Web slingers

PPI embraces the future with an aggressive approach to online marketing.

LONDON -- When it comes to the world of online marketing, Paramount Pictures International is thinking blue. For the past six years, United International Pictures has employed an innovative British public relations operation called Way to Blue (waytoblue.com) to handle its online promotions. Founded by journalists Olly Swanton and Lee Henshaw (who is no longer connected to the company), Way to Blue occupies a niche that didn't exist until only few years ago.

Deborah Sheppard, who has moved from UIP to Paramount U.K., where she is director of marketing, says she considers Way to Blue to be the U.K.'s leading specialists in digital publicity.

"Way to Blue are dynamic, innovative and results-driven, and they have a thorough understanding of the new media environment," she says. "Our main criterion in online is just to keep on top of it -- because it's such a massively growing area -- and to make sure we know we're getting more of a shout online than our competitors are. The key is to sell the film and make sure we're selling it more than any other film that's going out at the time."

Among the many UIP movies with which Way to Blue has been involved in recent months are Oliver Stone's "World Trade Center" and former Vice President Al Gore's documentary "An Inconvenient Truth."

In an effort to highlight Stone's involvement while taking a sensitive approach to the subject matter, the trailer for "WTC" was placed on various news, entertainment and lifestyle Web sites including AOL, Empire and TimesOnline.

Additionally, an early podcast trailer was made available on iTunes, and major film Web sites operated by the BBC, Channel Four and Time Out magazine were given one-on-one interviews with Stone, resulting in home-page features at the time of release.

Clips also were placed on U.K. MSN and ITV's MovieClub Web site, and the film gained the top slot on Orange's film page during its release week as well as endorsements on Vodafone Live, T-Mobile and 02 iMode. Yahoo! Movies, Total Film and Tiscali's film and TV site also were in the mix.

"If we're launching on an international level, we're going for the sites and portals that will give us the best numbers," PPI executive vp international marketing Jon Anderson says.

Handling the campaign for the acclaimed environmental documentary "Inconvenient Truth" meant attempting to raise exposure not only on mainstream entertainment sites but on those concerned with the green movement. The new-media assault included promotional activity on sites including those of Yahoo!, MySpace, Empire, BBC Film, AOL, Orange, NTL cable and the Sun newspaper, as well as the World Wildlife Fund, Climate Change Solutions, Greenpeace and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.

Way to Blue worked to obtain an editorial endorsement from RSPB with a link on its site to the film's trailer, and the WWF highlighted the documentary on its home page on the movie's release date. The Alliance of Religions and Conservation also was approached and responded with a feature with links to the film's official site.

Way to Blue's Swanton says his campaigns will go wherever digital goes. "You can see our content on mobiles, (PlayStation Portables), iPods, hand-held devices, Sky Interactive and many other places," he says. "It used to be about online, but now it's a complete digital media solution."