It is already one of the most eagerly anticipated films of the year, but there are few promotional posters on display and the trailers have yet to be screened.
Bruno, which stars Sacha Baron Cohen as his latest alter ego, a gay Austrian fashion presenter, has redefined the way films are marketed, masterminding a series of publicity stunts that culminated in Sunday’s appearance at the MTV Music Awards.
Mark Borkowski, founder of Borkowski PR, described Baron Cohen as “a PR person’s dream”. He said: “It is a clever strategy because the film world is a marketplace of ideas, and the conversation with the punter has become extremely noisy. Baron Cohen uses old-fashioned tactics to rise above all the other promotional din.”
The 37-year-old British comedian appeared at the awards in character last week, suspended high above an audience of celebrities before plummeting into Eminem’s lap and placing his posterior in the hip-hop star’s face.
The episode was seen by a global TV audience of more than 100 million, who watched as Eminem stormed out of the show, and footage of the incident became an instant YouTube hit.
An MTV writer claimed the stunt had been staged, but Baron Cohen’s previous public cameos as Bruno do not appear to have been rehearsed.
During Milan fashion week last September, Baron Cohen hijacked a show staged by the Spanish designer Agatha Ruiz de la Prada, clambering on to the runway and posing for photographers before being ushered away by security guards.
Baron Cohen was in Milan to film the movie, Bruno: Delicious Journeys Through America for the Purpose of Making Heterosexual Males Visibly Uncomfortable in the Presence of a Gay Foreigner in a Mesh T-Shirt, which is released in the UK next month.
Danny Rogers, editor of the industry title PR Week, said the fact that the MTV stunt featured a single still image that will live long in the memory makes it hugely valuable. “Pictures have a lot of value these days. They have a viral power. Its not just about placing a story in the media. These images are passed around offices and shared among friends. If you get the right idea and execute it correctly a single event or even a single image is worth 10 times what a paid advert is worth.”
Conventional PR has been restricted to a carefully placed interview in the British edition of Marie Claire magazine, which put Bruno on the cover of its July issue .
Baron Cohen employed similar tactics to promote his first two films, which introduced the wider world to Ali G and Borat, a roaming reporter from Kazakhstan.
He arrived at the London premiere of Borat in character, sitting in a wooden cart drawn by a mule. That movie took about $300m (£187m) worldwide, and the controversy it created helped to raise awareness of the project. It was banned in Russia, where authorities refused to grant it a distribution licence, and provoked a furious response from the Kazakh government. Twentieth Century Fox, the American film studio that produced Borat, was also sued unsuccessfully by members of the public who appeared in the film.
Bruno is already the subject of a lawsuit, despite the fact that it has yet to be released. Universal, its distributor, is facing legal action from Richelle Olson, who claims she was hurt during filming when Baron Cohen burst into her charity bingo tournament in Desert Valley, California.
Borkowski said Baron Cohen had selected the locations of his public appearances carefully. “He’s chosen an audience – an MTV audience – and capitalised on someone [Eminem] who’s back in the news. He makes an effort. A great stunt involves the precise organisation and incredible discipline of a military operation.”
Eminem, of course, also has an album to promote.