Last month, Russell Scott and Patrick Young were the matchmakers who put male movie-goers together with Carmen Electra, star of 20th Century Fox's genre spoof Meet The Spartans. And last year, they took audience members out for a spin on the ice with Will Ferrell and Jon Heder, stars of the hit DreamWorks/Paramount comedy Blades Of Glory.
Granted, all these interactions took place in cyberspace rather than in the real world. But for Scott and Young, co-founders of online marketing agency Jetset Studios, the value of such relationships should still not be underestimated.
'That's the major draw to online marketing: being able to reach an audience, communicate with them, establish a two-way relationship with them well before the film comes out' says Scott, the company's CEO. 'Online, there's an unprecedented chance for the film-maker to reach an audience and let them interact with a brand that doesn't exist yet, well before one-sheets and any kind of trailer appear.'
Scott and Young, school friends who both went into the games industry and then partnered with Jersey Films on a pop culture web site, formed Los Angeles-based Jetset in 1999. 'Most of the other agencies were doing an evolution of design work,' Scott remembers. 'We came from a comedy standpoint, the standpoint of, 'Let's do the crazy thing.''
Their breakthrough came when they designed a 3D online game and other features for the website of Universal's 2004 Dawn Of The Dead remake. Since then, they have designed and produced websites, viral content, games and mobile advertising for films including King Kong, Hulk, Bruce Almighty, Bee Movie, Alvin And The Chipmunks, Beowulf and Mad Money.
For Meet The Spartans, Young developed the Carmen Has A Crush On You site that let users insert their own (or a friend's) name and photo into an interview with Electra about her new 'boyfriend'. And for Blades Of Glory, the team developed a feature allowing users to upload their faces onto the skaters' bodies.
Thanks to its comedy leanings, Jetset has become the online agency of choice for Judd Apatow. After working on Kicking & Screaming without knowing Apatow was the executive producer, Jetset has gone on to design and produce website and viral features for the writer-director-producer's Walk Hard, Superbad, The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Talladega Nights and Knocked Up. With Apatow, says Scott, 'We've reached a level of trust where we're able to take a film like Knocked Up and do something that hits the tone of the movie and is also clever and very relatable, very human.'
Scott says that more film-makers are now realising the importance of online marketing and getting directly involved themselves: 'When it became obvious it was the single most important part of the marketing campaign for the youth market, they started to get involved.'