What does it take to be successful? That’s the question that countless books, seminars, self-help gurus and even pastors (who disturbingly-often cover all three of those bases) are trying to answer for everyone, even as they themselves become successful by peddling whatever they’re seven steps are. Many of us who aren’t super-rich celebrities admire those who are and are looking for ways to achieve that success, regardless of the potential downsides that status may bring with it.
The Boss is about the downfall of just such a celebrity. Melissa McCarthy plays Michelle Darnell (a character she originated years ago), an Oprah-like CEO who’s brought down to earth when she’s arrested for insider trading. When she gets out she has nothing left and turns to her former assistant Claire (Kristen Bell) for help. Michelle gets involved in Claire’s life, including starting to lead the scout troop of Claire’s daughter Rachel, a position she views as her way back into the big time.
The first poster is dedicated to showing how narcissistic McCarthy’s character is. She’s seen sitting behind a desk in front of a portrait of her in the same pose (but with a different outfit) and surrounded by framed magazine covers with her own picture. At the bottom we’re told “Watch your assets” because…yeah, you get it.
The second poster similarly put the focus on McCarthy, which is where it should be. There’s still not a lot going on here, it just shows Michelle sitting on a throne-like chair while she lights a cigar with a stack of $100 bills, which are held in a hand that’s attached to a very badly Photoshopped arm. Seriously, that thing is way wrong and looks like it’s coming out of either the chair itself or the backside of one of the two dobermans that are flanking her. There’s no copy or anything here, just the title treatment and the release date.
It’s a pretty underwhelming poster campaign. There’s nothing that’s working very hard at all to sell a funny movie or really highlight McCarthy in any meaningful way other than putting her there. I know it’s not a hugely visual story that lends itself to “wow” one-sheet visuals, but still, there could have been something more original and engaging done here.
The first trailer starts out by introducing us to Michelle at the height of her powers and fame, heights she’s swiftly knocked from as she’s arrested for insider trading. We also meet her assistant, who’s totally unappreciated. Michelle does not take to prison life well and once she gets out Claire has to take her in, setting up a culture clash. But soon she gets involved in Brownie meetings, something she takes very seriously, encouraging the girls to engage in cutthroat tactics. That culminates in an all-out street brawl with a rival troop. We end with Michelle giving Claire some fashion advice just before a date.
Unsurprisingly, McCarthy gets all the good one-liners here, with many of them presumably being ad-libbed in the moment. It’s pretty much a showcase for her talents here, which lead to the narrative in the press around its release that this was McCarthy’s “comeback” after a couple of disappointing movies, at least at the box-office.
Later on a red-band version was released that featured many of the same scenes, but with some vulgarity added in there to spice things up a bit. A few additional scenes provided a bit more context for Michelle’s character and how she’s perceived among other people in particular.
These are really good trailers that do everything the posters didn’t. They’re fun, they convey a really unique sense of humor that relies strongly on McCarthy’s delivery and generally sell a good time at the movies watching a person of questionable morals work her way through a story.
Online and Social
The official website opens with the red-band trailer, which is definitely worth watching.
The first section is “About” and is where you’ll find a decent synopsis of the story that’s heavy on cast and crew credits. “Videos” has both the all-ages and the red-band trailers.
“Social” has a section full of GIFs, images, short videos and more, including some that include the #LikeABoss hashtag, but which don’t seem to include any fan-generated pictures or anything like that.
The movie’s Facebook page and Twitter profile are filled mostly with promotional images and short videos. There seems to be a real effort to be hip in terms of youngster usage of social lingo, so there are some images with that “100” image that’s so popular on Twitter and in chat apps, references to “Damn Daniel” and so on. The Instagram profile just has those same videos and images.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
There was a lot of advertising done for the movie. A lot. Somewhere around 10 TV spots were created and run that varied from 15 to 60 seconds. Most all of them, like this one, used the same basic idea as the trailer, introducing us to Michelle and setting up the basic idea of her fall from grace and plan for career revival.
The movie also got a ton of online ads, most of which used the key art in some manner or another. There were also lots of Twitter and Facebook promoted posts and pages/profiles run to reach audiences there.
Media and Publicity
Unfortunately the first real press for the movie came when the studio announced a change in its name from “Michelle Darnell” to the very generic-sounding The Boss, which seems calculated to be as inoffensive and unremarkable as possible.
Bell and McCarthy did plenty of press, including a very funny “Google Autocomplete Interview” with suitably hilarious and awkward results. McCarthy showed up on various talk shows, including a much-covered lip-sync battle with Jimmy Fallon. Bell did her rounds too, talking about how they talked about how they bonded on-set, what it was like working with both McCarthy and her husband Ben Falcone (he wrote and directed it) and more. Falcone even got some press of his own, talking about how his and McCarthy’s daughters lobbied for cameos in the movie.
It’s a good campaign that, as I’ve mentioned previously, puts the emphasis on McCarthy since this is her character and her movie. The trailers are really strong and there’s some interesting stuff going on online, particularly with the GIFs and other promotional images. But the weak posters really weigh the campaign down with their lack of originality and, if anything, over-emphasis of McCarthy that comes at the expense of sharing anything about the story or the rest of the cast.
The marketing plays to and highlights all of McCarthy’s strengths, mostly her ability to play bold, brash characters as well as her ability to play unlikeable characters but still make the audience care about them. The story itself looks pretty funny and it’s a bold move to put Bell, who’s funny in her own right, in the role of straight woman. While the campaign shows some of Michelle’s journey to reclaim her success through the scout troop I also get the sense there’s very little, if anything, here from the last half hour of the movie, so it doesn’t give us a complete sense of the emotional arc. That’s fine but it actually stands in stark contrast to most campaigns, which show just about everything from the entire story.