Annals of Test-Marketing

I was approached by some college-age folks in the train station the other day. They asked if they could show me a movie clip and ask me a few questions. I was waiting for a train and thus in no rush, so I agreed. From the exercise, and a little educated guessing, I can tell you this:

16 Blocks is scheduled to be released on March 3. It looks dreadful. Bruce Willis is in it, being Bruce Willisy. Ugh. It supposedly also stars Mos Def, but I don’t even remember seeing him.

They may advertise it during the Super Bowl. In any event, they’re trying out trailers. The trailer they showed me certainly isn’t doing them any favors. The trailer itself was stylish — a top-down view of city streets, ala the early Grand Theft Auto games — with brief clips from the movie superimposed on the tops of buildings. Stylish but a bad idea; I found myself watching the streets, not the clips. I also had to listen very closely the second time through to hear what the voice-over guy was saying.

Also of interest to me were some meta-details: the survey procedure and the watermarks. They had two guys roaming the train station with laptops. I guess one was the lead, and when he found a willing victim, er volunteer, he’d sic the other guy on while rounding up the next person himself. They had me give a phone number so that their boss could follow up to make sure they were doing the survey properly, and sure enough, their boss did. From the questions she asked, it might have been that they were supposed to be doing the survey at a movie theater. Since she didn’t directly ask where I’d taken it, I didn’t feel the need to volunteer that it had been the train station. I liked the guys. They were cutting a few corners and my guy seemed too shy to be doing marketing surveys, but they basically did it straight.

The clip seemed to have not just one but two watermarks. There was one watermark from the studio, which faded in and out — smaller lines saying “property of.” There was also a large Getty Images watermark right in the center, which struck me as odd. But then I went and searched the Getty archive and found a half-dozen clips shot in the exact top-down style of the trailer. 814-52 is typical. You can even save yourself the trouble of watching the trailer — if you look at one of these clips, you’ve pretty much seen it, minus the annoying voice-over and the always shudder-worthy visage of Bruce Willis.