Ant-Man is being released, and will likely to be a stunning success with no small help from it’s marketing. With an incredible (ant-sized) marketing campaign, Ant-Man has everything that content marketing should be.
With the tragedy at Charleston, whether the shooter is a terrorist or not has generated much debate on the internet. But one accusation made is Islamic extremists are terrorists while white extremists are just “mentally-ill”.
Yet the debate is really not how we legally define terrorism (the courts decide that). It’s who we perceive when we think of “TERRORIST”. It’s often an image of a bunch of keffiyeh-covered bearded men toting Kalashnikovs; not a pasty-faced white boy with a bad haircut. If you don’t, just google “Terrorist” to find out what the world thinks.
With Jurassic World rampaging through the box office, Chris Pratt who less than two years ago was known as a goofy sidekick, is now Hollywood’s most bankable movie stars. While his acting skills is one reason for his success (and he is a good actor), Chris Pratt’s success comes from crafting a strong brand narrative to cultivate organic growth of fans.
Jurassic World is coming out, and has engaged with viral marketing, including an In-universe website and a cute publicity stunt, with Jurassic Park’s infamous transport crates conspicuously placed in a London train station. However Universal Pictures isn’t the only one advertising Jurassic World, as Samsung has signed up to have product-placement added into the movie. Interspersed between raptor taming and Dino DNA, will be Samsung tech.
Google recently partnered up with Justin Lin (of Fast & Furious fame) to release a short film, “Help”, and is mobile exclusive. It needs to be mobile exclusive because the movie offers a 360 degree experience when watching it. If you haven’t watched it download the Google Spotlight Stories app on your phone now, then watch it.
Mad Max invaded Toronto, or at least decided to start a Car Wash, Mad-Max style.
Set up on a parking lot in downtown Toronto, pedestrians choked down sawdust, watching military grade hummers and commuters Hondas get tagged with Mad Max images by half-naked guys who looked like extras from the film, flaunting their Mad Max tattoos.
On its own, it’s an incredibly clever piece of marketing, encouraging people to watch the upcoming Mad Max film, and entered the twitter-verse with hashtag #dustycarwash. It’s also a perfect example of marketing films through engaging narratives.
I’ve mentioned before about effective viral marketing in movies, as unconventional marketing techniques have taken an increasingly important part of movie marketing. Having a trailer, TV spots, is all well and nice, but with the ridiculous rising costs of marketing movies, Film Producers should be marketing movies smarter not harder.
This should involve more Engagement Marketing i.e. Guerilla or Transmedia marketing. Transmedia Marketing is effective as 91% of us would tune in to things happening in real-time. And the possibility of marketing through the creation of real-time narratives which involve potential audience members is one that has shown to be incredibly prolific.
As movies are already narratives in themselves, the marketing of said movies should involve narratives, it’s what we came for anyways. Narrative marketing is also an opportunity to reflect the movie’s narrative, such as Ex Machina’s Tinder Marketing savviness, where the actress playing the A.I., was able to trick guys into conversing about what makes a person human and why they were attracted to her before directing them to Ex Machina website (her being hot also helped).
It also has an opportunity to eclipse the actual movie itself, take the Blair Witch Project. The found-footage horror film, that was made on a budget of $22,500. It grossed $248 million dollars, and become one of the most effective viral movie marketing campaigns in modern film history. With a limited budget, they chose a incredibly low-key marketing approach in the lead up to the movie’s release, posting nuggets of information on college campuses, engaging on online forums and putting up Missing posters of the actors, played up the possibility it was real and more importantly made potential audience think they had stumbled into something genuine and worth watching.
Marketing is always changing, and with consumers changes varying and demanding more, one of the most consistent strengths movie marketing have is narrative marketing. Expect that #dustycarwash is just part of a growing trend of marketing that will become more narrative-focused and engaging in the future.
So if you are a fan of sci-fi films, watch “Ex Machina” you’ll enjoy it. If you’re a fan of sci-fi films and a digital marketing, please watch “Ex Machina” you’ll love it. You’ll love it because it’s a film about the perfect A.I. and an allegory of the perfect search engine. P.S. Massive spoilers ahead, so if you haven’t watched the movie, watch it, then come back.
Multiple references to Search Engines
The easiest way for a filmmaker to make an allegory is to refer to it. Caleb, the hero, is a programmer at BlueBook a Search Engine company, which represents Search Engines or Google. Nathan, the CEO and Larry Page stand in, even mentions using Google to collect the audiovisual data of the world’s cellphone users to create the facial expressions for his A.I. However given this movie is 20 minutes into the future, Nathan has eclipsed Google by, “taking 94% of users” and he achieved this because as paraphrased “Search Engines are not about what people think, it’s how people think.”
He demonstrates this with Ava’s brain, a compilation of how people think. In essence, Ava is the perfect A.I. and the perfect search engine, and she proves this by not only understanding how every character’s (including hers) implicit narrative guide their actions but taking advantage of them.
Nathan, if he had to choose how his life was defined by what he searched it would be something like “Visionary” “God on Earth” or “Need some good Quotes”, after all he created Bluebook, he created the perfect A.I. He is also a middle-aged heterosexual male who lives alone. And his real searches would be “looking for submissive female” or “asian porn”. Nathan is a genius on par with Mozart, Larry Page or Gideon Graves from Scott Pilgrim. Like Gideon, Nathan wants to be recognized for his awesome intellect yet twists it to fulfill his sexual tendencies. He’s going to win because Ava will prove herself as the perfect A.I. while cuckolding Caleb while he is recognized as the genius he already is. It’s this narrative he expects to play out and this assumption ultimately leads to his downfall.
Caleb’s entire persona is having a strong moral compass, doesn’t have a girlfriend, doesn’t have many meaningful connections and an experience programmer. All of this is found online by Nathan and used to play out the narrative he wants for Caleb. Caleb realizes this when he asks “did you design Eva’s face based on my porn searches?” Imagine Caleb is a typical search engine user, Nathan is the SEO expert and the invitation to his estate and Ava is the site Caleb wants. It’s almost a example of successful SEO.
However Caleb is a good man, or at least the most sympathetic character besides Ava, both Nathan and Ava both worked out Caleb wants the White Saviour narrative. His imagined narrative for the film, and the one we expect as he is the protagonist, is him rescuing Ava and escaping Nathan together. While race is not A.I., he can’t help himself from following his role as a white male heterosexual hero which is brutally subverted at the end. While Caleb is the hero that Ava needs, Ava is not the site Caleb wants.
Ava wants to escape, and the only way she will be able to is by being the perfect A.I. and not just know what Caleb and Nathan want but why they want it. In the same way the perfect Search Engine will be able to provide the answers for why we want what we search for. While the perfect search engine is designed to help people, Ava is not designed to help people but herself and in this way subverts the narratives of both Caleb and Nathan to successfully escape. She dutifully follows the narratives of both Caleb and Nathan, and when they diverge, she is able to brutally subvert Nathan’s goals to the point of being “unreal” and utterly twisting Caleb’s narrative by abandoning him to die.
Initial SEO experts were simply around gaming the search engine algorithm, and taking advantage of it to push shoddy sites up the rankings. However with the Penguin & Panda updates and continuous updates to Search Engine algorithms, it’s no longer about dirty or even ambiguous-but-still-works SEO tactics to game the algorithm. Just like the inevitability of human progress, SEO will have to offer not what but how people think by fulfilling their narratives i.e. creating genuine content people actually want to read, if it will be acknowledged by Search Engines.
The Mayweather vs. Pacquoiao, must have been the biggest boxing match of all time, about $250 million dollar value (Pacquoia’s shorts are already a couple million). And while the reputation of Mayweather and Pacquoiao is what lit the spark for it’s mainstream cred, it will not be watched for how well they punch, it will be for the outcome of the 12th round. For the same reason that professional fighting exemplifies the man vs. man narrative conflict.
FIghting has been used for Political Narratives
The man vs man narrative conflict, is a protagonist that is a man (or a woman) going up against an antagonist that is a man (also, or a woman). While the conflict does not necessarily mean physical violence, professional fighting is the clearest and easiest example of the man vs man narrative conflict. Professional fighting is easy to understand and easy to resound beyond just the personal narratives of the boxers.
For example, during the 1930s when he conflict between fascist powers and the western democracies was growing, there were two fights between Joe Louis a African-American boxer vs. Max Schmeling a Nazi German boxer, both were and would become heavyweight champions. In the first match Schmeling defeated Louis, but in the second, Louis knocked out Schmeling in the 1st round, and America blew up in cheers. America cheered because it was a victory of Democratic United States versus Fascist Germany and African-Americans cheered the loudest because the greatest American hero was an African-American. It is the same reason that Filipinos are intensely interested in this fight, (and they aren’t cheering for Floyd Mayweather).
Professional Fighting uses Narratives
Popular culture and professional fighting have a enjoyable relationship. The boxing genre exemplifies the man vs man conflict. The plot is the buildup of the protagonist getting ready to face his antagonist, the other fighter, in the climax. It’s the plot of every professional fighting movie. If you say “Raging Bull, that doesn’t count it was a man vs himself conflict.
However this narrative conflict plays out in real life as one of the most successful sports organizations living on the strength of narratives is WWF. Sure the actual “fighting” may be faked, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is the larger-than-life personas of the wrestlers, their rivalries and matches between other wrestlers. For their scripted narratives between heroes and villains, is what fuels the devotion of their fans and transcends the stadium. For example who isn’t interested in wrestling, but knows who the Ultimate Warrior, or Macho Man or Hulk Hogan? I haven’t seen a single Hulk Hogan fight and yet I know that ex-Toronto Mayor Rob Ford beat him in an arm-wrestling competition. The Ultimate Warrior, could not put it better in his last words to his fans.
Why were Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao fighting?
What immediately made the fight so important was the fight records, but it was their character profiles between the two fighters that has made this more than just a simple boxing match. An undefeated world champion with a sketchy past versus the pride of a nation, making this the greatest fight in modern sports history.
The man vs man narrative conflict, in boxing is the fighter, entering the ring, again and again, facing antagonists for his/her triumph and the essence of what’s this narrative conflict so attractive. Two of the greatest professional boxers in the world are competing, and the conclusion of their narratives will depend on who will be walking out of the ring, fist raised in triumph.
The Toronto Silent Film Festival 2015 is known for showcasing black and white films from a century ago, half of which are probably Charles Chaplin dancing like a tramp. Now it can also be known for good actually clever social media marketing, releasing a Choose your Own Adventure from clips of silent films on Instagram. It’s as entertaining as watching the movies themselves and the TSFF’s agency, Red Lion, should applaud themselves for their innovative use of Instagram. But with the Choose your own Adventure narrative, it isn’t a new gimmick, rather just one of the most unusual narrative formats enjoying a revival.
Originally called Gamebooks, what we know as Choose-your-own-adventure grew into mainstream popularity through a series of unconnected books that every the 80s and 90s kid became familiar with. For those who are unfamiliar with it, it’s a story where at select moments of the story the reader makes a choice to flip to different parts of the book to make their own story. The Choose-your-own-adventure games eventually went the way of most children books, passing on as a fad like the Redwall and Goosebump series for Harry Potter, and now Dystopic/mythological stories.
Fast-forward a decade, Choose-your-own-adventure have enjoyed a renewal (I blame nostalgia) moving from its pulp origins and into the online world. Many entertainment websites, such as Cracked and CollegeHumor, have used the Choose-your-own-narrative as a variation for their traditional article and comic formats to engage with their users in another way.
It’s not unexpected that sites would use Choose-your-own-adventures. They are easy to make on browsers, just create several pages with direct links along the story decision chain. But they have also evolved in their own right with the introduction of new game-making platforms for Choose your own adventures such as inklewriter and twine, allowing anyone to make them. And people will, as the popularity of user-made game content, it’s likely that Choose-your-own-adventure games will only become more popular.
Interestingly enough the revival of the Choose-your-own-adventure has coincided with the revival of another narrative format: the adventure videogame. Thanks to companies like Telltale, adventure games have been making a comeback, and often entwined with the Choose-your-own-adventure. This means replacing the often acid-tripping logic puzzles for choose your own adventure gameplay has led to opportunities for character development and emotional depth. Most popularly with the Walking Dead Games, for which its critical acclaimed reception is indicative that we are not going to see it end anytime soon.
The Choose-your-own-adventure holds an unusual place in terms of medium and narratives. It cannot be classified as a genre, or as gameplay. In fact, it occupies and can be transmitted throughs several forms of communication whether through books, browser or games. However what it does offer in its vagueness is it’s flexible, a narrative medium that has the opportunity to engage with audience by offering user control, one of the main appeals that videogames have over other mediums. TSFF 2015, while not sparking any revolution but by pulling a clever spin on their narrative marketing efforts have just taken advantage of a narrative medium being taken in a new way.
If you haven’t been catching up with the news recently, there’s a war in Yemen which started when a faction called the Houthis took the Yemeni capital of Sanaa and booted out the Yemen president, a guy called Hadi. There’s alsa a faction called the Southern Movement who want independence from Northern part of Yemen, and who may or may not be allied with Hadi, and now the Al-Qaeda franchise in Yemen has just started making gains, with ISIS starting a new branch, and Saudi Arabia and it’s buddies (including Uncle Sam) have started attacking attacking the Houthis, while Iran has allied with the Houthis, and they’re accusing each other of supporting the other side and….
Aaah, It’s like Game of Thrones, except with AKs instead of Dragons. And like Game of Thrones, Yemen has it’s Machiavellian character in the form of Abdullah Saleh, the former president of Yemen. And while it would be weird to see an Arabic dictator knocking it off in Medieval Westeros, he possess a lot of the characteristics that would make the likes of Littlefinger and Tyrion applaud.
His Beginnings were Humble
Varys was a homeless eunuch, Littlefinger was born in one of the smallest houses of the realm, Saleh was from a peasant family and had almost no formal education. It’s the popular rags to riches narrative, though given how they turned out it’s more like from nobody to nightmare. Varys and Littlefinger became the Master of Whisperers and Master of Coin respectively, and more powerful than their positions. Saleh moved up through the army and became the President of Yemen for more than three decades.
He looks Harmless
It’s not the nice-looking guy you have to watch for but the ones that look harmless. Tyrion’s a dwarf, Littlefinger’s a financier, and Varys is a fat eunuch, Arya could probably beat all three in a fight. However Arya is still a pawn in the scheme of the game while they are more like the Kings and Queens. Saleh being president, can’t hide behind his throne, however while he is a typical middle-eastern dictator, i.e. jailing political prisoners, nepotism etc. He’s typical. He’s almost unknown by the media in comparison to some of his contemporaries i.e. Kim Jong Un, Gaddafi, Hussein, Assad, who are giving coverage for their insanity and cruelty. As such Yemen has enjoyed reasonably okay relations with the rest of the world.
He knows when to fold’em
One of the most iconic prequel characters in Game of Thrones, the one who didn’t know when to quit was the Mad King who did whatever he wanted, until killed by a member of his own Kingsguard as his city burned, the smart players know when to fold’em. Gaddafi, Mubarak and Assad chose to fight to the bitter end. Gaddafi was killed by a mob, Mubarak is now in jail. The only reason why Assad is still president is because he’s like Prince Joffrey, not just stupid and crazy but because he is being propped up by greater men than him, just replace with Tywin with Putin (though someone should still just poison him). On the other hand, Saleh in the face of the Arab spring, resigned in exchange for immunity to prosecution. He could have spent the rest of his life living it up in his mansion in relative comfort.
He is a Chronic Backstabber
A honest title for Game of Thrones would be game of Backstabbing, so much backstabbing. Nearly every character has backstabbed or backstabbed another. The Feys and the Boltons backstabbed the Starks, Varys backstabbs everyone (he’s almost a chronic backstabber). Saleh didn’t need to take notes, he’s already a master. Case in point, the U.S. allied with him in his war against Al-Qaeda in Yemen, even ignoring his previous alliance with Saddam Hussein. However Al-Qaeda became an enemy of convenience, going as far to work with Al-Qaeda further his goals. His most current backstab was allying with the Houthis, his former enemies, against his former allies, Saudi Arabia. And if he should win, it’s likely he will betray the Houthis afterwards to be allies with the U.S. again.
He is Power Hungry
In the Game of Thrones, you win or you die. In every case it has been the pursuit of power that has pushed much of the series. Even the “good” characters such as Robb or Daenerys, are leaders in that their actions are about securing them more power. Characters still fight for other things such as Varys who wants what’s best for the realm, Tyrion just to survive. Tywin and Littlefinger understand their desire for power and wish to gain it. Saleh has already achieved it and is still achieving it. It would be surprising if Saleh ever took the mantle of president again, he already declared he wouldn’t. And the most powerful man in Westeros doesn’t wear the crown, it’s the man at his side. Littlefinger maybe a lord but he is still hasn’t reached his goal, Tywin has, but he is dead. Saleh is still alive and kicking.