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Movie Marketing Madness: CHiPs

Dax Shepard isn’t the biggest movie star in the world but he does have a loyal following thanks to supporting roles on the big-screen and a long run on TV’s “Parenthood.” Now he’s looking to more fully establish himself at the box-office with CHiPs, a feature adaptation of the classic 70s/80s TV show. Shepard wrote, directed and stars as Jon Baker, an extreme motorcyclist who signs on to the California Highway Patrol.

One day he’s assigned a new partner, Frank ‘Ponch’ Poncherello (Michael Pena) who’s actually an undercover FBI agent assigned to root out what appears to be a cadre of corrupt cops on the CHP. Baker is mostly trying to impress his ex-wife (Kristen Bell) and win her back. The new, somewhat reluctant partners have to make the best of the situation in order to get to the bottom of the corruption in the department and bond along the way.

The Posters

“Chip happens” according to the first poster, which shows Ponch and John speeding cluelessly away from a scene of massive destruction in the background. So we know where the focus of the movie will be.

Two character posters showed Ponch and John and just how different they are in personality. There’s nothing inventive or interesting about the posters, they’re just pulled from stills from the movie with text awkwardly laid over them. This is a lazy effort from a studio that doesn’t seem to be trying.

The Trailers

As the first trailer opens we meet Ponch and John, who are put together as a team to try and rout out some corrupt cops within the police department. They are, of course, an unlikely pair and have very different styles. After a bit of “getting to know you” we devolve into comedic violence as they investigate what’s going on and who the dirty cops might be.

There’s a distinct 21 Jump Street vibe here, where the concept from the TV show is being played for laughs. Shepherd and Pena have a lot of comedic chemistry that’s on display and there are some great little cameos by friends of the two of them. The story isn’t all that important, it’s just about showing off the hijinks that take place in the movie.

A red-band version played more or less the same as the first one, just with a bit more raunch in it and a bit more naked Shepherd.

Online and Social

The movie’s official website opens with the trailer, which is totally worth rewatching.

That same trailer is available in the “Trailer” section that’s the first option on the content menu at the top. After that is “Tickets,” followed by a surprisingly robust “Gallery.”

“Story” has a pretty good synopsis of the movie’s plot along with the usual array of credits and other information. “Partners” has info on the companies that are helping to promote the movie in various ways. Finally there are links to the film’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles.

If you just scroll down the page there’s a button encouraging you to play “Protect and Swerve,” a casual game that lets you control the two motorcycle cops and move them through traffic and avoiding obstacles. Further down you’ll find all sorts of photos, GIFs and videos that have been posted to the Tumblr blog.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

I’m sure there’s been some TV advertising done but there aren’t any domestic spots that I’ve found on YouTube. Likewise, I’m confident online and outdoor ads have been placed. The one part I’m confident of is that the studio ran social ads when the trailers debuted.

There were a few companies that signed on as promotional partners as well:

  • eBay: Hosted a charity auction on one of the bikes actually used in the movie
  • Wahoos: Offered a sweeps with prizes ranging from movie tickets and swag to free food
  • Dianese: No details on the promotion but it’s a bike accessory company, so the tie-in is natural
  • Ducati: Encouraged people to test drive the Hypermotard, a new model that’s featured in the movie

Media and Publicity

While there were comments here and there previously, Shepard really kicked off the publicity cycle with an interview where he talked about shooting in California, how the movie will vary tonally from the original TV show and more. It was a while, though, before the next promotional salvo, which came in the form of a first look still via EW.

There was a big pop when the first trailer debuted on “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” including an in-costume appearance by Shepard and Pena. Later on Shepherd talked extensively about how he wanted the movie to not be satire but just a raunchy buddy comedy, how he doesn’t exactly have a history of being able to open movies successfully and lots more.

Regular press and publicity activity continued, often with either joint appearances with Shepard and Pena or with the two of them plus Bell, the three making up a pretty solid comedic trio. So there were more talk-show chats and promotional videos and other tactics.

Overall

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.

Shepard – and the studio – want to differentiate this movie from other recent big-screen adaptations like 21 Jump Street and the upcoming Baywatch. It’s successful in some areas but with so many gags and so much raunchy humor on display it’s also hard to take it and just accept it as simply a loose adaptation of the source material. If you are into comedic takes on previously non-humor based material or are pulled in by the wattage of Shepard’s smile, though, there’s a lot in this campaign for you to like. If not then this one probably passed right by you.

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