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Movie Marketing Madness: Mother’s Day

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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 SeeMothersDay.com. 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.

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“#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 TourGeorgiaFilm.com 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.

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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.

Overall

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.

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