Movie Marketing Madness: The Ides of March

We live in interesting political times. I’m sure that’s something that every generation has felt about the times they lived in as well as they’ve gone through their own trials and everything else but that doesn’t make it any less true. A feeling that we were on the dawn of something new led to the momentous 2008 Presidential election, an action that had an equal and opposite reaction in 2010, when a wave of those who were more interested in stagnation were swept into power. That’s lead to years of one battle after another between parties as they go back and forth trying to appeal to the lowest common denominators of their supporter base.

Coming in to this climate is the new film The Ides of March. George Clooney stars as Mike Morris, a Presidential candidate that has captivated the nation with his ideals and high standards. Leading his campaign is Stephen Myers (Ryan Gosling), the campaign manager that has even more charm than the candidate he’s supporting. But one day the rival campaign comes calling and Myers is tempted to switch sides in order to be on the winning side, a feeling that’s heightened when Morris refuses to cross an ethical line that could ensure his victory. His betrayal scorches the earth behind him and causes all sorts of drama in both camps.

The Posters

The poster is kind of clever and certainly communicates the fact that this is a political drama. Gosling stares at the camera holding up a Time Magazine that has on its cover Clooney’s face along with the question “Is this man our next President?” So the idea of someone being two-faced is also introduced here in a way that still allows both leading men’s faces to be put on the one-sheet, something that’s obviously important for the marketing.

The Trailers

The first trailer starts off by showing us how Myers is a valued advisor for the campaign being waged by Norris for the Presidency, someone Norris refers to as his braintrust. Myers is happy working on the campaign not only because he believes Norris can actually change things for the better but also because he’s friends with Zara, the campaign manager. But he’s approached by a worker for the opposing candidate and asked to work for them. When he decides to switch sides after coming to believe Norris can’t win things get dramatic, as everything is thrown up on the air and his position as the golden boy of the political world is tarnished while those around him start to question whether or not he can be trusted.

It’s a tight and gripping trailer for a dramatic movie that looks like it has adults as its target audience.

Online

The movie’s official website opens with the poster key art, which you can click on to Enter the Site.

Once you do that you’re taken to a collage of images from the film as well as the main content navigation menu.

The first section in that menu is “About the Film” and has a very brief Synopsis as sell as Cast and Filmmakers sections that just have the name of the character each actor plays without any deeper information on them.

After that is “Trailer,” which at least is honestly labeled since that’s all that’s there. There are about 20 stills from the film in the “Gallery” and “Downloads” has a collection of Twitter Skins, Desktop Wallpapers and Buddy Icons for you to add to your collection.

The “News” section is probably the most interesting one here. There are links to some of the press stories that have been published about the movie but there’s also a stream of fake Twitter-like updates from some of the characters that, when clicked, opens up a selection of extended video clips to play. Then there’s a real Twitter update down in the other corner that has a link to a real story.

The movie’s Facebook page includes not just the usual updates on press activities and other marketing materials but also lots of education for the audience on where the term “Ides of March” comes from and what it means. That may help people understand the themes of the movie but you never really know.

Advertising and Cross-Promotion

The first TV spots that began running were kind of odd. Instead of selling the movie as a political drama they recut things we’ve seen in the trailer to make it look like Gosling’s character is the subject of some sort of personal attack, with people digging up skeletons from his past to blackmail and otherwise hurt him and the candidate he works for. That’s kind of strange since it’s not at all the same movie the trailer is selling and so I’m thinking one of them is misselling the film to the general audience.

Media and Publicity

The first major news from the film was when it was announced (Hollywood Reporter, 6/21/11) that it would open the 2011 Venice Film Festival, a very high-brow coming out party for the movie. Before that, though, it screened at the Telluride Film Festival, where it garnered mixed reviews – though with the occasional outlier that pegged it as an early Oscar favorite (Entertainment Weekly, 8/31) – but lots of press (Time, 8/31) for its combination of presidential politics and Clooney.

Of course the movie provided the press with plenty of opportunities to ask Clooney about politics and what he hoped to achieve with the film (Los Angeles Times, 9/25/11), though he consistently denied any political aspirations of his own.

Overall

If there’s a consistent theme to the marketing it’s that this movie is an intelligent drama that’s intended for a grown-up audience. I’m convinced that if the campaign misrepresents the film it’s selling at all it’s in that it makes it seem much more action-oriented than it really is. I’m guessing the slammed phones and terse conversations are much more evenly paced in the film itself than they’re presented here.

But that’s a minor quibble and, as I said, there’s still the clear message here that we’re dealing with a serious drama and not something that has any aspirations of filling seats full of teenagers. It will be interesting to see how it does in the early fall release window and how much of a draw Clooney winds up being for this release.

Author: 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.