After the Campaign: Mr. Church

The campaign for Mr. Church focused on how star Eddie Murphy, in the title role, was returning to film after an absence of several years. That emphasis isn’t fully realized in the finished movie.

The story is focused on Henry Church, a man who’s hired to come in and cook clean for a woman who’s sick with cancer and her young daughter. Marie, the mom, only has an expected six months to live and he’s supposed to take care of things until she passes. Instead she hangs on for years, long enough for her daughter Charlotte (Britt Robertson in the later years) to grow up, all while Mr. Church stays around. Even after Charlotte goes away to college he continues to be a major force and steady presence in her increasingly tumultuous life.

While the finished movie doesn’t mark anything great or a notable in terms of his overall filmography it’s not bad. Murphy turns in a solid performance, as does Robertson. The story is a bit trite, the feature-length version of the “magical negro” story trope and only surmounts that stereotype at a few moments.

What was shocking was how much I found the movie was completely, almost solely, sold in the trailer. There are plenty of instances of a trailer giving away much of the story but this one really goes through the almost all the major beats to make the entire arc clear to the audience. That means there wasn’t all that much surprising about watching the movie but, more positively, it means the studio wasn’t trying to hide anything from the audience.

It’s not bad, it’s a competently made and emotional movie that has some good qualities. But it’s also not all that compelling, despite a campaign that adhered closely to the movie it was working to sell.

After the Campaign: Anomalisa

Anomalisa is not an easy movie to watch. Well…it is easy to watch but it’s not easy to fully comprehend. That made it a particularly hard movie to sell to all but the most hardcore film festival-type audience.

The story follows Michael (voiced by David Thewlis), an expert in customer service training who’s flying to speak at an industry conference. He’s miserable and expressionless in his life and is just going through the motions. His worldview is exemplified for the audience by the fact that everyone around him has the same voice, making it seem as if everything is devoid of any discernible difference. It’s only brightened when he hears the voice of Lisa, something that’s actually different and offers a ray of hope, even if it is a fleeting one.

The fact that the story is told entirely with stop-motion figures only adds to the surreal nature of the world that’s built here. It’s impossible to talk too much about the story without giving away key elements of it that mean you won’t be as delighted and shocked by what transpires as you should be. It’s a remarkably simple story that’s elegantly told, with some big reveals and twists along the way. And the final conclusion of the relationship between Michael and Lisa is so odd it makes you question everything that’s come before.

The campaign definitely sold an odd, original story, which isn’t surprising given it comes from writer/director Charlie Kaufman. But it didn’t hint, thank goodness, at some of those revelations that make it even odder and more challenging than you’d expect by watching the trailer. It’s streaming on Amazon Prime right now and is highly recommended.

Paid Tweetdeck Features are Coming Years Late

Reports circulated last week that Twitter is in the process of building a set of enhanced features for Tweetdeck, the “power user” publishing and management tool it bought a few years ago, that would add a paid tier to the free product. Those features include a dashboard offering insights on trending topics as well as analytics for people to view how their Tweets are performing.

This kind of additional feature set makes a lot of sense for Tweetdeck. If you’re not familiar with it, Tweetdeck is for serious usage of Twitter, already allowing for easy List management and viewing as well as the creation of columns tracking hashtag or keyword searches. This isn’t for the casual user, it’s for people who are managing multiple accounts, tracking different Lists of people they’re following and so on. It’s heavily used by social media brand managers and others who need to make sure they’re getting as much out of Twitter as possible.

So it makes a lot of sense that there would be a group of people just chomping at the bit to open their wallets (or those of their agencies/companies) to get access to these features, which are designed to make everyone’s lives easier. The problem is that these features are coming a bit late in the game to be truly differentiating. Many of the things listed in the set of upcoming potential additions are already available in similar tools like Hootsuite and others. These aren’t wholly new offerings that can keep Tweetdeck users plugged in and active.

Seven years ago, before Twitter introduced its own native analytics, when Twitter reporting was still largely the purview of just a couple third party tools, social media managers would have fallen over themselves to pay for the kind of features that are reported to be coming soon to Tweetdeck. But now we’re in a world where these kinds of numbers are widely available through other systems, many of which are already being paid for. We’re also at a place where Twitter is under more fire (sometimes self-inflicted) than ever before. Every six months there’s another round of “will Twitter survive/who will buy it” press speculation, casting the company’s future as being ever in doubt.

The key differentiating value proposition here is that people would be able to manage even more from within the single Tweetdeck dashboard/interface. That’s attractive, sure, but it also mimics functionality that is still already available elsewhere. But for those who aren’t already Tweetdeck aficionados there’s little here to make them consider a switchover.

Finally, this seems like the kind of thing a developer community – the kind Twitter used to have and cultivate until several years ago – would have built on their own. But that community isn’t anywhere what it once was because Twitter decided to essentially shut it down, exerting control over the API and making sure that the product was controlled more tightly since it impacted ad buying and display.

These enhanced features are still in the planning stages, so it remains to be seen what they’ll wind up looking like when they are officially rolled out. The one thing that seems certain is that this is the type of feature set that is at least six or seven years late, at least from the perspective of those for whom Tweetdeck is an essential part of their daily engagement, monitoring and publishing routine.

Picking Up the Spare: Power Rangers, Get Out, Beauty and the Beast

Get Out

Power Rangers

  • Lionsgate partnered with Thirst Project on a promotion that had the studio donating to clean water efforts around the country every time fans Tweeted using any of the color-coded Power Ranger custom Twitter emojis.
  • I totally missed that KrispyKreme had done some pretty extensive cross-promotion for the movie in addition to the product placement it received within the story. The Wrap has a recap of those efforts.

Beauty and the Beast

  • Rebecca Ford at THR goes deep on the high-end consumer merchandise that was created by promotional partners for the movie and which is selling at various retailers to try and cash in on nostalgia among childhood fans of the original who now have disposable income.

MMM Recap: Week of 3/24 New Releases


I don’t know what to make of this campaign. It features three pretty big stars but it seems like it’s being given a marketing push more akin to something that’s being burned off in January than a major release with at least two instantly-recognizable actors. Considering Reynolds and Gyllenhaal are at the top of their game both critically and at the box-office right and that Ferguson is coming off great reviews from Mission Impossible 5 now it’s strange that the marketing seems to push them to the side as often as it can.

Power Rangers

…the campaign never really conveys any real sense of fun or adventure, which is surprising for a movie like this. It feels a lot like the way the Transformers’ first big-screen outing was sold back in 2007, with a campaign that ostensibly is meant to sell something that’s fun and taps into nostalgia but which instead feels like kind of a downer. It’s easy to see this falling through the cracks as it fails to appeal to the generation that *does* have warm, nostalgic feelings for this franchise as well as those who are too young to fit into that group and don’t see any great reason to go out of their way to see the movie.


There’s a lot to like about this campaign. Shepard is charming as all get out, exuding that California hippie surfer vibe easily despite his Michigan roots. And he puts all that charm right out on the line to sell a movie where he has a lot at stake, with his name all over the credits here. His loose, lopsided sense of humor is the cornerstone of the marketing push, promising audiences they’re going to have a really good time in an aw-shucks kind of way when they stop into the theater.


Woody Harrelson as “Wilson” in the film WILSON.
Photo by Kimberly Simms. © 2017 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation All Rights Reserved

The campaign largely relies on the goofy hangdog charm of Harrelson to provide its most consistent and significant value proposition. That makes sense since he’s the star but it also means that the story is sometimes pushed to the background to more fully emphasize the antics Wilson finds himself engaging in, many of which are presented without context or explanation. Indeed it seems like there’s a lot of what’s on display here is a series of disparate parts, with little connective material.

Castrol’s Fate of the Furious Promotion

My latest post at The Drum goes in-depth on a promotion Castrol and Universal worked on to market Fate of the Furious:

At the risk of bursting your bubble, you have to know that Vin Diesel, The Rock, Michelle Rodriguez and the rest of the cast of the Fast and the Furious franchise don’t do all their own driving in those movies. I know, I know. But many of those amazing sequences that are captured in the movies are performed by stunt drivers.

One of those stunt drivers finally gets a bit of the spotlight in a new campaign from Castrol Edge, which has partnered with Universal Pictures to help promote the upcoming The Fate of the Furious. The Titanium Ice Driving Challenge is the latest entry in the Titanium Trials, an ongoing effort from Castrol Edge designed to show off professional drivers doing their thing in extreme conditions, competing against themselves via simulation technology and more.

Source: The Movie Marketing Blog: Castrol and The Fast and the Furious come together for ice driving challenge | The Drum

Flashback MMM: Wait Until Dark

This weekend The Music Box Theater in Chicago is running a couple screenings of the 1967 Audrey Hepburn classic Wait Until Dark. Directed by Terence Young, who also helmed a number of classic Connery Bond movies, the story follows Susy Hendrix (Hepburn), a woman who’s recently been struck blind. Her husband Sam is asked to hold a doll by someone at the airport, someone who soon winds up dead under mysterious circumstances. The doll is being sought by some very bad men who soon come after Suzy. They worm their way into her home while her husband isn’t home and proceed to terrorize Suzy as they search for the doll, which contains a small fortune in heroin.

The theatrical poster is meant to evoke action by using three broken images that almost look like how you’d see something if it were being broken up by something in front of your eyes. Hepburn is shown screaming with something in front of her face. Copy at the right that starts with “The blinds moving up and down…” hints at the tension that’s building and how all of it will be revealed through the sounds being heard, setting the stage for the audience that things revolve around a woman who’s blind and relies on hearing.

The trailer starts out by promising this is a role of Heburns the audience won’t be able to forget. We immediately see the three bad guys who are lurking in Suzy’s apartment, unseen. There’s some dialogue about the doll and the search for it before we see Suzy needing to fend off the attacks by those looking for it. The rest of the trailer is about that cat-and-mouse game that they are engaged in as she tries to fend off three attackers, seemingly frustrating them at every turn.

It’s a tense, tight trailer that shows off the claustrophobic nature of the movie, the fact that it all takes place in a tight and constrictive space. Hepburn isn’t shown doing much beside gasping and shrieking in response to the attacks or while running from them. The other big star here Alan Arkin, who plays the sunglasses-sporting Roat, one of the attackers. It’s clear he’s either the brains of the operation or the dos ruthless of the bunch since he’s consistently the one shown threatening or attacking Suzy, a looming dark figure.

What’s kind of missing from the campaign is anything that delivers on the promise of this being a performance from Hepburn that’s unforgettable. She gave plenty of those performances over her career, but there’s not much that’s shown here that really shows this is one of them. It looks harrowing, sure, but that’s about it. It actually reminds me of the trailer for Don’t Breathe, which featured a similar premise but with a number of twists.

After the Campaign: Miss You Already

When Miss You Already was being sold to the audience back in November of 2015 the studio seemed to be specifically targeting 30- or 40-something females with a story of lifelong friendship that endures even through the harshest downs life can throw at someone. The reality is a bit different, though.

In the movie Drew Barrymore and Toni Collette star as Jess and Millie, respectively, two grown women who have been the best of friends since grade school. As adults they’re both married and doing well until Millie is diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer. Her struggles are offset by the fact that after years of unsuccessfully trying with her husband, Jess is finally pregnant. A rift opens up between the friends that adds even more drama to the journey they’re already on.

The campaign didn’t do much to hint at the actual narrative arc of the story. It focused mainly on the good times had by and bond between the BFFs. Yes, it touches on the cancer storyline and the pregnancy, but it never goes into the aspects of the story that form much of the second half of the movie, the way they have a falling out as they find themselves going down different paths and growing apart at a key moment in their lives.

In fact the trailer seems to go out of its way to misrepresent certain key moments, including many from the second half of the film, showing them out of context in order to downplay the tension that forms and the way they grow apart during times of trouble. It shows none of that, instead presenting the movie as start-to-finish female bonding that’s full of laughs and good times and embarrassing photos and maybe a few tears as well to keep it real.

There’s an interesting journey that’s taken in Miss You Already, but a lot of it is totally missing from the marketing that sold it to theatrical audiences.

Movie Marketing Madness: Wilson

Woody Harrelson stars as the title character in this week’s new release Wilson. The movie is based on the graphic novel of the same name by Daniel Clowes, the writer behind the original Ghost World and other stories. This one follows Wilson, an affable and friendly middle-aged guy who has a tendency to frankly speak his mind in an often uncomfortable way.

One day he finds out he has a daughter who’s now a teenager. His estranged wife Pippi (Laura Dern), it seems, had the baby after she’d left him and didn’t tell him about her. So he embarks on a road trip to reconnect with Pippi and get to know the daughter he never knew about. That sounds a lot more idyllic than reality winds up being, of course, and Wilson’s blunt style isn’t all that compatible with being a loving, compassionate father and husband.

The Posters

The first and only poster makes it clear just how uncomfortable Wilson can make people. It shows him standing at a urinal rights next to another guy and actually looking at him, as if he’s trying to make conversation and thus violating at least two tenets of men’s room etiquette. “He’s a people person” we’re told in the copy floating over his head. It nicely sells the broad version of the character being someone who doesn’t have a lot in the way of internal filters. And the simple color design of the wall he’s standing in front along with the title treatment is a nice nod to the story’s graphic novel origins.

The Trailers

We meet the title character in the first trailer, a red-band version, as he’s messing with a kid on a bus ride. Narration explains that he’s a man who just wants to be understood, but it’s clear he’s more than a little socially awkward. One day he finds out he has a daughter he never knew about with his ex-wife and when he confronts her about it the two go out and stalk her. That goes less than smoothly, of course, and the rest of the trailer shows Wilson continues to be his own worst enemy.

There’s a lot to like here. Dern looks fantastic and there’s a good supporting cast. But let’s be honest, this may just be the result of following Harrelson around over the course of a few days and seeing what happens to him. This may not be fiction, is what I’m saying.

A second trailer that debuted just before Sundance hit many of the same or similar beats. There are a few things rearranged here and there but it’s the same message being conveyed.

Online and Social

The Fox Searchlight official website for the movie. The key art at the top of the page has buttons to “Watch Trailer” and “Get Tickets.”

Scroll down the page and the first section there is “Videos,” which has both of the trailers as well as what appears to be a TV spot and a short clip. “Story” has a brief synopsis of the story and then there’s a short biography of Clowes in order to give the creator a shoutout.

“Social” has a few graphics you can share on your social media with just a few clicks. Finally “Photos” has a selection of stills.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

A TV spot that was found on the official website dispensed with the story for the most part and just focused on Wilson’s tendency to speak his mind and often put his foot in his mouth. It’s funny and certainly makes the case for a strong, loose performance by Harrelson but that’s about it.

Media and Publicity

Well after the trailer was released it was announced the movie would premiere at Sundance 2017. While there Dern and others from the cast and crew talked about the experience of working on the movie, what drew them to the story and more.

Woody Harrelson as “Wilson” in the film WILSON.
Photo by Kimberly Simms. © 2017 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation All Rights Reserved

There was a profile of Clowes that allowed the author to talk about creating the original and the difference between the source graphic novel and the movie version. He also talked about casting Harrelson and more. Dern and Harrelson, as well as Judy Greer and Cheryl Hines, made the talk show rounds to promote the movie and continue talking about it. Much of the coverage with Dern and Harrelson, though, wound up revolving around their respective roles in upcoming Star Wars movies.


The campaign largely relies on the goofy hangdog charm of Harrelson to provide its most consistent and significant value proposition. That makes sense since he’s the star but it also means that the story is sometimes pushed to the background to more fully emphasize the antics Wilson finds himself engaging in, many of which are presented without context or explanation. Indeed it seems like there’s a lot of what’s on display here is a series of disparate parts, with little connective material.

So the press appeal has been targeted at those who made movies like American Splendor and Ghost World into cult hits, hoping this one falls into the same category. The campaign as a whole wants to sell the movie as an affable, low-key story about a well-meaning guy who just can’t seem to get out of his own way in many things. It’s being pitched to audiences as a no-frills comedy that may not has a lot to say that’s wholly original but which might be kind of charming if you give it a chance, just like the title character.

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Selling Your Movie By Referencing Others

My latest Adfreak post looks at how The Boss Baby is just the latest movie to work in a nod to the box-office competition to its own marketing campaign. Oh, and I make a That Thing You Do! joke.

Next week, The Boss Baby hits theaters. The latest Dreamworks Animation release features Alec Baldwin voicing a briefcase-wielding, suit-and-tie-wearing baby who’s sent undercover to a family to try to foil the plans of Puppy Co., which is working to out-cute the baby industry. To date, the marketing for the movie has focused on the inherent comedy of Baldwin’s voice coming out of a pint-sized body and the conflict between the baby and the older brother who discovers what’s really going on. The latest trailer, though, adds another element to the opening with a direct nod to the competition it will face at the box office.

Source: The Boss Baby Is the Latest Movie to Sell Itself by Winking at the Competition – Adweek