We all have our “peak” years. They’re our most productive, our most creative, our most interesting. They’re where we do the best work, live our best lives and hopefully get the attention that comes with that kind of effort. Sometimes that comes when we’re young and hungry, sometimes it’s when we’re older and wiser about the way the game works.
Rock the Kasbah is about what comes after those peak years. Bill Murray plays a music manager whose best days are most decidedly behind him. In his waning years he’s managing a young starlet (Zooey Deschanel) and accompanies her on a USO gig to Afghanistan. But then she disappears on him along with all his money and identification. Through a series of circumstances, though, he comes across a young Afghani with her own singing talent who’s determined to make it on “Afghan Star.” Being an opportunist, he hitches his wagon to her star to make the best of a bad situation.
Just one poster for the movie, a psychedelic number that, of course, puts Murray front and center. In fact outside of the background art he’s the only visual element on the one-sheet, with the image of his smarmy, smiling face taking up most of the poster’s real estate. It’s meant to evoke, if not outright look like, a Bill Graham-type concert promotional poster. Murray’s name is at the top, above the copy point “Opportunity rocks where you least expect it” and the film’s title is at the very bottom.
It’s a simple trailer, but at least it’s got a little bit of design flair to it. And with a plot that’s admittedly hard to condense into an easily-digestible nugget, it’s probably best to go with “feel and vibe” over trying to cram too many story elements in the design.
The first trailer introduces us to Murray’s character and his life as a manager of a young singer. We see the two of them head over to Afghanistan, where things quickly go south, especially after she takes off. But he keeps trying to make it work. So we meet some of of the characters he encounters while there, but that’s about it. There’s only a small hint of the plot where he helps the young Afghani girl achieve her dream.
This is basically about selling the movie as being filled with Murray’s antics and shenanigans. Everyone else, even Deschanel, gets short shrift as we cut from one Murray reaction shot to the next. That’s not necessarily a bad thing since it makes sense to put Murray at the center of the campaign, but it also makes the trailer dependent on your tolerance for the actor’s charms.
The second trailer spent a lot more time setting up Murray’s character before he and his ingenue head overseas. And then once they’re there it lays out much more clearly how he helps his new discovery overcome the prejudices and strict rules that make women performing dangerous.
This one is a lot tighter than the first trailer, showing the plot and characters much more clearly and effectively, playing up Murray’s performance and the very obvious comedic elements contained therein.
Online and Social
The movie’s official website – built on Tumblr – opens with a short video clip that plays full-screen within the browser. Similar clips will play when you open each section of the site, starting with “About,” which has a short write-up of the movie’s plot.
“Video” just has the two trailers and an in-world featurette that’s covered more in-depth below. There are four GIFs in “GIFs” (of course) and seven stills with a quote from the movie overlayed on them in “Photos.” All of those also have the movie’s title in the form of a hashtag (#rockthekasbah) and other branding so the marketers can be sure that when you share these assets you’ll pass along that branding as well.
There’s a section called “Rock With Ritchie” that has links to two additional websites. The first is “Richie Lane Management,” where you have the opportunity to get signed by Richie Lane. What it is actually is a photo uploader that lets you add one of a few different pictures of Murray in character alongside whatever picture you upload and then share the finished product on social channels. “Rock the Poster” is also a photo uploader but this one lets you swap out Murray’s face on the one-sheet for your own, adding sunglasses and other effects to complete the look. Again, you can share the final image on Twitter, Facebook and so on.
There’s lots of photos, memes, short video and encouragement to buy tickets on the movie’s Facebook page along with a few news stories. Same thing on Instagram. Twitter, as usual, has a bit more, including promotions of cast appearances on talk shows and in other media, such as when Murray did a Buzzfeed appearance and so on.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
There was some TV advertising done for the movie, including spots like this one that featured the same kind of themes as the trailer, but it certainly emphasizes Murray’s antics over anything like a story.
Media and Publicity
Near as I can tell the publicity train for the movie really got started – outside of a Comic-Con 2015 panel – with this fake promotional video for the character Murray plays. It’s presented like a “Behind the Music” type of profile, including appearances and quotes by musicians like Willie Nelson and others as well as some footage from Murray’s in-character appearance at SDCC.
Director Barry Levinson took to Huffington Post to talk about the genesis of the movie and how he got attached to the project.
There were also the usual appearances on talk shows and such by Murray, Bruce Willis and the rest of the supporting cast.
I like this campaign, even if I can’t shake the feeling that the movie itself has an off-kilter vibe that’s not completely conveyed in the marketing. It’s like the trailers in particular are trying to make the movie fit into a X formula but in reality the film itself has got this other, completely different tone and rhythm to it that only comes through around the edges of the campaign. Maybe that’s me reading too much into a few little clues as well as the simple presence of Murray in a movie directed by Levinson, but I have a sneaking suspicion I’m not far off. That could mean it’s a quirky masterpiece whose humor didn’t come through very well in the marketing, or it could mean it’s a mess of a movie whose marketing did everything it could to polish a turd.