Christopher Nolan is arguably one of, if not the most, exciting directors in the world right now. At the tender age of 43, Nolan has been nominated for 3 Oscars, 3 Golden Globes and 3 Baftas. However, although awards give a film prestige, it’s profit that speaks loudest in Hollywood. Nolan’s last 3 films have grossed a staggering total of $2,914,819,717!
Nolan clearly understands that in a saturated market place, a good product (or film in this case) is no longer good enough. You also need an equally good marketing campaign to support it.
Nolan is the dictionary definition of an auteur. He has a large creative involvement in the entire film making process. He writes the story, casts the roles, directs the picture and then produces it. His creativity even touches the film score, the costume design and the locations selected. And through a number of pieces of research it also becomes apparent that Nolan is very hands on with the marketing of the film as well.
In 2000 Nolan made his first feature length film Memento and it was clear, even back then, that the director understood the importance of marketing and edited the film’s official trailers. As well as this Nolan sent out Polaroid pictures to random people, depicting a bloody and shirtless main character Leonard. This brave tactic, stood out from other marketing by creating effective PR for the film.
In 2010 Nolan talked about film marketing and said that his best film-going experiences have been when he hasn’t known too much about the film or plot. He likes being surprised and that is what he tries to do for his audience. He went on to say that he believes too much is given away in film marketing these days.
Nolan clearly grasps the idea that ‘less is more’, which he demonstrated perfectly throughout the marketing campaign for Inception. From day one people knew very little about Inception, however one descriptor released - “a contemporary sci-fi actioner set within the architect of the mind”.
This sentence gave nothing away about the film and lead to an explosion of online speculation. However it wasn’t long before the films teaser trailer was released, which again gave very little away and if anything made the audience even more confused about what the film would entail, focussing curiously on a silver spinning top. This was the perfect demonstration of drip feeding the audience limited information to build enigma and excite them to find out more.
As the marketing campaign progressed, a sophisticated multi-channel campaign was launched which included an online game entitled ‘Mind Crime’ and an app which claimed to induce dreams when listened to through headphones. The official website acted as a hub for all content including official images, trailers and information; whilst Facebook provided a platform for interaction amongst a speculative audience who wanted to share thoughts on the film, their induced dreams stories and their Mind Crime scores. This diverse approach allowed the film to grow online momentum and engagement amongst their target audience.
It must be said that of course there were more mainstream elements to the marketing campaign, however even these were carried with a real air of creativity and mystery. Four trailers were released in total. Three of them teased elements of what the film would entail, however very little was given away. Instead incredible visuals, tense dialogue and fast paced action created anticipation for the official film release. The final trailer focussed on the main characters and gave the audience a glimpse of what they’d be up against. This smart move drew in the audience emotionally, making them feel closer to characters and the brand.
As well as digital activation, they also used creative out of home media to give impact in big cities and to play tricks on people’s minds, by giving the illusion of buildings being flooded with water or falling apart. The posters created an experience for city goers and generated mass PR in a number of publications.
Whilst the mainstream campaign ramped up and created global awareness of the film, leftfield marketing strategies continued including warning signs in cities telling people to protect their thoughts. Nolan uploaded a video to YouTube of himself interviewing dream researchers who talked about lucid dreaming, shared dreaming and a secret Military project to help enhance survival skills, to install an element of reality into this fictional blockbuster.
Overall the Inception marketing campaign was as smart and multi-layered as the film itself, with a perfect level of mystery, drip feeding and engagement!
However two years previous The Dark Knight; had in many ways set a benchmark that would be difficult to ever beat.
Nolan collaborated with 42 Entertainment who went on to create ‘One of the most interactive movie campaigns ever hatched by Hollywood’ (LA Times). The campaign was called ‘Why So Serious’ and was a 360° alternate reality experience which portrayed the world of Gotham City as a real life city, over a multitude of platforms including; web, interactive games, mobile, print, experiential, video and much more! What was most impressive about the campaign was the sheer length of the campaign, which ran for 15 months, across 75 countries.
Throughout the campaign the audience were addressed as citizens of Gotham City and over 11 million participants scoured the globe in search of clues; their passion generating billions of impressions in the press and blogosphere, which set a new benchmark for immersive entertainment. And the results of this mammoth campaign speak for themselves - The Dark Knight set a new record for the biggest opening day of all time and was the highest grossing film of the year.
Nolan is up to his tricks once more with what is gearing up to be the biggest film of this year – Interstellar. With three months until the film’s release; intriguing marketing has started to bubble up to the surface, including three dazzling trailers that demonstrate breath-taking imagery and powerful themes. However it is clear that once more Nolan is holding his cards close to his chest.
The film’s official site http://www.interstellarmovie.com/ is now live and cryptically features nothing more than a 360° view of a crop field.
One thing is for sure, there will be more to this site than meets the eye. Whatever does happen with this campaign, it is clear that Nolan is not only an innovative director, but also a savvy marketer with a clear understanding that for a film to be successful in the 21st century, a truly immersive and integrated experience, inside and outside of the cinema, is vital.