Friday, January 4, 2008

A lesson or two in movie marketing

I may very well be the only guy on the planet who's in to both marketing and horror movies and, therefore, I'm probably the only person who had this cross their mind, but... there's two big-budget Hollywood horror films coming out over the next week or so, there's "One Missed Call", which is about people receiving a call on their cell phone to warn them of their impending death, as well as "Untraceable", which has hits to an internet site speeding up the deaths of victims. So, one about cell phones, the other about the internet, however Warner Brothers isn't doing any really cool mobile marketing campaign around "One Missed Call" and Sony Pictures didn't really doing anything earth shattering on the web. "One Missed Call" is giving away some iPhones and you can download a ringtone, but... come on, you can do better than that. Their sites are good, but pretty standard for today, here they are: "One Missed Call" and "Untraceable". I get this visual of the executives, including the marketing team, sitting around the boardroom, "all of our data and research says that our target demographic owns cell phones, uses cell phones and gets cell phones. They are so hot right now, this is a great idea for a film" Then, they never bother to think about doing a decent mobile campaign around it.

Check out this marketing campaign for the Showtime series, "Dexter". I'm not going to say it's a simple campaign, as there's a lot involved in putting something like this together, but it was hugely successful. It was one of the most talked about viral campaigns of the year and it was really effective and drew a lot of attention to the show. Now, if "One Missed Call" is about people receiving voice-mails from their future selves -- messages which include the date, time, and some of the details of their deaths, why didn't they do a mobile campaign that did just that? A simple way would be to do it through texting (even though an even better way would be through voicemails). For example, you could go to a site, put in your friends name, cell number, make up details of their death, then push enter. Friend receives the text, freaks out and goes to the URL at the bottom of the text and they're then pushed to a website that promotes the film and asks them if they'd like to scare one of their other friends and THEN you could do the whole enter to win an iPhone thing. Viola, a viral campaign and you're building awareness. Simple, easy and effective.

How about "Untraceable"? The killer in the movie is an untraceable serial killer who posts live videos of his victims on the Internet, the more hits the site gets, the quicker the victim dies. Am I the only one who expected to find a fake site that did just that? How hard would that be? People do it all the time. It had nothing to do with movies, let alone horror, but did anyone see the viral ad for Diesel, "We Hijacked Diesel"? Here's a link to the youtube clip. Completely fake, but it was effective and it got some serious traffic. All Sony Pictures would need to do is put up a website with a fake webcam showing a guy strung up, just like he would've been in the movie. Then a message could flash across the screen, "you are visitor number 2,345, this victim will die when this counter hits 3,000"... or something like that. You think people will check back to find out what's going on or, at absolute least, start telling people about what they saw? (they could even log if it's a return viewer, then if it is, they can show the person dead, but I digress) Best case scenario would be that police are called, newspapers start talking about it, somebody gets in trouble for it, the studio says they're innocent and the film gets a ton of buzz. It was almost a decade ago, but all the makers of "Blair Witch" did was post a few fake websites and stories - simple then, even easier now... and "Blair Witch" went on to rake in piles of dough.

I really have no idea why they didn't execute the marketing campaigns that I outlined above, maybe there's something I'm missing. Maybe they did research and they thought they wouldn't work. Maybe they thought they'd get in trouble. Maybe my ideas suck, I don't know. However, I do know that people need to get creative when it comes to promoting their films because it is such a fragmented market with a lot of choices. Just giving away stuff isn't really cutting it any more, it's expected. Have you seen what "The Dark Knight" is doing? Read this post from for an idea. Marketing is easily one of the most important things for any film and that goes for the Hollywood heavyweights all the way down to the micro-cinema, shot on DV films... in fact, it's especially important for the micro-cinema, shot on DV films.

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