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Movie Marketing Madness: Going In Style

As a filmmaker, Zack Braff has a reputation for telling very personal stories about 20- or 30-something wandering spirits. This week he takes on his first seeming “director for hire” gig with Going In Style. The movie stars Morgan Freeman, Alan Arkin and Michael Caine as a trio of retirees who have been living off the pension they earned while working at a company for most of their lives. Now, though, they find out the pension is being cut because of corporate mismanagement, which hits at the same time mortgages are rising and more.

Angry and bored, they decide to take extreme measures. Specifically they start making plans to rob a bank and take the money they feel they’re due. That plan goes predictably sideways as these are not hardened criminals we’re dealing with. So with no experience to speak of in the robbery arts and plenty of potential for things to go wrong, wackiness ensues as we watch three elderly gentlemen try to act like big bad gangsters.

The Posters

The first and only poster is just as bad as you’d expect, with three figures on whom the faces of the lead actors have been badly pasted on walking toward the camera, each carrying guns and bags full of money. “You’re never too old to get even,” the copy at the top tells us but this just seems pretty awful.

The Trailers

We start off in the first trailer by getting a sense of why these guys are so upset. The banks are shafting them and their former company is cutting their pensions. So after seeing someone else get away with it they all decide to rob one of the banks responsible and get their money back. So much of the trailer is about them practicing for the heist, with predictably zany results as they act their age.

….aright. It’s fine for what it is. Ann-Margaret may actually be playing the same character she did in Grumpy Old Men. In fact, that’s what I’m going to believe regardless of anyone who says different. All three lead actors are better than this material, but whatever, they can goof around and have some fun and that’s fine.

Online and Social

The official website loads and you can rewatch the trailer if you so choose. After that ends you see there’s not much else going on here. There’s a prompt to enter a sweepstakes that awards the winner $5,000 and links to the movie’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram sites.

Keep scrolling down the Tumblr-based site and you’ll find lots of images, short videos and GIFs. Some of these are pretty funny, others are a little more groan-inducing. But there’s a solid collection here of posts that are working to promote the movie, including a couple Michael Caine GIFs that I’ve added to my repository.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

A few TV spots like this one didn’t feature footage from the movie but instead had the three leads as well as Braff just standing around chatting and encouraging people to go see the movie when it opens. There were some that featured more footage from the movie than others, but the point here is still to put the focus on the actors more than anything.

Media and Publicity

All three of the main stars appeared on the morning talk shows to show off their chemistry, talk about working with Braff and otherwise have a good time as they remind America how much they’re a bunch of beloved older actors.

There were other interviews and press opportunities with the four primary players as well. Also, co-star Joey King got her own spotlight where she talked about working with Caine. And there was a big career-spanning feature on Ann Margaret, who plays a love interest of Arkin’s in the movie where she talked about him, Braff and lots more.

Braff himself also did some press, mostly TV talk show appearances here and there to talk about working with a trio of Oscar winners, taking on his first big studio film (as opposed to his own project) and more.

Overall

As should be clear from the above, there are elements of the campaign I’m not a fan of. The trailer and poster are both very weak and the website isn’t exactly robust enough to make a big impact. Everything here points to an unnecessary remake (of the 1979 George Burns movie of the same name) that might be pleasant enough if you find it on HBO while you can’t sleep in a hotel room in 18 months, but that isn’t important enough to actually make plans to head to the theater.

What’s striking, though, is how much the story and actual movie is seemingly a secondary consideration. Instead what’s really being sold is on display in the TV advertising and publicity portions of the campaign: A charming feature with some of your favorite can’t-miss older actors. The chemistry between Caine, Freeman and Arkin is the real value proposition of the marketing, which is why that’s what is mostly on display outside of the trailer and poster. It’s likely not enough to actually pull people in, but it’s seemingly the strongest message the studio found it had.

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