Do you have a passion? I’m not talking about something that you just like doing or which interests you. I’m talking about something that burns inside you. A passion isn’t a hobby. It’s the voices in your head that pester you until you give in and do what they’re driving you to do. It’s what pushes you to stay up late, to make sacrifices, to burn bridges all in the name of doing what you need to. Those voices though are never really silenced. Give them an inch and they’ll take you a mile, pushing you to accomplish the next thing, then the next. They’re insatiable.
(It occurs to me that I’m writing a pretty good description of both someone who’s very passionate about what they do as well as straight-up murderers. Hmmm.)
Burnt is about someone who’s just that driven. Bradley Cooper plays Adam Jones, a celebrity chef who has fallen on some hard times after a previous restaurant went under and he honked off the wrong people through both his behavior and his drug use. Now he’s sober and looking to reclaim his reputation by striving to open a London restaurant that can achieve three Michelin stars, the ultimate grade in the industry. But he finds that not everyone has forgiven him for his past even as he tries to enlist new assistants and others to help him achieve his goal.
There’s just one poster for the movie. It’s not super-involved but it gets the point across, simply showing Cooper with his arms folded as he stands in front of a kitchen. The copy across his chest says “Never underestimate a man with nothing to lose.”
So it manages to convey that Cooper is in the movie (an important messaging component, I think) as well as the setting of the action and the attitude of the character. Again, there’s not a whole lot going on here from a visual design point of view but it works from a messaging perspective, even if it looks like the cover to a novelization more than a one-sheet.
The first trailer opens with a kitchen being brought to life as we hear Jones explaining his background as a young chef who had and then lost it all. Then he lays out his manifesto for his new restaurant to be the best in the world as we hear what he’s been up to before trying to mount a comeback and get a hint of the bridges he’s burned.
The trailer is pretty good at offering a synopsis of the story – troubled bad-boy chef trying to mount his comeback – and maintains a focus on Cooper’s performance, which seems here to be based on moving around fast enough to not get caught in anything. He’s all frenetic motion, which is meant here, I think, to heighten the drama and tension.
The second trailer opens with more of a focus on Jones and just who he’s pissed off. So we get the woman saying “one hoped you were dead” and him running away from some bad guys with an obvious axe to grind. Then Jones meets up with an old friend who has forgiven if not forgotten the past. That starts his recruitment for his new place, which includes a street chef and a young woman who, as we see, will obviously become a love interest.
This one works maybe just a little bit better. It feels tighter and more focused and the fact that more characters besides Jones get highlighted works in its favor. The way Jones’ backstory is presented also works much better here, making this the better of the two spots.
Online and Social
The official website opens by playing, unfortunately, the first trailer, or at least the beginning of it. Once that stops it automatically scrolls down to the “About” section which has the second trailer embedded alongside a short one-paragraph synopsis of the film’s story. That section also has tabs along the bottom of the screen, one for Credits, which opens the credit block, and one for Partners, which has a list of companies that partnered with the movie on promotions.
There’s more to be found in the “People” section that’s next. That has descriptions of each of the main characters as well as the actors who play them. I really like this presentation as it draws a clear line between the two but puts an emphasis on the character, providing some background for people who may be interested.
In a nice touch, the “Cuisine” section is just that, a list of recipes, presumably for some of the dishes featured in the movie. Finally, the “Gallery” has a collection of images, GIFs and short videos that feature either characters from the movie or some of the food or cooking terms used in the film.
The last section is “Reservations,” which lets you find out where the movie is playing in your area.
On Facebook the studio shared the usual mix of images, videos, links to stories (mostly with clips, not anything more substantive) and more. Twitter was lots more active as they shared not just those official marketing materials but also Retweeted various food-based and other accounts that shared stats from the movie, provided background on the recipes and cooking details and more. There’s actually a lot of fun stuff there if you’re looking for more detail on not just the movie but the world the movie inhabits. Instagram is just photos and short videos.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
The TV spots that were run used much the same approach as the trailers. Because of the shorter runtime they didn’t include so much of the backstory, instead opting to focus on how incredibly passionate Jones is about food and showing him using graphic, sometimes sexual terms to describe his approach to cooking and what he wants people to experience.
Some of those TV spots featured some very awkward narration. The less said about those the better.
Among the movie’s promotional partners are:
- HelloFresh: The recipe delivery company offered co-branded blog posts like this as well as a sweepstakes.
- Joss & Main: The cookware retailer offered a variety of products inspired by or featured in the movie as well as tips from the film’s production designer.
- Le Creuset: Offered a chance to win a Dutch Oven signed by the film’s cast.
- Sur la Table: Offered a cooking class on French recipes inspired by and featured in the movie.
- Samsung: Not sure what this one was about, unless there are lots of Samsung products featured in the movie.
- BakeSpace: Again, not sure what’s going on here since there aren’t details on either website.
- Castello Cheese: Offered recipes inspired by the movie and showed off the cheese that’s featured in the film. The company also curated a nice media board of film pictures.
- ZWILLING J.A. Henckels USA: Promoted the movie on its social media channels since its knives are featured in the movie.
- Postmates: Once more, not sure what this is about since details aren’t readily available.
Media and Publicity
Of course this wasn’t the first time Cooper has played a difficult, demanding chef, having starred in the short-lived TV show “Kitchen Confidential” where he was a thinly-veiled version of Anthony Bourdain or someone very much like him.
Cooper would make the talk-show rounds, of course, including an appearance on “The Ellen Degeneres Show” where he would show off some of the kitchen skills he acquired.
Most of the press came, as I hinted at before, in the form of clips shared with various press outlets. Just a week or so before release it was announced that The Weinstein Company would be foregoing a limited initial release of the movie in favor of a wide release, something that got industry tongues wagging a bit.
I feel like the campaign is…I don’t know, “pushing” I guess is the right word. Bradley Cooper is a charming guy and a talented actor and I feel like the marketing is amping up that and trying to really convince the audience of that by repeating that idea over and over again. But we know that and don’t need to be hammered over the head with reminders of that. Just show it and let it happen.
The emphasis here is on presenting Cooper’s Adam Jones as a “bad boy” and on showing how that behavior creates drama and tension in his life and among those around him. But I’m struggling with who the target audience for that kind of campaign is. It might be women who are fans of Cooper and want to see him in a role like this. But if that’s the case I would have expected more focus on the potential romance between him and the up-and-coming chef played by Sienna Miller. It might be men, but this doesn’t present a case for the movie that’s more compelling than some of the other films playing right now. So I’m wondering if this will somehow fall in between the cracks, not completely appealing to any one core audience and so not compelling many people to come out.