Treknobabble #54: Lack of Promotion for Star Trek Movie

Treknobabble is a continuing series of columns written by uber-Trekkie Reed Farrington in anticipation of the upcoming J.J. Abrams Star Trek movie.

As I write this, there are about 80 days before J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek is released in theatres. With the movie’s production budget of approximately 150 million, it was obvious that executives had high hopes for this film, especially after an earlier scheduled Christmas opening was moved. Its release was being primed as a summer blockbuster. Early signs indicated that this movie would not be neglected by the marketing department.

The first trailer appeared late last year and was shown in some areas before the high profile James Bond picture, Quantum of Solace. I even saw this trailer as a commercial on network television. The next trailer appeared early this year during the Super Bowl for which commercial time is highly valued. And the third trailer is reported to be shown before the high profile comic-book movie, Watchmen. (Am I being sexist in thinking that these trailers are being aimed at the male demographic?)

As mentioned in my last Treknobabble, I have seen Star Trek references in publicity for recent movies like Fired Up! and Space Buddies, but I don’t think this was initiated by the makers of Star Trek. (With regards to the latter, I wonder why they didn’t take advantage of the pun, “Where no Buddy has gone before.”) As well, there have been Star Trek references recently in two Abrams produced television series, Lost and Fringe, but once again, I don’t see this as part of any grand marketing scheme.

Ever since the release of the Star Trek movie got pushed to this summer, I thought that CBS Studios or the Paramount publicity machine would attempt a slow promotional build-up to get Star Trek back in the public eye. But now I’m thinking the build-up is too slow. Or maybe I haven’t yet adapted to how quickly people move on to the next best thing, so it’s best not to hype too early?

(Even though I think it’s cool to simply name the new movie Star Trek, I personally think it was a mistake in terms of people being able to readily find information about the new movie and related web-sites.)

An online auto insurance company, esurance, has The Biggest Trekkie Contest which is only open to Americans. Contestants post videos that are rated by the web-site visitors. The grand prize is a trip to the movie’s premiere in Hollywood.

Appealing to the computer geeks, Intel has a Starfleet Shipyard Site with exclusive movie content. There was a contest for a laptop, but I think that contest is over. I could be wrong, but I didn’t notice any links to the contest on its web site.

I couldn’t find any other corporate sponsors or advertisers for the new movie. Star Trek has always avoided showing corporate logos of any current companies. Even in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, I don’t think there was any blatant product placement when they visited Earth in our current time. I’m wondering if this will change to offset the high production cost of the new movie.

(People who did a frame-by-frame analysis of the Super Bowl Star Trek trailer did notice the logo for the Tagruato Corporation in the skyline of 23rd century San Francisco. Not familiar with Tagruato? It’s a fictional company used in the viral marketing campaign for J.J. Abrams produced Cloverfield.)

Star Trek’s official web site contains very little recent news and hardly any updates. (Maybe they think the new movie’s own site is sufficient to satisfy curiosity, but I would think the owners of Star Trek would take this opportunity to boost the franchise.) Looking at its vendors listing, I checked the Mega Bloks link. There was nothing about Star Trek at the Mega Bloks site! At one point in their product line, they did have the TNG 1701-D ship, but it’s been long unavailable. Another vendor, Schmuch-Uhren-Noll, which sells men’s and women’s high-quality, handmade watches and necklaces, has its site completely in German! And there’s still an inactive link to the defunct Star Trek: The Experience. As for the movie’s site, content is rather paltry.

One of the first toy products that I saw reported for the new movie were the Mattel Barbie Dolls of Kirk, Spock and Uhura. I went to the Barbie web-site and couldn’t find anything about Star Trek. There was a Barbie Grownups section, but that didn’t help. The BarbieMedia site had a search field, but it yielded no hits for Star Trek.

Playmates Toys has a large number of Star Trek movie product coming out. But its web site has no mention of Star Trek! By the way, they should really rename their company. My initial search popped up an inappropriate site for kids.

I was hoping that there would be cereal and fast-food tie-ins for the new movie, but I haven’t heard or seen anything in this regard.

Maybe it’s still too early? What got me thinking was that I recently noticed many full pegs of action figures from the movie The Spirit at Toys R Us. I don’t recall seeing these figures until after The Spirit had bombed and left the theatres. I think the Star Trek toys are scheduled to be in stores in April. It’s better to be early than late, I think, but not too early since the shelf life of toys in some stores is limited. So April does seem like the ideal time. In Canada, I can remember the Star Trek Nemesis action figures staying in stores long after that movie bombed.

Recently, my heart skipped a beat when I noticed the Tyco radio-controlled Star Trek Enterprise and Bird of Prey at Zellers. (Zellers is a large supermarket chain in Canada.) It’s been a long time since I’ve seen Star Trek merchandise at Zellers. These aren’t movie tie-ins. I don’t think the Enterprise is meant to represent any specific incarnation.

A Treknobabble reader, Kasper F. Nielsen, commented on the zero marketing of Star Trek in Denmark. I don’t know if the new movie is getting a simultaneous release internationally. Previously, foreign countries would get Hollywood movies later, but I think bootlegging and the Internet have caused this to change. I’d be interested to hear from other foreign readers about how much Star Trek marketing there is in their countries.

Leonard Nimoy has stated that he thinks this is a good time for Star Trek to return with Barack Obama as the new president and Americans having a hopeful outlook for change. Will Star Trek benefit as well from the economic downturn in North America? Will the optimistic vision of Star Trek be something Americans seek for comfort? Or will Americans prefer comedy? Or will they stay at home to watch reality-based programming in which ordinary people become winners? Tell me, please. Should I be worried? Is it too early to panic for the future of Star Trek?

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  • Dan

    Don’t worry Reed this is JJ Abrams’s style. Cloverfield was coming out in January and we did not get its first real trailer till late november. By that standard Star Trek’s marketing going miles ahead where we have already had 3 trailers (about to get a fourth) in addition to the teaser with 3 months to go

  • MoriaOrc

    I would imagine they will ramp up promotion after Watchmen is released.If Watchmen is good or bad people will be talking about it.No need to try and compete with that air space when post Watchmen the field is clear for Star Trek hype to begin.

  • The Hollywood Reporter has an article about the marketing of Star Trek this week:

    http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/hr/content_display/news/e3iffc4c7c167527636db975bf1b21d20cb

  • D. Tribble

    It seems like Entertainment Tonight is all over Angels and Demons, which starts after Star Trek, but there’s nothing about Trek yet. What’s up with that.

    I think they should have already been pushing this, but maybe they have a different plan.

    I’m a moderate fan of the original series and a fan of the first few movies as well, but this movie seems to really grab you, well, the trailers do. I was looking at the Star Trek IMDB and there is some cool casting that I didn’t know about.

    1. Chris Doohan (this may be the best of all)

    2. Randy Paush (love the guy)

    3. Majel Roddenberry (fitting)

  • “I’m a moderate fan of the original series …” – How come people always seem to only be fans of the original series, but never anyone saying that they’re a fan of the second generation?

    From the little I have seen of Star Trek, that series is far superior to the original one. Is there something that I am missing here or what?

  • Funny that The Hollywood Reporter would have an article about the marketing of Star Trek posted on the same day as my article. (Sean can attest that I had the article ready for him earlier.)

    Kasper, your Danish compatriot Henrik is also a fan of The Next Generation. Each Star Trek series has its own fans and I think the consensus for the most part is that people get attached to the Star Trek series that they are first exposed to. I would love to hear of someone who watched the Original Series first and hated it, and then watched The Next Generation and loved it.

    I grew up with Captain Kirk, so I have an affinity for the Original Series. I actually prefer Deep Space Nine over The Next Generation, because I liked the characters more. For Treknobabble, I have been focusing on the Original Series because the upcoming movie is based on those characters.

    I don’t think there is anything I can say that would convince you that the Original Series is worth watching. And the matter of which Star Trek series is the best is a matter of taste. All the series, even Enterprise, have something worthwhile.