Movie Marketing Madness: Trolls

trollsThe characters who inhabit the new movie Trolls are ridiculously happy almost all the time. They are upbeat and optimistic, which comes from the top down. Their leader Poppy (voiced by Anna Kendrick) is the happiest of the bunch, which has lead Branch (voiced by Justin Timberlake) to take himself out of the village. Branch isn’t quite as upbeat and peppy as his comrades and so has taken his skepticism and retreated to a heavily secured bunker where he can be grumpy on his own.

One day Poppy and Branch have to come together when the Bergens, a race of big, unhappy creatures that are the natural enemies of the trolls, attack the village and capture many of them. So the two dispositionally-mismatched trolls have to work together to try and free them, engaging in a road trip of sorts to enlist some other creatures as allies to help them in that effort. That means much of the humor comes from the clash between Poppy’s sunny outlook and Branch’s bleaker point of view, along with the adventures and interesting characters they encounter on their journies.

The Posters

The first poster is all about selling the movie as a bright, psychedelically colorful affair. A rainbow of colors forms the background, which upon closer inspection is made out of hair. Kendrick and Timberlake’s names appear at the top and the title is in the middle with a tiny troll peeking his or her eyes out of the “O” in the name.


The only other poster efforts appear to be a series of banners that each show the name of the actor doing the voice work with that character peeking over the bottom, only the tops of their faces visible. They’re brightly colored and certainly serve to reinforce the branding of the movie, but that’s about it.

The Trailers

The first trailer teases something about the trolls needing to rebuild their civilization, at least that’s what we’re told via narration. Other than that it’s just about watching the characters dance around and look cute. The only other hint as to a story is when some creature appears and snatches one because it is, we’re told, delicious.

The first full trailer starts out by introducing us to Branch, who’s a bit more depressed and ready for the worst circumstances than Poppy and the rest of the trolls. When they’re attacked by a Bergen who kidnaps almost everyone, it’s up to the two of them and the characters they encounter along the way to save the day.

So it seems much of the movie’s humor will come from the contrast between Branch and Poppy’s outlooks and dispositions as well as the usual tendency for these movies to include poop jokes of some form or another. It’s not a terrible trailer, but it looks like an acid trip that tripped out on acid and fell in a rainbow. Or something like that.

The third trailer was a bit unique in that it focused on the music, especially the role it plays in the story. It features some new footage as well as stuff we’ve seen before, but is especially about talking head interviews with Timberlake and Kendrick talking about the music.

Online and Social

There’s a school of thought that landing pages should feature a simple design and one or two clear calls to action. The official website for Trolls does not adhere to that thinking. Where to start…

Thankfully most of the dozen things that are scattered around the front page are also organized in the menu at the top. So let’s start with “Movie.” There you can find the trailer, clips, music videos and more. There’s also an About section with an over-the-top promotional description of the movie and a Cast & Crew section where you can see who’s voicing what characters and learn more about them. Finally, a Gallery is sold as being able to turn your frown upside down with its collection of stills.

“Watch” is another way to watch all those trailer, clips, featurettes and other videos. You can meet all the characters, both the trolls and the Bergens, in the “Explore” section.

There are online and mobile games along with other activities like Trollify Yourself and art projects in the “Play” section. “Shop” takes you to an online store where you can purchase Trolls shirts, dolls and the soundtrack. Finally, “Social” pulls in posts from the movie’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts as well as those of Timberlake and other stars and displays them all. Those social accounts, as well as additional profiles for Dreamworks Animation, are also found at the bottom of the page.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Plenty of TV spots like this one were released that distill the plot down to its most basic elements of the Bergen kidnapping all the trolls and Branch and Poppy working together to rescue them. The primary purpose of the spot is to remind everyone that the Justin Timberlake song they’ve been hearing nonstop for the last five months is connected with the movie and that they should come see it based largely on that.

TV ads were so pervasive the movie topped the spending charts a couple weeks out from release.

Promotional partners for the movie included:

There were plenty of licensing partners as well. Radio ads and outdoor billboard were created and run as well the latter featuring the key art from the first poster. 

Media and Publicity

The publicity campaign kicked off when the stars revealed on their personal Twitter accounts the character they would be voicing. Amusingly, not everyone was a fan of this execution.

The movie had a big promotional presence at Cannes, though it wasn’t screening there. That included appearances by Jeffrey Katzenberg and a performance by Kendrick and Timberlake of “True Colors,” which is featured in the movie. Around the same time, Timberlake released his first single from the movie’s soundtrack, which was notable since it was his first piece of new music in a few years.  

This is just one of the projects Kendrick has released recently and so was mentioned in a big profile of her that talked about the state of her career but only fleetingly touched on Trolls.


The director and stars talked at the movie’s premiere about how they wanted it to be a light and uplifting antidote to the gloom of reality, particularly the current election cycle. And he made other comments about how they developed the look and feel of the movie and its characters.

Both Kendrick and Timberlake made the late-night talk show rounds at various times to engage in hijinks and sketches and promote the movie.


Yes, the movie that’s on display here is clearly aimed at those under the age of 10. There’s no disputing that at all. But that doesn’t mean the effort isn’t working. While it might seem a bit less extensive than other kids animated features because of the lack of 17 character posters, there are still enough elements here to get everyone’s attention. And as I said, the biggest part of the marketing has been that Timberlake song that you now can’t get out of your head since I brought it up. It’s been all over Top 40 radio for the better part of 2016, so all the campaign had to do was draw the connection between it and the movie to immediately gain some awareness.

The campaign is consistent from one element to the next, that’s for sure. Everything is presented in the brightest possible colors and with the peppiest possible music, with very few deviations from that approach. The two stars, Kendrick and Timberlake, have been front and center throughout, either in the press or introducing trailers, which allows the marketing to play off their inherent likability and appeal to their fanbases. It’s a solid campaign that knows what it’s selling and gets the job done.

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Picking Up the Spare: Moonlight, Bad Moms, Inferno



Bad Moms


  • Finally saw the response to the Gmail address that was included in the TV spots. Sending a message prompts an OOO response from Langdon, who encourages you to either contact a colleague or visit, a site where you can play a game involving Google Maps and the levels of Dante’s “Inferno.” The site is positioned as part of Langdon’s course on Dante, but that’s betrayed by the presence of links to the trailer and the official website (yes, there was one…I’m an idiot) for the movie.
  • Yeah, so there was an official website. But it wasn’t linked from any of the trailers or social profiles and wasn’t findable via search. The site has all the usual sections – Story, Gallery etc – as well as a link to the one promotional partner for the movie, Princess Cruises.

MMM Recap: Week of 10/28 New Releases



This is not a great campaign and it doesn’t make me feel positively about the movie it’s selling. The trailers and TV spots are so clunky and wooden, it’s hard to believe the charming and talented Hanks is involved along with director Ron Howard, who seems to be losing the light, nimble touch he had earlier in his career. Tack that onto the stiff and sometimes downright disturbing posters and you have a campaign that has no soul.

American Pastoral


As for the movie itself, what’s being sold here is a story that isn’t immediately coherent. If you’ve just watched the trailers or seen the posters you may not be able to get a sense of what has happened and what drives the characters and actions. There’s little here that shows how the daughter is connected to the violence that has upset her family and her town unless you know what to look for. So outside of the visuals and the names involved it may be hard for audiences to find a clear value proposition to latch on to.

Flashback MMM: Sneakers

sneakersMovies aren’t always that best at portraying technology. Too often tech is portrayed clumsily and inaccurately, with the screenwriters and other people involved apparently hoping 90% of the audience doesn’t care or doesn’t catch the simplistic ways it’s used or abused. One of the better movies, at least in the last 25 years, was the 1992 comedic caper thriller Sneakers. Since news broke earlier this week that NBC is working on a TV series version of the movie it seemed like a great time to revisit a movie that often doesn’t get the credit or accolades it really is due.

The story follows Martin Bishop (Robert Redford, at his most effortlessly charming), who has put together a ragtag team of security experts who go around testing the defenses of banks and other institutions to find weaknesses that need to be addressed. On the team are an ex-FBI member (Sidney Poitier), a conspiracy nut who’s great with gadgets (Dan Ackroyd), a blind cryptologist (David Strathairn) and a…you know what I’m not sure what Carl (River Phoenix) is good at. They all get involved in a plot to steal a code-breaking device that’s sought by multiple governments and other parties and which brings Bishop face-to-face with a man (Ben Kingsley) who knows all about the past Bishop has been running from the past few decades.

At the top of the movie’s poster we’re told this comes from the same director of Field of Dreams, which was a pretty strong point to make back in the early 90s. What’s kind of amazing, though is that much of the rest of the poster is white space, albeit white space with the giant names of the stars on it. Only at the bottom of the one-sheet do we see those stars as they peek out from underneath what seems like a piece of paper or curtain that’s hanging in front of them. Copy below the title treatment sets up who they are by telling us “A burglar, a spy, a fugitive, a delinquent, a hacker, and a piano teacher…and these are the good guys.” That’s a nice little moment of additional levity that helps reinforce the attitude of the film.

The trailer starts out by introducing us to the team and their mission, to break into banks on behalf of those banks, as well as their eccentricities. The movie’s sense of humor and jazzy pacing are immediately evident as we see them working on a client project and bickering good-naturedly while doing so. Redford even makes a “We’re getting too old for this” crack to acknowledge he’s not as young as he used to be. Soon though they’re recruited by the NSA, though for what isn’t immediately clear. He recruits Mary McDonnell’s Liz to help out and we then see that they’re after a codebreaker of some kind. From there on out the action and tension are ramped up as the heist goes down, though there are still plenty of instances where the humor shines through. “Too many secrets” is spelled out, signaling the core point of the story, which was remarkably prescient in the age of Wikileaks and other outlets who aim to weaponize information to one degree or another.


Honestly, how much fun is this trailer? Everything that makes the movie great is on display here, from the lighthearted nature of the team to the story of information secrecy and data security. While Redford is obviously the topline star the ensemble shines through, with the whole cast getting plenty of time in the spotlight. The story of the search for the encryption breaker is laid out pretty well, though not in great details because it does get pretty wonky and would take away from selling the spirit of the movie. And the big reveal, including the reason Bishop declares he doesn’t work for the government, isn’t hinted at all, again likely a victim to it not being at the core of the movie’s value proposition, which is a rompy good time with a group of A-List actors who are obviously having a good time with lighter material.

I know I keep saying this, but it’s so great how consistent the attitude and style of the movie’s campaign is. Everything here speaks to how fun the movie will be, promising the audience a techno-thriller with a distinct and obvious sense of humor. While there are certain plot points that are obviously kept under wraps there isn’t really an element of the movie’s presentation that’s hidden or obscured in the campaign. If you haven’t seen it and want to find out what an intelligent, fun and thrilling movie about the perils and promise of technology looks like, this is the choice to make.

After the Campaign: Burnt

When Burnt was being sold to the public about a year ago the campaign felt a bit strained, like it was working really hard to convince us that it was some edgy and engaging drama. The story follows Adam Jones (Bradley Cooper), a superstar chef who fell from grace years ago but has returned to London to try and reclaim his reputation. His ego and the repercussions of his past actions continue to haunt him, though, and cause problems as he assembles a kitchen full of past collaborators and up-and-coming chefs while constantly being pulled in the direction of his lesser angels.


The movie isn’t great, but it felt better than the 29% rating it has on Rotten Tomatoes. Cooper is his usual charming self, though sometimes his character can come of somewhat one-note as he bullies and yells his way through scene after scene. The campaign set Jones up as a “bad boy” in the world of chefs and it’s as if the script needed to not only reexplain that but underline it repeatedly whenever he’s on screen. And everyone around him is designed to put into relief some different aspect of his obsessive and abusive personality, be they old collaborators or new apprentices he’s working with. Those secondary characters, then, become kind of cutouts that are in service to Jones.

There are of course twists, particularly a big one at the end, that weren’t spoiled or even hinted at in the marketing. That’s to be expected. What was surprising was that the campaign tried very hard on a few different occasions to try and redeem Jones’ character as still having a heart under his gruff exterior. The movie as a whole makes a few nods in that direction but not very consistently or whole-heartedly. It’s too invested in keeping him as that bad boy in order to make the twist that comes toward the end and Jones’ ultimate decision about reaching his goal that much more engaging or contrasting with how things turn out.

I can’t say the conclusion is ultimately satisfying, but most of the journey there is enjoyable enough. The campaign that sold it didn’t offer anything outright misleading that lead the audience in the wrong direction.

Pocket Introduces New Features. Is It a Media Company Now?

Yesterday Pocket, the read-it-later app/service that I and countless others use to time-shift our reading and save important items, announced a number of new features.

Chief among those is the introduction of an Explore page that takes the massive amounts of data Pocket has at its disposal and turning it into more reasons to use and engage with the service. There are pre-selected topics at the top of the page as well as the ability to search for more. So if you wanted to find what people had saved to Pocket about, say, movie trailers, you can do so and either click through immediately or save them for later. That’s a great new search and discovery tool.


Recommendations have been a part of Pocket for a while but with this new update those are also coming to the Chrome Extension, which will show related stories when you save a story, and the new tab screen when you’re using Chrome, which likewise can show three curated and recommended stories.

All these updates mean Pocket is actively using the content and data it has on interests and behavior to surface items to new users who otherwise might have missed it. That’s a great service. It also means Pocket is toeing up to the line of being a media company.

That’s a designation companies like Twitter and, recently, Facebook, have pushed back against. The latter in particular wants to be seen as a dumb tech company that’s making decisions on what’s shown to users based on “safe” standards, not editorial considerations. The designation is difficult to see since any weighing of what news to show or suppress is by definition an editorial one. But Facebook doesn’t want to be seen as a media company, primarily because it doesn’t want to be held to the same ethical and public service standards media companies are.

But what Pocket is doing is similar. It’s using data to surface stories that are in line with what it believes will be of interest to readers. That’s only a few degrees away from what a newspaper’s editor would do.

To be clear: Anytime a decision, whether made by an algorithm or human being, the company behind that decision has put itself in the place of a media company, either passively or actively. It’s important to for more of these companies to own up to that reality and start putting new processes and safeguards in place to account for it. There’s a responsibility that comes with that role that’s not being accepted at the moment.

Mostly that “Not us” perspective comes from the fact that these systems and algorithms are designed to show you what you may be “interested” in, not what you should show know to become an active, engaged and informed citizen. But as media consumption becomes more and more narrow and defined by self-selection and availability, there will necessarily have to be a change in that thinking. It’s great that there are so many more choices for people when it comes to how, where and when they receive their news. But society can’t function as it has if people are getting their news from sources that claim no responsibility to actually inform, just entertain and scratch individual itches.

Again, I like what Pocket is doing here. It’s a great step forward and smartly uses the resources and information it has in its archives. But just as much as Facebook and other companies, it will have to one day look at the role it plays in the overall media landscape.

Movie Marketing Madness: American Pastoral

american_pastoral_ver3Ewan McGregor stars in and makes his directorial debut with this week’s American Pastoral. Set in the late 1960s, McGregor plays Swede Levov, an upstanding local businessman with deep ties to his quiet suburban neighborhood alongside his wife Dawn (Jennifer Connelly). That status quo is upset, though, through the actions of their daughter Merry (Dakota Fanning), who has become radicalized into the politics of the era as she’s gotten older.

One day Merry goes missing after committing a crime that shatters the small town they all live in, threatening the family’s reputation among their friends and others. With her on the run, Swede goes to try and track her down. But her actions have shaken things up and altered his view of the world, which is going through one social shift after another.

The Posters

american_pastoralThe first poster turns the perspective of the viewer to the side, showing the scene of a burning house set against an otherwise serene setting. The photo is muted and washed out with the exception of the fire that’s erupting from the roof of the house, which creates a sharp visual contrast that helps draw the eye. In addition to the cast names and the mention of it being based on a Philip Roth novel, we’re told this is “A radically ordinary story,” which certainly creates a sense of mystery thanks to the unique turn of phrase.

The theatrical poster features the big faces of McGregor and Connelly looking kind of toward the camera, a horizontal strip obscuring their mouths and showing Fanning’s eyes, which I’m sure is symbolic of the story. There’s no copy here but it does show the symbols for the various festivals and events the movie has screened at.

The Trailers

The first trailer opens with a literal bang, as a small shop explodes shortly after the storekeeper puts the flag out in front. We see Seymour in happier times with his young daughter before shots of her older and obviously a disappointment to Seymour and Dawn. That’s likely because of her involvement in some kind of radical movement that’s probably responsible for that explosion and other violent acts. So shots her up to no good are interspersed with Seymour and Dawn trying to do something about it.

It’s a sparse trailer that offers only the barest threads of the story, and then only through visuals since a slow version of “Mad World” is used for the 17th time in a trailer this year alone. But what’s on display is very strong, showing an emotional story about a family who’s dealing with something they never expected to and which is hard for them in many ways.

Online and Social

When you load the official website you see the key art on the front page, with the credits to the side above two big call-to-action buttons, one to watch the trailer and one to buy tickets. Down toward the bottom of the page are links to the movie’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles where the studio has been sharing promotional images, trailers and other assets.

After all that, there’s a menu at the top where you can find most of the site’s content.

It begins with the “Synopsis” where you can read a pretty good and in-depth recap of the movie’s story. After that the “Cast & Filmmakers” section is pretty sparse, with just a shot of the actor from the movie along with their name as well as that of their character.


The “Trailer” section just the one trailer. Finally, the “Gallery” has a number of stills from production and then “Posters” has the two posters you can view and download.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

At least one TV spot was produced and run by Lionsgate. The movie being sold here is very much a family drama, with only a few little hints at the politics and radical actions that drive some of the actions. The focus here is on the hunt for the missing daughter as it sells the audience on a stoic family dynamic set in the Nixon era.

No online ads I’ve seen, not anything outdoors, but it’s safe to assume something has been done in advance of release.

Media and Publicity

The movie was among those which debuted or otherwise screened at the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival. The screenings didn’t generate much in the way of positive word-of-mouth, with most critics mixed or lackluster about it. Still, McGregor had the opportunity to talk up the movie and about his directorial process, something the rest of the cast praised for its collaborative qualities.

At the movie’s premiere McGregor talked about how he came to sit in the director’s chair and Connelly talked about the unique emotional angles required for her role. The circumstances that lead to him taking on directing duties continued to be the focus of much of the press.


There’s quite a bit to like about the campaign from a brand consistency perspective. Everything is brown and muted, like your grandmother’s living room. It *feels* like it comes from the era it takes place in, with the heavy fabrics and lack of emotions. That’s going to come off as off-putting to many in the audience who prefer their stories and characters to be a bit more effusive, but it just seems right here and that feeling is conveyed throughout the campaign.

As for the movie itself, what’s being sold here is a story that isn’t immediately coherent. If you’ve just watched the trailers or seen the posters you may not be able to get a sense of what has happened and what drives the characters and actions. There’s little here that shows how the daughter is connected to the violence that has upset her family and her town unless you know what to look for. So outside of the visuals and the names involved it may be hard for audiences to find a clear value proposition to latch on to.

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The Chicago Cubs Came to the Movies With These Trailers

Last night was, of course, the first game of the World Series, the first such game to feature an appearance by the Chicago Cubs in 71 years. As a lifelong Cubs fan with countless memories of watching them on WGN-TV, listening to them on the radio and going to Wrigley Field myself to see them play, this is of course an emotional time for me, one that my 42 years on this planet have done nothing to prepare me for. Like the rest of Cubs fandom, I’m somewhere between being shocked and amazed, confounded, confused while I vacillate between preternatural optimism over the talent and momentum of this year’s team and skepticism because that’s literally my default mode. I don’t go in for “Lovable Loser” storylines or talk of curses and such, but if Big Data has taught us anything it’s that you can’t ignore 71 years of statistics.

cubs logo

So I’m dealing with it today the best way I can, by looking at the trailers for the surprisingly few times the Cubs have made their way to the big screen.

And it is very few. In fact I found just three movies about the Cubs. That’s a bit shocking considering the Cubs are America’s team in many ways, particularly in the last 40 years thanks to WGN being a super-station that was available across the country. That along with the narrative that’s always followed the team and you would think there would be fertile ground for story writers to pull from. There are only a handful, though, so let’s take a look.

Rookie of the Year (1993)

There’s actually fairly little focus on the Cubs in the trailer for Daniel Stern’s directorial effort about a 12 year old who, as the result of an accident, develops an incredibly strong pitching arm and gets signed by the team. Instead it’s more about the hijinks of Daniel Rowengartner as he goes from an untalented little league bench warmer to big league phenom almost overnight. What there is about the team is more about presenting them as a goofy collection of misfits that act as the kid’s backup.

Elmer, The Great (1933)

One of two movies where legendary comic actor Joe E. Brown played a member of the Cubs (though the two characters and movies, this and 1935’s Alibi Ike are unrelated and unconnected), it’s important to remember this came out just 25 years after the team last won the World Series and featured a plot involving them going to the Series. The plot involves Elmer being kind of a naive and gullible hick and getting mixed up with mobsters who want him to fix the final game of the Series (sorry screenwriters, that was the *other* big league team in Chicago) but none of that is in the trailer. Instead it’s focused squarely on Brown’s lovable ballplayer, who just wants to play. The only complication shown here is a misunderstanding with an actress that causes problems with Elmer’s best girl from his hometown.

That’s about it. Two movies in the space of 60 years is about all the Chicago Cubs have managed. By way of comparison, that’s the same amount about the Cleveland Indians, though all of those were from the Major League franchise, which treated the team even worse than the Cubs have come off on the big screen.

After the Campaign: The Walk

When I wrote about the campaign for The Walk earlier this year I was struck by the emphasis in the marketing on the spectacle of the movie. Most everything about the push played up the big visuals and the amazing sequences that would be on display in this fictionalized retelling of the story of Philippe Petit (played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and his successful attempt in 1974 to walk a tightrope between the newly-completed World Trade Center towers in New York City.

walk pic 1

Unfortunately the movie itself contained very little of the spectacle that was promised. That’s largely because 80% of the movie is prologue to the event itself and it’s not all that interesting at that. The entire first half of the movie is about Petit’s career as an amateur wire-walker and street performer in France, backstory that’s supposed to set him up as a crafty outsider who’s committed to his craft more than he is to following the law. All that is meant to show us that his WTC stunt is the logical extension of his personality. But none of that is very engaging.

That’s largely because of the narration and framing device that runs throughout the movie. Gordon-Levitt as Petit is positioned as the movie opens in the torch of the Statue of Liberty and provides running commentary throughout the movie, with it frequently cutting back to him so he can explain something and setup what’s about to come. That kills a lot of the momentum of the story and comes off as a lazy and clumsy way to provide some exposition. It’s not surprising that this part of the movie was completely excised from the marketing.

Also missing from the marketing campaign is almost all of that setup, all the prelude to the “coup” that Petit is planning. Of course the main appeal of the movie is to see the image of Gordon-Levitt pretending to walk the high wire and marvel at the visuals that have been created by Robert Zemeckis and his team, which are admittedly impressive. But there’s just so much movie to go through to get to that point that it becomes somewhat of a slog.

There’s nothing overtly misleading about the campaign compared to the full movie. But there was enough left out that people got a big chunk of exposition and backstory they likely weren’t expecting. While the last 30-45 minutes of the movie – where most of the trailer footage was pulled from – finally came alive, everything before that was dragging exposition that didn’t have any of the director’s usual sizzle or flair.

Movie Marketing Madness: Inferno

inferno_ver5Tom Hanks is back as Professor Robert Langdon, the academic hero of previous adventures, in Inferno, the latest installment in the series begun with 2006’s The DaVinci Code. Langdon is joined this time by yet another young assistant, Dr. Sienna Brooks, played by Felicity Jones. Brooks has to help him out after he wakes up in an Italian hospital with no memory of how he go there and the two are set on a chase through Europe to not only recover his memories but also unravel a series of clues tied to Dante, the author of the literary masterwork famous for its depiction of the underworld.

Those clues hold the secret to some sort of apocalyptic plot, as a secret organization plans to unleash a virus that could potentially wipe out half the human race. So Langdon and Brooks are in a race to not only once again unravel a mystery involving some of history’s most important and iconic artifacts, all of which have secret clues hidden in them, but save humanity while doing so. All while Langdon himself seems to be wrapped up in the plot. This is another somewhat time-delayed sequel, with the last entry in the Robert Langdon story coming seven years ago, so let’s see how Columbia is bringing it back.

The Posters

The first teaser poster put Hanks at the front and center, looking stern as he’s standing in front of a winding circular staircase that features all sorts of ornate relief work. The star’s’ name is at the top, above a reminder that it comes from the author of The DaVinci Code and Angels & Demons, which of course were both successful Tom Hanks movies from previous years. At the bottom above the title treatment is the promise that “Every clue will take him deeper,” telling the audience that yes, this is another mystery involving antiquities and remote locations.

The next poster is kind of awful. Hanks and Jones are seen running kind of toward the camera but their faces are so badly altered Hanks in particular is almost unidentifiable. “Inferno is upon us” the copy explains but you just can’t stop staring at the horrible photo work that’s been done, rendering these two well-known human beings into monstrosities.

A later IMAX poster used essentially the same image, but with the photo in black and white and the camera pulled in a bit tighter.

The Trailers

The first teaser trailer immediately sets up the premise of the story, talking about a doomsday switch that could wipe out humanity and which Langdon has been set on the path to find. It’s tied in some way to Dante’s Inferno and…that’s about it. The main point of the trailer is to show off Hanks and Jones running from place to place as they travel through a new set of historic locations

It’s tight and compelling and will attract both fans of the franchise and people who just like Hanks or bright, flashy thrillers like this. But it’s not substantial at all, providing only the barest bones of the story to tell the audience what’s going on.

The first full trailer opens with a thrill, as someone jumps off a building rather than reveal what he knows about Inferno. Soon Langdon is involved and begins deciphering the clues that have been left. Seems he’s more deep into this than he thought as his memories have been altered or are missing, making him a key player in the conspiracy to, we see, wipe out half the world’s population with a plague of some kind. So he and Brooks are out to stop what amounts to the end of the world, a race that takes them through more of the landmarks of the ancient world.

The trailer never really gets moving until the second half. The first half is unfortunately weighed down by the hokey lines Hanks in particular is given about needing to do this or find that, all of which come off as very wooden. Not that he’s not giving it his all, it’s just rough for anyone to make that sound unstaged. Jones looks like a great addition to the story, which is just as silly as the first two movies were.

Online and Social

Doesn’t look like there was an official website for the movie, which is a shame. But there were Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles that shared countdown images and GIFs along with other prompts to

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

TV spots like this one laid out the end-of-the-world plot in various ways, establishing the stakes and that Langdon/Brooks are the only ones who can break the codes and save the world. The dialogue comes off just as clunky as it does in the trailer, which is too bad. There’s just just no subtlety.

The spots end with a call to action to contact Langdon via email, which I’ve done but haven’t received any response yet, so what that means and how that ties into the marketing is something I’ll have to revisit later.

Billboard ads featuring Roman statuary and other artwork were placed outdoors, with signs including the tagline “Inferno is upon us” and sporting the names of the acting leads. Similar artwork along with variations on the key art was used for online ads.

Media and Publicity

The publicity kicked off with the release by Sony of an official still showing Hanks and Jones on the run from something.

Much later a big feature on Jones would cover how she researched the role for the this movie as well as her career, which is white-hot right now, as a whole. Jones also got a cover story in Elle that covered much of the same ground.


Hanks made the rounds of some of the morning and late-night talk shows, most notably “Saturday Night Live” where he hosted and turned in one of the better shows in recent memory, with a bunch of sketches generating lots of buzz. Ben Foster also made a morning talk show appearance


This is not a great campaign and it doesn’t make me feel positively about the movie it’s selling. The trailers and TV spots are so clunky and wooden, it’s hard to believe the charming and talented Hanks is involved along with director Ron Howard, who seems to be losing the light, nimble touch he had earlier in his career. Tack that onto the stiff and sometimes downright disturbing posters and you have a campaign that has no soul.

All that doesn’t speak well for the movie being sold. If you’re a fan of the series of movies and the books they’re based on, this does enough to tell you you’ll be getting more of the same, with the consequences of failure amped up a bit. Otherwise this looks like a generic thriller that happens to star one of America’s favorite actors, albeit one that just had a new movie in theaters about a month ago. The best thing the campaign has going for it is that there aren’t a lot of new releases coming out this weekend.

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