Never mind the quality, feel the pitch

The new Bond film is four weeks away, but already the publicity machine has hit top gear. For, as the people in P&A know, you want good word-of-mouth before the movie opens and ruins it all. By Beth Porter

Look out! You're about to be targeted by Assassins. Smooched by French Kiss. And flown into the Goldeneye of the new James Bond storm. And you don't have to know your 007 from your elbow to feel the Bond fever that's already started to burn through Britain.

Even though these movies haven't yet been released, there's already a buzz about them. All that hype is carefully calculated. Chances are you'll have seen a poster, read an article, or heard them trailed on air. Maybe they'll be good films, maybe not. Odds on they'll be American. But the reason you'll know about them and not scores of others is what the trade calls the P&A. Promotion and advertising.

Potential international blockbuster Goldeneye had a bevy of promotion managers fixing advertising tie-ins to ensure that when Pierce Brosnan pulls out his pistol, the shot will be heard around the world. We're not just talking about a poster or two. This is massive business.

Randy Greenberg at MGM's US Bond office quotes over 30 nationwide product associations, headed up by the unveiling of a BMW open-top sports roadster, driven by Brosnan in the film. To test the water, the upmarket department store Nieman Marcus featured 100 of these cars in its home catalogue, retailing at $30,000 (pounds 20,000) per car. They sold out in 10 days.

Nieman Marcus also has window displays in its 270 stores around America and in its Saks Fifth Avenue New York store, all featuring mannequins dressed as characters from Goldeneye. Bollinger has been declared the "official Bond champagne" for all the film's premieres, including its New York gala on 13 November and a UK launch on 24 November. Citgo, one of America's largest petrol chains, is not only featuring blow-ups of Brosnan at its 11,000 stations, but has offered a contest prize of a trip to Jamaica to visit the home of Bond creator Ian Fleming. And the list goes on. Many of the tie-ins reach into the UK, with Bironi suits, Dixons / Currys, and an eyecatching on-bottle promotion on Smirnoff Vodka.

Mark de Quervain, in charge of European marketing at United International Pictures, feels his work's paying off, though he's shy about revealing exactly how much money each of these companies has splashed out. "Everybody's benefiting from these partnerships," he declares cannily.

So Bond's set to be a biggie. But the question is, will you feel inclined to see it because of the publicity, or is it being promoted because the distributors have second-guessed your cinema taste?

Marketing plays a key role in determining why certain films explode international box-offices while others merely break even or go into modest profit in selected territories. And it's not just that there's no level playing field of advertising budgets. The ticket-buying public will not only go to see the films that are hyped the most, but those that have been booked into cinemas nearby. Because, quality aside, if you can be enticed in during that vital first week of a film's release, the chances are the distributors will make back their costs. With interest. Free market? It's a myth.

It's helpful to understand the anatomy of the movie business. On a global level, the US majors are in charge, even though several of the larger studios have been taken over by Japanese interests.They operate a tripartite international network: production, which includes raising script-development finance and making the film, or "product" as it's referred to; distribution and sales, including financing enough prints to keep cinemas supplied and masterminding advertising campaigns from posters to supermarket openings; and exhibition, ensuring movie theatres are places people actually want to visit.

So P&A is down to the distributor. They'll spend up to a whopping 50 per cent of a film's gross income telling you all about it. And most of that money goes into promoting American studio-made pictures. Films by independents generally don't get a look-in, unless they battle, salmon- like, upstream against all the odds and grab your attention, like Reservoir Dogs or the forthcoming Babe.

Paradoxically, big blockbusters require a smaller percentage of the box- office gross for the P&A. The new Bond, for example, which clocked up a production budget of approximately pounds 50m, won't need anything like half its estimated ticket receipts to herald itself. Bond's become an icon, and word-of-mouth has plenty to jaw about with a new actor and a post- glasnost story. But, on average, distributors will risk between 25 and 30 per cent of the projected box-office.

In the UK, independent distributors scrap over what's left after the big boys have dined at the top US table. The largest British player is Rank, which counts among recent successes The Shawshank Redemption. When Rank took on Shawshank, their campaign was budgeted at about $500,000. Their 25 per cent share of the pounds 2.7m UK box-office made it worth the risk.

Last week Rank released To Die For, which it co-funded with Columbia, getting involved at script stage about 18 months ago. Then began negotiations as complex as the Bosnian peace process. The deal struck gave Columbia all US and North American territories, with Rank getting the rest of the world. In this case, Columbia bought back from Rank the Latin American and South American markets as well. But Rank didn't quite have the free hand you might imagine in planning their marketing campaign.

The blackly comic critique of American values by director Gus Van Sant has a central performance by Nicole Kidman. She's already being tipped for a best-actress Oscar. Kidman creamed pounds 4m of the film's pounds 21m budget. She also had consultation rights on the design of the advertising.

The film is opening throughout the UK and Ireland with 100 prints. What dictated that kind of splash rather than a more discreet release? The film's temperature is tested at various stages. Before editing was finished, a six-minute promo was put together from the footage and shown to one of world's best film markets at Mifed in the south of France. Then, at the beginning of 1995, the film was shown at a try-out screening to a few hundred randomly chosen people. The audience had to fill out a detailed questionnaire about To Die For. Not one person indicated anything should be changed.

That was when the decision was taken to open the film at the Cannes Film Festival in May. The film was accepted into the main festival at the Gala Screening, but out of competition. Kidman had already agreed to support the film at Cannes, a big plus for the distributors, who were counting on her publicity value. It was only after the extremely positive critical response both for Kidman and the film, plus the business interest of UK exhibitors, that Rank fleshed out its marketing commitment.

Their decision to wait until the autumn to open the film assured enough time for UK magazine coverage, since monthly journals require about three months' lead time. It also left room for marketing tie-in releases of a book and CD soundtrack. And it coincided with the reopening of colleges, since the film was expected to appeal to students.

Anticipating that this target audience would respond to the film's comedy, Rank decided to modify the UK poster from the original US campaign. The American poster featured an image of Kidman disrobing, tinted blue, with the film's title underneath, subliminally suggesting a mug shot. Rank judged the blues too cold and printed the image in golds, moving it over to the left, leaving room to quote some of the rave reviews the film had garnered at Cannes. The quotes stressed the comic nature of the film, counterpointing Kidman's sexy image. They gave the title more prominence, but she was the key element.

Will all this planning and investment and attention to detail pay off? Well, that will be up to you.

n 'Goldeneye' is premiered on 24 Nov

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Arts and Entertainment
Place Blanche, Paris, 1961, shot by Christer Strömholm
photographyHow the famous camera transformed photography for ever
Arts and Entertainment
The ‘Westmacott Athlete’
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv Some of the characters appear to have clear real-life counterparts
Brooks is among a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status
Arts and Entertainment
A cut above: Sean Penn is outclassed by Mark Rylance in The Gunman
film review
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in I Am Michael

Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the movie 'Get Hard'
tvWill Ferrell’s new film Get Hard receives its first reviews
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: David Cameron (Mark Dexter), Nick Clegg (Bertie Carvel) and Gordon Brown (Ian Grieve)
tvReview: Ian Grieve gets another chance to play Gordon Brown... this is the kinder version
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the first look picture from next year's Sherlock special

Arts and Entertainment
Because it wouldn’t be Glastonbury without people kicking off about the headline acts, a petition has already been launched to stop Kanye West performing on the Saturday night

Arts and Entertainment
Molly Risker, Helen Monks, Caden-Ellis Wall, Rebekah Staton, Erin Freeman, Philip Jackson and Alexa Davies in ‘Raised by Wolves’

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special

Arts and Entertainment
Game of Thrones will run for ten years if HBO gets its way but showrunners have mentioned ending it after seven

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
Mans Zelmerlow will perform 'Heroes' for Sweden at the Eurovision Song Contest 2015

Arts and Entertainment
Elizabeth (Heida Reed) and Ross Poldark (Aiden Turner) in the BBC's remake of their 1975 original Poldark

Poldark review
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
    Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
    Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

    The only direction Zayn could go

    We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
    Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

    Spells like teen spirit

    A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
    Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
    Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

    Licence to offend in the land of the free

    Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
    From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

    From farm to fork in Cornwall

    One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
    Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

    Robert Parker interview

    The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
    How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

    How to make your own Easter egg

    Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

    Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

    Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
    Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

    Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

    The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

    Cricket World Cup 2015

    Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
    The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing