Back in the day, a huge number of people in the U.S. only became aware of, much less fans of, Monty Python when it began being aired on PBS. It’s reputation preceded it and the troupe’s show found a willing audience when it finally became widely available outside the U.K. So too in my case with Absolutely Fabulous. I had kind of heard of it, probably in Entertainment Weekly, but hadn’t actually caught it until reruns began airing on Comedy Central, which allowed me to enjoy the drunken, drug-addled, trend-chasing adventures of Edina and Patsy. I never really found a through-line on the show, but that made it easier to watch since it never seemed to be a case where I was worried about coming in at Part 2 of a multi-episode arc.
Now the notorious trainwrecks are back in Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie. Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley return as the struggling, fashion-obsessed publicists who can’t stop smoking and drinking to do their jobs. The stakes are raised somewhat when, at a party they’ve crashed, they accidentally knock Kate Moss into the Thames. Hunted by the press and authorities, the pair take off for the south of France, where they try and fail to maintain a low profile. This living in the lap of luxury appeals to them obviously, and they attempt to stay there permanently despite not having any actual money to do so.
The first poster is all about making it clear that not only are these familiar characters back but that this time you’ll be enjoying them on the big screen. So Patsy and Edina are seen sitting in a movie theater snacking not on popcorn and soda, darling, but on champagne and other more upscale treats. Copy at the top tells us “It’s a huge, great bloody movie, Sweetie,” pulling out the rallying cry from the show to help sell the movie.
The second version offers more of the story to the audience. Patsy and Edina are now poised on a giant bottle of champagne, with copy at the top telling us “London’s most fabulous fugitives are on the run,” which hints at the plot of them being fugitives throughout the movie, but that’s quickly undercut by more text in the middle of the one-sheet saying “..on the run? Not in these heels, darling.” So we know that both the sense of humor of the original and the basic character ideas are still intact, which is nice.
Edina falls out of a car in the first trailer, firmly letting us know that we’re back on familiar territory with the characters. Patsy soon lets her know that Kate Moss might be in need of a new PR so the two crash a party to try and sign her but wind up being part of a mob that pushes her into the Thames. So the rest of the trailer is about them avoiding responsibility for doing that, leading to them fleeing to the south of France.
It’s ridiculous and funny and looks exactly like what you’d expect from these characters. It’s all about making the audience feel comfortable that this is a return of what they already know, not something hugely different.
Online and Social
When you load the official website it will sniff your browser data and determine what area you’re in, automatically displaying whether or not tickets are available for shows where you are.
“Videos” has the trailer as well as an international teaser that just sets up how the AbFab pair is returning but shares nothing about the story. “Synopsis” has a very good write-up of that story. Finally “Share” just prompts you to share a link to the site on Facebook, Twitter or Google+.
The usual fare can be found on Facebook where the studio has shared countdown videos, promotions for Lumley and Saunders’ appearances in the press and so on. Same on Twitter, which also includes RTs of fans and others who are looking forward to the movie. Those images can be found on Instagram as well.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
TV spots like this one played up the outrageous antics of these returning characters, only slightly nodding at the story about having killed Kate Moss. Here this is being sold as an episode of the show that’s being told on a much larger canvas, which is in keeping with most movie adaptations of TV shows. It’s a fun and fabulous time at the movies, the audience is told here.
I’m sure there was some online advertising done but I haven’t seen anything specifically.
Media and Publicity
While there were reports the movie was happening, official confirmation came when the first on-set still was released showing the two main characters on location in the south of France.
Saunders and Lumley talked quite a bit in the press about the return to these characters, including the number of cameos they were able to finagle, recent developments in the news like Brexit and more. The pair did the usual press rounds, talking about being a woman in comedy and offering other life lessons, who they’d like to see in a prequel story featuring the characters and lots more.
Lumley and Saunders also chimed in about how this was just the lighthearted romp Britain needed in the wave of post-Brexit gnashing of teeth and consternation. They also appeared on late night and other talk shows.
I mentioned before that this is being sold as an episode of the show that has a much larger scale and that’s true not just of the TV commercials but of the campaign as a whole. The audience – at least those who are already familiar with the world of AbFab – are being sold both a return to what they know and have liked in the past and something the TV show could never have offered them. But the gist is that Patsy and Edina haven’t changed or matured at all, they’re still as immature and as obsessed with buying the latest boots, even when they’re on the run from the press and the law.
For those who aren’t existing AbFab fans, though, there’s very little to latch on to. The campaign assumes some level of familiarity with the characters and seems relatively inaccessible if you pass that test. The general audience may find some humor in the celebrity cameos and outrageous behavior, but if that were enough to guarantee success we’d have already seen Entourage 2 in theaters. Instead the marketing here is for the loyalists who have kept the AbFab flame burning all these years.