After the Campaign: Creed

In my column for Creed I wrote:

I love the fact that Jordan is such a big, important part of the campaign and hasn’t been pushed aside by Stallone as part of a pure nostalgia play by the studio. Not that Rocky isn’t still here in a big way, but it’s clear it’s not his story we’ll be following, it’s Creed’s. While that may not sit well with some longtime fans it will likely go a long way toward attracting a new generation of fans to an original movie featuring talent – both Jordan and Coogler – that are on their way up.

That’s very true of the movie itself. I didn’t find much in the movie that contradicted the campaign outside of the usual array of scenes that were in a trailer but didn’t make the final cut and so on. I will say, though, that there are a variety of things in the movie that weren’t fully represented in the marketing.

creed pic 1


The campaign did a good job of not spoiling – indeed in retrospect it barely hinted at – most of the movie’s third act and the character evolution that takes place in the last 45 minutes of the film. That’s a good thing since it means the emotional impact of all that is retained, but I was taken aback by how absent it is from the trailers.

Also, I do think the campaign played down Rocky’s role in the story to some extent. He’s obviously, as I say above, not absent from the campaign but he’s a lot more prevalent in the movie than I was anticipating. Indeed Rocky has almost as much of an emotional story arc through the course of the movie as Creed does. That doesn’t take away from Creed being the central focus of the film but it was a little surprising based on the campaign to see Rocky as featured throughout the film as much as he was.

Kobe’s Retirement News Shows Media’s Current Status

My latest on Voce Nation:

What’s notable about Bryant’s announcement – outside of the fact that it came seemingly out of the blue with little preamble or media speculation – is that he did so on The Players’ Tribune. That site was launched about a year ago by baseball star Derek Jeter as a way for athletes to essentially bypass the media and take their stories directly to fans and speak with their own voices instead of one that’s filtered by the press.

Source: Kobe Bryant Provides a Watershed Moment in Media Disruption « Voce Communications

Before the Show: Creed 11/29/15

Secret Life of Pets Holiday Greeting (This actually played before the trailers started, but I’m counting it.)



Ride Along 2 (Update: The one that played in the theater has finally been released online)


The Revenant

Central Intelligence

Barbershop 3

Nuzzle is the Experience Twitter Should Have Created

I’ll admit I’m late to the Nuzzle bandwagon but it has quickly become one of my go-to news reading apps. If you’re not familiar with it, you connect the app to your Twitter or Facebook accounts – it just rolled out an update that removes that requirement – and you can see what your friends are sharing. So I get a push notification any time five of the people I follow on Twitter share a link. While I use other news like Yahoo Digest, Buzzfeed, Flipboard, The New York Times and others for more general news, Nuzzle gives me a sense of what is percolating on my network. In other words, it’s news I might have otherwise missed.


That’s because what people are sharing on Twitter (or elsewhere for other users) is – or at least is likely – different from what I’m reading via RSS feeds or in my own Twitter scanning. So my Twitter friends are filling in the gaps in my own monitoring, which is an invaluable service.

It’s also the kind of thing Twitter should have built itself. I don’t care for Twitter’s “While You Were Away” feature since it focuses on showing me updates from friends I regularly interact with or updates that have received higher-than-usual engagement. But neither of those really translates, at least not in my experience, to “important” things I need to see. Neither does Twitter’s recently-launched “Moments” feature. That’s useful in its own way, but doesn’t give me a sense of what my network finds worth talking about at a given moment.

As Twitter struggles with retaining and attracting users, this is the kind of app they should have built. It’s engaging, it draws attention to the network – and encourages people to find more friends so they can get more and better stories – and is overall drawing on the power of the channel as a useful information source.

Movie Marketing Madness: The Danish Girl

danish_girl2015 has been a big year for movies that reflect where we are in society. Freeheld told the story of a landmark case in the fight for benefits for same-sex couples. Carol was all about tearing down preconceived notions and societal norms and accepting that, as many people say, “love is love” and should be at least accepted if not celebrated and certainly not shamed or reviled. We’re at a cultural moment where, as I’ve said before, things are changing pretty fast and movies are reflecting that, albeit at maybe a slower pace than TV and other video content is.

Now we have The Danish Girl. The movie tells the story of Einar Wegener (Eddie Redmayne) and his wife Gerda (Alicia Vikandar). When Gerda needs a model for a painting of a woman she gets her husband to pose, but doing so opens up something within him. He adopts the female persona of Lili and begins dressing in women’s clothing, becoming more and more feminine over time, eventually coming to terms with the feeling that he really is, or was meant to be, a women. Finally he seeks out gender reassignment surgery and becomes the first recorded person to undergo that surgery.

The Posters

Just the one poster was created and released. It shows Redmayne as Liki, not Einar, in front of Vikander. So it’s an image of two striking women who are obviously close. Choosing to show Redmayne as Lili means they’re going all-in on the major selling point of the movie, which is not only that performance but also the conceit of the gender identity issue. The whole image is kind of washed out, giving it a nice classic touch.

The bonafides of the cast and crew are at the top, including director Hopper’s previous prestige movies and Redmayne’s Oscar win. And at the bottom we get a bit of copy that sounds like it could be pulled from 2015: “Find the courage to be yourself.”

The Trailers

The first trailer opens by showing what appears to be a pretty standard period romance as Redmayne and Vikandar are obviously in love as a new married couple. But then a joke involving her asking him to put on a dress to pose for a painting shifts something in him and the rest of the run time shows Redmayne’s character dealing with the repercussions of that, including becoming “Lily” first in name and dress and then seeking what would turn out to be the world’s first gender-reassignment surgery.

We move much more quickly to the heart of the matter in the second trailer, which makes sense since it’s only a minute long. So this one skips much of the prelude and gets right to Redmayne’s character dealing with the confusion he struggles with and the decision he finally makes.

This one is a little less effective just because, without the scene-setting intro we aren’t as invested in the characters by the time we get to the issues of transition and identity. Still good, and buoyed by the critical blurbs it includes, but not as moving as the first one.

Online and Social

The official website isn’t very robust, but that’s not unexpected given this is a small release.

The second trailer appears at the top of the page, with both trailers as well as the TV spot in the “Inside the Film” section. After that there’s a brief “Synopsis” followed by a gallery of “Photos” that contains both stills and behind the scenes images.

danish_girl pic 1

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

This isn’t the kind of movie that has a ton of potential for promotional partners so there were none. But there was at least some TV advertising do with commercials that played like mini-trailers, showing Einer’s transformation into Lili and the stress it causes on his marriage as well as the reactions from people around him who declare him insane.

Media and Publicity

The movie was on a lot of “most-anticipated movies” list for the last quarter of the year, but press really picked up as it debuted at Venice at the outset of festival season. That included lots of coverage of Redmayne and the amount of research he did to accurately portray a transgender person and how this could be another in a string of awards-worthy performances for the actor. There was also some discussion of how Vikander gives an outstanding performance and how the movie is as much about her journey as the spouse as it is about the character who’s actually going through the transition. Close to release Redmayne made an appearance on a popular LGBT YouTube channel to discuss why he took the role and more.

One of the major points of the publicity was how this movie fit into a long line of culturally and societally tolerant bits of culture from Denmark, which has a long history of both sexually open cultural conversations and such. That story would also talk about how the cast and director came to the project and what they were trying to do by telling this story.

danish_girl pic 2

There were some stories about the actual paintings themselves by the real-life pair and what they did or didn’t expose about who they were and what they felt, including how little Edgar revealed of his true nature in his works. That story also goes into detail about how the cast worked to recreate some of the paintings to make them more believable on-screen.

There was also coverage about how the script for the movie had been circulating around Hollywood for a decade or more, with projects planned but always falling apart at some point. Now, though, there was finally the right cultural moment for it to come to the screen with other pieces of pop culture having laid the groundwork it’s now being built on.

Redmayne would admit – bravely, I think – that until he started researching the role he was largely unaware of many of the issues surrounding the transgender community even today.


Again, this campaign – and indeed the movie as a whole – benefits greatly from happening at this particular moment in history. A year or two give or take and the reception would be very different. Indeed as some of the press above says, it didn’t happen because the cultural moment wasn’t quite right.

The campaign as a whole hits a nice consistent note, not only by focusing on Redmayne’s character and his emotional journey but just in the look and feel. The whole thing looks like a painting or a tintype photograph. That gives the campaign a timeless, classic look that’s wholly in keeping with the time period it’s set in. The movie has benefitted from strong word of mouth coming out of early screenings and this campaign should reinforce that with the general audience.

Deciding What To – and Not To – Publish Is Often the Hardest Part

Tom Fishburne at TheNextWeb makes the point that there’s so much branded content out there – a result of everyone wanting to hop on board the “content marketing” bandwagon – that it’s time brand publishers start exercising a little restraint and making stricter editorial calls on what does or doesn’t get published.


This, in my experience, is one of the toughest parts of managing a content marketing program, particularly a long-running one that has proven successful. That success means everyone wants in on it. Other divisions will come asking for space on your networks and many of those may not be aligned with – or could be in direct contradiction of – your program’s goals.

Fishburne is right: Content marketing managers do need to know when to say “yes” and when to say “no” to something that crosses their path for inclusion in the program. This is where the groundwork that has (hopefully) been laid at a program’s outset comes in handy. A program framework that’s been agreed upon by all stakeholders is particularly helpful since it will provide an easy reference point for target audience, content mix, tone and more. That kind of document acts as a checklist and unless a request checks all, or at least most, of the boxes there it’s easy to say it doesn’t make the cut.

More than that, the basic idea of publishing less also makes some kind of sense. While it used to be that corporate blogs were seen – including by me – as a low-cost outlet for anything that came through that may no longer be the case. I used to say a corporate blog could be used for anything. Have an op-ed that didn’t get picked up by the press? Put it on the blog. Have a perspective on an issue but just got a big story picked up and know this one won’t be of as much interest? Put it on the blog.

Now, though, we’re swimming in content. There’s too much. So content marketing has evolved to emphasize things like podcasts, infographics, Snapchat Stories and more that are attempts to cut through the clutter. There’s still a lot being said by a lot of people, though. So there’s something to be said for saying “No” to some requests even if they check all the program boxes if there’s the sense that it’s just not going to be notable. It may be better to take 10 swings a month and have them all be triples or home runs than 25 and have the 20 singles clogging up the pipeline and drowning out the five really important items that would otherwise be of more note.

In addition to a program framework as I’ve mentioned above, it’s essential to have someone who can make not only analytics-based but also gut-based calls. “This just doesn’t feel right” can be as important a determining factor as the number of clicks on a similar story a month ago.

Take some time between now and the end of the year and determine whether you’re speaking to hear yourself talk or if you’re (at least trying to) speaking only when you can improve the silence.

GIFs as Political Commentary, Movie Marketing Tool and Easier Than Ever to Create

89742-Han-Solo-shrug-yeah-gif-Imgur-EN7lYes, as Mathew Ingram points out, GIFs have replaced much of what used to pass for political discourse. You can learn everything you need to know about the Republican debates by seeing a GIF-based recap as you can from the spin doctors making the rounds of the Sunday morning talk shows. They are to the internet what soundbites were to radio and TV decades ago.

And yes, GIFs are just as much a part of how the audience reacts to movie trailers as they are in how they react to music videos. It’s now a matter of minutes between the time a new trailer drops – especially a big one like Star Wars, The Avengers and so on – and the time there are reaction GIFs that are circulating around news sites, Twitter, Tumblr and elsewhere. Considering the incredibly short turnaround time on these it still boggles my mind that studios aren’t releasing GIFs at the same time as the trailers so that there’s officially sanctioned material out there. That’s not going to stop fan creations, nor should it, but this is a “it literally can’t hurt” situation. Every email to a press outlet that includes a link to a new trailer should include two dozen GIFs.

The growing – and already substantial – popularity of GIFs is why Tumblr has (finally) added easy GIF creation to its mobile app, allowing people to make them out of either videos or photo bursts on their phones or other devices. That’s very similar to Instagram’s recent Boomerang app, which likewise takes short videos or photo bursts and turns them into somethinv very GIF-like. Considering Tumblr is responsible for the revival of GIFs as an art form the only thing surprising about this is that it took this long to create. That joins other GIF-related updates like Twitter’s Scratch, which allows you to rewind and play with GIFs.

If GIFs aren’t part of your content marketing plan, they should be. Even moreso than short-form video, GIFs are super-important to be creating in-house yourself. They require even less effort to view, particularly on mobile devices, than video since there’s the inherent assumption that not only do they not have audio but that they’re only a couple seconds long, making them easy to consume while you’re waiting at the bus or just killing a few minutes on Twitter or Tumblr. Videos, even the short ones that are all the rage right now, still require more of a commitment.

GIFs are currency. They are how we now think when pondering reactions to people and events online and how we express ourselves. Not only do they allow us to show what sort of pop culture we’ve aligned ourselves with (in my case it’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Marx Bros, Albert Brooks, Mel Brooks, Monty Python, Friends and so on…) but how creative we are. Or at least how refined our search skills are if we’re not creating them ourselves.



Movie Marketing Madness: Creed

creed_ver2The Rocky movies are part of the American mythos and, in fact, do a lot to reflect that mythos back to the audience. The original movie was all about a guy who worked hard, put in his time and rose from the rundown streets of Philadelphia to be a champion, the ultimate “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” kind of story. While that would get watered down a bit over the next couple movies before Rocky ended Communism in the fourth entry the core was still there: When you apply yourself and put your heart into your work you can accomplish great things.

Now Rocky is older (as are we all) so how does Hollywood continue the franchise? Not with his own son but with the son of Rocky’s best rival, friend and trainer, Apollo. So we have Creed. While Sylvester Stallone returns as Balboa, Michael B. Jordan joins as Adonis Creed, Apollo’s son, who now wants to take his shot at a boxing title. To help him he seeks out Rocky’s guidance as a trainer. But not only does he have to become a world-class fighter, Adonis has to embrace the history that comes with using his father’s name in the ring, particularly since he’s had a rough childhood and life to date. Not a reboot, not a remake, this is a true series sequel that picks up the same narrative through line as the previous six installments of the Rocky franchise while putting the focus on a younger character that may grow into his own on film.

The Posters

The first poster is mainly focused on not only selling this as a new movie but also a passing of the torch from the legacy Rocky franchise to a new generation. So the poster shows Rocky and Adonis in the ring together, Rocky’s hands on Adonis’ shoulder as he’s in the middle of passing on some sort of advice or guidance. So that “passing the torch” idea is very literal here. Above the image we get the same theme in the tagline that we have in some of the trailers that were already out, which is “Your legacy is more than your name,” which is the central struggle of the title character.

A second version again puts both characters in or at least around the boxing ring, this time with Rocky on the side looking out as Adonis prepares in his corner to go out and meet his unseen opponent.

Stallone and Jordan were each featured solo on character posters.

What I’m calling the final poster has Jordan as Creed in black and white alone against a black background looking like he’s in the middle of a fight. Between the cast names and the title is the copy “Fight for your name,” which seems to be one of the predominant themes of the movie.

All the posters are pretty visually consistent and all work very well. The stark, simple nature of the design sells this as a no-frills drama, which is very much in line with the trailers as we’ll see. And all of them put the focus on the two main characters, which is a good thing.

The Trailers

The first 30 seconds of the initial trailer are focused solely on Adonis as he gets himself ready and pumps himself up before a fight. So we sweep in on his shoulders and back as he flexes, punches the wall and eventually walks out into the arena. Then we cut to him training in Philadelphia, including at a gym where some trainer is trying to talk some sense into him by calling out how tough his opponents will be and reminding him that his father died in the boxing ring. He’s determined, though, so through a series of quick cuts we see the rest of his life and hear from his narration just how committed he is.

What’s remarkable here is that the movie, while it *is* a sequel and the latest installment in a long-running franchise, is being sold here as an original story. Rocky doesn’t show up until 1:30 into the trailer and if you don’t automatically put together the name “Creed” with “Apollo” and tie it to the Rocky series this looks like a stand-alone film. That is a great approach since it allows fans of Jordan and others to approach this fresh, without being turned off by it being part of Rocky’s world. And it means the movie can be sold, at least initially, without the baggage of a film franchise that’s been going on for decades. This is a great trailer and a great approach to marketing it to a new generation of moviegoers.

The second trailer is, if anything, even better than the first. It shows everything that Creed is going to go through, from fights with his mother, struggles with his girlfriend, Rocky getting sick at some point and more. But the overall theme here is to, as the song that plays over it says repeatedly, “fight.”

Jordan shines in this trailer since it focuses very clearly on his journey through the story, from someone who’s just railing against anything to someone who embraces his father’s name and legacy as he prepares to enter the ring himself. It’s emotional and effective at showing that it’s not just an interesting character study but also a story that will put Rocky in the role once taken by Mickey in the first few movies, something that’s emphasized by the “catch a chicken” sequence at the very end. It’s great.

Online and Social

The official website, built on Tumblr, opens with a recreation of the teaser poster key art. At the top there’s a prompt to “Get Tickets” while in the lower left corner there are links to join the “#IFightFor” campaign (more on that below, watch the trailer or watch Future’s “Last Breath” video for the song from the movie.

If you click the “Tumblr” link in the menu you’re taken to the posts that have been made, including images, GIFs and more. There’s a section for “Fan Art” asks people for their submissions as part of a contest that was judged by Stallone and Jordan.

creed pic 4


There are a half-dozen stills in the “Photos” section and both trailers along with a featurette can be found in “Videos.” “The Story” has a synopsis of the plot and “Cast & Crew” goes into the history of those in front of and behind the camera.

The movie has outposts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram as well.  

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

TV advertising for the movie started a couple months out from release with a spot that cribbed a few beats from the two trailers. So we see Rocky meet Adonis, begin training him and such. We also see how Rocky gets sick at some point, so Stallone has more to do here than just give inspiring speeches.

There was so much TV advertising done the movie was the top ad spender about two weeks prior to release. Thanks to some Warner Bros. corporate synergy the movie got a big push during a TNT NBA broadcast that featured featurettes and ads for the film that were sprinkled in throughout the game

There was a tie-in mobile game, a version of the Real Boxing game that was skinned to include the characters from the film.

Media and Publicity

One of the first major pieces of publicity was this feature on Jordan (GQ, 9/15) where he talked about not just the movie but his career to date, his background, what kind of roles he’d like to take in the future and more. It’s a wide-ranging interview and shows Jordan to be every bit the rising talent he’s shown himself to be so far.

The director and stars would talk from time to time about the genesis of the movie and the approach they tried to take to revive the franchise in a way that paid respect to the legacy while also making it appealing to a new generation of fans. That would continue to be a theme of the publicity as Jordan and Coogler talked about how this was an opportunity in telling a new story that took the focus off of Rocky as well as Jordan’s film history, his training routine for the movie and more.

creed pic 3


There was lots of coverage of the kick-off to a campaign dubbed “#ifightfor” which encouraged people to share videos and photos of the important things in their lives.

Despite the prostrations that Rocky is not the focal point of the story Stallone continued to be a major part of the publicity as he talked about how this movie deals with Rocky’s mortality and how he approached the character going into this new film.

Stallone, Jordan and Thompson made a press conference appearance at the iconic Philadelphia Museum of Art steps featured in the very first movie. Stallone and Coogler would later talk about what it was like to watch Jordan make the role his own through training and dedication.


This is a really good campaign. I love the fact that Jordan is such a big, important part of the campaign and hasn’t been pushed aside by Stallone as part of a pure nostalgia play by the studio. Not that Rocky isn’t still here in a big way, but it’s clear it’s not his story we’ll be following, it’s Creed’s. While that may not sit well with some longtime fans it will likely go a long way toward attracting a new generation of fans to an original movie featuring talent – both Jordan and Coogler – that are on their way up.

There’s also a great consistency to the campaign. I mentioned this when speaking about the posters and I think it’s true to all elements that there’s very little that’s flashy here. This is a street-level, character-driven campaign that’s designed to show this is a serious movie, not a flashy, over the top story. That too is going to prove very attractive to people who may need a bit of a more serious movie after so many years of films with their tongues in their cheeks. The posters and trailers all convey a stark, earnest drama that I’m hoping the movie itself delivers on.

After The Campaign: The Peanuts Movie

In my campaign review for The Peanuts Movie I wrote the following:

…the central theme of the marketing is to make people feel comfortable and assure them that this was in the same spirit and tone of the original material. At least in the campaign there are no “hip” jokes or moments that are meant to play to adults more than kids or anything else that you usually find in animated movies these days. This looks to be a truly all-ages movie.

I couldn’t be more right. This campaign perfectly sells the movie and there wasn’t an ounce of misrepresentation or anything in it. There was nothing even mildly objectionable or “hip,” as I said, in there and the humor of the movie was all good-natured and very much in keeping with the long-standing Peanuts brand without trying to give it an edge for 2015 audiences. I have zero qualms with how this was sold having seen the finished product.

Online-Only Releases and Optimizing Marketing Assets for Online and Mobile

Yes, Netflix is becoming more and more like a traditional movie studio, not just buying up movies that have already been made but commissioning, producing and releasing original features. Amazon is in the same boat as they produce and release Spike Lee’s upcoming Chi-raq and, presumably, more in the near future.

ridiculous six pic 1

To date these movies have received somewhat traditional campaigns with posters, trailers and so on. But the question needs to be asked, if distribution is changing, does the marketing need to as well?

Let’s look at the posters first: Many of these are never going to hang on theater walls like traditional one-sheets since these movies are mostly never going to get theatrical releases. That doesn’t negate the need for a promotional image of some sort, but the format can change to be something that’s more web-friendly since that’s going to be the primary distribution point as well as the medium on which most people encounter the promotions. So instead of traditional one-sheet dimensions, promotional images can be released that are optimized for social networks like Twitter, Instagram and Facebook or for online ad units.

Now for the trailers: The 2:30 trailer is mostly a function of NATO’s restrictions on the length of a spot that can play before a movie. But, again, since most of these online-original movies will never be released or promoted in theaters, so that’s not a factor. Again here, let’s think about web-native formats. How can promotional videos be optimized for viewing habits both online and on mobile devices? If we’re following current trends that means making shorter videos – somewhere between 15 and 60 seconds – that are meant for online distirbution and accounting for the fact that people may not have the audio turned on for the first 5-7 seconds of that. There are plenty of trend pieces on how video creators are treating the first 10 seconds of online videos like silent movies because of this.

Beasts of No Nation

If we’re going to move into a world where more and more movies are distributed primarily or exclusively online then the marketing will have to keep up and work with that instead of being tied to the form factors that have dominated the industry for the last century. The marketers of these movies are no longer constrained by having to fit their poster into a certain sized case or needing to cut a trailer that conforms to certain guidelines, both of which were designed to accommodate and promote physical distribution.

While there’s a strong case to be made for Netflix and Amazon to act quickly to adopt a new marketing mindset, there’s an equally strong case for marketers of all movies to do so as well. Studios seem to be doing this to some extent with fun little graphics and images for Instagram and Facebook and maybe a half-dozen GIFs on Tumblr, but there are plenty of good reasons for them to double-down and rethink things like one-sheets for these social networks. So along with a teaser poster that is sent to theaters, create web/mobile-optimized images that feature the same elements and copy.

It’s well past time movie marketing evolved to meet the needs and formats of the web. These online-only releases provide an opportunity for some substantial industry leadership along these lines.