“Family” is more of a fungible term now than it ever really has been. It can mean a mom, dad and any number of kids. It can mean a single parent with his or her kids. Basically take any combination of men, women, children and pets, mix them up, account for sexual orientation and gender identity and then assign some form of commitment status (married, committed etc) and you wind up with what someone will call their family.
The new comedy Daddy’s Home is about what might be termed a fairly traditional blended family. Will Ferrell plays Brad, who has married Sara (Linda Cardellini) and is now the dad to her two kids from a previous marriage. Brad is a buttoned down, responsible guy, the polar opposite of Sara’s first husband Dusty (Mark Wahlberg). When Dusty comes to visit, Brad finds himself competing for the kids’ attention in increasingly outrageous ways, with hilarity ensuing.
The first poster puts the two biggest stars (I feel bad for Cardellini) right there in a way that makes each character very clear to the audience. So Ferrell on the left is seen getting out of a sensible sedan while wearing a button down shirt and slacks and carrying a bag of groceries. Wahlberg, in contrast, is wearing a black t-shirt and sporting slicked-back hair while leaning on his motorcycle. So it’s clear we’re dealing in stereotypes about the good guy and the bad guy here. To hammer that home the copy just above the title treatment tells us it’s “Dad vs step-dad” and then tells us the movie is coming out around Christmas.
The theatrical poster finally features the full cast and shows a scene that looks like the family was about to have a Christmas card picture taken. But Wahlberg’s Dusty is horning in on the action and trying to get in on the picture, obviously pushing Ferrell’s Brad out of the way, much to Brad’s chagrin. The image very much wants to sell this as a Christmas movie in some way, even if that’s as tenuous as just having the story take place around Christmas. Also, that dog on the right side of the poster is obviously staring into the abyss of death. It looks like its soul is being destroyed by something off-camera.
The first trailer starts off with Brad narrating how much he’s always wanted to be a dad. But we soon find out the kids aren’t completely on board with him being part of the family, despite his optimism. Then we see Dusty is coming to visit, asking Brad for all kinds of personal information and asking him for a ride from the airport. Soon Dusty and Brad are in an outright battle for the attention and affection of the kids, with things escalating from hugs and such to buying dogs and ponies and engaging in other competitions. At each turn Brad is shown as the square and Dusty and the cool tough guy.
The trailer shows a pretty decent comedy that appears to be friendly for all ages. Ferrell is doing his best to be the straight man who gets into all sorts of bad situations by trying too hard, a role that seems to fit him pretty well.
The second trailer starts out with Brad trying to pick up Dusty at the airport, but Dusty blows him off, leading to an awkward situation later at home. The competition between the two guys ramps up (including a scene where we see this doesn’t take place around Christmas, there’s just a “Christmas in April” scene, which spoils half the other marketing elements), leading to lots of physical injuries for Brad.
This one maybe isn’t quite as good as the first since it skips over a lot of setup we need to empathize with Brad. But it still promises lots of Ferrell falling down, which I think is the main point of the movie.
Online and Social
When you pull up the movie’s official website you’re immediately given the choice between choosing Brad, who asks you to live him, or Dusty, who asks you to choose him. If you choose either one you’re taken to a collection of GIFs and other images featuring that character that you can share on the social network of your choice or reblog since the site is build on Tumblr.
Going back to the homepage there are a few content areas in a menu in the upper left.
The first section there is “Videos” which just has the two trailers. The “Gallery” that’s up next has a dozen stills from the film. Finally “Partners” has links to the few companies that signed on to cross-promote the movie.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
There were plenty of TV commercials created and run, most of which pulled one or two scenes from the trailers, particularly focusing on the motorcycle gag and the basketball game sequence since apparently those were considered the strongest elements to pull in the audience. Some feature narration explaining the conflict between Brad and Dusty, others just let the scenes speak for themselves.
There was online advertising done, mostly using the second poster’s key art. Online ads included a Buzzfeed sponsored post about dads and Christmas that at the end included a promotion for the film. And I’m sure there were outdoor billboards and other signage displayed that repurposed one or the other pieces of poster art.
Promotional partners included:
- Cinnabon: Ran a sweeps giving people the chance to win free tickets to see the movie.
- Indian Motorcycle: Offered free tickets to the movie at an event earlier in the month and I’m guessing provided the bikes Wahlberg’s character rides in the film. Wahlberg is a public fan of the brand, so I’m sure this made a lot of sense for everyone.
- Omaha Steaks: Ran a sweeps offering not only tickets to see the movie but also free steak delivery for a year.
- Smart & Final: Offered movie ticket cash to use on the movie with eligible purchases of qualifying products.
That’s a lot of free tickets being offered, which may or may not say something about what the studio thinks of the movie’s box-office prospects.
Media and Publicity
At the movie’s premiere Ferrell talked about how much he loves doing comedy and Wahlberg actually mentioned the same thing, despite his being a relative newcomer to the genre. And Wahlberg made some news for saying he did “about 700” pull-ups while filming one scene in particular.
Ferrell and Wahlberg made the late night rounds to all the usual talk shows to promote the movie and otherwise engage in the hilarity on those shows.
Other than that the publicity angle was pretty minimal, relying mostly on the beats that came from new clips, trailers and other marketing material.
There are a couple concerns I have about the campaign. First, certain aspects of it lean pretty heavily on selling this as some sort of Christmas movie, particularly the poster art and parts of the trailers. When people see that it’s not – as I said, there’s one line in one trailer that makes it clear this is not a Christmas film – that could lead to some audience discontent. I get why they’re doing it considering the release date but it does kind of missell the film.
Second, it just kind of comes off as being a one-note campaign. “Watch Will Ferrell fall down” will only get you so far. Sure, it’s going to be appealing to some people but it also is an increasingly questionable hook on which to hang an entire marketing push. I also think there’s a raunchy underbelly to the movie that’s not on display here as the studio tries to sell it as a family film. That’s a similar concern to what I felt about the Sisters campaign and something I feel could hurt the film’s box-office, especially as word-of-mouth starts to filter out.