How do you market a film depicting a life-changing day that most Americans would love to forget?
Focus on the positive.
That's what Variety.com and Paramount Interactive did for a web-based ad campaign for Oliver Stone's "World Trade Center" movie. The ad, which was posted from Aug. 7 to 13 on the Variety.com home page and film page, was dubbed "Celebrating Real Life Heroes Through Film," portraying heroism rather than reinforcing the all too familiar horrific images of what occurred on September 11, 2001.
According to Dea Lawrence, managing director, sales and marketing, Variety Online Group, Variety first conducted a user survey on Variety.com that concluded that online readers not only actively work in the entertainment industry, but, not surprisingly, also actively purchase movie tickets. Variety.com, for instance, indexes in comScore a 381 for "purchased movie tickets online" (comScore Networks has a proprietary data collection technology that captures online surfing/buying behavior of more than two million participants). Lawrence says the survey also showed that one Variety.com reader can influence movie-going activities of up to six people.
"With nearly two million unique users, that translates into a potential audience of 12 million ticket buyers," Lawrence says. "So with that information, our online team works regularly with studio marketers to find the best way to get their movie branding in front of our audience."
Preliminary meetings with Paramount Interactive indicated that the movie needed to be handled with great sensitivity; principal goals of the film's messages were to convey hope, optimism and courage.
"Our ideas morphed from custom content surrounding 'Heroes in Hollywood,' with an angle on the philanthropic, to 'Real Life Heroes in the Movies.'" Lawrence added that once Variety.com established the definition of courage, her team reviewed films that were about real life heroes and made further selections based on those criteria. The site listed more than two dozen films, some of which were "All the President's Men," "Boys Town," "Erin Brockovich," "Lawrence of Arabia," "Malcolm X,"’ "Madame Curie," "Schindler’s List" and "Wyatt Earp."
The result was a week-long campaign displayed on the right side of the Variety.com home page and Film page. Each day, viewers would see five movie titles and as they rolled over each one, an image from the film would appear above the list.
The content included the definition of courage, links back to a minisite listing all of the films, as well as links to the original Variety reviews, and a player with the trailer for "World Trade Center." Lawrence says the ads were also created with the branding colors of the movie with a screened background of words exemplifying qualities of courage and heroism such as humanity, sacrifice, duty, dedication, valor, service, brave and heroic.
Layered over the screened words were quotes from three real life heroes portrayed on film-- Mahatma Gandhi, Helen Keller and Alexander the Great.
While Variety.com and Paramount Interactive declined to reveal how much the ad campaign cost to develop and produce and wouldn't divulge any site statistics such as page views, Lawrence says Variety.com has previously created numerous custom content programs. Some of these have included Jaguar's "The Gorgeous 100," Nissan's "Salute to Sports & Entertainment," Computer Associates sponsorship of the Tribeca Film Festival video content, and American Express' "Fashion Colors," debuting in September.
Neal Leavitt is president of Fallbrook, CA-based Leavitt Communications, an international marketing communications company with affiliates in Brazil, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, and the United Kingdom. Read bio here.