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Indies Vs Blockbusters: Wolverine Intrigues, Gravity Sinks

Taglines are the meat and potatoes of Hollywood and indie films alike. Do movie taglines and websites work together to get you into theaters?
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I've long been a fan of independent movies. In my opinion, mainstream Hollywood churns out little more than mindless comedies or re-makes of films that don't need re-making.

The statistics seem to support my views According to the Motion Picture Association of America, independent films now account for more than 75 percent of the film and motion picture industry, and the independent box office in North American was 41.7 percent of the $10.8 billion total.

Just like every other marketer, movie moguls love taglines. In fact, they've 'produced' some of the more memorable ones in history (Think: "In a galaxy far, far away…" and "You'll never go in the water again." among others).

With the rise of social media, I was curious to see if a movie’s website delivers on the promise made in their tagline. And, as an independent kind of guy, I was curious to see how indies stack up against the Hollywood mainstream.

I began by exploring a few current productions from the major motion picture studios.

Lights, Camera, Discontent

First, I set sail to see what Captain Phillips promised and did, or didn't, deliver online. Tom Hanks' latest epic carries the tagline, "Out here survival is everything." That has to be an inside joke about Hollywood itself.

As for the flick's website experience, toss me a life preserver, because I'm going down for the third time. The website is the RMS Titanic of websites. Aside from a brief trailer, it's completely lost at sea.

There's some irrelevant copy about the movie's producer and a few links to Twitter and Facebook feeds, but that's it. The site makes no attempt whatsoever to engage me, or to duplicate the experience the film appears to provide. In fact, if the Somalian pirates had visited the website first, they would have committed a mercy killing of captainphillips.com.

Howling With Delight

The Wolverine, on the other hand, had me howling with delight. The website is easily the best of any mainstream film I've visited--and could rival the crème de la crème of Madison Avenue as well.

I'm not a fan of the Wolverine series, but the tagline and the website are flawless. The former reads: "The hero. The fugitive. The warrior. The survivor. The legend." While I initially thought the description referred to Barack Obama, the website confirmed it was, instead, about this Wolverine dude.

So the website 

  • is elegantly designed. It educates, engages, and intrigues. It tells me right away who the Wolverine is (and, trust me, this is a guy with some serious issues).

The site also creatively depicts why the Wolverine's such a dark, yet heroic, figure by explaining his mental and emotional hang-ups. For example, when I click on the tab "Brain," I learn all about the man's psychological issues. When I click on another tab, "Heart," I find out why he's the Energizer Bunny of action heroes. 

I'll never pay to see The Wolverine, but I'd pay the firm who designed the tagline and site. They're Oscar-worthy.

Let me go!

No Gravity

Last, and definitely least, on the mainstream Hollywood hit list is Sandra Bullock's latest effort, Gravity.

The tagline is "Don't let go." Do yourself a favor. Let go. I haven't seen the movie, but the Gravity website is dreadful. This is one small setback for man. One giant debacle for mankind.

The website made me feel like I was stuck inside a Mortal Combat video game. I was ducking and wincing as one audio and visual download after another pummeled my senses like some ray gun from Mars. And the music sounds like it was created by an E.T. on crystal meth.

Importantly, the site never tells me why I shouldn't let go. I know the movie's plot, so I get why Bullock's character shouldn't have done so. But I'd be the first to snip the oxygen cord on whoever designed this dreck. (The site. Not the movie). 

Mean Girls

I believe the beauty of independent films lies in their authenticity. There's little hype, hardly any superficiality, and no yawning gap between what the movie tagline promises and what the website delivers.

Rid of Me is a great example. The film's tagline reads, "Kids can be mean...adults can be meaner." True that.

When I visited the website, the first thing I saw was a critic's review describing the flick as, "Mean Girls for Adults." Bingo! That told me exactly what the film would provide. That review was followed by others and a host of Independent Film Festival awards and accolades. That's beautiful. That provides me, the website visitor, with proof positive that the movie is worth seeing.

The site itself, though, is what separates this indie experience from mainstream drivel. It contains all the tabs one would expect, including trailer, cast, etc. The only thing it lacked was an interactive experience in which the site told me I was some combination of fat, dumb, or lazy. That would have been the ultimate delivery on a tagline promise. 

Too Fruity

Fruitvale Station provides a bumpier ride. The Indie's tagline is "Every step brings you closer to the edge." I'm a mountain climber, so I wasn't sure what edge the producers had in mind. It turns out Fruitvale Station is a sad, true tale of a kid from the Bronx who is murdered on a subway. Oh.

The website is downright weird, and features a tab called "Commit." Commit what? Murder? Adultery? Commit turns out to be a grassroots movement aimed at raising funds for the murdered hero's family.

That's heartwarming, but Fruitvale Station's website reminds me of the New Jersey Transit 9:31 local to midtown. It makes far too many stops and takes far too long to deliver me to my destination--which is deciding whether I want to see the movie or not.

Envelope Please

My Academy Award for the best connection between a tagline and website goes to (envelope please): Home:___: That's not a typographical error. That's the name of the film. The tagline is: "How far would you go to find yours?"

Based upon the website experience, I'd run a marathon. The tabs are brilliant in their simplicity:

- Trailer

- Story

- Cast

- Production Team, etc.

The look and feel provides a "home is where the heart is" type of feeling. And, like Rid of Me, this indie reassures me with a combination of glowing reviews and film festival awards. Home:____: delivers.

The (filmgoer's) Declaration of Independence

Taglines and website experiences are critical to the success of any brand. Nowadays, with competition from Netflix and others, Hollywood and indie moviemakers alike need to think very carefully about delivering on their brand promise.

When it comes to informing their decision-making, more and more consumers check out a website before they head to the box office and buy a box of popcorn. Come to think of it, they've become quite independent.

 

IMAGE: Getty
Last updated: Nov 21, 2013

STEVE CODY | Columnist

I'm a climber, comedian, and dog lover. But not necessarily in that order. I also happen to be co-founder and CEO of Peppercomm, a strategic communications firm headquartered in NYC, with offices in San Francisco and London. I publish RepMan, a daily blog, and have had the opportunity to appear on CNBC, MSNBC, NPR, and a host of other top-tier media over the years. scody@peppercomm.com

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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