Hollywood gathered for one of the premiere events to kick off awards season last night as the Golden Globes were handed out by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. La La Land, the romantic musical starring Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling cleaned up at the event, taking home a record number of category wins, though plenty of other movies scored nods as well. So today let’s just take a simple look back at the campaigns for the movies among the list of winners, with the notable exception of Elle, which for no good reason I didn’t write a campaign review for.
Moonlight (Best Motion Picture Drama)
The movie’s personal focus and touch really comes through in this campaign. Everything here is focused on making sure the potential audience sees that it’s a human story with a very small scale, focusing on Chiron’s journey and emotions. The trailer, the press push and the posters all work to make it clear the spotlight will never leave him and his struggle for identity and acceptance.
Not only the thematic elements but also the visuals are all in line in the campaign. The mood and tone is really set by the posters, which feature the close-up faces and colorful backgrounds, a look that’s carried over to the website in particular. The whole campaign, though, looks like it’s pulled from the same color palette, with shades of blue permeating the entire push.
La La Land (Best Motion Picture Musical or Comedy, Best Performance by an Actress/Actor in a Motion Picture, Musical or Comedy, Best Director, Best Screenplay)
“Charming” is a word that’s hard not to use when describing this campaign. Everything here is designed to charm the audience, from the relationship between Mia and Sebastian to the plucky, upbeat music and the audacious dance sequences that are on display throughout the push. It’s all designed to seem completely unironic and sincere, sold as an antidote to the cynical world around us and the upsetting news we see almost daily. It just wants us to smile and enjoy the singing and dancing.
The entire campaign is meant to evoke a timeless nature. The throwback images that were used in early posters and the way the trailers make you think the movie could take place this year or in 1961 all creates a sense that the story exists out of time to some extent, reinforcing the slight nostalgia-esque approach to the marketing. Add to all that the almost universally positive word of mouth that’s resulted from festival screenings and the love the soundtrack has received and you have a campaign that’s…yeah, it’s ridiculously charming.
Manchester by the Sea (Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture, Drama)
There’s a ton of emotion in this campaign and it’s great to see. As with other movies from Lonergan, the focus is clearly on the relationships that are driving the story here. These are not shallow emotional waters we’re wading into, something that comes through in most every aspect of the marketing. The audience is expected to connect with all the characters, from Lee to Patrick to Randi, throughout the campaign.
Each individual element works really well and provides a more or less consistent brand identity, one that’s rooted in the intensely personal story being told. There are some issues – the poster is more focused on the Lee/Randi dynamic where the trailer is all about the Lee/Patrick relationship – but it’s the story that comes through loud and clear throughout the entire thing.
Fences (Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role, Motion Picture)
Let’s be honest, the main draw here are the performances of Davis and Washington. That’s not surprising given that this is based on a play, where the actors and the lines are so prominent. And it makes it not surprising that the campaign would place the emphasis so strongly on those performances. That’s why you see both trailers starting off or entirely focused on dialogues or monologues from one of those two.
The movie that’s being sold looks incredibly powerful. It’s a story about long-delayed dreams, unfulfilled potential, what you owe the generation after yours and how all that relates to race told by some of the best of today’s working actors. It’s a vital story in this time in history and it’s one that will hopefully continue to garner not more awards consideration but also an audience to see that story told.
Nocturnal Animals (Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role, Motion Picture)
This seems like a hard sell to the general public. It’s so cold and artsy that it’s certainly going to alienate vast swaths of the audience who are turned off by this campaign’s style and overall aesthetic, which puts a glossy sheen on everything while at the same time it shies away from presenting a linear narrative. That’s going to work for some, particularly those who have been following it since it debuted at TIFF and even before that. But for many outside that group, there’s nothing to get any purchase on.
In terms of the overall brand image presented here, there is a lot to like from a consistency standpoint. In fact what’s consistent about the branding is exactly the same materials and image that will turn many people off, the shock of red lipstick Adams sports, the scrupulous design attention paid to all the interiors and more. That all carries over from one element of the campaign to the other, showing that the style of the movie’s look is just as important, if not more so, than the substance of the story.
Zootopia (Best Motion Picture, Animated)
The campaign hits all the notes it needs to: It’s bright and funny and presents an attractive option for families looking for a movie to see this weekend. You can’t really go wrong with talking animals and the trailers in particular work really well in conveying a solid sense of humor and atmosphere about the movie.
But I want to come back to something I said in the opening, that maybe there’s more going on here than is apparent on the surface. That’s buoyed by part of the press push and there are elements of the campaign that hint at this being funny, sure, but also pretty much following the standard beats of a crime drama. There’s an undercurrent that’s just barely visible of a movie that’s just as tense and gripping as it is lighthearted and funny. How well that works in execution, if that is indeed the case, may impact the word-of-mouth that comes out of the movie’s first weekend showings.