According to the adage, Londoners are never more than six feet away from a rat.
This month, the same could be said about marketing material for the latest James Bond blockbuster, Skyfall. In the capital and across Britain, Sony Pictures has masterminded a blanket campaign involving billboards, trailers, tie-in products and social media which followed possibly the best promotion of them all – a spot in the Olympic Games Opening Ceremony, watched by more than a billion people.
Danny Rogers, editor-in-chief of the Brand Republic Group, said: "Skyfall is absolutely everywhere and they seem to have gone for every single angle on it, from the anniversary celebrations to the brands involved. Clearly the right people have been invited to the right parties."
Oddly, the company behind the extraordinary publicity blitz for the 23rd instalment of the Bond franchise is more secretive than MI6 when questioned about how it came together. The only information that Sony Pictures was prepared to share was that the campaign, including publicity, had all been handled "in house".
One film marketing executive, who was not involved with Skyfall, said the campaign – which included billboards, posters on the Underground and on the side of buses, trailers on television and pre-roll advertising on videos online – could have cost anywhere between £5m and £8m, which they described as "huge". They added: "I've never seen anything like this. But the studio needs the film to be a success, as the UK is leading with the release. It is a matter of confidence worldwide."
The total amount of advertising spending on film in the UK is close to £450m a year, including DVD promotion, according to the Advertising Association. The marketing executive added: "Marketing films is quite a formula. They work out the spend based on what it needs to take at the box office. To bring in £15m over the film's lifetime in the UK, you often have to spend over £3m." The media buying agency Manning Gottlieb OMD handled the campaign for Skyfall.
The slow build-up to the release has been equally impressive. As well as teased set pictures and trailers, the 50th anniversary of the Bond franchise – including an exhibition at the Barbican arts centre in London – has been heavily publicised. Bond's surprise cameo during Danny Boyle's Olympics Opening Ceremony, in which the spy escorted the Queen to the Games in a helicopter, was another masterstroke. But it is not just Sony that stands to benefit from the Bond effect. Mr Rogers said: "As well as their own marketing spend, the studio can also get the brands [which feature in the film] doing sponsorship to advertise. These brands will run their own campaigns, because it's in their interest to link to Bond."
Those brands include Heineken, which caused outrage among fans who mistakenly thought the spy had dropped his signature vodka martini for lager. The filmmakers made it clear that the money earned through deals like that one was crucial to financing the finished product. Both the Dutch beer brand and Coca-Cola released television ads as well as successful social media campaigns. Katie Khan, social media manager at creative agency Abundant, which works with other film studios, said: "Social media marketing became really important for studios in 2010, which is also when Facebook introduced brand pages, and subsequently advertising to the platform. They want some sort of presence for every film, and it is only going to grow."
There is, of course, an official James Bond Twitter account, and the franchise's Facebook page has almost 1.3 million likes, with the official social media campaign orchestrated by digital marketing agency Spinnaker. Products from Omega watches to Tom Ford suits are not-too-subtly placed in the film, which also provides a shop window for Sony's electrical products, including Vaio laptops and smartphones. There was even a tie-up with nail polish company OPI, whose product is sported in several scenes by Bond girl Bérénice Marlohe.
Product tie-ins also seek to play off the superspy's aspirational lifestyle, from cologne to Land Rovers and Aston Martins. Sky has launched a Bond channel. The media has also featured Bond heavily. A search of Lexis Nexis, which archives newspaper articles, found more than 2,800 that have mentioned the film. Ms Khan said the filmmakers had cleverly used Bond's "Britishness" to generate goodwill for one of the country's most popular exports. VisitBritain spent £1m on adverts fronted by the superspy, with the tagline "Bond is Great Britain".
Skyfall marks the widest release ever by Sony Pictures in the UK, at 587 cinemas on more than 1,500 screens. Much like many of the agent's onscreen nemeses, it may be impossible to escape Bond for the next month.
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