What does Conan O'Brien have to do with the film 'Unstoppable'?

By T.L. Stanley on Fri Nov 12 2010


What does Conan O'Brien have in common with the combustible, out-of-control train from the Fox action thriller Unstoppable? Not much, I'd say, but the studio and TBS have linked the two anyway in a commercial that's airing this week on O'Brien's new late-night chat show, Conan. "Go from 190 pounds of talk-show host," the ad says in bold type, with no voiceover or dialogue, "to 1,000,000 tons of steel." Get it? Neither do I. If the spot means to say that both are, well, unstoppable, then I could grasp the idea. O'Brien has risen from the ashes of a failed stint on The Tonight Show, and he's more popular than ever. But (no real spoiler here) the train in the movie, opening Friday, actually is stoppable. (That's what our heroes, Denzel Washington and Chris Pine, will spend two tense hours doing.) The growing trend of mingling TV-show content and advertising, so that viewers are less likely to fast-forward through the breaks, is working in some cases. It's even engaging when it's cleverly done, like the recent zombie-themed Toyota Corolla commercial that aired during AMC's The Walking Dead. But anything that can be copied can be copied poorly. Sorry, Coco, I'm all for seeing you plastered across every available piece of TBS media, but stop it with the Unstoppable crossovers.

Grisly '127 Hours' makes people faint. Is that a marketing hook?

By T.L. Stanley on Wed Nov 3 2010


If there's one thing that late shlockmeister William Castle knew, it's this: If no one in the audience loses consciousness during a horror movie, it's not a successful opening. (In case they weren't scared enough to pass out, he always had some ringers in the room. He was nothing if not a thorough planner.) Castle, whose 1950s flicks still get gimmicky midnight and revival showings, would be salivating at 127 Hours. The Fox Searchlight drama, opening in a few cities this Friday from Oscar-winning director Danny Boyle, has had people dropping like flies at industry screenings and film festivals. So far, according to the Los Angeles Times, at least a dozen audience members have passed out after watching a particularly gruesome scene. The movie, shot documentary-style with James Franco as the star, was inspired by the real-life experience of a hiker who amputated his forearm to escape boulders that had trapped him. In reality, the pocket-knife surgery took an hour, but the film, mercifully, takes only a few minutes to portray what happened. No matter. Swooning has ensued. Fox Searchlight, a nimble and insightful marketer with hits like Slumdog Millionaire, Napoleon Dynamite and Little Miss Sunshine to its credit, apparently isn't advertising the faintings in its marketing. ("We don't see a particular publicity value in it," says studio co-president Stephen Gilula. Multiplexes, on the other hand, might post some warnings so that moviegoers are aware of the intense content. Castle would've parked a few ambulances outside and stocked the room with "nurses." Ah, showmanship. It's a lost art.

'Glee' kids have a slushie good time in the Fox show's latest ads

By David Kiefaber on Wed Aug 18 2010


Don't bother seeking out the ads for Glee's upcoming second season, because they will literally be everywhere before too long. The campaign riffs on the slushie scene from the show's pilot. According to people who've seen the show, slushies were a common weapon against the Glee kids, but now they are a symbol of empowerment, much like the "loser" hand gesture has become. To which I say, whoop-de-doo. The show is full of rehashed pop music and attractive actors trying to pass as socially embattled nerds, so the idea that Glee ephemera will be even harder to avoid isn't all that exciting for me. But I am eagerly awaiting the response from the members of Glee's dedicated (and completely insane) fan community, some of whom freaked out because the guy who plays Artie isn't really paraplegic. However, since the show's identity is based on people being unashamed of who they are and what they like, co-opting last season's bullying tools is a good way to enhance that. And fans of this show are so rabid that nothing short of Nazi iconography could steer them away from it.

Fox's first 'Glee' licensed product is logical one: a karaoke game

By T.L. Stanley on Wed Jul 21 2010


You might not be able to belt out an '80s pop tune like Glee's Rachel Berry, but you can sure try. (And don't feel bad—Berry is really musical theater actress Lea Michele, who cut her teeth on Broadway. So, she knows her way around a Queen ditty or two.) Unleashing its first round of licensed merchandise from the hit show this fall, Fox has partnered with Konami Digital Entertainment for Karaoke Revolution Glee for the Wii. Here's the first peek at images from the game, which lets fans sing 35 songs from the musical dramedy's first season alongside the so-dweeby-they're-cool characters. Prediction: If it captures the fun and aspiration of the show, this product will crush. Time to dust off your Journey repertoire.

Fox breathes easier after 11th-hour 'Knight and Day' sneak peek

Posted on Mon Jun 21 2010


Stop biting those nails, Fox. Knight and Day could do just fine at the box office. It will, that is, if the Saturday-night sneak peek I saw is any indication. The theater was packed for a movie that was barely advertised (the official launch date is this Wednesday), and people actually clapped at the end. And it wasn't even free! A bit of background: First, the spy thriller's pre-release tracking hasn't been strong despite international stars Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz. (Tracking is used to determine how well a movie will play to U.S. audiences. So far, so bad—there are estimates of a $20 million opening on a $120 million production budget, which would be as disastrous as any Diaz-with-a-machine-gun scene in the flick. Hazy marketing hasn't helped matters, and reviews, like this one in The Hollywood Reporter, have not been kind.) Second, there's the Tom Cruise Problem. Some potential moviegoers have lost their affinity for him because they think he's a little nuts. Still, Cruise and Diaz have been hitting the promo circuit hard, with Diaz giving some semi-scandalous interviews, Cruise rapping as Tropic Thunder's Les Grossman on the MTV Movie Awards, and the pair staging a stunt video that went viral with millions of views. To boost word of mouth, Fox decided at the last minute to sneak-peek the action adventure at 494 theaters on Saturday night, one of them being the AMC in Burbank, often used by studios as a testing ground for its heavy traffic and diverse demo. The tactic worked in this case—the audience was completely involved (no visible texting!) from beginning to end. Maybe Cruise still has it and the studio's worrying unnecessarily? Or maybe these were people who got shut out of Toy Story 3? My two cents: The movie's fun and frothy, if you don't count all the dead guys. (So don't.) Just add popcorn.

—Posted by T.L. Stanley

TNT hoops announcers dressing up as Mr. T for 'A Team' promos

Posted on Tue May 18 2010


What if Charles Barkley had been cast in the upcoming remake of The A-Team instead of UFC champ Quinton "Rampage" Jackson? The former basketball great cuts a fine Mr. T figure, but as many of us know, he's not big in the acting department. You can see that for yourselves in a cross-promotion airing on TNT during the NBA's Western Conference Finals. In a deal between the network and Twentieth Century Fox, the studio behind the action adventure, vignettes of "lost auditions" featuring Barkley and fellow TNT commentators Ernie Johnson and Kenny Smith are part of the telecasts. Turns out each of those guys had their heart set on that campy, iconic role in the film, opening June 11, and was willing to don the mohawk and bling to nail it. Actually, it's another in a long line of Hollywood/pro-sports commercial pacts that weave together on-air personalities, game play and upcoming movies in a way that rarely seems to bother fans. As long as viewers get a laugh out of it (Johnson in a leather vest? Hilarious!), they don't protest the ever-blurring line between content and ads. Whether they show up on opening weekend for the flick remains to be seen.

—Posted by T.L. Stanley

Holiday Inn the latest to revoke its hospitality toward Glenn Beck

Posted on Fri May 14 2010


This will come as a surprise (well, not really), but another sponsor has reportedly pulled its ads from Glenn Beck's Fox News show. Holiday Inn has stopped running commercials during the show, per StopBeck.com. The hotelier joins dozens of companies boycotting Beck following his controversial broadcast last July when he called president Obama a "racist." Like other brands, Holiday Inn has deemed the show's content questionable and is worried about upsetting consumers. Among other advertisers who have done the same are General Mills, Geico and AT&T. The man has clearly pissed off a lot of brands, since the Glenn Beck Program is now losing more than 50 percent of its weekly ad revenue due to the boycott, according to reports. It will be interesting to see how long the show will go on without much ad support.

—Posted by Elena Malykhina

Lessons in manhood from Neil Patrick Harris's sitcom character

Posted on Mon Nov 2 2009


Since Pepsi caved to criticism and pulled its "Amp Up Before You Score" iPhone app, where's a guy to turn for advice on stalking the fairer sex? Barney Stinson, the lovable cad of How I Met Your Mother fame, can fill those shoes. In a fortuitous bit of timing, Fox Licensing is launching the second book based on the womanizing yet somehow lovable character, played by Neil Patrick Harris, from the hit Monday-night CBS sitcom. Bro on the Go, a follow-up to the bestseller, The Bro Code, hits shelves Nov. 3 with advice both practical ("Lingering around the children's play area to scope out the hot young moms is a good idea in theory only") and philosophical ("A watched bikini top never malfunctions"). It's not all about the ladies, with Stinson covering a variety of topics and sharing "the reflective wisdom and inspirational nuggets mined through the daily grind of being awesome," says the book's press materials. The sequel, a rare literary brand extension for a scripted comedy, comes from show writer Matt Kuhn, who created the character and also writes Barney's Blog (where he compared being monogamous with male jean shorts on the so-wrong scale). Read up!

—Posted by T.L. Stanley

Fox builds record-breaking ice squirrel for 'Ice Age' DVD release

Posted on Thu Oct 29 2009


Instead of striving for record-breaking DVD sales, Twentieth Century Fox decided it would be more cost-efficient to break a record by building the tallest ice sculpture. The only requirements were 133,000 pounds of ice (from four states), 14 professional ice-sculptors and four days. Thinking hard about what it could offer to the lasting history of artistic endeavors and the Guinness Book of World Records, Fox decided, naturally, to sculpt the most majestic of creatures, the squirrel. The resulting Squirrel With Acorn work honors none other than the "loveable" Ice Age character Scrat. And seriously, what's there not to love about a 48-foot-8-inch ice squirrel? The sculpture was unveiled next to an outdoor ice rink in Santa Monica, Calif. Oh, and there was a promotional reason behind Scrat's formation. It corresponded with the launch of Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs on Blu-ray and DVD, in case you missed it.

—Posted by Sarah Knapp

Shouldn't 7-Eleven be into this slushee-in-the-face 'Glee' action?

Posted on Fri Oct 23 2009

Of all the indignities raining down on the teenagers at William McKinley High School, the slushee facial may just be the worst. It's cold, humiliating, public and sticky. And it requires "patience, persistence and Palmolive" to remove. The scars, well, they last longer. Such is life in the hallways of Glee, the hit Fox show where the fictional drink dubbed the Big Quench is as much a star as rap songs from the '80s. The musical dramedy, which has helped propel the network's strong fall season, has made the Big Quench the ultimate arbiter of who's in and who's out. (And as we learned this week, it's one thing for the Glee Club nerds to get a slushee in the face, but it's a shocking mighty-have-fallen moment when the formerly cool kids get doused with ice pellets and corn syrup.) There's no connection, at least formally, to 7-Eleven's Big Gulp or its Slurpee, though the resemblance is unmistakable. Maybe there's a tie-in possibility? There was some overlap when a character took a big swig and claimed he had "brainfreeze." Careful, Mr. Schue, that's trademarked. He probably had the regular old brain freeze (the unbranded kind).

—Posted by T.L. Stanley



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