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Movie Marketing Madness: The LEGO Batman Movie

lego-batman-poster-5I’m not sure anyone expected Batman to be the big breakout star of 2014’s The LEGO Movie, which itself was a hit beyond what most people in the general public likely thought it would be. But the Dark Knight, as voiced by Will Arnett, wound up being a favorite with his song about dead parents, his admonition that he only works in black or very very dark grey and other narcissistic and borderline idiotic behavior. The movie had a lot of fun with the Batman mythos.

Now that’s being taken to the next logical step, a spinoff solo movie. The LEGO Batman Movie has Arnett reprising his voice role as the title character, this time joined by Michael Cera as Dick Grayson/Robin, Ralph Fiennes as Alfred, Rosario Dawson as Barbara Gordon/Batgirl, Zach Galifianakis as The Joker and lots more. The story, such as it is, revolves around how Bruce Wayne feels more himself when he’s Batman than he does in his civilian guise as well as him coming to terms with raising his young ward Grayson and continuing to fight Joker and the other villains of Gotham City.

The Posters

The first teaser poster isn’t much, it just puts a Bat symbol made of LEGO against a solid yellow background, the name of the movie in the middle of that symbol and the promise at the bottom that it’s coming in 2017.

The second poster isn’t too much different, it just shifts the Bat symbol up a bit to make room for Batman himself at the bottom, shown here putting on his cowl.

Another poster was released on Batman Day 2016 that shows Batman leaping over a bridge and toward the camera, Batarang in hand and ready for action. The copy at the top recycles an old phrase that’s been on the internet forever: “Always be yourself. Unless you can be Batman.”

That same tagline was used on the next poster, which put Batman at the head of a crowd of bad guys chasing him, Batgirl and Robin.

An IMAX poster features Batman, Batgirl and Robin all coming down from the skyline in a pose that’s familiar to comic readers. We get the IMAX-specific callout along with copy reading “He’s taking them under his wing…of awesomeness,” which nicely conveys the movie’s attitude and tone.

A series of character posters followed, each one showing off a different member of the cast, each with a short bit of descriptive copy about them. Notably added here is Harley Quinn, who hasn’t really been a part of the campaign but who apparently couldn’t be ignored any longer considering her popularity.Another big batch of posters featured a “graffiti” type of look and included a lot more characters, particularly many of the main villains that will be in the movie. So this is the first substantive appearance of Poison Ivy and Riddler in the campaign.

Another big batch of posters featured a “graffiti” type of look and included a lot more characters, particularly many of the main villains that will be in the movie. So this is the first substantive appearance of Poison Ivy and Riddler in the campaign.

 

The Trailers

There was a shorter cut but the best version of the teaser trailer opens with Batman dropping dope beats before explaining that he did everything to make this movie – write, direct, edit – because he’s Batman. We then are shown that this comes from the same studio that brought us all the earlier Batman movies, as well as The LEGO Movie. Finally, Batman explains to his computer that he saved the city again, meaning he totally deserves the lobster thermidor Alfred left him in the fridge, which he then heats up in the microwave.

It’s pretty great, showing off the movie’s sense of humor and assuring fans that yes, it’s the same kind of Batman we saw in The LEGO Movie, one that pokes a bit of fun at all the Batman archetypes from over the years. The shorter version mentioned above just cuts out the intro of Batman with the mic and the name-dropping of all the previous movies, focusing just on the little bit of footage from the movie itself.

A second trailer was released less than a week after the first and was just as great. This one, though, starts off with Batman talking to a picture of his dead parents, a moment that’s interrupted by Alfred and which descends into Batman singing.

It dropped right after Batman v Superman’s release and is notable for how it references that movie as well as other Batman incarnations going back to the 1966 TV series.

Another trailer debuted at 2016’s San Diego Comic-Con and opens with Batman being chided by Alfred for being unhealthily obsessed with vengeance and not interested enough in his ward, who he recently adopted. At that point it’s all about Robin as he discovers the Batcave, decides he’s going to be Batman’s sidekick, picks out an awesome outfit and otherwise annoys Batman to pieces.

There’s not much of the story that’s shared here but that’s alright. It’s all about introducing Robin and continuing to show audiences that this will have the same kind of sense of humor as The LEGO Movie did a few years ago. Oh, and reminding you that life doesn’t give you seatbelts.

Trailer #4 (wow) hits many of the same beats, particularly around Batman’s solitary lifestyle and his relationship (or lack thereof) with his young ward. Where it deviates most is when it comes time to introduce Barbara Gordon and in the first real look at Joker, who here gets what amounts to a tender moment with who he thought was his arch nemesis.

It’s just as funny as the first few. The story here still isn’t super-clear, but you can start to get more of the outlines here. The constant stream of trailers at this point is just about keeping the movie top-of-mind more than anything else.

Online and Social

Full-motion video greets you on the front page of the movie’s official website. The top menu has a ton of links and prompts to get you to take some action. Starting at the left there’s a link to an Instagram account that’s published as if it comes from LEGO Batman himself. Moving over along the line there’s a link to information on the soundtrack and of course a prompt to buy tickets. Finally on the right are links to the movie’s Instagram, Twitter and Facebook profiles. Down in the lower left is a link to find out more information about the movie’s partnership with Chevy, details of which are below.

The content menu starts with “Story,” which gives you a brief plot synopsis to let you know what kind of mayhem you’re in store for. All four trailers can be found in the “Videos” section.

“Fun and Games” has a whole bunch of material that should appeal to the younger audience. A series of casual games let you defeat the Joker, create selfies and lots more while a selection of Wallpapers will let you decorate your desktop. Here you can also view and download some of the character posters or get an activity book to print out with word puzzles and more.

 

You’ll find the same posters as immediately above in the “Characters” section, which also has information on the main characters. After that the “Gallery” has a number of stills from the movie and “Partners” has information on the companies that signed on to help raise awareness for it. Finally, “Products” takes you to a shopping page on LEGO.com that lets you shop the movie-themed building sets to buy.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

The first TV spot for the movie was an extended version that played like a slightly shorter trailer, hitting the same beats as the trailers that had come before it. That includes a confrontation with the Joker, the realization that he needs to be a better parent to his young ward and more. This shows off the array of villains that Batman, Robin and Batgirl will need to deal with, which is a diverse bunch to be sure.

Some of the trailers and other videos were used in social media ads on Twitter and Facebook as each one was released.

The movie also had some corporate promotional partners:

  • Chevy: The carmaker produced an animated version of their long-running focus group ads featuring the group, including Batman in the background, being asked their opinions of the Batmobile. Chevy also created a landing page for the car as if it were something it was selling with specs and the ability to see how it would look in various shades of black.
  • McDonald’s: Put movie-themed toys in its Happy Meal boxes.
  • Color Me Mine: The chain of pottery painting shops held movie-themed events in stores.
  • Screen Vision Media: Not sure about the details of this partnership, but it’s likely there were pre-show ads or other content run on the company’s network.

Outdoor and online ads used the key art and other imagery. There were additional specialized TV promos that aired during syndicated reruns of “The Big Bang Theory.” More LEGO-themed promos were appended to the CW’s DC super hero shows. And outdoor artwork around Warner Bros.’ Burbank studios was given a LEGO makeover to help highlight the company’s support for the movie.

Media and Publicity

The first publicity for the movie came when a batch of official stills was released that didn’t offer much in the way of story clues, just that there would likely be the same kind of sense of humor here that was found in The LEGO Movie. Later on, quite a bit of buzz was created as the result of a CinemaCon presentation that included footage of Robin picking out his costume. More first look pics of the characters continued to come out over the course of the next several months.

Of course the movie had a substantial presence at San Diego Comic-Con 2016, with a cast panel where the voice talent talked about what’s going on in this irreverent take on the Batman story as well as show off new footage from the movie. A bit after that WB worked with MTV to debut an episode of “Gotham Cribs” that showed viewers around not only Wayne Manor but also parts of the Batcave.

lego-batman-movie-pic

Arnett was of course the main face of the publicity campaign, talking about his role as the “absurd Batman,” how he was interested in exploring why Bruce Wayne has no friends and more.

Overall

If there’s a quibble with the campaign it lies mostly with the trailers. Not with the content necessarily but with the fact that so many of them came out so long ago. Sure, there have been a steady stream of TV spots and other videos in the last couple months to take their place, but it seems like the trailer section of the campaign hasn’t seen anything substantively new in quite a while, which feels like a slight misstep. Not that I expect it to do any damage to the public’s eagerness to see this movie, but it’s worth noting.

This is a fun campaign. It just is. We can talk about how one thing or another did or didn’t work, but it just has a spirit about it that keeps up the humor from The LEGO Movie from years ago and focuses is around the character and mythology of Batman. It’s all about selling that sense of humor and making sure everyone who thought the first movie was a good time at the movies turns out for this one as well.

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