The 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 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 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:
- Sparkling Ice – Launched a whole campaign for its tie-in that included branded packaging, in-store displays, a sweepstakes, ads and more
- Vosene Kids – Engaged in similar activities
- TruMoo Milk – Offered branded packaging that encouraged entry into a sweepstakes.
- True Value – Began selling a movie-branded line of paints
- Sunmaid Raisins – Branded packaging and a sweepstakes
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 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.