Movie studios are getting more unconventional with their marketing tactics, especially as many are going viral with guerilla strategies like nontraditional posters (“You Suck Sarah Marshall” for Forgetting Sarah Marshall) and fake Web sites (the Dark Knight's whysoserious.com and ibelieveinharveydent.com). For Meet Dave, the new Eddie Murphy flick from 20th Century Fox, the film studio used a touring foam head to grab the attention of the camera-happy, Internet-surfing public.
The head, a 15-foot-tall, three-ton replica of Murphy's character Dave, is a little more than an oversized publicity stunt. The idea of the giant bust grew from a simple photo-op promotion—where consumers could take pictures with the head—to a regional tour and commemorative poster. Behind it all is 20th Century Fox Film Corporation vice president of special events Len Iannelli, who oversaw the project and commissioned Ultra Productions to help execute the concept.
“The sell [for the movie] has always been Eddie Murphy in Eddie Murphy. Eddie as the vessel and Eddie as the captain of the vessel,” said Iannelli. This concept was key as the movie centers on Dave Ming Chang—a human-shaped ship—that is controlled by a miniature crew of aliens.
So when the team started exploring the idea of transporting a giant head from the West Coast to Times Square, they realized they could evolve the stunt into a cross-country campaign. “We were hoping to gain viral momentum with [people taking] pictures of the head on the highway and people blogging about it,” said Iannelli. Starting on June 16 in Los Angeles, the head was hauled on a flatbed trailer to Dallas, Atlanta, Detroit, Washington D.C., and Philadelphia before it arrived in Manhattan today.
Looking to maximize its marketing efforts, 20th Century Fox decided to add an extra layer to the traveling campaign. Each photo of a person posing with the Dave head will be uploaded to Meet Dave's Web site, and a select number of these images will be used to create a mosaic version of the movie poster, which will be posted in theaters.
”[There's a] great human-interest story here, for people to be part of a commemorative poster,” said Iannelli, adding that the film's campaign has already been featured in the media, from local papers and morning news shows, to Entertainment Tonight and CNN.
More challenging for Iannelli, however, was the creation of the interactive head (which visitors could climb into and peak out of through an opening in the ear), a three-month process that started with a series of computer-generated sketches that were developed into a six-inch model before being fully built. To help perfect the design, the studio brought in Gentle Giant Studios—a Burbank, California-based company that creates 3-D models—as well as Daniels Wood Land to build and sculpt it. The foam structure is supported by a steel cage and features reinforced expanded polystyrene and five gallons of glue.
“When we do these things, you kind of make it up as you go. Believe it or not, we've never built a 15-foot head before,” said Iannelli
On-site at Military Island in Times Square, the event management and production team prepped for the crowds by working with the NYPD and roping off sections of the median. The studio even provided safety harnesses for children and the elderly to prevent folks from falling from the head's ear. Aside from that, Iannelli's not worried as the head is designed to withstand thunderstorms as well as hot weather.
The Meet Dave promotion stayed in Times Square until July 5, after which headed back to Los Angeles for the premiere on July 11.