that of puerile and incoherent memes and hashtags.

At the time of writing the number one spot is being held by ‘Scrotal Implosion’ (see right), with TV’s ‘Jeremy Kyle’ also trending, the daytime king of polygraphs and disputed paternity having become pretty much a permanent fixture.  This is with Geordie nut-job  Raoul Moat only recently departed, after a solid stint rubbing shoulders with Gazza, Take That and the current board of British Petroleum.

Of course ‘Inception’ (down there in 8th) doesn’t suffer by association.  But that’s because it hasn’t paid to be there in the first place.  It’s a legitimate part of the story of Monday July 19th 2010, which is all trending topics really is, told through a prism of pithy humour and narcissistic self-infatuation.

If it proves compelling that’s because it gives us a live, unadulterated snapshot of what’s currently occupying the hive mind, be it the question of who’s leading the Tour de France, or that of why flying ants are terrorising Wandsworth.

It’s a torrent of something somewhere between breaking news and absolute nonsense, washing along all the flotsam and jetsam of bots and blaggers thrown from their boards as wave after wave of transient topicality crashes against the shores of actual relevance.

It might have the air of a total clusterfuck, but it’s stuff that genuinely matters, to somebody or other.  And spending money pretending to matter is never going to be a good look.  Especially if you don’t even really need to.

(Yup, you’re right, this isn’t the official Toy Story 3 trailer. You can find that here.)

Prologue to Inception

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010

Sizemore Ollie Relph and I are off to see Inception at Stratford East Picturehouse this evening. Fuck knows how they managed to secure a members-only preview two days ahead of release, but that alone was worth the (eminently reasonable) price of an annual membership.

As regular readers will be aware, this is probably my most eagerly awaited movies of 2010. I’ve been dodging spoilers left, right and centre, but also trying to keep a close eye on what I’ve already called out as one of the year’s best movie marketing campaigns.

So, with just a few hours to go, this is exactly the kind of thing I want to find online – a comic book prologue called The Cobol Job. (Anyone reading this on an iPad struggling to access the flash version of the comic can download all 25MB of PDF version here.)

It’s pretty timely really, given that the guys over at BBH have just posted the first of three installments of a conversation we had a couple of months back about all things transmedia.

BBH’s Mel Exon and Ben Shaw are both in the enviable position of having the mandate and the resources to really get to grips with this space, so I imagine they will be as interested as anyone to see that our first vaguely coherent glimpse of Inception comes in the form of a digital comic, exploring a strand of storyline which seems to lead seamlessly into the events of the film.

This is by no means the first time this kind of thing has been done – Warner Bros gave us a 3-part ‘digital graphic novel’ to tease us obliquely into the disease-ravaged world of I Am Legend, and there are numerous other examples of transmedia prologues and branching narratives delivered ahead of release.

I guess I just like the fact that, as will all things about the Inception campaign, this shows an acute understanding that less is more. And that timing is everything.

Because this is how a movie fan ought to feel six hours ahead of taking their seat in a cinema. Intrigued. Excited. Ready for a ride on the ultimate ghost train, into the inviting darkness of a world dreamed up by maybe the most exciting big money director plying his trade today.

See you on the other side.

The future begins

Saturday, March 28th, 2009

This, we are told, is the principle theatrical Star Trek poster.

Look at all familiar?  Well, if you were around in 1979, you might remember this:

Great to see that they’re taking the re-boot seriously.  All the same, I think it’s a bold choice.  This is a very abstract design for the principle piece of artwork on such a major release.

Normally we see this kind of thing used for the teaser poster early on in the campaign, often because all the designers have to work with is one visual of the Enterprise and a bed sheet.

The final theatrical poster tends to be more of an amalgam, reflecting the key selling points of the movie, and any star quality on offer.  These can often feel slightly crowded and overworked, at the expense of any underlying creative coherence.

The next two designs – used for two of the international posters, destined for markets where Star Trek is a little less ubiquitous than the US – typify that approach (although personally I think they hold together pretty nicely):

And just to round up this little round-up, this (apparently) is the South American poster:

Looks like they’ve taken a completely different route, positioning Star Trek as an event movie, cut from the same cloth as Independence Day and The Day After Tomorrow.


The last of these notably caters for the global obsession with the spectacle of major American landmarks being destroyed.  Some would probably cite this as some sort of morbid post-9/11 phenomenon, but for those people I have just two words.  Well, three. The. Towering. Inferno.


All in all, I think these posters offer an interesting view of the whole process of packaging the same film for differing cultural sensibilities.

Indeed, the Star Trek franchise as a whole is a bit of an anomaly in this respect – it’s an institution in America, plays pretty well in the UK, Australia, and a few other European countries, but apart from that it’s a pretty tough sell. That may be rooted in the fact that it espouses a homogenised world-view foreign to the local sensibilities of non-English-speaking markets.

Ironic, when you consider that series creator Gene Roddenberry predicated Star Trek on the coming together of all mankind in the face of the discovery of other intelligent life in the universe.

I guess maybe the coming together of all mankind feels a little less enticing if it means that everybody ends up looking like they went to school in Beverly Hills.

What’s Next in Marketing + Advertising (according to Paul Isakson)

Monday, March 24th, 2008

Found this through Twitter:

Wanted to keep a note of it, not just because of the content but also because it uses something called slideshare, which looks pretty cool.

It came from here.