Research commissioned by PRmoment comparing UK online coverage of five leading summer films in the two weeks before they were released, shows that Bruno succeeded in stirring up the most controversy. Coverage was analysed of five films; Bruno, Coco Before Chanel, G-Force, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, and the Taking of Pelham 123. Out of these films, Bruno was covered 50 per cent, Harry Potter 27 per cent, while Coco Before Chanel had the least coverage, with 5 per cent.
According to Warner Bros on 27 July, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is the biggest movie of 2009, and it comes in sixteenth in 25thframe.co.uk’s list of UK’s highest grossing films of all time, while Bruno does not make the top 100. This shows how well Bruno succeeded in pushing itself into the media’s consciousness before its release. When it comes to headline mentions, controversy over Bruno helped it to storm ahead of the other films, with over one thousand mentions compared to 22 for Harry Potter.
Harry Potter’s premier was the main talk of stories, while for Bruno, most stories focused on its opening weekend. The second favourite subject for both these films were about the stars in the films. Stars are obviously a big pull for promoting films, and news about the actors in G-Force (doing the voiceovers) and Coco before Chanel were the main subjects of stories about these films. For the Taking of Pelham 123, it was promotions surrounding the film that generated the most news.
Vanessa Davies is head of Harry Potter Production Publicity, and says that athough many people may believe that Harry Potter doesn't need publicity as it is already so well-known, this is certainly not the case. She says: “Every year brings fresh challenges as it's vital the promotion of the films keeps abreast with the continuing ageing-up of the audience.”
Davies says that when she started working on Harry Potter nearly ten years ago, the audience was primarily 6-12 years old, but as the stories have matured (along with the ageing of the principal characters), now the audience is much older and includes more teens and adults. She describes how PR work has had to change as the audience has matured: “We have to ensure that the publicity campaign reaches this audience and has a certain 'coolness' and certainly this was reflected in the target media. For instance, Emma Watson graced the cover of Elle Magazine and Dan Radcliffe graced the cover of both Esquire and Time Out. This strategy will continue throughout the films as our principal characters reach their late teens and the adults who portray them reach their early 20s.”
Bruno, starring Sacha Baron Cohen as a gay Austrian fashion presenter, as such a different type of film, had a very different publicity strategy. This included a series of publicity stunts. On 20 July, Londonpr.org praises Baron Cohen’s efforts to draw attention to his film, including wearing “naked outfits” along with other members of the cast in Germany. Hallane Hill, account executive at Ascent PR, describes how Baron Cohen’s stunts have impressed her: “All Baron Cohen’s characters start with a shocking PR stunt, such as one at the MTV Awards on 2 June, which saw Eminem walk out of the awards after being humiliated by Bruno. Of course, Eminem must have been in on this stunt, but it certainly grabbed the headlines and overshadowed the awards themselves. It also brought Bruno to life for many of us. These stunts create great headlines which ultimately sell papers, and Baron Cohen has relied on this press coverage in order to bring his fictional character to life. Baron Cohen must know (as we all do) sensational stories sell newspapers, so although he is partially a ‘newspaper pimp', he knows how to create headlines.”
PRmoment asked Echo Sonar to compare UK online media coverage two weeks before each film’s release date. The films looked at were Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, Bruno, G-Force, The Taking of Pelham 123, and Coco Before Chanel. The research period was 26 June to 23 August. Metrics included share of voice, headline mentions and volume of media topics.
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