Movie Marketing Madness: The Devil Wears Prada

This is not the sort of movie I am usually interested in. I just want to state that clearly and unquestioningly right there at the beginning. Movies that star the chick from The Princess Diaries (both installments) and are all about fashion are not exactly what you’d call right up my alley. So imagine my surprise to realize that I’m kind of looking forward to this one.

Anne Hathaway stars as a fresh-off-the-bus college graduate who happens into an internship at a super powerful and influential fashion magazine and who knows little about the industry. She begins working for the magazine’s widely respected and feared editor-in-chief, played by Meryl Streep. It’s a position that’s sought after by many since holding it for any length of time means being able to write your own check in the rest of the magazine world.

Like I said, this sounds like a plot that would prove deadly for my attention level. But now let’s look at how an interesting and innovative marketing campaign changed my mind.

The Poster

Alright, so the use of devilish imagery isn’t exactly groundbreaking for a movie that has “Devil” as part of the title. But the simple over-sized red stiletto heel against the white background is most definitely eye-catching. It also very effectively screams “SATIRE!!!!!!” at the loudest possible volume. But that’s alright. Too many campaigns for satirical movies try to downplay that and then the studio wonders why the movie failed. So the fact that this poster is big and bold about the movie’s intentions is, you know, a good thing.

Not only is it effective at communicating the theme of the movie but it’s also visually appealing. Just like the fashion world the movie portrays, the poster is stylish, sleek and sexy. You won’t convince me that the high heel motif wasn’t created as a way not only to appeal to the inner fashion goddess all women house but also the men with various, ummmm, fantasies. You just won’t.

The Trailer

Now here’s where things get really interesting. Most trailers are patchwork quilts of clips from all throughout the movie. The best jokes, the best action sequences, the best dramatic sequences are all cobbled together into something that a group of people think will appeal to a mass audience. The logic seems to be that if they take the best parts of the movie then people will be convinced of just how gosh darn good it really is.

The problem with that people usually come away feeling they’ve seen the best parts of the movie and so what’s the point of seeing the whole thing? And that’s usually accurate. There usually has to be a pre-existing awareness of a movie to generate a ticket sale. The trailers just feed that.

The trailer for The Devil Wears Prada took a different approach. Instead of a clip compilation the marketing team took a three minute clip chronicling Hathaway’s arrival at her new workplace. She comes in completely unaware of the office culture, is verbally assaulted by Streep’s assistant and generally pushed around and intimidated. When Streep arrives in the office her lackeys absolutely soil themselves making sure everything is perfect and that they are out of her way. Streep and Hathaway eventually meet when the prospect of her working at the magazine comes up and that’s about where we leave it, save for some great vamping from Stanley Tucci.

Here was a three minute clip from the movie (I’m sure there was some editing but it’s essentially intact I gather) that perfectly encapsulated what the film was about. Hathaway is young and naïve. Streep is established and imposing. Her assistant is flustered and bitchy. Tucci is fabulous. What more could a usual compilation trailer tell us? This is perfect. I watched it a half-dozen times it was so different and engaging. And that’s the key. It was engaging. It didn’t try to manipulate me with musical cues and overly emotional performances. It served as a plot synopsis better than anything else could. I loved it and my interest in the movie is derived almost completely from this trailer. Whoever had the idea to create it in this manner is a genius and should win a bunch of awards next year. Good stuff.

The Website

Most of the content on the official website is pretty cut and dried. There are a couple attempts at original thought, but they mirror a lot of what other sites have done. One example is the Fashion 101 quiz, which tests you fashion knowledge. Another is the Hell Boss creator. Those are very similar to what other sites have created when they’re testing your relationship knowledge or things like that. Good try, but not much of a stretch. There seems to have been a micro-site created for the movie (it’s linked from the main site) called The HIDEOUS Skirt. It’s kind of funny if you enjoy being snarky at bad fashion. This is the first I’ve heard of it, which might be a problem. Oh well.

Other Efforts
Fox entereed into couple of very appropriate partnerships for the movie’s promotion. First, the put the movie’s name all over Sephora stores and on the beauty retailer’s website. Very smart play, especially considering Sephora stores are mainly found in high-end malls like Chicago’s Water Tower Place. They also partnered with Mercedes-Benz to have a new car model debut as product placement within the movie. Finally, there was the creation of a store on highlighting the movie’s products. All these fit in very well with the high-end vibe of the movie and are geared to appeal to either currently in or aspiring to that social strata. The studio/movie also sponsored a “Coffee Break” on Tuesday, 6/27, making free coffee available to all those who toil away in offices at select coffee shops in some big areas.


It’s a solid effort for a movie that looks better than it really should be. A lot of that comes from the trailer being unafraid to actually show us the movie in question and a poster that’s quick-witted and amusing. I’ll be checking it out at some point based largely on those two components of the campaign, which really cross gender and make the movie appealing to those of us who couldn’t care less about fashion and the politics of that world.

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By Chris Thilk

Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist with over 15 years of experience in online strategy and content marketing. He lives in the Chicago suburbs.