Everyone knows movie people love self-congratulatory circle jerks, but they’ve got nothing on the people who market them. Remember The Dark Knight? Its success had nothing to do with it being a good movie, it was all because of the “rich transmedia experience” designed by the marketing visionaries at 42 Entertainment. And according to this new LA Times article, Where the Wild Things Are‘s success? You guessed it, all because of marketing.
If they gave out Oscars for marketing campaigns, you could pretty much hand out the trophy right now to Warner Bros. marketing chief Sue Kroll, who almost single-handedly managed to find an audience [this may be one of the stupidest phrases I have ever read -Ed.] for “Where the Wild Things Are,” the new family movie that turned out not to really be a family movie at all.
You “found an audience” for a movie that defies genre? Oh my God, let’s rename the sun in your honor!
According to Hollywood conventional wisdom, “Where the Wild Things Are” looked like a disaster in the making. Over budget and beset by endless delays, the movie kept being pushed back on the Warners schedule, picking up a nasty case of bad buzz after word leaked out that children had fled an early test screening in tears, put off by the dark tone of the film.
Hollywood conventional wisdom is the thing that gave us The Rock as the Tooth Fairy, remember? And I don’t know who you hang with, but where I’m from, “makes children cry” is the highest compliment you can give something.
Even as the film made its debut over the weekend, rival marketers were skeptical of its chances, saying, with plenty of justification, that “Wild Things” was a tweener — not conventional enough to be a mass-appeal family film, but too associated with the soft blanket of childhood to appeal to Jonze’s natural audience of twenty- and thirtysomething bohos, hipsters and cultural mavericks.
Help! This article is touching me in the swimsuit area!
But amazingly, Kroll managed to thread the needle, attracting a sizable amount of both audiences, who were prodded into the theaters by the studio’s emotion-laden marketing materials and a raft of glowing reviews [not to mention Huck Finn and Jim -Ed.]. What impressed me the most is that Kroll was a realist, but one who was willing to think outside the typical marketing box — coolly assessing the film’s strengths and doing her best to amplify them.
Oh my God, how did people know what products to buy before they had marketing people to tell them what kind of person they were? That must’ve been like living in a dark cave full of sharks!
A pop music connoisseur and longtime music-video director, Jonze had brought the studio a CD full of music he thought captured “Wild Things’ ” sensibility. The Warners marketing staff fell in love with “Wake Up,” a song by Arcade Fire. A friend of the band, Jonze helped persuade the group to allow the studio to use the song in its advertising. The new trailer spared us any of the film’s nattering dialogue, simply melding Jonze’s striking visual images to the song’s uplifting melodies.
The trailer was a Web sensation, being passed virally around from one Arcade Fire fan to another. Warners also signaled its intent to go after a more diverse audience by putting the trailer up in front of a wide range of films, including “Land of the Lost,” “Public Enemies” and “I Love You, Beth Cooper.” The Arcade Fire trailer turned the film’s image around, wiping away all the negative vibes with its vivid emotional appeal.
They used the song Spike Jonze told them to use in their marketing, because Spike Jonze convinced the band to let them? Brilliant! What mavericks! Also: Land of the Lost? I Love You, Beth Cooper? NO ONE SAW THOSE F-CKING MOVIES! Anyway, well done, marketing department. The world would surely cease to turn without you.