Sarah Who?

Marketing Behind Upcoming Judd Apatow Comedy Leaves Audiences in the Dark, but Studio Not Worried

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LOS ANGELES ( -- Movie titles can be prophetic. In the case of Universal's forthcoming Judd Apatow-produced comedy "Forgetting Sarah Marshall," that's not good, because in order to forget her, audiences would first have to have remembered her.

Despite an innovatively oblique outdoor ad campaign (black scrawl on white billboards angrily declaring, "I'm SO Over You, Sarah Marshall," "Those Jeans DO Make You Look Fat, Sarah Marshall," among other choice put-downs), it doesn't appear "Sarah" is registering, at least according to audience-tracking data shared with Advertising Age.

This week, new Marketcast research showed that -- despite reams of newspaper stories and blog posts about the campaign's effect on the actual Sarah Marshalls of the world -- the Judd Apatow-produced comedy hasn't broken through to audiences, and isn't doing well even with those who are aware of it.

Interest lagging
For instance, Marketcast's data found that "interest among those aware of the film" was highest among young males and females under the age of 20. Unfortunately, only 30% of those young men and only 33% of the young women expressed interest in seeing it. A recent spate of interviews conducted by an Ad Age reporter in front of some "Sarah Marshall" signage on Los Angeles' well-trafficked Pico Boulevard found many passers-by confused as to what the signs referred to.

Those billboards are now coming down, with a more traditional TV campaign getting under way to prepare for the film's April 18 release. Adam Fogelson, Universal Pictures marketing president, said that was always the plan, and that he's unfazed by the numbers.

"It's been talked about more than any outdoor campaign since 'The 40 Year Old Virgin,' and no one here is anything but happy about it," Mr. Fogelson told Ad Age.

Mr. Fogelson went on to cite separate research data undertaken by National Research Group, which pegged the movie's overall awareness at 53%, though he admitted it was audiences' fourth choice. That data, however, belies the fact that Mr. Apatow's "Knocked Up" similarly clocked in with a 56% NRG audience awareness -- and went on to become the sleeper hit of last summer.

"Different movies, stars and genres all track differently," Mr. Fogelson explained, "but this is tracking just where Judd's movies usually do."
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