Movie Marketing Madness: Doubt

There’s little not to love about period dramas from either a studio or talent point of view. They’re pretty easy to market (just show a bunch of old cars and other similar items) and they’re instantly attractive to talent because they have a high tendency to result in award nominations.

That’s why, when combined with the subject matter, Doubt had to be a very attractive option for all involved.

Doubt takes place 1954 at a Catholic school lorded over by a strict no-nonsense nun. The kind that would not look kindly upon either German Bible scholars questioning the primacy of the Pope or Jake and Elwood stealing money, even if it was to pay for back-taxes for the orphanage. Tensions within the school begin to come to a boil when one of the younger nuns begins to suspect that the priest of the school might be abusing one of the boys.

So as you can see it’s weighty topics to cover. The movie is based on a play that debuted a few years ago and is certainly more about what’s been going on now in the Catholic church as opposed to actually being about what might have happened then.

The Posters

The first teaser poster debuted on Cinematical and it’s quite a striking image. The cross that is also a church, with the stained glass windows up at the top, is one that does two things equally well: First, it creates an instant conversation piece since any re-use of the cross is sure to generate some sort of discussion. Second, it shows the movie is all serious and is all about going for the idea that it’s an Oscar-level flick. After all, with that cast and that kind of radical imagery it must be good, right?

Surprisingly that was the only poster there was. Perhaps it’s the notion that putting the stars of the movie on the one-sheet would distract from the content that fueled this decision but I still find it an odd call for them to make. Hoffman, Streep and Adams are now pretty well known among the general populace and so I would have expected them to appear in some regard here. Still, I admire on some level that they decided not to go for the BFH approach.

The Trailers

The trailer starts off with its immediate goal being to establish Streep’s character and her place within the Catholic school. Right off the bat she’s shown to be the harsh disciplinarian at the school, determined to stick to the old ways of doing things and displeased with the very idea of being asked to change.

After that bit of introduction we then meet Hoffman’s priest character and the conflict of the story takes off. Adams’ nun brings her concerns over private meetings Hoffman’s priest has been having with one of the boys to Streep, who then becomes set in her “certainty” that there must be something untoward going on. The two then go head to head and, really, provide the main selling point of the movie, which is the acting squaring off between these two high-quality actors. If that doesn’t convince people to go see this then nothing will and the studio was right to just present it as is and hope people bite.

Online

The movie’s official website at first gives you the option to Enter the Site or to View the Trailer. Considering we just watched the trailer let’s dive into the site and see what we can find.

The “About the Film” section appears right off the bat without any prompting by the visitor. There you’ll see a Synopsis that explains what the film is about and and who appears in it. There are also some Press Notes that you can download and read for yourself.

“Cast” and “Filmmakers” highlight the key players both in front of and behind the camera. Nothing revolutionary here but the entries are pretty well written. Especially in the “Cast” section there seems to be an emphasis on making clear each actor’s Serious Acting Street Cred is established, which isn’t all that hard with this bunch.

Unfortunately “Gallery” is still labeled as Coming Soon, though I’m guessing that would have been stocked with photos had it been completed in time.

Finally, after “View Trailer,” there’s “Acclaim” that brings in some of the key quotes from the rave reviews the film has gotten from various media outlets. Each outlet is named but unfortunately there’s no link so we can’t go read the full review.

The movie was also given some level of presence on Facebook through Miramax’s main Fan Page. There’s not much content from the film there – just a poster and a trailer – but it’s something. Some clips from the film were included on Miramax’s YouTube page as well.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Not much of either, unfortunately. I encountered some online ads around the interwebz but there were no cross-promotions to speak of. Not that surprising, of course, since it’s set in 1954 and involves charges of child abuse. Not really something a lot of brands would race to be associated with.

There’s actually been more advertising done of the “For Your Consideration” variety than anything else that I’ve seen, with all the major players getting promoted for award consideration by the studio. Proof that these sorts of movies are more attractive for their awards potential than for actual box-office returns. Or at least the studio is more interested in spending money to get that award than they are to drive box-office traffic.

Media and Publicity

There was plenty of press involving the movie’s stars and how it was one of a barrage of late-year entries to the box-office that had Oscar or other award potential. It also gained notice when it was announced it would take the place of The Soloist as the lead-off movie at the American Film Festival after that film was pulled and pushed to the 2009 schedule.

Overall

It’s a good campaign but, as is often the case with smaller-scale releases, it’s a bit skimpy. The materials that were created are all of the highest quality but there’s just too little of it. I like the trailer and I like the poster. The site is predictably not very well stocked and, aside from the FYC campaign, the ads weren’t very prevelant.

But Miramax has obviously done what it felt it needed to do to bring X number of people in to theaters. i just wish it had been a bit more.

PICKING UP THE SPARE

  • 12/19/08: Joe Leydon is confused by the appearance of a TV spot for the movie that presents it as a funny holiday caper. I haven’t seen that exactly but yeah, that’s got to be kind of weird.
  • 1/12/09: The marketing for this movie continues to trickle out, with Miramax releasing a new poster that’s heavy on the faces of the leading cast – something completely missing in the pre-release campaign – and including the Golden Globes nominations the film has garnered. I wonder if they’ll be a new campaign component for each set of awards nominations.
  • 1/12/09: Miramax appears to have set itself up for some criticism by using a mash-up of two critic’s quotes in its “For Your Consideration” ads for the movie. That might be even worse than making up quotes from wholecloth. When are marketers going to learn that using the google people can fact-check just about anything and that writers, aside from those instances when they’ve unwisely gotten hammered and fired up WordPress actually remember what they’ve written? Not good. The studio eventually pulled the ad and replaced it with a version that included real, attributed quotes.
  • 3/9/09: The marketing campaign for the movie has helped boost the box-office sales of the Canadian presentation of the original stage play.

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