Movie Marketing Madness Recap: 4/29/16 New Releases

Special Correspondents

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…the movie looks alright enough. It’s likely amusing to the level that it qualifies as a not-wasted 90 minutes or so spent in front of one monitor or another. That may sound like a low-bar to clear, but that’s where we are. There’s no real through-line to the campaign or any attempt at brand consistency since there are so few elements here to look at. And, as unfortunately usual, there’s no real attempt here to make an online-only release work especially well with online platforms.

Ratchet & Clank

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The campaign really does portray a consistent message, though. It wants the audience to know there’s nothing here that will challenge them in the slightest and that it’s instead just about the jokes and the sheep and the space explosions. There’s a strong component here that’s designed specifically to appeal to the gamer community that has made the game a hit but mostly it’s about making the case to seven year olds who like bright flashy movies like this. There’s even a couple instances where it calls out movies with animated animals that moralize about important issues that seems like a shot at Zootopia and so on. So the message here is it’s alright to come and enjoy the dumbness for an hour and a half.


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This is a really fun campaign and I like it a lot. Are there branding things I could argue with here and there? Sure, but overall there’s just such a fun spirit throughout the marketing that a lot of those concerns are wiped away because you just kind of get on board with it. While it’s not at all surprising I do think it’s super-smart that the campaign plays up the Key & Peele connection over and over again. Even if people aren’t a big fan, they’ve likely seen the Substitute Teacher sketch pop up in their Facebook feed at some point, so there’s going to be some recognition there, meaning it’s smart that this is being sold as essentially a feature-length sketch.

Mother’s Day


it sells a movie that is going to be appealing to a group that is just looking for a good life and a good cry. And it does all that while also promising the story never goes more than a sliver below the surface of those emotions. There’s no deep exploration of what it means to be a mother here, the campaign is saying, just a reaffirmation that we’re all trying as hard as we can as upper-middle-class white parents who would just like a glass of white wine and five minutes to ourselves, thank you very much.

TALK Influencer Recap

New from me at Voce Nation:

I had a chance to attend the TALK Influence event held by WOMMA at Google Chicago this morning. Here’s a Storify collection of the big takeaways from the speaker presentations and panels.

Source: Influencer Marketing at WOMMA’s TALK Influencer Event « Voce Communications

Doodle With Periscope

New from me on PNConnect:

With all the talk about augmented reality and especially virtual reality, this is essentially a low-end version of the same concept, allowing people to add a level of artistic expression to the world around them that’s being shared, often in real-time. It shows that not only do we as individuals want to tell our story but we want to put a spin on it. It’s the same concept that’s leading to the rise in popularity of adult coloring books, which are coloring books that cost $3 more than what you buy your kid so they’ll entertain themselves on the plane ride to grandma’s house.

Source: Periscope Opens Up Sketching « PNConnect | Digital Marketing Services from Porter Novelli

It’s the Media’s Fault Twitter Isn’t Growing

Another revenue reporting period has come and gone, giving the media an opportunity to write the same two stories they publish every quarter, which is that Twitter is struggling and Facebook is soaring. Focusing on Twitter, the new is actually more mixed than usual: While monthly active users rose by 5 million, though the company clarified that this was not due to the host of changes it’s been making in the user experience and product design, instead attributable to marketing efforts and such. But while user acquisition is up, advertising revenue was at the low end of estimates due to slow growth and adoption by brands. This has lead to another round of hot takes, including some that question how it can still be “struggling” when it is, as I mentioned here, the place where celebrities go to be weird and engage in conversations that just can’t happen on another platform.


It occurred to me, somewhere around the 78th “Twitter’s ongoing identity crisis” op-ed, that the same media that can’t understand why Twitter isn’t bigger is the one that’s putting a restrictor plate on growth.

When Kanye says something outrageous on Twitter, media sites embed those updates. When a couple celebrities engage in shade-throwing on Twitter, media sites embed those updates. When an actor or studio break news of some sort, media sites embed those updates. It’s not just legacy media trying to appear hip, either, it’s “new news” outlets like Mic and Vice, niche sites and others that use Twitter as a source, writing a couple paragraphs of intro and then adding a bunch of embedded Tweets or screenshots.

That means people who are just casually interested in what Neal DeGrasse Tyson or others are spouting off about don’t have to change their media habits. They can stay relatively up to date and answer their friends’ “Did you see what they said on Twitter?” questions with a pretty recent response. In other words, the very media that either can’t comprehend why Twitter isn’t bigger – they use it all the time – or who revel in the company’s continued woes are the very ones who are taking away the biggest reason for new users to get on-board: To follow what celebrities are saying.

I wish I knew a way around this, but I’m not sure there is one. It’s not as if making Tweets embeddable was the big problem since before that options was available everyone just took a screenshot and added that to a story. The only real solution is to present a better value proposition in those embedded Tweets, something that makes the appeal more strongly for people to cut out the middle man and connect with Anna Kendrick directly instead of waiting for The Today Show to cover her latest act of adorableness.

The situation is different for Facebook and helps explain some of the disparity between the two. Not only do media outlets, in my experience, embed Facebook posts far less often than they do Twitter (which says a lot about influencer usage patterns) but when they do, it’s more of a straight line for the average reader to connect on that network since, in all likelihood, they’re already active there and “get” how it works.

That doesn’t solve the biggest problem for Twitter, which is that if there isn’t a critical mass of someone’s network already there or some other clear value for them to get involved then they won’t. But it does show that the problems it’s having in attracting more users – and therefore more ad dollars – are in some respects a product of its own success in attracting the kinds of big names Facebook has to pay to get involved.

MMM Flashback Friday: Purple Rain

Prince_PurpleRainMovieIt’s been a little over a week since the unexpected passing of the music icon Prince. Tributes have come in far and wide and everyone is sharing their favorite stories about how they saw him live, how his music impacted them at a young age and so on. His impact on movies was covered extensively, of course, from his own movies like Purple Rain and Under the Cherry Moon to his Batman soundtrack and how it impacted the future of movie marketing.

There wasn’t time for me to fit this in last week so I’m taking time today to revisit the marketing of Prince’s seminal feature film Purple Rain. Somewhat autobiographical, the movie tells the story of The Kid (Prince), a struggling artist who comes from an abusive and difficult household. With his band, The Revolution, chafing under his leadership, The Kid is on the cusp of hitting it big but is sabotaged by Morris Day, the leader of The Time and his rival at a local club in a way that threatens not only his burgeoning career but also his romance with Apollonia, who wants to be in a group of her own.

Released in 1984, this was at the height of Prince’s popularity and powers. His album 1999, released two years prior, had cemented the promise of records like Controversy and Dirty Mind and turned him into a full-fledged musical icon. And considering much of that popularity came from his innovative and notable music videos, it made sense that long-form movies would be his next step.

The theatrical poster looks exactly like it was pulled from one of those music videos. There’s no attempt to sell the story here since that’s lower than even being secondary on the list of priorities to convey to the audience. Instead it’s just Prince, decked out in a purple suit and shown straddling a matching purple motorcycle. He’s sitting outside…some sort of building but it’s not clear what it is, a club, a private home or something else. It doesn’t matter. What matters is the woman – Apollonia we know but which isn’t explained here at all – who’s standing in the open doorway.

Again, this looks like a shot that could be taken from any Prince music video. It shows the star giving the camera a seductive look and a woman who’s waiting to be paid attention to. The one-sheet makes a big deal at the top of explaining this is “Prince in his first motion picture”, even using the same font the artist applied to his albums when mentioning him. The image is heavily-stylized and slick and is very much in keeping with the image Prince was conveying at the time.

The official trailer starts off by hitting the same note, with the narrator immediately intoning that we’re going to see Prince in his first motion picture out. That narration will go on to explain that before he wrote the music he lived every minute of it, clearly explaining that this is an autobiographical story in many ways. That’s as close as we’ll get to a plot or story description, though, outside of vague comments about how he’s going to “risk everything for the only thing that mattered.”

The whole trailer is set to “Let’s Go Crazy” and shows a montage of random clips from throughout the movie. So we see plenty of Prince either performing on stage or in his dressing room, shots of him with Apollonia, sometimes out cavorting along a river or in the throes of passion in some manner. Along with that there are a few shots of Morris Day looking like a crazy person and a bit more.

Aside from that little bit of narration there’s almost nothing about the story here. Nothing is offered about who these characters are, what the setting of the movie is or anything else. I mean nothing. So, as with much of the rest of the campaign, it’s presented as more of a Prince music video than anything else. The trailer sells an experience more than a movie. Or more accurately, it presents a loose collection of moments featuring Prince and those around him than an actual movie. It’s selling Prince’s image, well-cultivated at this point, to an audience that was presumed to be receptive to just that because he was a huge part of MTV’s programming.

This would represent the pinnacle of Prince’s cinematic career, which never hit the highs of his musical offerings. No, he’s not a great actor, but a lot of people aren’t. But as with most things it seems as if success wasn’t the point. It was a creative itch that Prince was eager and able to scratch, with the goal simply being to put it out there, not for it to achieve huge mass success or critical acclaim. It’s yet another area where the artist would carve out his own path and if you didn’t get it then you weren’t meant to get it.

Looking briefly at the trailers for his two follow-ups, Under the Cherry Moon and Graffiti Bridge, you see plenty of similarities to this first effort. The UtCM trailer follows Purple Rain’s format to a T, showing lots of scenes of things happening but offering no hints as to the story, all set to “Kiss.” The trailer for Graffiti Bridge, a direct sequel to Purple Rain, varied slightly. So while again it uses “Thieves in the Temple” as its base track there is a bit of dialogue and at least the rough outline of a story on display.

Far from the undisputed genius that his musical catalog is seen as, in theaters Prince was much more hit and miss. While Purple Rain, in particular, has its defenders, it’s never going to be mistaken for a “great” movie. But it’s all part of Brand Prince, and that’s what matters. Judge it at your own peril.


20th Century Fox Won’t Feed Pirates, Drops Out of SDCC Hall H

Reports are circulating today that 20th Century Fox has decided it will not participate in Hall H panels at San Diego Comic-Con this year, a direct response to repeated incidents involving it and other studios where exclusive footage revealed there is quickly leaked online via cellphone videos and more. Last year in particular Fox had its sizzle reel for Deadpool leaked and Warner Bros. had the exclusive look it prepared for Suicide Squad hit YouTube shortly after it debuted. Fox bit the bullet and released that clip shortly thereafter, as did Warner Bros., but the latter whined about it pretty hard, releasing a statement that chided fans and made it clear the studio was doing this because y’all are jerks, jerks. Fox will continue to participate in other SDCC events, just not in the main hall.

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This is Fox pulling the nuclear option in response to these leaks and it’s a big blow to the marketing efforts of whatever the studio might have brought to the event. It’s them saying there are no other options available to stem the tide of leaked clips. As some people pointed out on Twitter, it’s logistically impossible to check 6,000 cellphones at the door as people go in. So with no other options in front of them, the studio has decided to pull the plug entirely.

A Hall H panel is a *huge* part of the marketing for many tentpole releases, an opportunity to have the whole cast of a movie come out and talk about how much fun they had making it, what it was like to dabble in whatever the applicable universe is and so on. It’s a place for studios to firmly tag an upcoming release as an EVENT and get some word-of-mouth for it. These panels are the whole reason many movie news sites go to Comic-Con as they spend the whole weekend either in line for a panel or in the seats at one, rarely if ever setting foot on the actual show floor.

So putting a foot down and refusing to participate is a big trigger to pull. It can eliminate anywhere from 25 to 100 percent of a movie’s presence there.

There are certainly options that could have been available to Fox if piracy of clips was the primary concern. A panel without footage still would have been notable, if slightly less so. But making that move could have slowly changed expectations of what a Hall H event is supposed to be. Maybe not at first, but certainly over time, particularly if other studios got on board and followed their lead. Or they could go in the other direction and release clips as soon as – or nearly so – they’re shown in San Diego. There are issues with both approaches, to be sure, but they are options. And I’m sure there are others, including some that don’t include SDCC but which still involve exclusive events for select influencers or media types. Perhaps that’s where things will wind up going, sacrificing the mass reach of Comic-Con for the more narrow approach of working with a more select, vetted group.

It’s a shame that people have violated the implicit and explicit trust that goes with attending these events. But that’s where we are, where the privilege of being in the room where it happens is superseded by someone’s desire to share something that’s supposed to be an exclusive treat with the world, against the wishes of the rights holder.

I don’t know which side I think is right or wrong, but I do know this could be a sea-change in how movies are marketed. A big tool has been removed from the box and it will be important for Fox and any studios who follow their lead to find an equally impactful replacement.

Studios Love Giphy, But Not Enough to Promote It

More and more movies and TV shows are working with GIF hosting and search engine company Giphy. Either the studios and networks are creating GIFs and then hosting them there or they’re handing over media for Giphy to make into a collection of GIFs through their creative studio. With GIFs being the lingua franca of the social web it’s more important than ever for entertainment brands to be creating these and offering them to the audience.

What I’m not seeing is consistency in how those GIFs are promoted. Two examples illustrate what I’m talking about.

First there’s Keanu, which has a profile and which was obviously using the GIFs hosted there throughout the campaign on various social networks. But while there was some promotion given to that on Twitter, that’s about it. Compare that to the profile for Mother’s Day, which was not only promoted on social media but also got a link all its own on the movie’s official website.

keanu giphy

It’s like the creatives want to have it both ways, with this repository of media available to them but not really out there for people to easily find. But Giphy is for GIFs what YouTube is for video and almost every movie website links to the latter, either to the studio’s channel or a movie-specific playlist.

If Hollywood wants to be serious about offering GIFs to the audience that are tied to current movies they need to start promoting these Giphy profiles more steadily and effectively. If there are objections to doing so that are based on these profiles being movie-specific and not long-lived or something else along those lines, it should be noted that those same arguments can be made against launching movie-specific Twitter or Facebook accounts. More likely it’s just that this is a new platform that hasn’t quite come into enough mass awareness to really get the front page treatment. But it’s time that changed.  

Movie Marketing Madness: Mother’s Day

mothers_dayWant to get Movie Marketing Madness via email? Sign up here. Then connect with MMM on Twitter and Facebook.

This is me really working to not make a joke about these generic holiday movies that have popped up in the last decade or so. There’s a formula here: Take a bunch of stars you kind of like from a variety of age groups (but all of whom are white unless you need a token minority for some drama), create a story that separates them into groups but which has some connective material between those groups, place the action at or around a holiday that usually involves some form of brunch and let the ticket sales pour in.

The latest entry in this series comes from director Garry Marshall, who has been behind some of the previous holiday-based movies as well, and is called Mother’s Day. I don’t even know how to begin explaining the plot so I won’t try since that’s not the point here. The point is that the movie stars Jennifer Aniston, Julia Roberts, Jason Sudeikis, Kate Hudson and others, some as single parents, some as harried parents, some as siblings of single or married parents. The movie is supposed to be a celebration of mothers, but I’m willing to bet there’s heavy application of a few regrettable stereotypes in an effort to get laughs or tears. Just a guess, though.

The Posters

The movie’s poster is…well, it’s kind of laughable. Basically a quadrant image, Aniston, Hudson, Roberts and Sudeikis are all shown like they’re in a photo that’s been wrapped with fancy string and garnished with flowers. Roberts’ wig is terrible and they all look as airbrushed as possible without completely ruining their faces. But the poster does what it needs to by showing off the stars and telling the audience this comes from the director of Pretty Woman and Valentine’s Day, so they know exactly what to expect when they line up for tickets. Finally toward the bottom we’re invited to “Come celebrate the mother of all holidays.”

The Trailers

The first trailer shows we’re not exactly in unknown territory here. Each of the main characters gets their own segment of the trailer that introduces them as well as their relationship with their mother and/or kids. It’s basically just a showcase for the actors involved and telegraphs most all of the character arcs we’re going to follow here. It looks like it follows the usual pattern of all these characters being connected in some way and nothing at all surprising will happen to them.  A trailer like this isn’t about selling the movie to anyone, it’s just about awareness since this kind of film has become a faux franchise all its own.

The second trailer is every bit as inane as the first. we get overviews of the various plots that will go into the story and…it doesn’t matter. It’s a lot of beautiful people exploring their white people problems, all under the guise of “celebrating” motherhood.

This isn’t going to appeal to everyone, not by a long shot. But for those who have enjoyed the previous movies in this franchise – and it is a franchise – there’s a lot here for them to latch onto. They’re promised a two hour time at the movies with faces they know, a plot that doesn’t matter and probably at least one or two good cries.

Online and Social

After the official site loads the second trailer loads, so close that as soon as you can move your mouse into position. Also, let’s just note that the URL for the site is Nice call-to-action included there.

The first section of content along the left is “Videos” which is where you can rewatch both trailers if you feel like doing so. “Gallery” has 11 stills from the movie showing the various combinations of the cast that the story arranges.

There’s not much in the “Meet the Cast” section, which is also accessible via the tile mosaic on the front page. If you mouse over the tower images of the cast it just brings up a simple description that includes very basic character traits, nothing you can’t get from the trailer.

The “About” section has a story synopsis that reads like the description of a knick-knack you’re contemplating buying at Hallmark.


“#ThankYouMom” lets you create a video honoring your mom and share it on social channels. The “Partners” section lists out the variety of brands that, as I state below, appear to have provided product for the movie’s production in exchange for on-screen placement.

Finally, there’s a “Send a GIF” section that links to a Giphy profile with a collection of professionally-created GIFs from the movie that you can share on social networks or through email.

There’s also a prompt on the site to add Mother’s Day – the actual thing, not the movie – to your desktop or web calendar. And gets a link since that’s where the movie was shot and they obviously want to promote tourism to the state.

There’s not a whole lot going on on the movie’s social profiles. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram mostly have promotional images and short videos along with prompts to enter various sweepstakes. The movie also had a Pinterest profile where they shared not only official stills but also recipes, tips for the mom on the go and so on. There’s a grand total of 32 followers of the profile, so either the content isn’t providing value to anyone or they did a less than stellar job of promoting the page.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

There were a ton of promotional partners on the movie but after doing some research not very many of them did anything special so I’m guessing for the most part they provided product for on-screen promotion and the like instead of doing any co-branded campaigns. A couple, like Lindor Chocolate, ran contests but that appears to be about it. All the brands associated with the movie are in the lifestyle/beauty/fitness categories, with the exceptions being a couple of food brands like Lindor, grocery chain Sprout’s Farmers Market and Sprinkles. So even most of those are in the “things you would buy your mom for Mother’s Day” range.

Media and Publicity

One nice bit of press came when Aniston was named People’s Most Beautiful Woman in the World, a high honor indeed. This interview with both Roberts and Marshall about how they seem to work together every 10 years or so, how they shot Roberts’ part in just a few days, their history working together and, of course, that wig Roberts wears.


For a movie with this much recognizable star power, co-star Shay Mitchell, who plays the young new wife of Aniston’s ex, seems to have done most of the press promotional work, appearing on a few talk shows and other places to talk about working with the rest of the cast, the movie in general and so on.


I know I’ve mentioned Hallmark a few times above but that’s really how this is being sold, like something that is displayed in the front window of a Hallmark store that you’re going into to get a card and maybe a paperweight that says “World’s Best Mom” because you didn’t do literally anything else and this is on the way to the train station. While the campaign tries to show a bunch of different situations, everyone is pretty well off and lives in a house with a lovely kitchen, well-manicured backyard and so on. So it’s about as diverse as your pinky is from your forefinger.

But it does what it’s trying to do well. As I said before, it sells a movie that is going to be appealing to a group that is just looking for a good life and a good cry. And it does all that while also promising the story never goes more than a sliver below the surface of those emotions. There’s no deep exploration of what it means to be a mother here, the campaign is saying, just a reaffirmation that we’re all trying as hard as we can as upper-middle-class white parents who would just like a glass of white wine and five minutes to ourselves, thank you very much.

The Mutual Benefit of Comedians Doing Commercials

If you’ve watched clips on YouTube recently you’ve probably seen pre-roll commercials for Buick starring Ellie Kemper. Most of the spots involve her acting like the car is her co-star on the set, with her acting very deferential toward it and talking to it as if it can hear her and has it’s own personality.

They’re funny spots, buoyed largely by Kemper’s substantial charm. But I was wondering what it was that prompted her to do these commercials? The campaign hit at the same time “The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” was returning for a second series on Netflix, so her stock was pretty high.

Then, somewhere around the 42nd time I saw one of those ads it occurred to me that it’s all content. I started thinking about the story last month in Wired with the cast of “Silicon Valley” where they talked about how it’s all a constant hustle for them, starring on their own show, guest-starring on other shows, doing movies, hosting podcasts, engaging on Twitter and more. It all builds up into something that is designed to keep their names and faces out there, with each gig helping to support whatever comes next.

That reality seems to have taken the stigma out of doing commercials or other projects that aren’t “pure” art for a generation of creative types. It’s all part of building their (forgive me, 6-pound, 8-ounce Baby Jesus for saying this) personal brand that can live across media. Part of that seems to have come from a change in the approach of those ads to allow more of the personality of these comedians and other actors to come through. So that’s very much Kemper on display in the Buick spots, the same person who’s on “Kimmy Schmidt” and other shows and movies.


By necessity that means there needs to be room in the advertising for two brands: That of the product being sold and that of the person doing the selling. That’s a big shift for advertisers to consider, but they’re counting on the trade-off – that the public will connect with someone who they’re already enjoying and draw a line between that and the brand or product the commercial is actually for.

That’s the thing: The advertiser may think that what’s being sold is a car, or a phone or a cable service or whatever and they’re not wrong. But what’s also being sold is the comedian or actor’s career, which is equally on display. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship, with each party getting something valuable from the other, whether it’s an implied endorsement or another content opportunity to get their face and personality out there.

Movie Marketing Madness: Keanu

keanu theatrical posterWant to get Movie Marketing Madness via email? Sign up here. Then connect with MMM on Twitter and Facebook.

Between 2005 and 2008 I did a lot of training of people at the agency I was working for at the time on how to use RSS readers. This was when RSS was still the hot way to keep up with what was happening online as Facebook and Twitter were either not yet in existence or had yet to really break into the mainstream. People would invariably ask me what sites they should subscribe to, in which case I’d recommend some PR industry blogs and sites, some that were relevant to their specific fields and I Can Has Cheezburger. Why that last one? Because, I said, you’re going to be having a bad day and then a picture of a cat jumping in the air with the caption “INVISIBLE BICYCLE” will pop up and you’ll smile.

ICHC was a bit reason cats became the spirit animal of the internet and now a feline is poised to take a shot at box office success in Keanu. Well…not just a cat. The movie comes from the talented Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele, the team behind the popular “Key & Peele.” In the movie Peele plays Rell, who’s just been dumped by his girlfriend. While his cousin Clarence (Key) tries to cheer him up, it’s not until a stray kitten arrives at Rell’s door that his mood improves. One day Keanu, the cat, is stolen when a group of thugs burglarizes Rell’s place and he enlists Clarence’s help to get the cat, his only source of joy, back. Hilarity, of course, ensues as they go undercover as drug lords to get Keanu back.

The Posters

The first poster hits the same kind of sense of humor as the trailer that debuted at the same time. So it shows the titular cat decked out like a gangsta, complete with a nameplate hanging from a gold chain. The only copy on it other than the promise it comes from the “Key & Peele” team is “Kitten, please.”

A series of posters were released later on that put Keanu on the one-sheets for recent movies like Mad Max: Fury Road, The Big Short, The Martian and The Revenant. These were funny but this was like the third movie to do something like this in recent memory so the tactic was becoming a bit tired at this point.

The theatrical poster tells you everything about the movie you need to know. Key and Peele have crazy looks on their faces and guns drawn at some off-camera foe with the titular kitten in the middle of them, sitting on their shoulders. In case it wasn’t clear the copy at the top tells us the movie comes “From the visionary minds of Key & Peele” and the the below the title treatment is the tagline “Kitten, please.”

The Trailers

A red-band trailer was the first one that dropped, starting us off by seeing XX has just been dumped by his girlfriend. Immediately after the titular cat enters his life but is soon stolen when his apartment is robbed. They then decide to go undercover to get him back, but being hardcore gang members isn’t exactly their forte.

It’s a really good trailer but maybe works just a little less well than the outsized reactions of people online when it debuted. We get the general outline of the plot and certainly see where most of the humor comes from. It’s hard not to see it as an extended Key & Peele sketch, which is the main hurdle this will have to overcome. All that aside, it’s still very funny and it’s clear the two are having fun with an outrageous and ridiculous premise.

A green-band version followed a month or so after the red-band that was roughly the same, just without the swear words and so on. And just before release the studio released a “kitten spoof” version that replaced the cast with cats.

Online and Social

The official website, which is built on Tumblr, opens with a modified version of the key art and offers a menu of options along the left of the site for you to find out more.

The first section there is “#Keanu,” which is actually a blog with updates including GIFs, videos, countdown images and more. After that is “Videos,” which as far as I can tell just has the red-band trailer. Likewise, the “Gallery” just has two images, which seems kind of skimpy for something bearing that label.

“Story” has a good synopsis of the story that leans heavily on the Key & Peele history of not only the stars but also the behind-the-scenes talent.

keanu pic 02

There’s a “Gangsify Your Pet” site that lets you upload a picture of your own pet and deck it out in the hat and chains we see Keanu in throughout the campaign. There are also links to a few off-domain things, including Kittens vs. Thugs, a Kitten Fashion Show and the Keanu Rap. Most of those seem to be paid placements, with the first showing up on Uproxx and the latter two on Buzzfeed’s Partners Facebook page. So the studio is promoting those paid opportunities, which is smart.

There’s a lot of fun stuff on social media. The Facebook page, Twitter profile and Instagram feed all have some cool movie parody images that put a cat in a role like Freddy from Friday the 13th, Pee-wee from Pee-wee’s Big Adventure and more. The Facebook page has videos from the press tour and adoption circuit the stars were on along with countdown images and other promotional items. That shows up on Twitter too, along with RTs of fans who are anxious for the movie, media outlets promoting their interviews with the stars and more.

A number of movie-specific filters were created for the GIPHY Cam app that inserted the titular cat, let you sport its hoodie and hat and more. There was also a special Keanu filter for Snapchat on 4/20 to attract…that audience. You know the kind. The really mellow ones.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

There are no promotional partners that I saw mentioned. But there was plenty of advertising done, especially on TV, though some of those spots also ran on YouTube, where the studio not only ran them as pre-roll but also promoted the trailer through paid placement. Some TV spots played it straight, just showing the ridiculous story. Others positioned it as the latest in a series of movies like Scarface, The Departed and other crime dramas.

I’m sure there were outdoor ads run as well in select markets since the two are well known so it makes a lot of sense to put their faces out there.

Media and Publicity

The first look at the movie came in Entertainment Weekly with an official still from the flick. Later on it was announced there would be a “work-in-progress” screening of the film at SXSW, something that had been much-speculated on and anticipated by a lot of people. That screening was met with mixed reactions as people agreed it was funny but that it seemed to be the same joke just repeated over and over again.

The two stars engaged on a nationwide tour of pet shelters to encourage cat adoption, which generated a good amount of press in each market they visited.

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Key and Peele hitting the big screen was the main meta-narrative of the campaign, as exemplified by stories like this New York Times profile. That story allowed them to not only talk about bringing their dynamic and sense of humor to a feature film but what it took to get the movie made when it might not fit into what’s normally considered safe territory for one with only black actors in the lead. Lots more ground was covered as well.  

The pair also did many of the usual press rounds, including a Reddit AMA, appearances on the late night talk shows and more. And there was plenty of press that was focused on how exactly they made a cat (or, more accurately, a series of cats) a major character with a voice of its own.


This is a really fun campaign and I like it a lot. Are there branding things I could argue with here and there? Sure, but overall there’s just such a fun spirit throughout the marketing that a lot of those concerns are wiped away because you just kind of get on board with it. While it’s not at all surprising I do think it’s super-smart that the campaign plays up the Key & Peele connection over and over again. Even if people aren’t a big fan, they’ve likely seen the Substitute Teacher sketch pop up in their Facebook feed at some point, so there’s going to be some recognition there, meaning it’s smart that this is being sold as essentially a feature-length sketch.

I also like how just self-aware the marketing is of what’s going to work with the audience. One TV spot does this well by saying Key & Peele has X million online views and cat videos have X million billion online views and this is the logical combination of both of those forces. What’s being sold here is just that, something that’s designed to move the short-form audience to a long-form piece of content, one that looks funny, a bit tongue-in-cheek and a genre mashup that has something for most audiences. Well sold.

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