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Movie Marketing Madness: Office Christmas Party

office_christmas_partyThe office holiday party is a legendary thing, both for how much fun employees can have and the potential for problems in having that much fun at an office-sponsored open bar. Now that’s coming to life in the outrageous new comedy Office Christmas Party starring Jason Bateman, Jennifer Aniston and T.J. Miller among others.

Miller plays the manager of the Chicago branch of a larger company that’s run by his sister, played by Aniston. When Miller says he’s throwing a big office party she’s not thrilled but agrees, contingent on him signing an important new client (played by Courtney B. Vance). What starts out as a pretty standard shindig, though, turns into an epic night of debauchery that winds up including half of Chicago, enough alcohol to displace all of Lake Michigan and at least one live reindeer.

The Posters

The first teaser poster shows the results of a night of debauchery with a shot of a corporate conference room that has people lying around passed out and in various states of undress. Liquor bottles and cups, as well as articles of clothing, are strewn about the table and floor and a half-burned Christmas tree stands aside a broken window that Santa Claus is looking out of.

Character posters followed that showed off different members of the cast, with their name highlighted in green from among the cluster of names at the top. All show just how crazy things are going to get.

Another set of posters featured illustrations of people passed out on an office floor, a reindeer drinking out of a toilet, a guy photocopying his butt and more poor office behavior with the movie’s branding and that warning that “Party like your job depends on it.” These are funny but it’s an odd choice to hide the cast like this.

The Trailers

We open in the first trailer with narration from the morning after the party, as XXXX reflects back on how innocent is all sounded even as we see footage showing it wasn’t innocent at all. Flashback to the morning previous, when there’s a disagreement between the sibling owners of the company as to whether there’s going to be a party or not. Of course there is and things get out of control fast as people swing from the ceiling and engage in general debauchery.

It’s a pretty funny trailer. Bateman gets a lot of screentime but it’s also clearly Miller’s movie as he’s the one in charge of the antics at the party. Overall, though, this sells an outrageous story of getting loaded and making bad decisions on the company dime.

We start off in the second trailer by getting more background on Carol, who’s not thrilled with the office’s performance and is on the verge of shutting it down. She makes Clay a deal that if he can land a big account the office will be safe and decides inviting the potential client to the Christmas party is the best way to do that. From there on out it’s wackiness and hijinks as the party gets underway and quickly gets out of hand.

Miller and Aniston are really the stars here, playing off each other really well with their sibling dynamic. There are a lot of the same party-centric jokes the first trailer had but it all works really well here.

A third trailer was a b it shorter and featured more of McKinnon and the other coworkers. There’s less focus on the story here and more on showing the scale of the madness that’s underway once the party really gets out of hand.

Online and Social

When the official website opens you get to watch the second trailer, which is still funny. Close that and you’ll see the rest of the site isn’t super-robust.

Starting in the upper left corner of the page there’s a prompt to “Plan Your Party.” That takes you to a new page where the call-to-action is to create a group event for you and your coworkers to see the movie. That comes with Facebook cover photos, customizable flyers to put up in the office and information on arranging to buy a group of tickets.

Back to the main site, in the upper right there’s the “Indoor Sleigh Ride” online game that plays off one of the key scenes from the trailer where Miller’s character tries to ride a sled down a staircase.

Finally, there are links to the movie’s Twitter, Facebook and Instagram pages as well as a section dedicated to the movie’s promotional “Partners.”

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

A number of TV spots were created that featured short clips from the movie. Minimal story and background here, it’s more about just showing something funny featuring Miller, Aniston, Bateman, McKinnon and others.

In terms of promotional partners, the movie had a few lined up:

  • TipsyElves: Created a series of movie-themed ugly sweaters and offered a free movie ticket with each purchase.
  • Blowfish for Hangovers: The hangover cure offered two free tickets for purchasing each set of 50 tablets. It also offered the chance to win a private screening for you and 49 of your least-offendable office mates.
  • Blaze Pizza: Win free pizza when you share your outrageous office Christmas party story on social media.
  • Elite: Created a series of movie-themed digital invitations to send to your guests to get them to come to the movie with you.
  • Blo Dry Bar: Another chance to win a hometown screening of the movie by showing off your best hair flip along with your coworkers.

I’m sure there were online ads that used key art and video and that same artwork was, I assume, used on outdoor billboards as well.

Media and Publicity

The publicity for the movie really kicked off with an interview in EW’s Fall Movie Preview where the cast talked about the story, the characters, working with each other and more as they tried to position it as a raunchy movie that still has a lot of emotion and heart. Most of the cast talked later on about working together, how much of a pain T.J. Miller is and other such topics.

OFFICE CHRISTMAS PARTY

The movie got a nice push when it scored a cover story in EW where the stars and filmmakers talked about the craziness of making the movie, the way the tried to not make a traditional Christmas story and so on. Bateman and other members of the cast also made appearances on the talk show circuit to make sure people knew the film was coming their way. 

Overall

It’s kind of remarkable how much of the campaign is explicitly working to sell tickets. Sure, that’s the goal of every movie marketing campaign but here’s there are several elements – specifically the website and all the promotional partners’ efforts – that are designed to get people to want to see the movie, usually in a large group. The thinking seems to be that these groups will see the movie and then carry the good news of the movie’s humor far and wide as they encourage others to turn out.

As for the movie itself, it looks pretty darn funny. It’s hard to deny the level of talent involved here, including Olivia Munn. Aniston is actually a huge part of the campaign, selling her involvement as a key part of the story and the humor, despite her apparent position in the story as the wet blanket looking to tamp down everyone’s fun. This is being sold as a big old good time, filled with every bad or crazy story you heard from a friend about this one holiday party they once went to, with the inappropriateness turned up to 11. Let’s see if it connects with an audience looking for a stupid comedy filled with bad behavior.

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