Tag Archives: Avatar

Dear John, If Only You’d Told Your Story, We Might Have Come

It probably isn’t a surprise to anyone that JOHN CARTER opened so poorly at just over $30 million.  Disney marketers can take some solace from the markets outside of the US, where the take was around $70 million with the biggest opening ever in Russia.  The shame is that it probably didn’t have to be that bad.  Because there were so many challenges inserted by the marketing team themselves, they lost sight of the story.  If they had focused more on that, perhaps more people might have come to see it.

I can understand their reported concern about mentioning Mars in the title due to some concerns – perhaps unfounded – about people’s perceptions of titles with Mars in it.  But the Mars comps I was hearing were kid’s animated titles – not epic ones like this?  And, with the change to a name like John Carter, isn’t it a no-brainer that you would/should focus everything on conveying who he is?  Even with the fan-made trailer that was better than anything the marketing team put out doesn’t really provide any emotional connection to the character.  It does provide context of where he’s from and, possibly, how he got there, but not much more.

From my understanding, Disney was floundering with how to promote it and became wishy-washy about placement and focus and even relied more on lamenting its qualities.  I don’t buy that hinging a huge picture on a less-recognizable name or less-known source is what the main problem was. In some markets, the blame game had already begun, leaving me to shake my head at the larger international numbers. The marketing seemed to become a grabbing of straws – do we go after kids and show the dog-looking character?  Do we go after the action fan and show battle sequences?  Do we post humongous billboards with battle scenes and retro B-movie design motif or humongous billboard with a four-armed alien amidst an entirely different design motif?

Amidst all of that, there was still nothing about John Carter, the character- or anything that people cared about.  During the same opening weekend, a small film opened with very direct marketing to gain $7 million at the box office.  SILENT HOUSE didn’t hide what it was and went after that crowd with a vengeance.  They’ve got to be pretty happy with the opening weekend return.  Did Disney think they had an epic, so therefore they just needed to be big and hammer at no-one in particular? If you’re going to be sci-fi, tell a sci-fi story.  If you’re going to be an otherworldly fish-out-of-the-water love story, tell it. Paralysis is not an option for storytelling and maybe the testing and second-guessing internally led to that paralysis here.

The books by Edgar Rice Burroughs a century ago were the forefront and inspiration of so many of our beloved stories – from STAR WARS to AVATAR and more. It is truly sad that the story so many storytellers derived their stories from could do no better than seem like a derivative of all those who came after it.  The campaign tried to do everything but tell its own story and it will have nothing to show for it other than the piling on about what the marketing group did or didn’t do – and that isn’t good for anybody in the industry. Just tell the damn story…

The Challenge Of Engaging The Digital Wow Factor

I’ve been guilty of it, too.  Especially in entertainment. There is such a hope to  emulate through online creative what happens in the move you are promoting. No matter how much I want that robotic thingy to destroy the publisher’s page or that character to fly from the leaderboard unit to the MPU, it’s just not that simple. The work done for the movies is infinitely more intense than what the marketing time or budgets will allow. We are so used to seeing amazing effects that even the casual viewer takes for granted what goes into the building of the polished product. Too often, I have had a vendor create something phenomenal – where they seemed to have pulled much more than a rabbit out of their hat – and either senior management, clients or awards judges see something done so flawlessly that they don’t appreciate what actually went into it.  Sadly, the lack of appreciation for these things cause budgets to be cut and the amount of kick-ass executions are minimized.

There’s more than budgets in play here. There’s the limited time or access to assets that cause marketers to shoot for the easiest solution.  In the case of entertainment, I feel that the goal should be to envelop the audience/user in the narrative so that they are emotionally engaged.  With the opportunity to do something special – like I was able to do with PREDATORS and AVATAR, you’re able to effectively jump off the screen.  Lately, its become much more about showing video only – and even more limiting, it is often just a matter of placing TV spots online. There’s such a greater opportunity to engage users differently online that re-purposing television or even theatrical spots does not always make the most sense.

As video ads are huge and only getting larger – with Forrester predicting that video ad spends will nearly triple (from 2B in 2011 to 5.4B in 2016) – perhaps this is the time to develop shortcuts or platforms further to enable cost-effective interactive advertising executions.  I’m not talking about supplanting video, but augmenting it.

If you take a look at this video from ILM about the making of TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON, you can get a great sense of what goes into the making of even short segments of effects.  Over the years, it has gotten easier to make things look real and it has become more expected by the audience.

Over time, the development of applications to simulate what goes on in movies will be easier.  While the barrier to production assets will probably still be a pain – due to political reasons – t he time required to execute will shorten and we’ll be able to fit more into computers, mobile devices and TVs to really enable marketers to reach out and grab the audience. That is, as long as we don’t give up on those types of executions while we lean on video ad serving to carry the load.

It used to be that we had to limit our banner sizes to about 12KB and now publishers allow much more than that.  The ways in which online ads load are more optimized and will continue to be so. I can only dream that all nations will have the bandwidth that Korea has (many of their publishers allow for initial load of 400KB or higher for a banner) but we should still be developing towards that and finding the cost and time cutting solutions that can take advantage of that.

We certainly don’t see as many major takeovers for entertainment as we might have 12-18 months ago – they are more often page overlays with a video window. But, as we move further away from driving traffic to anchor sites and deeper into reaching fragmented viewership by bringing the message fully to them, there will need to be a resurgence in those kick-ass, grab you by the collar executions. 

With further development, fully interactive and engaging media will become more of the norm and people will end up understand less about how much really goes into the magic of pulling a rabbit out of the hat. All in, we’ll have to re-establish what makes a campaign because its not just about video, but engagement.

Who Should Studios Listen To For The Clue?

Reused from THR -- Jochen Siegle/MomentMedia

Fox Filmed Entertainment’s co-chairman and CEO Jim Gianopulos wrote a piece for the Hollywood Reporter remembering his relationship with Steve Jobs.  It certainly is a nice and interesting read, but the element that struck me was the favor Jobs’ asked for in their last conversation.  The concern Jobs conveys about the film industry learning from the music industry’s downfall was something we’ve discussed a lot amongst friends and associates – with the concern that those in power either weren’t paying attention, or worse, just didn’t have a solution or a clue.  In the excerpt of Jim and Steve’s last conversation below, it shows that at least someone in power has engaged openly with the concern:

I last spoke to Steve a few weeks ago when he called a couple of days after he had resigned from Apple. I had sent him an e-mail congratulating him for finally quitting his day job. He sounded frail but was still energetic and had lots of new ideas and plans. We talked for a while about politics, music, our families and, of course, business. At one point, he said: “Hey, do me a favor, will you? Don’t let what happened to the music business happen to yours — keep coming up with better ways to provide people with your content.”

Now it is up to those in power to actually take the necessary steps to make this happen.  We may never know why they have been so slow to aggressively grasp this concept until now.  It certainly seems within the corporate walls that there is true trepidation to take any steps to make smart moves in this direction.  Yes, there have been some solutions offered relating to the technology – Blu-ray and 3D – but even those are standing on its ear when looking at the 21 million illegal downloads BitTorrent is claiming for AVATAR last year.  Digital Copy is also a technology product that helps to stem the tide, but all of these don’t really respond to the changing tastes in users. Instead, they attempt to shape what the user does and that just doesn’t seem to work.  Perhaps the industry should be taking a large course in Judo – where the key is to effectively leverage the oncoming force of the attacker to reach your hoped-for outcome rather than attack full force in the hopes of changing the attacker’s direction.  Of course, the public is not attacking the film industry, but some of the things the film industry – not just the studios, but exhibitors, distributors, marketers, talent, etc. are all responsible for – could be doing are not be done.  They are certainly not taking enough meaningful trials and changes to help consumers more easily get good content in growing ways or to grow the base beyond the declining numbers they are seeing – at least in Home Entertainment.

Which leaves us at Gianopolus’ last statement.  By reading it, it gives hope that the heads of the industry will not be as stubborn as the leaders of the music industry when change happened the way consumers wanted it – almost unilaterally.

We all owe it to Steve to do that. We’ll just miss him telling us how.

Well, you’ve got many consumers looking for someone to help guide them to the best content and a bunch of talent within your walls capable of telling you how to do just that.  Perhaps they can be allowed to “tell us how…”

Completing The Circle On OOH Digital

TNT is using a Digital Out-Of-Home execution in NYC to promote the upcoming season of “Rizzoli and Isles.”  From its description, it seems like it could be a fun interaction that uses cool technology like NFC (Near Field Communications), but I have not been able to experience its execution first-hand.  It’s too bad they didn’t look to emulate at least parts of the experience online.  When I went to check out the show’s official site, I could not find an online version of the game experience, which is too bad. I also couldn’t see any images people had taken after completing the task, where they could insert themselves in the image with the cast members. Again, the lack of a clear extension online to those who could not walk by the storefront was disappointing.

There could have been so many reasons why the experiences on the street and online were not tied together in some way: different departments executing without enough communication between them; lacking ability of OOH vendor to create an online-friendly version; the OOH execution is not as it reads; or, a multitude of other reasons. Having not worked on this, it would be unfair for me to pass judgement on what happened and the vendor, Pearl Media, has a good track record.

Its happened many times before – by many companies – for many of the reasons mentioned above.  For all of the work that went into the AVATAR home entertainment campaign, we weren’t able to connect the face morphing experience at The Grove shopping mall in Los Angeles with our online extensions – partially due to technology issues and more to do with timing and communication between our digital group and the events team that executed the great OOH experience.  In both of these instances, how hard would it have been to enable some type of stream or gallery of photos in an easily sharable online location.

What seemed like second-nature and was so successful for The Simpsons Movie campaign – by way of the simple avatars people could create on the site – has proven over the years to be beyond successful as people were sharing those images everywhere (IM icons, printed postings on cubicles, emailed, etc.) and it is still exciting to see those avatars still posted in cubicles when I visit some clients’ offices. But, even with that, there was a competing Simpsons avatar program that the promotions team set up separately.  That one had many technical difficulties and was not as successful as the one we did on the site, but it was a shame that the lack of communication and double resources were expended on the same product without benefiting each other.

Proper foresight, strategy and planning would have helped to bridge the gap in these instances and, hopefully, that knowledge, strategy and foresight will help lead to more integrated instances as these types of executions continue to show up in more campaigns.  As technology is getting better and easier to integrate, there aren’t excuses for not leveraging executions across all available platforms.

Social For A Cause

An interesting study was just published last week about the role Social Media plays in generating awareness and support for causes and social issues.  There’s some interesting information – though it focuses maybe too much on race and does not go into executional aspects – that touches on interaction with causes as extension of community.

The survey from Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide and Georgetown University’s Center for Social Impact Communication looks at participation tendencies across Caucasian, African-American and Hispanic communities.  It  focuses on acceptance of social media as an outlet or resource for sharing affiliation with causes, but really only points to the willingness to post items or even look at cause communications via social networks.

The percentages between the groups are slightly varied, but let’s forget about that for a moment.  What would really be interesting is if someone were to take a look at causes and their digital outreach through a much larger spectrum.  It doesn’t seem to take into consideration pleas from people to their friends via email to donate for a walk or event supporting a cause.  It really just focuses on ones willingness to say they “Like” or associate with the community via posting images and the like.

As I would not donate or get involved via a social network (yet), I would via a more personal relationship like an email from someone I know.

The digital world has made it so much easier to get involved in so many ways – online donations, blogs, online journals, etc. The true magic is for organizations, causes, non-profits, etc. to program a whole strategy for digital – Social Networks, Outreach, Email, strong central system and database, strategic communications, timeliness, and on and on.  There is nothing wrong with Likes, but then what does that alone lead to? Can it be based on partnerships with corporations who will donate based on the likes?  Does the organization have the ability to mobilize awareness and action by leveraging a well-known product for a much liked cause (like the million trees planted in connection to the AVATAR release on Blu-ray and DVD?

There are so many ways to go fully social for a cause – just don’t settle for anything less than the whole.

More Decisions When Seeing a Film

As if it weren’t hard enough to decide on a film to see, now with movies released in both 2D and 3D, that becomes even harder.  Do you perhaps travel further and pay more to see it in 3D? Or do you just pick whatever is most convenient.  I actually prefer to pick based on whatever the original intent of the movie was. AVATAR and RIO? Yes. CLASH OF THE TITANS and others? No. 

Disney stated they were going to do 3D in post for their classic movies and possibly re-release, but that didn’t go so well (I guess) when they did it for NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS (I was excited beforehand and disappointed during and after) that they haven’t delivered as promised.

Again, the decision to 3D or Not to 3D many times comes down to studio and marketing decisions.  It’s an easy thing to tout 3D and the prices are certainly higher, but what is the lingering effect on the movie-goers?  It seems like too much of the get-it-while-its-hot mentality with diminishing returns on future releases that are meant for 3D.  We are already seeing audience fatigue and distrust when it comes to 3D and its only going to make it harder to get people into seats for those films that are truly meant for a 3D experience.

I am completely with James Cameron and his vocal charge against the post-production 3D. 

With today’s release of THOR, luckily there is a resource to help make your decision – Cinema Blend’s 7 point rating system To 3D or Not To 3D. I actually love how the perfect rating was 5/5 for the 7th point – AUDIENCE HEALTH – as the work was so insignificant or lame so as to not induce any real strain on the eyes or brain.