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

Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey in Fifty Shades of Grey

film Sex scene trailer sees a shirtless Jamie Dornan turn up the heat

Arts and Entertainment
A sketch of Van Gogh has been discovered in the archives of Kunsthalle Bremen in Germany
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Eleanor Catton has hit back after being accused of 'treachery' for criticising the government.
books
Arts and Entertainment
Fake Banksy stencil given to artist Alex Jakob-Whitworth

art

Arts and Entertainment
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is heading to Norwich for Radio 1's Big Weekend

music
Arts and Entertainment
Beer as folk: Vincent Franklin and Cyril Nri (centre) in ‘Cucumber’
tvReview: This slice of gay life in Manchester has universal appeal
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
‘A Day at the Races’ still stands up well today
film
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tvAnd its producers have already announced a second season...
Arts and Entertainment
Kraftwerk performing at the Neue Nationalgalerie (New National Gallery) museum in Berlin earlier this month
musicWhy a bunch of academics consider German electropoppers Kraftwerk worthy of their own symposium
Arts and Entertainment
Icelandic singer Bjork has been forced to release her album early after an online leak

music
Arts and Entertainment
Colin Firth as Harry Hart in Kingsman: The Secret Service

film
Arts and Entertainment
Brian Blessed as King Lear in the Guildford Shakespeare Company's performance of the play

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
In the picture: Anthony LaPaglia and Martin Freeman in 'The Eichmann Show'

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Kirkbride and Bill Roache as Deirdre and Ken Barlow in Coronation Street

tvThe actress has died aged 60
Arts and Entertainment
Marianne Jean-Baptiste defends Joe Miller in Broadchurch series two

tv
Arts and Entertainment
The frill of it all: Hattie Morahan in 'The Changeling'

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny may reunite for The X Files

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
TV
News
A young woman punched a police officer after attending a gig by US rapper Snoop Dogg
people
Arts and Entertainment
Reese Witherspoon starring in 'Wild'

It's hard not to warm to Reese Witherspoon's heroismfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Word up: Robbie Coltrane as dictionary guru Doctor Johnson in the classic sitcom Blackadder the Third
books

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Hacked off: Maisie Williams in ‘Cyberbully’

Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challenge

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything and Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game are both nominated at the Bafta Film Awards
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

    Isis hostage crisis

    The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
    Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

    The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

    Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
    Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

    Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

    This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
    Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

    Cabbage is king again

    Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
    11 best winter skin treats

    Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

    Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
    Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

    Paul Scholes column

    The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
    Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

    Frank Warren's Ringside

    No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
    Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

    Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
    Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
    Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

    Comedians share stories of depression

    The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
    Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

    Has The Archers lost the plot?

    A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
    English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

    14 office buildings added to protected lists

    Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee