L.A. pols go ape over the LA Times' King Kong 2 stunt!

Posted on Tue Jul 6 2010
King-Kong-Universal-Studios-Hollywood_47032842 Among those not amused by the four-page Universal Studios Hollywood ad in last week's L.A. Times that looked exactly like a regular news section: the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. Reacting to the latest in a string of  editorial/advertising mashups, the board sent a sternly worded letter to the paper's owner, Tribune Co. CEO Sam Zell, telling him to knock it off because the practice "makes a mockery of the paper's mission." The officials said that "a dull red 'Advertisement' disclaimer doesn't make it right," and told the Times to "stop selling its front pages to advertisers, especially in such an offensive and alarming manner. The cost of this distasteful practice to the people of Los Angeles County is far greater than any short-term gains by the Tribune Co." Fighting words! Times Publisher Eddy Hartenstein defended the section, which contained stories about a marauding ape which were planted hype the new King Kong 3-D attraction at Universal, saying it "met our advertising guidelines." What the supervisor protest does is draw more attention to the Times tactic—mingling news copy and ads in ways that were once kind of arresting but now are a little tired, from a marketing perspective. Ethically speaking,well, you be the judge. What it won't do, however, is change anything. Wonder what the paper has planned for the next Harry Potter movie?    

—Posted by T.L. Stanley

AirTran's Harry Potter plane, the next best thing to a broomstick

Posted on Thu Jun 17 2010


You don't need to be a Harry Potter fan to wish you could take a ride in a cushy compartment on the Hogwarts Express rather than, say, a commuter train or the family Chevrolet. So, perhaps the folks at AirTran are hoping a little magic will rub off and you won't notice you're stuck in coach. The discount carrier has just unveiled a Boeing 717 that it's christened the Harry Potter 1. The twin-engine aircraft features a magic wand emblazoned across the lower flank of the fuselage, pointing to the highly recognizable lightning lettering from the Potter films—only this time there's marketing alchemy at work. The plane touts the June 18 opening of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, which is the latest tract of scream- and profit-generating acreage at Orlando's Universal theme park complex. No doubt Potterites in full withdrawal (the final book in the series exited J.K. Rowling's computer back in 2007) will be waving their own magic wands—or at least their credit cards—to get into the new park. But will they be clamoring for a ride on the Harry Potter 1? Well, maybe if they serve butterbeer.

—Posted by Robert Klara

Repo Men mobile campaign aims for hearts, minds and pancreases

Posted on Fri Mar 12 2010
Repo-men-web Considering the sorry state of our country's health care, it could be viewed as unseemly to make a movie about repossessing artificial organs from folks who can't pay for them. Either that, or it's totally prescient. Universal Pictures is launching just such a flick, Repo Men, with an outdoor/mobile campaign and an alternate reality game intended to draw people into a world where those pricey organ transplants can be traced via bar code. Information about the action thriller is dispersed in the same way. Scan an iPhone over the billboards and bus shelters for Repo Man in the top 15 markets and you'll see sales brochures hawking the latest in artificial tickers and the like. Other links take you to Web sites about The Union, the shadowy corporation that loans the money and then reclaims the property when various poor bastards default on their payments. Some mock commercials for mechanical organs are instant creepy classics, with a spot for a new liver featuring the tagline, "We encourage you to drink irresponsibly." Studios have been using interactive ads for some time, but rarely do they fit so seamlessly with a movie's theme. Universal worked with 360i and The Visionaire Group on the campaign, which also features a real-world game where players win cash for finding "fugitives" on the lam from The Union. Repo Men, starring Jude Law and Forest Whitaker, opens March 19.

—Posted by T.L. Stanley

Everyone wants a humiliating piece of AwkwardFamilyPhotos pie

Posted on Mon Oct 5 2009


Maybe the lovebirds were just having a bad day. Or it could be the thrill's gone, evident in an excruciating Kodak moment. Whatever the reason, there's gold in those Awkward Family Photos, collected on the popular Web site of that name, which has landed a book deal and has movie and TV projects in the works. Advertisers are responding, too, to the site that draws 1.3 million visitors a month. Now, Universal Pictures is teaming with the site to promote the upcoming rom-com Couples Retreat, opening Friday. The flick follows four Midwestern couples (its stars Vince Vaughn, Jon Favreau, Jason Bateman, Kristin Davis and Malin Akerman, among others) who go to Bora Bora to work on their marriages. Shark attacks, partial nudity and hilarity ensue! The two-week contest with AwkwardFamilyPhotos.com asked people to send in the most uncomfortable snaps of themselves and their significant others. Mullet alert! The contenders have now been posted, and voting started last night. The prize? Front-and-center placement on the home page—basically, a day of infamy in a place where infamy rules. What, no red carpet re-do of the cheesiest prom pic of all time? The sweeps should at least send the winners to the premiere so they can sport their bad attitudes and '80s outfits for the paparazzi.

—Posted by T.L. Stanley

'I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell' ads greeted with frosty reception

Posted on Tue Sep 22 2009

To think Universal Pictures took heat over billboards last year that featured hand-scrawled digs like, "My mother always hated you, Sarah Marshall" and "You do look fat in those jeans." Those were teasers for the rom-com Forgetting Sarah Marshall, which turned out to be not nearly as mean-spirited as the ads might've implied. But that effort seems positively quaint now that Tucker Max is on the scene. The blogger-turned-wannabe-auteur is promoting the movie version of his best-selling date-rape tome, I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell, with such ditties as, "Deaf girls can't hear you coming" and "Strippers will not tolerate disrespect (just kidding!)." Not everybody gets the "joke," including the Chicago Transit Authority, which just took down the ads from 250 city buses. Why they ever went up in the first place is the real mystery. Who was minding that store? Max, predictably, blames male bashers for the hubbub and says he'll go to the Web and "more open-minded cities" to hype his drunken-frat-boy movie, which is opening in limited release (mostly college towns) on Friday. Expect that to be a great day for misogyny.

—Posted by T.L. Stanley

Can a whole lot of Johnny Depp turn 'Public Enemies' into a hit?

Posted on Mon Jun 29 2009

Movies for grown-ups, even when they have megastars in them, can't seem to get much traction in this era of Transformers and X-Men. Just ask Julia Roberts (Duplicity), Russell Crowe (State of Play), John Travolta and Denzel Washington (The Taking of Pelham 123). Universal Pictures, home to two of those box-office duds, is trying to break the streak with Public Enemies, a period flick starring Johnny Depp about bank robber extraordinaire John Dillinger. There's been a heavy TV ad campaign running for weeks, and Depp has been working the PR circuit on Letterman and elsewhere. Because he's one of the biggest fan magnets in the world, Universal has made Depp the centerpiece of the campaign. (Christian Bale is in the movie, too, but where is he in the ads? Mostly absent.) The latest TV salvo for Public Enemies is a link to USA Network and its slogan, "Characters Wanted," showing Depp up close and personal talking about how he got under the skin of the famous criminal. The vignettes are airing 40 times on the channel, the most-watched cable network (and sister to Universal). The book-based thriller needs all the exposure it can get, judging from early reviews. The Hollywood Reporter's critique is fairly tepid, saying Public Enemies "is slow to heat up and never quite comes to a boil." Whether it can cook at the multiplex remains to be seen.

—Posted by T.L. Stanley

Even the crude, crotch-tastic Bruno shows some respect for MJ

Posted on Fri Jun 26 2009

Sacha Baron Cohen continued his full-frontal marketing assault for his comedy Bruno on Thursday, showing up in character on The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien and giving the host a striptease/lap dance. That was after he insulted Paris Hilton, told his "life story" and showed a race-baiting clip from the Universal movie, which opens July 10.
  It's amazing that Cohen's been able to repeatedly use his crotch as a marketing tool, so to speak, dry humping pieces of furniture or whatever else is handy during his relentless PR drive for the mockumentary-style comedy. At the MTV Movie Awards recently, it was rapper Eminem who got a face full of Bruno's butt (in a pre-arranged stunt). But aside from the ongoing debate about his in-character tactics and whether the movie will stir anti-gay sentiment, it's in the news again today because Universal and the filmmakers decided to clip a scene of LaToya Jackson from the premiere Thursday night in Hollywood. In the scene, Bruno tries to snag a phone number for her brother Michael, who died just hours before the industry screening. The studio said Friday that the scene has been excised permanently. Apparently, there's a decency line even Bruno won't cross.
  See his full interview with O'Brien here.

—Posted by T.L. Stanley

All manner of wild promotions might not save 'Land of the Lost'

Posted on Fri Jun 5 2009

If Land of the Lost tanks this weekend, it won't be Will Ferrell's fault, at least not in the advertising department. Have you seen him lately? He's been a one-man marketing machine. Ferrell landed on the first Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien and embedded himself in an episode of Discovery Channel's Man vs. Wild with Bear Gryllis this week. Both shows pulled in record ratings, and Ferrell only had to eat reindeer eyes on one of them. (On the other, he called Liza Minelli a communist.) He also hosted the season finale of Saturday Night Live, and he's the star of a whopping 40 vignettes airing on USA Network talking about his Land of the Lost character, Dr. Rick Marshall. The studio distributor, Universal, has been busy, too, grabbing tens of millions of dollars in cross-promotions and media from Marriott hotels, Land O' Frost lunchmeats and Pop Rocks. The biggest partner, Subway, has a Sleestak-themed commercial running now (Sleestaks are the green humanoid bad guys in the movie) and redid one of its Los Angeles restaurants with the movie theme, à la 7-Eleven's Quik-E-Mart makeover for The Simpsons Movie. But the reviews are coming in, and they stink. The Hollywood Reporter's Kirk Honeycutt calls it a "lethargic meander through a wilderness of misfiring gags." And only 6 percent of tickets buyers on Fandango say they plan to see Land of the Lost this weekend, which puts it far, far behind Vegas bachelor party comedy The Hangover and the current box office champ, the Pixar family flick Up. Ferrell is well loved (if he weren't, he'd have been risking overexposure backlash in recent weeks), but he can only so much to rekindle that nostalgic feeling some of us have for Chaka and the rest of the camp-filled Sid and Marty Krofft world.

—Posted by T.L. Stanley



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