Movie Marketing Madness: The Light Between Oceans


light_between_oceans_ver3“Who is the best person to raise a child” is the central question for the story in The Light Between the Oceans. The movie stars Michael Fassbender and Alicia Vikander as Tom and Isabelle, a married couple who manage a lighthouse off the Australian coast following World War I. One day this childless couple find a baby stranded in a raft that washes up in front of their house and decide, assuming the child’s parents were killed in an accident at sea, to take her in as their own.

One day, though, the situation begins to fall apart. While visiting elsewhere they meet Hannah (Rachel Weisz), a woman who seems to have some sort of connection with the baby Tom and Isabelle found years prior. As that becomes more and more clear what that connection is, though there’s little to expose the reality of what they did. So it’s up to Tom and Isabelle to struggle with what the right thing to do is and how that will impact their lives, Lucy’s life and Hannah’s life.

The Posters

light_between_oceansThe first poster sets the movie up as a Nicholas Sparks-esque romance, showing Vikander and Fassbender with their foreheads pressed up against each others’, clearly in the midst of an intimate, romantic moment. The colors are faded and you can see the ocean in the background, which kind of establishes the setting. In between the two stars and above the title treatment we’re told “Love demands everything,” again reinforcing the romance angle and ignoring anything about a mysterious abandoned baby.

The theatrical one-sheet pulls the camera out to show the two lovers frolicking – that’s the only word I can use – in the ocean together. The title treatment is much larger here and the same copy point is used. Again, it’s just selling the movie as an epic love story, which appears to only be the foundation of these characters and not the primary plot motivation.

The Trailers

The first trailer opens on a lovely sunset over the ocean and we see Thomas and Isabelle writing love letters to one another. After their declarations of love we see she suffers a miscarriage but later find a baby that’s been abandoned on a raft that comes up to their home on the seashore. They make the decision to raise the baby as her own but one day the meet a woman who claims her sister and brother-in-law lost a baby at sea. Thomas wants to admit the situation but she doesn’t want to give up the child they’ve raised as their own for years.

Oy, the emotions. This one hits all the heartstrings as it tells the story of a mother who just wants to maintain what she feels is the status quo after a tragedy and miracle that healed her family. This looks like it will not only tell a gripping story about the characters as they are but also get into what makes a family and what it takes to be happy.

Online and Social

So interestingly there doesn’t seem to be any sort of official owned website for the movie. The URL, which is included in TV spots and other videos, redirects to this video, which seems to be an extended TV spot. There were, though, Facebook and Twitter profiles where the studio shared videos, images and more. There’s more going on on Twitter, which has links to recently-released clips and other updates than there is on Facebook, which just has a handful of updates in the last few months.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

TV spots like this one tried to distill the story down to a 30 second runtime and doesn’t really do it justice. It sells the story about the baby’s fate but doesn’t establish the loving relationship between Tom and Isabelle almost at all, meaning it’s missing out on what feels like half the movie. Or at least it’s missing some important foundational work.

There were also extensive online ads run on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube and, I’m assuming, other sites. Those ads either pointed to the trailer or TV spots or the key art to try and sell tickets.

Media and Publicity

A couple of first-look stills featuring Vikander and Fassbender were released well in advance of release. The two stars talked here about not only making the movie but also how filming it lead to them becoming a real-life couple.


There were other stories as well, mostly hitting the same notes about adapting the best-selling book to the screen, the two stars working together and falling in love in real life and more.


There are two distinct stories being sold here by two distinct elements of the campaign: The posters and publicity are very much selling the love story, the wonderful life that Tom and Isabelle have together and how passionately they’re in love with one another. Then there’s the trailers and TV spots that are selling partly that but mostly the drama around finding the abandoned baby and the decision as to what to do about that situation.

Aside from the story elements, there’s still a big focus on the performances of Vikander and Fassbender. They’re both obviously front and center in the campaign, which is asking the audience to buy into their on- and off-screen romance as a main component to building interest in the movie. That makes some sense, but it also has the risk of being over-sold, particularly with the emphasis it’s received here. Let’s see if it connects with target audience or gets passed by.


Facebook Makes Coupons Easier to Make, Track and Use

Facebook has rolled out new tools for coupons, tools that both make it easier for businesses to create and share them and for shoppers to use them.

facebook coupons

For the businesses, coupons and deals can be created that are either for online or in-store usage and they can be sent to potential shoppers either through targeted ads or via a post on their Page. You can guess which one will have the bigger reach, though these posts are of the special “Offers” variety that have a different weighting in the News Feed. Unique codes will also help retailers and advertisers track how often their deals and coupons are being used.

For shoppers, Offers will show up automatically in a new bookmark section on the web and mobile app dedicated to those deals. People will be able to either copy and paste offer codes directly if they’re redeeming online or use the app to display the coupon or deal if it’s being redeemed in person.

Considering “get access to exclusive savings” is almost universally cited by social users as the primary reason they connect with brands of any sort on social networks this makes a lot of sense. And it’s easy to see how this is good for Facebook since it keeps people in their ecosystem. And these deals are certainly going to be eyed as a good use of paid promotion dollars to extend their reach and therefore usage. But it’s also easy to see this eating into spending elsewhere, particularly in things like print mail circulars or even other digital platforms. Facebook wants to own this just like it wants to own most other experiences. While it remains to be seen if this particular effort will connect with shoppers, it’s a safe bet if it doesn’t that this won’t be the network’s last attempt.

After the Campaign: Nasty Baby

There was a frantic pace to the marketing of Nasty Baby. The movie follow Polly (Kristen Wiig) as she and her gay friend Freddy (Sebastián Silva) try to have a baby together. Freddy is also, as all this is going on, working on a video art project called “Nasty Baby” about the selfishness of bringing a new life into the world. When it turns out Freddy can’t get her pregnant they turn to Freddy’s boyfriend Mo (Tunde Adebimpe) to be the donor, a role he’s reluctant to take.

nasty baby pic 2_

That forms the core of the movie’s story but it devolves toward the end into a drama about poor choices Freddy makes that impact all their lives but which ultimately don’t change their situation. So for a movie about consequences – everyone, particularly Mo, is always talking about how much having a baby is a big commitment that will change their lives – the biggest choice that’s made in the entire story winds up being almost entirely consequence-free. It’s an odd choice and the point of that remains unclear in my mind beyond if you’re a bunch of hipster singles in New York you can literally do anything and it won’t upset your search for the perfect brunch spot.

The movie, though, doesn’t move at the same frantic pace that was promised in much of the admittedly small campaign that worked to sell it. The trailer in particular was split into two discernible parts: The first selling a small, indie story about Polly, Freddy and Mo and their attempts to have a baby and get along in the world. But then the trailer shifts and begins playing things much cagier, with lots of strobe light-esque effects and flashing visuals that establish a frenzied, chaotic story.

That story, though, never shows up in the movie. It’s all much more like the first half of the trailer, even when the characters start piling on the bad decisions, most of which are made from a sense of selfishness and entitlement. There are only two real moments where that flashy style shows up, once near the beginning and once right before the end.

So there was a definite sense that the marketing at least slightly missold the movie in some way. I kept waiting for that pop-art style to show up or be used more frequently but what I ultimately watched was a much more standard indie character movie. It almost seems like those moments were put in the movie to give it something that differentiated it from the rest of the pack of very similar stories but it wasn’t committing to that style as a whole. I still enjoyed the movie but no, it wasn’t well sold by the trailer and the rest of the campaign.

Twitter Expands Influencer Payment Program

Twitter announced today an expansion of its Amplifier Publisher Program, which allows those creating videos to opt-in to include pre-roll ads on those videos, taking a cut of the revenue generated by those ads. The program requires they sign up for Niche, a service Twitter acquired in 2015 that helps those with sizable social followings monetize their accounts. Videos can be published either through the desktop Media Studio site or through the recently launched Notify app and creators will be asked each time if they want to ad ads to video they’re about to post.

twitter media studio

This is an important update for Twitter since “not helping its biggest users make more money” is one of the complaints leveled against it when it comes to weighing Twitter against other social networks vying for their attention and audiences. But for the end audience it’s…more ads. Pre-roll in 2016 feels like a step backward in terms of the user experience, something we tolerated for years and still have to deal with on YouTube but let’s be honest, this isn’t what we want. It’s what advertisers want, sure, because there’s no way to skip them and get to the video we want to watch, so it’s guaranteed viewability and to hell with kids and their ad blockers anyway.

Still, if it’s something that can keep Twitter afloat for a while longer that’s great. There have been so many hits it’s taken in the last couple years around lack of growth, falling ad revenue and more that it’s starting to feel like the network won’t be around much longer, particularly if it can’t get better about articulating what it is and what the value proposition for new users is. So if a bit more ad money will help keep things going, great. But it’s not a permanent solution and those bigger issues will continue to weigh things down until they’re sorted out.

Facebook Keeps Encouraging Posts

facebook prompts

The above image is just the latest posting prompt I’ve received when I log into Facebook. Others have included not only friendship “celebrations” but also current events like the Olympics, meteor showers and more. It’s obvious Facebook wants us to post more and is giving us specific topics to talk about. The social network is basically Linda Richman, giving us all a topic to talk about.

Facebook loves to tout stats in its blog posts about new features or changes. I’d be incredibly interested to see if there’s any actual numbers that show this is moving the needle and actually resulting in more engagement and post volume. Facebook has, in the last year, been the subject of studies showing overall post numbers are down and if I had to guess I’d say these prompts started appearing about the time Facebook was denying those reports.

So I’m curious, do you take advantage of these prompts? I’m all for nudges to get me writing, but since I don’t use Facebook like Facebook wants me to use Facebook these don’t work particularly well for me. They’re interesting as mile markers and from a “Oh, so that’s what they’re doing” observational point of view. But that’s about it.

Brand Help Monetize Late Night Clips

I’m old enough to remember when NBC fought tooth and nail to keep “Lazy Sunday” off YouTube because it was a platform it couldn’t monetize and was seen by network and others as simply an outlet for piracy. Now, though, SNL and other late night shows are producing material that might air on TV first but which is really meant for online viewing.

carpool karaoke

There’s no better example of that than James Corden’s “Carpool Karaoke” segment and Variety explains how the producers use brand integrations to monetize those clips. There’s a lot of thought that’s put into which offers to take since they’re getting some that aren’t going to match to the demographic that they’re trying to reach. I think, though, this is going to be a short-term tactic. Basically they’re going to find, based on precedent, that the requests are going to become more and more intrusive, such as needing to add a 15-second sizzle reel in the middle of the video or needing to work in these five brand messages. So while this is what’s working for Corden’s production team and the network right now, expect this to evolve over time and for the ad element to become even more overt. The advertising industry is expert at using the thin edge of the blade to open up a big hole for them to drive through.

Movie Marketing Madness: Morgan

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“He tampered in God’s domain,” one character declares at the end of Bride of the Monster.” That’s the core premise in many science fiction movies about scientists trying to “fix” something, including this week’s new release Morgan. In the movie Kate Mara plays Lee Weathers, a corporate risk-management consultant who’s called into one of her company’s facilities because it’s having some problems. Those problems mostly revolve around Morgan, an artificially enhanced humanoid that was created in a lab but who has recently been more and more out of their control.

See Morgan is only a few months old but her body has already matured to that of someone in her late teens/early 20s. And with that her powers – which remain mysterious and somewhat unknown, even to those who made her – are growing as well. People have already died by the time Weathers is called in and it’s only going to get worse as all of this inquiry triggers Morgan’s sense of self-preservation. The movie is being sold as one part technological thriller a la Ex Machina and one part close quarters thriller. Let’s take a closer look.

The Posters

The first poster sets a horror-like tone as we see someone – Morgan, presumably – standing in front of a makeshift bed that’s in front of huge, industrial-type walls. She’s decked out in a hoodie and sweats and clutching a teddy bear, meaning she looks like a programmer or community management specialist you’d walk past in San Francisco. It’s all very gray and creepy, a feeling emphasized by the copy at the top that simply says “Don’t let it out.”

The Trailers

We hear as the trailer starts how special Morgan is and how quickly she grew up and evolved. But she’s also unpredictable and prone to lashing out, which we hear via voiceover as the camera pans through hallways and rooms that are clearly being put to illicit and questionable usage. The trailer ends teases as to just what Morgan is capable of.

It’s a really good teaser that shows the tone and feel of the movie, which is creepy as heck. There’s only the vague outlines of the story – that Morgan will turn on anyone, even those who profess to want to help her – but that’s alright since it’s all about hinting at things.

The second trailer starts off with someone running away from a building before we flash back to see Lee arrive to oversee the project and get some information. Background on the project that developed her is provided to Lee (and us) and we hear about “the incident” where she attacked one of the staffers. Morgan is being evaluated by a therapist and when he turns confrontational she turns violent, pushing him against the wall with her mind. Morgan is soon on the loose and the rest of the trailer is about the scientists searching for her before she can do more damage to them and the world as a whole.

I like this trailer a lot. It plays like a horror movie but with more of a sci-fi bent for those of us who aren’t into something more straightforward. More than anything, it explains that sci-fi premise and immediately makes the stakes of the story clear to everyone, allowing the audience to actually get invested in something.

One more trailer sells the movie as a straight-up horror film about the dangers of tampering in God’s domain, showing scenes from the movie as if it’s security footage that’s being pulled up by the director of the program as she’s entering a new status update. So it’s lots of quick cuts and grainy footage and it works pretty well, this time taking Mara’s role almost completely out of it and focusing on Morgan herself and her very speedy evolution.

Online and Social

It’s the standard fare on the movie’s official website.

The very top of the page has encouragements to buy tickets or connect with the movie on Facebook or Twitter. Scroll down and you can view one of the trailers, which is accompanied by a call to action that if you’d like to watch more you should subscribe to the YouTube channel. Those videos are listed below the trailer as well.

Keep scrolling and you can read the “About” section which has a synopsis and cast and crew list. In terms of visual content, the “Poster” lets you view and download the one-sheet and that’s followed by a “Gallery” with a half-dozen stills.


There’s the standard Fox call to sign up for their email newsletter next and finally on the page is the “Social” section which brings in updates from the movie’s official Twitter account and has another link to the Facebook page. Both that and the Twitter profile are used mostly just for sharing photos and short videos, with not much of interest going on.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

There was at least some TV advertising done with spots like this that more or less eschewed the entire setup of Lee’s investigation into Morgan’s situation or the science behind her creation. Instead it focused solely on the fact that Morgan is a threat that’s taking people out and jumping out from hallways and appearing suddenly in doorways.

I can’t vouch for anything specific online since I haven’t seen any paid placements but it’s safe to assume there’s been at least some promoted posts and other online ads run.

Media and Publicity

The movie got a nice bit of publicity when the studio contracted with a visually impaired artist to create a unique set of GIFs from the trailers.

There wasn’t a whole lot else going on in the Publicity portion of the campaign. Mara appears to have done some press, but mostly the press amplified her comments about being open to doing another Fantastic Four movie. Other than that, mostly the press coverage came when marketing materials were released.


It’s an interesting choice that’s been made with the campaign and seemingly with the movie as a whole. As I said above, what’s being sold here is less a cautionary tale of scientific hubris than a straight-up horror movie with some sci-fi elements. I don’t know that there’s a good or bad approach that could have been taken, but the studio’s marketers has obviously decided to lean more into the jump-scares and smears of blood than any sort of moralistic intonations of genetic tampering.

That’s a choice I don’t necessarily agree with largely because of the two genres, the horror crowd has been much harder and more discerning in their choices of late. Only truly original stories like The Green Room and Don’t Breathe have broken through the clutter. So with a campaign that can’t fully commit to being a horror movie but still wants to be seen as such there’s the risk this is just ignored by horror fans and those who made Ex Machina a decent success because that part of the story is put in the backseat in the marketing.

On Gene Wilder

gene wilder

Gene Wilder has died. The actor, best known for his work with Mel Brooks, Richard Pryor and other now-iconic roles, had been suffering from Alzheimer’s, a malady that like David Bowie and cancer he wasn’t public about. As many have pointed out, where some comedians struggle for decades to get one or two big memorable roles, it’s easy to pick out 10 from Wilder’s filmography. Everyone’s list will be different and each one will still be right.

My own introduction to Wilder came in the form of both Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory and Young Frankenstein. Both were movies I watched incessantly on home video back in the day and both showed me something I’d never seen in comedies before: Pathos.

Wilder’s performance in Wonka is the very definition of sublime. While Wonka is supposed to be a generally good, of somewhat narcissistic, character, Wilder gave him the glint of the merry trickster that it took me years to decode. He’s Puck, merrily playing his games and moving his own agenda along. In the famous introduction to Wonka, a sequence he himself insisted on because he said it would throw all the character’s future actions into question, he squints and glowers at the assembled crowd before fooling them all and rolling into a grand, joyful greeting. He establishes the entire arc of the movie in less than a minute without saying a word.

Likewise in Young Frankenstein, he adds a human element to the story and is the only one who never tips his hand as to the parody at play in the story. He plays the character completely straight and lets the chaos erupt around him. That’s exemplified no better than in the scene where he goes to the room where they’ve locked up the monster to try and reason with him, going from brave to calling out for his mommy in a heartbeat. And he makes it all completely natural.

There are a number of other performances of Wilder’s you can pull out. His work with Brooks is outstanding. While I was never a fan of his movies with Pryor, I recognize I’m in the minority with that opinion. And Haunted Honeymoon remains a nostalgic favorite. More than that, he was obviously a man of character, turning down what I’m sure was a steady stream of roles that would have played to people’s perceptions of him but which he, for whatever reason, found wanting, including a reported offer to appear in the upcoming Ready Player One adaptation. That means he won’t get the career-capping performance like Jerry Lewis just enjoyed in Max Rose. Which is a bummer.

Wilder was a legend and his legacy endures.

Facebook Takes Humans out of Trending Topics

Late last week Facebook announced it was changing the way the Trending section was curated, moving away from human editors building and maintaining it and toward a system that just pulled topics automatically. This is largely a reaction to the controversy that broke earlier this year when a former Trending employee accused the system of pulling only from a certain amount of white-listed sites and betraying a liberal political bias. That escalated to the point where Zuckerberg was pulled into Washington to explain himself. So instead of having humans writing topic heds and short descriptions, that section will now just show the topic name and the number of people the algorithm says are talking about it. Engineers will be the only humans double-checking things to make sure it’s reflective of reality.


This is..troubling. Facebook has long functioned on multiple fronts by saying human beings aren’t doing X, the algorithm is, ignoring the fact that biases can be and are built into the algorithms that are written by human beings. Eliminating the human checks and balances is giving our information choices over completely to the machines, which is not the direction we should be going in.

Not only does Facebook want to eliminate as much of the human factor as possible from its system, but it wants to really show that people are talking about current news and other topics on the network. One of the common criticisms leveled against Facebook is that it’s 24-48 hours behind more newsy networks like Twitter. So it needs to make Trending relevant to the public because it encourages them to not just post the pictures from the family vacation but about the news and other topics that are immediately relevant.

Movie Marketing Madness: Max Rose

max_rose_ver2Want to get Movie Marketing Madness via email? Sign up here. Then connect with MMM on Twitter and Facebook.

Jerry Lewis makes his return to the big screen in this week’s new movie Max Rose. In it he plays a retired jazz pianist whose wife of 65 years passes away. That leaves Rose a bit aimless at his age, leaving him to fend for himself and reconnect with his children. One day as he’s going through his late wife’s belongings he finds a locket with a mysterious inscription from someone he doesn’t know and he begins to wonder whether she had some sort of affair – or at least had an admirer he never knew about.

Now that he’s on his own he also has lots more time to spend and no one living with him. So his kids and others encourage him to make friends at a local community center, where he bonds with other former musicians. It’s the kind of role that is perfect for someone of Lewis’ age and talents, allowing him to bring all his world-weariness and experience to a character who has been through all kinds of ups and downs and is reevaluating his life. It’s his Sunshine Boys.

The Posters

Only one poster here, a nice simple effort featuring Lewis wearing a suit and sitting in a chair, looking to the side of the camera like he’s evaluating something or just contemplating life in general. The blue of his suit is contrasted with the dark red background. Below the title treatment the copy tells us “The legend is back,” so it’s selling Lewis’ return to the movies as opposed to anything related to the actual story.

The Trailers

We open with scenes from the marriage of the Roses, with voice over that seems to be from Max’s eulogy for her, which ends with him saying their life together was a lie. From there on out we get scenes of him meeting new friends and proving his bonafides as a musician to them. That’s intercut with shots of him and his kids as they try to figure out what the story of the compact with the inscription means. It’s full of Rose imparting life lessons and more to his kids and others.

It’s just wonderful. No, this isn’t going to knock anyone’s socks off and sure there are some issues that are apparent, but overall this looks like a pretty great return by Lewis, who is bringing his whole arsenal of pathos to the role and the story. It looks like there are plenty of opportunities for heartstrings to be pulled. If you enjoy these sorts of career-capping roles and performances this will be right up your alley.

Online and Social

It doesn’t look like there was an official website for the movie but there were Facebook and Twitter profiles that shared information on new marketing materials, There was also generous pulling from Lewis’ career, with lots of Throwback Thursday videos and so on.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Nothing that’s obvious here.

Media and Publicity

The movie has been sitting around for a while, having debuted at Cannes 2013. But this past year it’s been more active, screening at retrospectives for Lewis’ career and more.

max rose pic

There were also interviews like this with Lewis where he talked not just about the movie but also his history in show business. That was accompanied by lots of press whenever new marketing materials were released that referenced how this was the first role for Lewis in 20 years and what that meant.


The focus here is clearly on this being a return by Lewis to the movies, with only peripheral attention being paid to the story, which is primarily referenced in the trailer. Everything else here is just about how Lewis is back, capping off his long and distinguished career with a role that brings all the emotions and tears that brings with it.

As to the movie itself, it’s seemingly filled with life lessons. The trailer is a little uneven, bouncing back and forth between various elements of the story, but even that gets by because it keeps falling back on Lewis’ charm. The campaign sells this as a gentle, loving story about a man whose sense of identity is falling apart because his anchor, his foundation in the world is gone.