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Movie Marketing Madness: Jack Reacher: Never Go Back

jack_reacher_never_go_back_ver3Jack Reacher, the former military operative who’s incredibly skilled at just about everything and always seems to reluctantly be in the middle of one sort of tough spot or another, is back in Jack Reacher: Never Go Back. The title character, played by Tom Cruise, proved more popular than expected in the first 2012 movie, which brought the subject of Lee Childs’ novels to the big screen, guaranteeing he would return to theaters and now he has.

This installment makes the fight personal for Reacher. Someone has been killing the men he used to work with in an elite military group and he’s being framed as the lead suspect. Susan Turner (Colbie Smulders), doesn’t believe that and seeks out Reacher, who sets out to clear his name. To do so will involve a lot of punching, though, as the people who are doing the framing want to make sure he takes the fall. But the journey could uncover secrets about his past operations that Reacher isn’t ready to deal with and which could change his perspective forever.

The Posters

jack_reacher_never_go_backThe first one-sheet for the movie makes it clear we’re picking up Reacher’s story. So Cruise is seen looking down at the ground and away from the camera, an American flag fading into the background behind him and above a shot of Washington, D.C. from the air. At the top we get the copy that sets up Reacher’s place at the time of the story and the story itself: “Never give in. Never give up. Never go back.” So there’s a decent amount going on with the design of the poster, even if it does come off a little Michael Bay-ish with that wafting flag and all.

The next poster isn’t all that original or interesting, just showing Cruise standing there along the right side of the frame, a gun at the ready in his hand. Nothing about the story or setting here, it’s just selling the movie as a chance to see Tom Cruise run around with a gun.

The Trailers

When the first trailer starts out we’re introduced to Reacher as he sticks around after beating up a bunch of guys. Soon the sheriffs who arrest him are themselves under arrest, showing he’s part of a sting. We meet Major Turner just before she’s arrested, something he doesn’t think is legit and so he goes on the rampage to break her out and prove her innocence. It is, of course, because of a big conspiracy and so we get lots of action sequences showing just how tough and determined Reacher really is.

Nice. Just…nice. It’s really slick and shows the look and attitude of the movie, explaining to the audience that he has another very personal mission to carry out and he’s going to do so in his own violent, aggressive way.

There’s not much story to be seen in the second trailer, a special one for IMAX screenings. We get the barest points of the motivation, which involves Reacher’s former men being killed, before it gets right to the point of showing all the explosions and chases and fight sequences that are in the movie.

Again, it’s pretty slick and Cruise’s action hero charm is on full display here. It’s definitely lowest common denominator marketing, but what are you going to do, it works.

Online and Social

The first trailer plays in a pop-up window when you load the official website and that constitutes about half of the site’s content. Once you close that window you just see the title treatment, with prompts to “Watch Trailer” and “Buy Tickets” below that.

The rest of the content on the site is made up of links to the Twitter, Facebook and Instagram profiles in the upper right and a section listing all the movie’s promotional “Partners” in the upper left.

Also on the site is “Never Stop Punching,” a side-scrolling video game that’s also available on mobile platforms. The goal is simple: Never stop punching as Reacher walks along encountering various bad guys and adversaries.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

TV ads started running in mid-August that essentially played like shortened trailers, offering just enough of a story to show audiences there was one but mostly just promising that Reacher’s hyper-efficient, reluctant hero was back for more adventures he didn’t really want to be part of but was resigned to finishing.

The studio ran enough TV ads to top the list of studio spending a few weeks out from release.

Online ads ran on websites and social networks that featured some of the most-seen clips and other shots from the trailer or the key art of Cruise looking intimidating with a gun at his side. And I’m sure there were plenty of outdoor billboards and signage placed as well.

In terms of promotional partners:

  • Rodd & Gunn: Created a Reacher-inspired jacket, but it’s not clear if it did any campaigning of its own to promote it
  • 2nd & Charles: Nothing notable on the site regarding movie promotions.
  • Books-A-Million: Same, nothing on the site that calls out the movie.
  • Greyhoud: Ran a sweeps offering the chance to win a trip to New Orleans.

Media and Publicity

Director Edward Zwick and author Childs talked here about how they worked with Cruise on developing a believable story, one that would address the big-spectacle super hero fatigue the audience seems to be suffering from. So, they said, they decided to keep the stunts as realistic as possible and tell a story that was at least mostly grounded in current, relevant stories.

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Smulders made some talk show rounds to talk about working with Cruise, playing such a physical role and more. And both she and Cruise appeared on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” on respective nights to promote the movie in their own ways.

Overall

If there’s an issue with the campaign, it’s that it’s largely indistinguishable from the marketing pushes for most of Cruise’s other recent action movies. If it weren’t for the constant stream of other characters shouting “Reacher!” it would be easy to assume this was for an entry in the Mission: Impossible series or something else. Cruise is a good actor – no, he really is – but he doesn’t have the range to make clear differentiations between the similar properties he’s starring in.

Outside of that what’s on display here is designed to make it as familiar and appealing to the audience that made the first movie an unexpected hit. That movie was widely regarded as serviceable and efficient and not groundbreaking, just a solid, enjoyable and slightly funny vengeance action movie. It puts Cruise front and center, which is the safe and solid choice, but it also smartly includes plenty of footage of Smulders since she’s becoming more and more of a star and seems to play a large role in the story. It’s not knocking anyone’s socks off, but the marketing sells the movie well.

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