Marketing and promotional art is a key piece of the entertainment puzzle and has been a feature of the promotion business since long before film. Film posters are an art in and of themselves, but as Bill Cunningham points out in a guest post over at Truly Free Film, they haven’t kept up with the times.
Tip of the hat to Tim Cushing over at Techdirt for pointing out that the Beatles have joined together with the recording industry group Music Matters to create an animated video rallying against file sharing or “piracy”.
The interesting twist? The guy in the video discovered The Beatles because someone was “sharing” it out in the street. The video is also embedded on YouTube for all and sundry to share and embed. I can almost smell the irony from here.
The video itself is by a guy called Lee Gingold, who was not linked to by Music Matters leaving me to fend for myself by visiting Google.
The video itself is OK, but is on the whole, unremarkable. If you listen to it without the sound, it turns into another Flash cartoon with the pencilly look and some über simple character movements.
Someone certainly seems to think so.
It’s also nice to see the Mickey Mouse seal of approval of this as a healthy snack and the Disney trademark thrown inside a green leaf for good measure. They sure do seem to be confident of their status in the food industry, eh?
A movie lobby card (an old form of promotion) via: Retrospace
Most people believe that the cost of a film is whatever the studio says it is. It might well be, but as I learned in my managerial accounting class, what counts towards that cost can be hard to determine.
For example, what about the people processing the payroll for the set designers, does that count as a cost? The answer is no, it doesn’t because it is considered overhead, in other words, those people processing payroll would be doing it even if the film wasn’t being made.
How about the actors? Well clearly they are a large part of the cost of a film and if the project didn’t exist, they wouldn’t be paid. So, yes, they are a cost to the film.
What about promotion of a film?
You would figure that into the equation, right? I mean, if you make a movie, you have to sell it somehow, and you can’t turn a corner without seeing an advertisement for a film these days. Besides, if the film wasn’t made the cost wouldn’t be there, right? Yes, that’s right. So it would make sense to include the cost of promotion into the cost of a movie, wouldn’t it? Again, yes it would. Except herein lies one of the tricks of the movie business that the public at large is not familiar with or aware of.
For you see, promotion isn’t handled by the studio, it’s handled by the distributor. Never mind that they are usually one and the same (think Disney and Buena Vista), the fact is, for the vast majority of mainstream releases, the cost of promotion is handed off to the books of the distributor, for which they normally receive a 35% cut of the box office gross.
What is the effect of all this? To make costs appear lower of course! Most large movies have a promotional budget in the range of half to three times the film’s cost (how it makes sense to spend more promoting the film than it did to make it is beyond me). So basically, a $100 million movie could cost anywhere between $50 million and $300 million in promotion by the end of its theatrical run.
So when you hear about a film raking in more than it’s cost at the box office, that just covers the studio’s cost, not the promotion. The end result? Films appear much more successful than they really are. Huge box office grosses are often a facade that masks the real cost of a film.
The truth never hurts, and I believe that if studios were more upfront and honest about the cost of a film, i.e. acknowledging the promotion costs more clearly, then they would be in a better position to operate effectively. Sadly, in Hollywood, everyone wants their share of the pie, and will engage in shady tactics like those mentioned above to make themselves appear stronger than they really are. In the end though, the emperor isn’t wearing any clothes, and he always get’s called out in the end.
"Nonsense" you say, "surely you’re already a blogger, you’re blogging right now!" This is true, however today I received my first unsolicited e-mail chock full of promotional stuff for an upcoming film. Which film you ask? Why Despicable Me of course.
This post is not necessarily about the film however, we all know I’m looking forward to that, even if the teaser and trailer don’t explain all that much about the film. Nonetheless I will use this opportunity to dissect the e-mail in question and comment on the ideas presented within.
There is little doubt that it was sent to not only inform me of the new film, but also to get me to blog about it. Fair enough, although I was going to blog about it anyway, just not today.
First up is "Gru-gle", which is basically Google (geddit?) custom search with some fancy themes (hey, it’s even got Cinco de Mayo). It’s fun for about 2 seconds then you’re left wondering. Surely a custom iGoogle theme or something of that nature would have been more appropriate. Trying to divert people to a custom webage is a lot harder than simply persuading them to switch themes on their homepage.
Next up is "Grugle Earth" (geddit), which seems to be tied in with some marketing project where Gru’s "minions" will be scattered all over the country and you use Grugle Earth to spot them. Seeing as it uses Google Earth which isn’t on my computer, I can only vouch for the concept. Again it’s fun but it must be something for the kids. I’m certainly not too excited about it. The only thing is that it seems quite complicated for kids, especially younger ones. Maybe it’s just me and kids these days know how to upload photos to the web and such, but methinks adult help will be necessary for this one.
How to rate all of this? Without going into too much detail, it alls seems to be the fairly standard movie-promotion stuff and seeing as this is the first film I’ve actually received something like this for, I can’t say for certain how it stacks up against the competition. That said, it was a pleasant surprise and it did encourage me to look into the film and its promotional baggage a bit more thoroughly than I normally would. Another pleasant surprise was a load of stills from the movie. From past experience, it can be tricky to come by really decent "official" images, so this will be great when it comes time to write about the film (hey, I’m doing that right now and guess where I got the pictures from)!
The only thing I would change, and I guess this is a bit more to do with this being a one-man operation, is that there was nothing in the e-mail explaining why I should blog about these tie-ins. I mean, I already knew the film was coming out, and I already presumed that there would be tie-ins, but there was no reason given that I should write about them, besides the suggestion that I should "check them out". The only thing that comes close to a reason given is that I can use Grugle Earth to find out where the "Min-vasion" will hit.
I’m not rounding on whoever actually wrote this, if anything, it did its intended purpose which was to get me to write about it, which I did, and it would have done an even better job it had plenty of reasons why I should have written about it. Perhaps it is just assumed that people will write about something, I don’t know, I’m not in that line of business. I’m just saying it would be nice to see something along the lines of something like this:
Hey, Charles (I would expect a formal salutation, mail-merge has been around for decades, there’s no reason for not using it if you have my e-mail address), we know you like to blog about animation an seeing as Despicable Me is coming out really soon, we thought we would send you some information in advance of the movie so you’ll know as much as you need ahead of time.
First off, we’ve decided to create "Gru-gle" (geddit) as a pun on everyones favourite search engine. Why not give it a go? There’s more to it than meets the eye.
Next up we have "Grugle Earth". As you probably already know, Gru uses his Minions for everything. Seeing as they’re aliens, we thought it would be cool to have a "Min-vasion" here on Earth! We plan to have them pop up in places around the country and use "Grugle Earth" to allow fans to spot them. You can find all the details on the "Grugle Earth" website.
Lastly, we also have a web-based flash game which we hope you enjoy as much as we did, as well as the actual website itself, which we’ve attempted to make much more enjoyable for kids to navigate while still giving parents and adult fans like yourself the information you need.
In addition, we also have the usual facebook and twitter pages that will enable you and your readers to keep up to date with the latest news in the run-up to the film’s release.
As a bonus, we have also included some promotional images that you can use in advance of the films release because there is no reason why you should have to go and find them yourself.
We hope you find this information useful and if you have any questions just let use know.
A letter like that would be much, much more likely to encourage me to blog favourably about the movie. I’m pleased though, I never thought I would get something like this, at least not for a long, long time. 🙂