'Elephant' Marketing - Textual Analysis

As part of my pre-production research, I have decided to analyse several coming-of-age posters. The ideas from this analysis will influence my film's marketing campaign. The differences in dvd cover and film poster will also help me when it comes to product continuity. Whilst looking for films to analyse on IMDB, I discovered the film Elephant which was released in 2003 and directed by American film director Gus Van Sant. When I searched for images of the film's marketing campaign on Google, I found several of their posters. One issue that arose straightaway was the fact that there was a certain lack of continuity between these posters: it was as if the producer of this poster wanted to advertise two completely different films. It was this issue that I wanted to raise as part of my pre-production research.
Elephant is a coming-of-age film set in Portland, Oregon and its events are loosely based on the 1999 Columbine High School massacre. The film chronicles events surrounding a school shooting and these events are based on the perspectives of two bullied high school children, Alex (played by Alex Frost) and Eric (played by Eric Deulen), who are soon revealed as the pair behind the school's massacre.


When I first saw this poster, I thought that it was one of the least effective film posters that I had seen. This thought was based purely on the layout of the poster, particularly in the main third of the poster (where the photography is). Whilst the typography at the bottom of the poster may have had potential to be effective in terms of advertising the film to a large body of people, the consumer's focus is drawn away from that and is attracted towards the clumsily placed photography. It leaves the consumer wondering why there are two people randomly kissing in front of an orange elephant. It also makes us question why the elephant is actually in the poster: we ask if there is a deeper meaning behind its presence or if it's just there because the animal shares its name with the film title.
There are several elements in this poster that I think are really effective. The first element is the use of a white background. Apart from incredibly bright or fluorescent colours, white is an effective colour to use if a person wants other elements in a poster or another type of press text to really stand out. In the case of this poster, the white background really compliments the black title's typography at the bottom third of the poster. By allowing it to stand out, the consumer's focal attention can be drawn towards the film's important information such as the title, the age certificate, recognisable producers or writers within the cast credits and the studio credits. Another element is the way that the title's typography is presented. An informal font has been used to inform the consumer that this film's target audience is a younger audience. It also suggests to the consumer that the themes in the film are quite light-hearted. This will encourage people within that target audience to go and watch this film. It may also attract 21-30 year olds who might wonder what those light-hearted themes are and might want to find out if those themes will affect the film's events. However, the consumer who has read the film's synopsis may think that this font choice misrepresents the film's violent themes. Others may argue back that this film may be an alternative, less graphic representation of violence. They may add that the violence in this film may not be the main issue that affects the characters of this film and it could be other issues that face the teenage characters who live in a modern society such as peer pressure, drug abuse, failed romance, etc. It could be those issues that cause the violence to occur in the first place. The final element that I thought was effective was the different typography used when mentioning the director of the film Gus Van Sant. Bubble-writing in block capitals has been used to represent the director as being an individual who is fun and centres his films on light-hearted themes that make an impact on teenagers or a younger audience on a more personal level. The orange outline on the bubble writing is a form of continuity: it is the same colour as the elephant. This could signify that the director had a reason why he included the elephant in the poster. This continuity gives the poster a professional finish and encourages the consumer to go and watch this non-amateur production.
If I was to change anything about this poster, I would have changed the presentation of the photograph of the young couple kissing. I would have created a fade finish on the photo so that it blends in more naturally within the background. However, Van Sant may have chosen this presentation of the photograph because he aimed for it to be blunt and not organised so that it captures the consumer's attention. Even though the photograph is representing not only the age range of the characters but one of the issues raised in the film too (love or teenage romance), I would have included a few more photos that could subtly represent more themes of the film such as the violence or terrorism. These photos would help the consumer to establish a better understanding of what they can expect from this film. Once again, the lack of representation could have been an attempt to capture the consumer's attention by creating an enigma code. The current structure of the poster leaves the consumer wondering if love and romance is a major theme or if it is an underlying theme of the film's main events. The final thing that I would change about this poster is the presentation of the film awards which can be seen in the top third. By showing a film award on your poster, this increases that film's chances in attracting a large revenue from the audience and the consumer. On this particular poster, the film awards have been adjusted to an extremely small size so that it is almost undistinguishable. This stops the consumer from realising that this film actually has potential to be really good and enjoyable. I think that Van Sant made this decision not to have enlarged presentations of these film awards because he wanted the consumer to go and watch the film in order to construct their own opinion of his work rather than rely on a second opinion or biased material to persuade or dissuade them from watching this film.
This is another poster that was used for Elephant's marketing campaign. This is a clearer, more professional representation of the film and, to me, it is the professional finish that appeals to me more than the previous poster. Instead of a rule of thirds structure, the same photograph of the young couple kissing is the poster's background.
The typography is the poster's foreground and, in comparison with the previous poster, is completely different and appears more formal. In comparison with the previous poster, the main film award has been enlarged and is more visible for the consumer to notice. The iconic Palme D'Or logo has also been used to represent the film under a positive light. The consumer now knows that the director of this film, Gus Van Sant, has been awarded the Palme D'Or Award for his directing in this film. The Palme D'Or is a major award to be received in the film festival season so this will encourage the consumer to watch this film and find out for themselves why the director of this film has won this award. This may also encourage them to discover more of his films and watch them too to see if they match up to the standards that this film sets. Whilst the previous poster used a formal colour and font to compliment the white background, this poster's title's typography is in block capitals and is purple. The darker shade of purple helps the title to stand out against the background and its large font size allows the consumer's focal attention to be drawn into the most important information on this poster. I think that if orange font was used, some of the letters could have been lost because of the bright natural light in the background. Like with any other poster, Van Sant would have wanted the title's typography to be as visible and as clear as possible because a title is the most important element in a film poster when it comes to individuality and that particular film standing out in comparison with other coming-of-age films.
The photography introduces the characters' age and one of the film's locations to the consumer. The characters appear to be younger than 18 but old enough to still be attending school. This suggests to the consumer that this film may also be targeted at an audience of the same age of these characters because some of the issues that could be raised will most likely be the most relatable to teenagers. The location used to shoot this photograph appears to be in an enclosed room in a school. This is an enigma code because this could be a location that has a major influence on the film's events or it could be a place that is important for one of the characters. Enigma codes are a way of drawing in the consumer's appeal. Another enigma code is the boy's body language towards the girl beside him. As she kisses him on the cheek, he appears deep in thought or estranged to an extent where he may not feel the same way about her. When put into that context, some could say that the girl, although she may be very close to him, is completely oblivious of his private life and the events that appear to be consuming the boy. That context makes the consumer wonder about the relationship between the two characters and it makes them want to see the film in order to find out if that relationship will make an impact on the film's events. A medium-close up of the two characters has been used with the male actor being in the centre of the shot. This type of shot allows the female actor to also be present in the image so that the consumer can not become confused as to who is kissing the male actor. The positioning of the male actor suggests to the audience that he is the male character. This also suggests to the audience that the approach towards the film's events could be shot on the basis of his character's perspective. The reason why the image has not been edited could have been because Van Sant wanted to create a naturalistic representation of his film. If effects such as fades or colour filters were used, this could have fazed that representation and it could leave the consumer wondering what time period or genre this film belongs to. If effects were used ineffectively, it could lead to a very poor representation of Van Sant's film and it could dissuade the consumer from watching this film based on the fact that they think the poster represents the film as being a parody or a humorous approach towards the events raised in the film rather than a serious drama.

No comments:

Post a Comment