Movie Marketing Madness: The Little Hours

Religious humor is funny, at least if you’re the kind of person who can laugh at themselves to any extent. Seeking to test the boundaries of even that concept is this week’s The Little Hours. Based in part off a section of The Decameron, a 14th-century Italian collection of short stories, the movie stars Aubrey Plaza, Alison Brie, Kate Mucuci and Molly Shannon as nuns in a convenient overseen by a priest played by Fred Armisen.

These aren’t your conventional nuns, though. Not only do they drink, swear, threaten the local farmers and have wanton sex, they…well, there’s no kicker there. They do all that. One day a young man played by Dave Franco seeks shelter in the convent, passing himself off as a deaf mute so as not to draw attention to himself. But his presence in the convent just adds another to a long list of temptations the sisters already can’t resist.

The Posters

The first poster is pretty on-point thematically. It’s meant to look like a stained-glass window and features an image of Reilly standing over the other characters like he’s a prophet or something, with everyone else dressed in the garb of a convent. It’s not all that funny, but it conveys the basic premise that the story takes place in a religious setting well, so we’ll call it a success.

Another poster took the same approach, framing all the main characters in a halo of heavenly light. This time at least the faces of the actors are more clearly shown. There’s no tagline or copy, just some positive critic’s quotes at the top.

A series of character posters put each one of the major characters within an angelic glow that’s undercut by the often horribly-inappropriate quote from them. These are pretty funny.

The Trailers

The red-band trailer that really kicked off the marketing starts off serenely enough, right up to the moment a couple nuns tell a passing farmer to fuck off. From there on out the story and characters are presented within the framing device of a priest enumerating the sins of those nuns, which are plentiful and graphic. We see scenes of the the incredibly inappropriate things that happen, which are too plentiful to describe.

I can’t believe I just saw that and I immediately need to watch it.

A green-band trailer came later that told pretty much the same story, just without the cursing and overt sexiness. There’s a bit more context about how Brie’s Allesandra wants to get married and not be a nun, but that’s about it in terms of new material.

Online and Social

The pretty simple official website is in keeping with the small scale of the release. Two big buttons in the middle of the page encourage you to either “See the Film,” which takes you down the page to the list of theaters it’s playing at now and a calendar for future expansion, or “Watch Trailer” which offers you the option of the red-band or green-band versions to enjoy.

Scroll down the site and you’ll see a story “Synopsis” that decently recaps the plot of the movie and shares some of the credits. Keep going and there are photos and short bios for the cast. Then there’s the same list of theaters it is or will be playing at, the trailers and a “Gallery” of stills. Up at the top of the page there are also links to the movie’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

The only paid efforts I’ve seen so far are some promoted posts on Twitter and Facebook that have used the trailers to drive ticket sales. Not surprising this would be a movie that’s hard to translate into TV spots and may not be big enough to warrant a sizable online or outdoor push.

Media and Publicity

Just before it premiered at Sundance there was a first look still released along with a brief synopsis. More photos followed just a week or so before Sundance, where it was eventually picked up for distribution.

Plaza would bring up the movie and her research for the role in various other interviews about other projects. Of course some of the publicity was pretty off the wall, including a video of Plaza smoking and discussing weed with a couple of nuns.

Plaza and others involved in production talked here about the journey the story took over years of drafting and such as well as how the shoot was largely improvisational and how the Catholic League has (predictably) gone after it.

Baena and Plaza did a joint interview where they talked more about making the movie and what it was like to adapt something like this and make it this outrageous. Franco also had a few opportunities to weigh in, especially on the love scene he had to shoot while real-life wife Brie was on-set.


I feel like this campaign is the very definition of “only going to appeal to a select group.” It’s foul-mouthed, borderline blasphemous and completely off the deep end. There’s no attempt to actually adhere to the period the story takes place in, nor is there any to make the main characters anything but wholly unlikable. It’s not a big enough campaign to reach a mass audience and a good portion of the niche it does reach will be actively turned off by some aspect of what’s on display.

On the other hand, it leans into being unlikable and accepts that as its brand identify. It’s actively and aggressively and intentionally unlikable. If you can just focus on the material and humor and not get caught up in thinking too much about it (looking at you, Catholic League), the campaign promises a raunchy good time with some of the best young comedians working today.

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Movie Marketing Madness: The House

Two veterans of “Saturday Night Live” team up in this week’s new release The House. Amy Poehler and Will Ferrell play Kate and Scott Johansen, a married couple who are so proud and excited for their teenage daughter as she’s been accepted to a prestigious college. There’s just one problem: They’ve apparently spent all the money they’d put aside for that education.

Faced with the prospect of telling their baby girl she can’t go to school, they do what anyone would do: Open an underground casino in their house to make up the shortfall in cash. To help with that they enlist Frank (Jason Mantzoukas) and of course things quickly get out of hand. Not helping matters is that a local law enforcement official (Nick Kroll) is on their trail, suspecting something is going on.

The Posters

The first poster is all about selling the audience on a couple of amiable comedy stars that they’re likely to enjoy. So Ferrell and Poehler are seen fully decked-out in their Vegas-like duds, the lights of their makeshift casino win the background. “If you can’t beat the house, be…The House” we’re told in copy that leads into the title. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with it as it clearly conveys the value proposition of the movie, it’s just that it’s blandly boring in the same way the posters for many recent comedies have been.

Character posters for both of the stars showed them at the height of their new gaudy lifestyle, with quotes that are pulled from footage we’ve already seen in the trailers. Another series of two posters took a similar approach.

The Trailers

The first trailer lays out the premise, which is that Kate and Scott have somehow lost their daughter’s college fund. Not wanting to disappoint her, they resolve to come up with a way to pay for her dream school. Enter Frank, who convinces them to open a casino in their house. Things of course escalate as they become more adept at operating the illicit operation, getting deeper into the personas they’ve adopted to do so.

It’s pretty funny and it looks like, unlike his last few roles, Ferrell is actually trying here. Poehler is always great and it’s clear she’s given just as much material to chew on as Ferrell, which is nice. And the presence of Mantzoukas is always a welcome one. Sure, it looks like a series of variations on the same note and it’s not clear how the daughter could continue to live in a house with all this going on and remain clueless, but let’s just assume that gets cleared up in the full movie.

Another trailer, a red-band version, hits most of the same story beats about the parents not being able to afford college and turning to an illegal casino operation to make money. It ends with an extended, graphic version of the “cutting the guy’s finger off” scene we’ve seen previously.

Online and Social

You get a recreation of the key art when you load the official website, with the addition of Mantzoukas. There’s a big button to click to buy tickets in the middle of the page and links to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles in the upper right corner.

Scroll down the page – or use the content menu at the top – and the first thing you’ll see is a surprisingly well-stocked “Gallery” with about two dozen stills. The “Story” is light on the actual story synopsis but heavy on mentioning all the producers and other technical personnel.

“Trailer” opens a pop-up window that plays the all-ages trailer. Next – and finally – there’s the “Pit Boss Name” generator that, from all appearances, takes your name and spits out some random combination of gambling-related words.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Outdoor ads used images of Ferrell and Poehler rolling in the cash from their illicit enterprise, just using the familiarity with the stars as the main selling point without any information or context of the story.

Both Poehler and Ferrell appeared in a commercial for “SportsCenter” with Kenny Mayne to offer the host some ideas on new catchphrases.

Media and Publicity

Just before the first trailer dropped EW shared a first look photo from the movie alongside some comments from Poehler and others. Another new photo came in EW’s summer movie preview. Yet another was featured along with an interview with Ferrell where he talks about both the comedy and genuine emotion of the story.

A little viral video hosted by Frank (Jason Mantzoukas) showed us around the underground casino he operates and resulted in a nice little press pop.

Both stars made the talk show rounds, engaging in the usual hijinks with late night hosts, many of whom the two stars had worked with on “SNL” and more. That included Ferrell appearing in tiger face paint as if he’d just left a child’s birthday party, Poehler recreating old routines with Seth Meyers and so on. There was also a big profile of Ferrell where he talked about politics, old sketches and more, including this new movie.


You’d be forgiven for feeling like you’ve seen this movie already. Will Ferrell acts slightly stupid and shouts about how he loves something so much. Amy Poehler acts stoic and responsible until she lets her wild side loose. Jason Mantzoukous is a vaguely shifty and sleazy bro who will definitely get other characters into trouble. It’s not selling anything new.

That’s probably the point, though. The campaign seems to *want* to feel as generic and unmemorable as possible. Not that it’s not trying to be funny or bring in ticket buyers, but it’s trading on the well-known personality types of its three leads, offering the audience exactly what they would expect. That even extends to the title, which tells you nothing about the movie or the story but is just a label slapped on the box. There are a few genuine laughs here, but for the most part it’s not making a case for anything intriguing.

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Movie Marketing Madness: Baby Driver

Director Edgar Wright is back, bringing his unique cinematic storytelling sensibilities to this week’s new release Baby Driver. Far from his collaborations with Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, this new movie isn’t a genre satire but instead a crime thriller with musical sensibilities. The story follows Baby (Ansel Elgort), a savant behind the wheel of a car who uses music to compensate for an incessant buzzing in his ears. Baby is in hock to Doc (Kevin Spacey), a crime boss who uses Baby as a getaway driver for his heists.

Baby is tired of the life and wants to get out. That desire only increases when he meets Debora (Lily James), a beautiful young waitress who he immediately falls in love with, and vice versa. Those plans to escape a life of aiding and abetting crime are hampered by Doc’s insistence Baby help him out with one more score. But as the plans come together it looks more and more doomed to fail and Baby must decide when and how to make his stand and make his own getaway with Debora.

The Posters

“All you need is one killer track” we’re told on the first poster. Along with the title and the cast list the main element on the poster is a car that’s tearing away as if it’s being shot out of a gun. It’s simple but it’s great, a very artistic effort that thankfully just doesn’t show the big heads of the cast.

The artistic direction of the poster campaign continued on the second one-sheet. This one is more focused on the entire cast, with images of all the major players arrayed here. The fact that this looks painted, though, in conjunction with the bright pink background and the action shot of the car on the highway at the bottom makes it much more interesting than the usual collage of photos you see. It looks like the cover to a comics trade paperback collection. The same copy point from the first poster is used here as well.

Each character gets their own poster in a cool-looking series that features a pop-art looking background and a key quote from them. These are a very cool way to show off all the big names individually while maintaining the movie’s overall brand identity of snazzy visuals.

The Trailers

We meet Baby as the trailer starts. He’s flirting with a diner waitress who’s interested in his job and he’s a bit evasive. He tells her he’s a driver but we see he actually means a getaway driver for some very unsavory people. Then we find out via some exposition why Baby is always sporting earphones and listening to music. He’s warned by various bad guys about the danger of forming any connections but also see that he can’t extricate himself from the violent criminal life he’s in the middle of.

It’s insane, the movie that’s presented here. It looks fast and funny and bright and just great. It’s not the kind of thing we might normally expect from Wright, but that’s alright since he’s made a career of defying expectations. There’s just a lot of fun stuff going on here as the characters and situations are all introduced.

The second trailer is even more focused on style and attitude, working to present the movie as the coolest cinematic choice out there. It heavily features the positive reviews it’s already received from early screenings and has the great soundtrack that’s been assembled at its core. There’s minimal story here, just vibe.

Online and Social

The movie’s official website plays the “TeKillYeh” trailer when you load it up, so settle in and watch it again as you like. Close that and you get a full-screen version of the key art of the car being shot from the gun. A big prompt to “Get Tickets” is toward the middle of the page by the title and links to the Twitter, Facebook and Instagram profiles sit in the upper right corner.

Opening up the drop-down menu in the upper-left, the first link there is to “Trailer” which plays the same trailer that opened the site. After that is “About” which has a brief story synopsis.

You can see the talent that made the movie in the “Cast & Crew” section, but there aren’t any bios or links to dive in any deeper. “Partners” has the information on the few companies who signed up to help with promotion. Finally there’s a prompt to “Get Exclusive Content” that takes you to an email registration form.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

TV spots like this one boiled down the story to its core elements of Baby being an extremely-talented driver who may not be on the right side of the law. There’s a bit about the romance with Deborah and it makes it clear the movie is powered by some great tunes.

When it came to promotional partners, the movie signed up:

  • Alpha Industries, which created a movie-inspired line of apparel, with jackets named after six of the movie’s main characters.
  • New Era Cap, but details on that promotion weren’t readily apparent.
  • Subaru, which is using the movie to promote its WRX model.
  • Urban Outfitters, which offered an exclusive t-shirt and vinyl version of the soundtrack.

Online ads used some version of the key art and the trailers were heavily used for social media ads that drove views and interest in ticket sales.

Media and Publicity

While there was no lack of buzz for the movie (as is expected for Wright’s features), the first official look came in EW’s 2017 preview issue along with an interview with the director. It was later announced as one of the movies that would screen at SXSW Film, a screening that went very well.

The clear sense of unique style on display in the first trailer and posters lead to a bevy of fan art from designers and other creatives who were inspired by it, leading to some nice organic word-of-mouth for a movie that isn’t a big franchise release.

There was a profile of Eiza Gonzalez, who plays one of the criminals in Doc’s crew, that talks about her career in telenovelas and other shows to date as well as how she got the role in this movie. Wright also talked about how it had been 20 years since he came up with the idea for the movie, which came to him while listening to music unsurprisingly.

Elgort of course did a bit of press, talking about how he got into the movie, his career and fame level so far, what he’d like to do next and more. And of course given the movie’s focus on music the cast was asked for their guilty pleasure songs.

That’s just a small part of the press push, though, as Wright and Elgort in particular lead up the effort to go talk about the movie, its inspirations, its music, their careers so far and related topics. Jamie Foxx, Jon Hamm, Spacey and other members of the cast also got involved to varying degrees to play up their involvement, talk about working with Wright and so on.


There are a couple things going on with this campaign.

First, the formal marketing is almost solely focused around the music. Even when the story is being laid out or emphasized, the angle is on how that story is supported by the music that’s included on the soundtrack. Posts on social media have come with the look and feel of mixtapes and cassette singles and, as I wrote about a few weeks ago, one of the final trailers is more interested in the music than it is anything else about what might appeal to moviegoers. That angle was also heavily used in the press push.

Second, there’s the appeal of Edgar Wright himself. He has a great reputation among film geeks with his Cornetto Trilogy and Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, in addition to his fabled work on and then firing from Ant Man a few years ago, something that came back up in the last bit of press interviews. His name isn’t plastered over everything, but it’s noticeable enough that if you’re prone to give his movies extra consideration, you’ll catch it.

All that adds up to what’s being sold as just a fun time at the movies. The whole campaign has that fast and loose attitude, much like the driving that’s on display. You’ll tap your toes and watch intently, just like if you’re cruising down the highway with the windows open and your own personal soundtrack blaring from your car speakers. To finish up the metaphor, the marketing hits the gas and keeps going, showing enough of the characters to make you care about their fate but also selling more legit car action than any three Fast / Furious movies combined.

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Movie Marketing Madness: Despicable Me 3

despicable_me_three_ver3Universal and Illumination are back for another go around with Despicable Me 3, the second sequel in the surprisingly successful franchise that also spun-off Minions a couple years ago. As we saw by the end of the last movie Gru (voiced by Steve Carell) is now working for the good guys, having given up his life of villainy to be a better example to Margo, Edith and Agnes, the three girls he adopted in the first movie. In that fight he’s joined by his girlfriend Lucy (voiced by Kristen Wiig).

This time out though there are problems. After letting an 80s-themed villain slip past him he’s fired by the secret organization he’s been working for. That sets the stage for him to be reunited with Dru (also Carell), the long-lost twin brother he didn’t know he had. Dru wants Gru to embrace what turns out to be the family business of being a bad guy, but Gru isn’t sure which way he wants to go.

The Posters

Lots of white-space on the teaser poster, with Gru just popping his head up through a manhole cover and the promise of a summer release date here. It’s just about telling fans it’s coming. The next poster explains that we’re going to meet Gru’s identical twin brother and shows Gru does not appear to be thrilled by this.

A series of character posters showed the Minions clad in prison overalls and sporting various (adorable) tattoos that were, it seems, designed to show how tough and still evil they are.

The Trailers

The first trailer is primarily concerned with establishing the new villain for this movie, in this case a shoulder-pad-sporting bad guy who’s still obsessed with the 1980s. Balthazar Bratt is taking over a cargo ship, but Lucy and Gru are on the case and trying to stop him. That doesn’t go according to lan, of course, and Bratt fights with a keytar and more. Oddly, it’s not until the very end when we see the Minions pop up.

Yeah, it’s not bad. It’s certainly another Despicable Me movie. Gru, it seems, is now a full-on good guy, though he’s still a bit anti-social. Other than that it’s funny enough introducing a new villain with a schtick. And maybe the studio heard the comments about the Minions being a tad overdone in their solo movie by minimizing their role in this trailer.

The next trailer shows Gru being fired after failing to stop Bratt’s heist. That means he’s out of work and doesn’t take well to unemployment. Someone comes to find him on behalf of his twin brother, who Gru runs off to meet, only to find he’s a super-rich guy with lots of great hair. Dru wants Gru to give into his criminal heritage and help him pull off one last crime. The partnership is not without its speed bumps though, but the minions are certainly on board with more villainy.

Yeah, OK. It’s funny in its own way and explains more of the plot. The Minions are still being somewhat downplayed here, lending credence to the idea that Universal is holding them back a bit.

The final trailer starts out by explaining how it is Gru doesn’t know he has a twin brother, who when they reunite tries to lure him back into a world of crime. Nothing new or different here, just some scenes we haven’t seen before and a bit more of the Minions but otherwise it’s more of the same thematically.

Online and Social

You get full-screen video pulled from the trailer when you load up the official website. On the front page there’s a big prompt to buy tickets as well as a rotating carousel of features ranging from “Watch the Trailer” to “Pre-Order the Soundtrack” to “Create Your GIF,” which takes you to another site where you find a clip from one of the trailers and edit it into a GIF to be shared on social media. There are also links to the movie’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Finally, there’s a “Partners” link at the bottom that takes you to more information on the partner companies the studio enlisted.

If you go to the drop-down menu at the left the first section is “About,” which has a decent write-up of the story. “Characters,” which is also labeled on the front page as “Meet the Good/Bad Guys,” has a small bio of the main characters, including the Minions. There are about seven stills in the “Gallery.” Finally “Videos” has the latest Pharrell Williams song along with trailers.

The movie as also one of the launch partners for Facebook’s new camera masks, which allow users to add some movie-themed element to their photos in the same way Snapchat filters work.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

The paid campaign kicked off with TV spots that showed Gru celebrating his return to villainy while working with his twin brother. That’s a slightly different tack than was taken in the full trailers and outlines a different story for the audience, one that doesn’t show his reluctance to return to his former life.

Outdoor and online ads used the key art of Gru and Dru along with some Minions, of course.

In terms of promotional partners, there were quite a few, particularly of the food kind.

  • 23andMe, which used the movie’s story of finding family you didn’t know you had to sell its genetic testing services. This is a bit odd for a kids movie like this.
  • Bounty, which put movie branding on some rolls of its paper towels.
  • Kellogg’s, which put put out cobranded packaging and offered movie-themed treats in select snack boxes.
  • Chiquita, which put Minions on its banana stickers (which makes sense as those are the characters’ preferred snacks” and offered a sticker book to collect all of them as part of a challenge to win more prizes.
  • Yummy Spoonfuls, which ran a contest to win prizes if you submitted a photo of your “messy eater.”
  • McDonald’s, which put Minion toys in Happy Meals, though that U.S. promotion is nothing compared to what the fast food chain did in select Asian cities.
  • Puffs, but there aren’t any details on what this promotion is.
  • CandyMania, which offered a movie-themed casual game to play.
  • TicTacs, which ran a sweepstakes awarding a trip to Hawaii.
  • Nutella, which put out co-branded packaging and offered some movie-themed recipes that let you use the product to create Minion-shaped food.

Zumba, which created official choreography featuring instructor Toni Costa that was available only in Zumba classes.  

Media and Publicity

Carell talked about how he approached playing dual characters and how he found the accent for Dru along with the challenge of playing both brothers in an interview that included a first look photo from the movie.

A first look at some of the new Minions appearing in this movie also hinted at some story points the trailers haven’t gotten around to, including that the little yellow guys are more than just disappointed Gru isn’t returning to his criminal ways but actively and openly rebelling.

despicable-me-3 pic

The cast and crew did some media touring, of course, talking about how they felt with returning to the franchise as well as offering thoughts while attending the premiere. There was also a bit of a publicity pop around Zumba’s partnership involving a well-known trainer.


So this is an interesting little case study in marketing a film. It’s the third movie in the franchise, the second sequel to the original, which was a big hit and has become very popular. And it comes after the Minions spinoff, which was successful but not exactly a critical darling. But the Minions have also become a corporate calling card for Illumination, appearing as ambassadors of a sort in the trailers for Sing, The Lorax and other movies from the production studio. So not only have we seen them in the Despicable Me movies but their brand (yes, I said it) has become powerful enough to be used as shorthand for the studio’s overall output, a reason in and of themselves for people to see the movie.

As for the campaign itself, this is the most profound example of selling the promise of “more of what you’ve already enjoyed” I’ve seen in quite a while, even after having just dived into the latest Transformers marketing. Not only does it make it clear that Gru is still Gru and the Minions are still the Minions, it seems to be sold on the concept of apologizing in some way for the second movie offering changes to the characters, making it clear that everyone’s real inclinations are still toward villainy. So come see this, the campaign promises, because everyone’s getting back into character to some extent. It’s like if there was a sequel to Leaving Las Vegas where Nicolas Cage got sober and then a third one where Elizabeth Shue introduced him to his brother, a bartender.

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Movie Marketing Madness: Okja

Set in South Korea, the latest Netflix original film Okja is also the latest movie from director Bong Joon Ho, he of Snowpiercer, The Host and more. Okja is the name given to a massive mysterious beast that looks like an elephant crossed with a manatee and a pig who is the closest companion to Mija (An Seo Hyun). The two are always together in an idyllic life being lived with Mija’s family far-removed from much of civilization.

That all comes crashing down when Okja is taken by the Miranda Corporation, owned and run by Lucy Miranda (Tilda Swinton). The company has big plans for Okja, including using it as the basis for a revolution in meat production. Mija isn’t ready to see her friend permanently disappear, though, and sets out to rescue it, variously helped and hindered by individuals who have their own reasons for wanting to see Okja freed, even if it’s only long enough for them to exploit it.

The Posters

The poster – yes, Netflix actually created and released one – hammers home the movie’s story through metaphor. Okja is shown in the shadows being led by Mija, who’s walking ahead of it holding a leash. But mounted on Okja’s back is a factory, shown pushing out smoke from the stacks. It’s meant to be a literal interpretation of how the business in the movie is aiming to be built on the back of Okja and the leap forward it represents. Copy at the top makes it clear this is “A Netflix original film” and the Cannes logo is shown as well.

Not only did the movie get a regular poster it got a series of character posters, with personality traits for each person drawn on them like a map of cuts of meat on a pig or cow.

The Trailers

The first teaser trailer doesn’t explain much. It starts out with someone explaining how she’s managed to combine nature and science, but that’s about it. The other major part that’s revealed here is a brief look at Mija’s relationship with the titular beast. Again, not much here but it does do enough to create some sense of anticipation that there’s a whole world ready to be explored here.

The official trailer is much more story-centric, with Mirando talking about the scientific breakthrough the super pig represents and all the benefits it entails. All that is countered with footage of that pig in the woods with XXX until it’s recaptured by the corporation. An animal rights group comes along and promises to save Okja from the corporation, but that doesn’t go according to plan of course. Action and intrigue ensues.

Wow. That’s..unique and I really don’t know what to make of it.

In the next trailer we get even more cute shots of Okja and her friend out in the wilderness before it’s taken somewhere by people with their own agenda. She’s determined to get her pet/friend out, though, and we see some of the adventure that’s experienced along the way. It’s not much, but it’s a solid second effort that dropped just a couple weeks prior to release.

Online and Social

The movie’s only online platform is its Facebook page, which has been used to distribute various in-world videos from the Miranda Corporation, share cinemagraphs from the movie and more.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

A very strange promotional item came in the form of a video message from Lucy Mirando (Blanchett) who talks about the immense benefits her company has provided. That turns dark for a moment but ultimately ends on a high note. The video debuted in what appears to have been a sponsored post on Wired that was meant to seem like actual coverage of the Mirando Corporation and its activities around the Super Pig Project. Oddly, that article was pulled from the site, though it still shows up in search, with the page throwing a “not found” error.

That to my knowledge is the only paid effort engaged in. No online ads were run that I’m aware of and certainly no TV spots have been aired.

Media and Publicity

The first look at the movie, including some storyboard concepts, came via EW along with a few details about the story. A bit later it was announced that, unlike many Netflix releases, this one would get theatrical distribution as well.

The movie was one of the handful that had its premiere at this year’s Cannes International Film Festival. That caused some controversy, though, as French projectionists objected to screening a movie that would not first get a theatrical release.

That Cannes screening became something of a lightning, focusing the debate over whether Netflix is good or bad for film in general. Some, including many actors and directors with past, current or upcoming projects at Netflix, pointed out that it was financing and releasing smaller movies that studios weren’t interested in and leaving talent alone to realize their vision. The counter argument seemed to be “If it’s not on a huge screen it’s not a real movie” which confuses production for distribution and discounts that the current system keeps many filmmakers of all stripes from having their work shown anywhere. Throughout the festival, right though this film’s debut screening, various actors and others chimed in with their thoughts, resulting in lots of press and exposure.

There was a bit of publicity outside of the Cannes issue, though one has to believe that controversy only helped raised the movie’s profile in the press to the point where it became one that was worthy of coverage. That press activity included an interview with Ho where he talked about his cinematic influences as well as the intended and unintended messages of the movie. There were also a few stories about the style of Swinton’s character and how the actress got Chanel to provide a key bit of wardrobe.


Well first of all it just has to be noted that Netflix put demonstrably more effort into this movie than it usually does. That comes through with the presence of not just one but multiple posters, a Facebook page and some actual press activity, something the company doesn’t usually engage in. It’s obvious Netflix felt that with a movie of this stature, one they ultimately to the premiere film festival in the world, it had to put some serious muscle behind selling it, regardless of whether or not it was going to screen in theaters.

I just wish it were a bit more consistent in its tone and messaging. The poster tells a story of corporate exploitation, the trailers tell a story of a girl and her super-pig, the publicity hammers home the idea of vegetarianism and the odd in-world campaign makes it look like a bit of Brazil-esque surrealism. So which one is it? The best case for seeing the movie, the strongest message, comes from its festival screenings and the good word of mouth that resulted from those. Outside of that there’s little for the average moviegoer to latch onto. This might be, as some have speculated, Netflix’s first truly great movie but it’s questionable whether the campaign is going to convert many subscribers or if this is just a prestige title for the streamer to tout.

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Movie Marketing Madness: The Beguiled

Sophia Coppola returns to the director’s chair with this week’s The Beguiled. A remake of the 1971 film starring Clint Eastwood and Geraldine Page, this one features Nicole Kidman as Martha Farnsworth, the headmistress of a school for girls in Civil War-era Virginia. One day one of her students comes across a Union soldier named John McBurney (Colin Farrell) who’s been severely wounded. Martha and the girls, including Edwina and Alicia (Kirsten Dunst and Elle Fanning, respectively), take him into tend to him and nurse him back to health.

(side note: If this sounds a lot like Sir Galahad’s brief time in the Castle Anthrax…you’re not the only one.)

Problems begin to arise almost as soon as McBurney gets his strength back. Despite strict instructions for him not to fraternize with the girls, Edwina soon becomes attached to him, believing his declarations of love. But he’s not the best, most upright guy around and has been fooling around with Alicia as well. That causes tension in the house among the girls, but that tension is directed back around at McBurney, who feels the full weight of the women he’s scorned as well as their protector.

The Posters

The first and only poster is just fantastic. Like many of the one-sheets for Coppola’s movies, “pink” is the dominant color, this time used for the title treatment that runs along the side of the design, formatted for landscape display along with the alignment of the names of the main cast and the credits. The three primary women, Dunst, Kidman and Fanning, are shown in their genteel glory, all sitting or hovering around the bed of Farrell, whose face is just out of the camera’s range. It’s a gorgeous poster that sells a lovely domestic drama with the exception of the copy, which reads “Innocent, until betrayed” that takes things in a dark direction.

The Trailers

The first trailer definitely sets an interesting tone. It opens with a Union soldier being found by a young girl. He’s brought home to the house she shares with the rest of the women in her family and the tension quickly ramps up as two of them vie for his affection, which is forbidden by their mother. A series of quick shots ends with him shouting in the background, asking what they’ve done to him.

It’s pretty great, working to create a feel that all is not what it seems here. It almost plays out like Misery at the end and shows that these aren’t helpless belles here, they’re perfectly capable not only of defending themselves but apparently taking proactive measures to right some wrongs.

The second trailer hits many of the same beats as the first, just in a slightly different way. The focus this time is on the dynamic between the women who live on the estate and how that delicate relationship is upended by the arrival of the wounded stranger. A betrayal sets things down a dark path and we see the kinds of turmoil that ensue for everyone involved until it ends, again, with Farrell yelling after the “vengeful bitches.”

Online and Social

The official website loads and begins playing the second trailer. Close that and the front page of the site offers prompts to watch the trailer again, buy tickets or subscribe to email updates. There are also links to the Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles established for the movie.

Scroll down the page and you get the usual Focus collection of media that gives the appearance of only being marginally organized, despite the content menu on the left that shows up. So you get a mix of social updates from the cast and others, videos including the trailers and press appearances by Coppola and others, official stills, links to press interviews and lots more.

The social media push was odd enough it attracted the attention of Jason Bailey at Flavorwire, who noted the contrast between the bright pink branding and the dark, gothic tone of the movie itself.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Nothing in the way of TV advertising that I’ve come across or been able to find. Some online advertising was done that used the key art to drive ticket sales and the trailers have been used for social media ads, but that’s the extent of the paid push as far as I know.

Media and Publicity

With such a female-centric cast and crew, that combination became a central focus of the campaign. That included comments from Dunst about how filming a sex scene is so different with a female director as opposed to a male director.

The movie was one of the handful that had its premiere at this year’s Cannes International Film Festival. While at Cannes Coppola also talked about not just this movie but also why the franchise films she’s sometimes offered don’t interest her at all as well as the struggles she faces not just as an independent filmmaker but a female one to boot. The movie was one of a few Kidman appeared in at the festival, leading to a narrative in the press about the actress’s resurgence and her work ethic.

In an extended interview, Coppola talked about what attracted her to the material, the process of shooting in such a gothic environment, the styles on display, what this period piece still has to tell us today and much more. A short while later comments from Fanning appeared alongside a new photo in EW’s summer movie preview.

Coppola and the cast made the usual comments about working together, the story and more at the movie’s premiere. During an appearance on “The Late Late Show” Coppola had a bit of fun by showing off the off-camera antics the cast engaged in while still in costume.

It makes sense that this being the third movie Dunst and Coppola have made together that they’d do some joint press revolving around that fact and looking back at previous collaborations. It was also, it should be noted, the second time the director has worked with Fanning. There were other features like this one of Coppola on her own, most all of which don’t fail to mention her famous lineage.

A minor firestorm emerged in the last days before release when Coppola addressed what some were calling a disturbing commission: The excising of a slave from the original story in this new version. She explained that forthrightly, saying basically she didn’t want the only black person in a story focused on female empowerment to be a slave, as well as that if she were going to tackle that topic she wanted to do so more fully and not as a side note in a bigger story. It’s a reasonable answer and approach, though that didn’t stop some outrage as people claimed she was trying to erase mistreatment of blacks from the history of the south.


Because I can’t put it better than I already have, I’ll lift these points from my post earlier this week about the changed portrayal of gender roles from 1971 to 2017:

The entire campaign is one of female empowerment, of them holding the key to their own fates and not being beholden to the whims of any man. That’s clear in the trailers, which present Farrell’s McBurney as a secondary character at best, even if he’s an instigator of much of the story. It’s clear in the social media campaign, which has used cinemagraphic Tweets that overlay current phrases like “Get it girl” in bright colors over the dark, gothic images from the movie. Others have labeled Kidman’s Martha as the “Head Bitch in Charge.” Banner ads have proclaimed on June 23rd, “Good girls go bad.”


The female empowerment is so palpable it’s surprising a character isn’t wearing an “Ask me about my feminist agenda” t-shirt and that the movie hasn’t received wall-to-wall cable news condemnation for indoctrinating youth to believe men are all evil. The bright pink text used in ads, posters and social media posts are so stereotypically “girly” while the actions of the characters are anything but cute and adorable.

That may be over the top for some. But it’s completely on-brand for Coppola and fits stylistically into the campaigns for previous movies like Marie Antoinette and The Virgin Suicides. And it’s absolutely in-line with where the culture is right now, as women are allowed (and encouraged) to be both simultaneously girlish, embracing all things pink and frilly, and every bit as fierce and self-protective as men have long been. That’s the strongest message the movie’s campaign offers.

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Movie Marketing Madness: Transformers: The Last Knight

[downs entire whiskey sour]

Well, the Transformers are back, once more in the hands of director Michael Bay. It’s been 10 years since he first brought the big freaking robots to the big screen, with this being the fifth film in the franchise. Now the Bayhem is unleashed once again in Transformers: The Last Knight, which once more stars Mark Wahlberg and once more features a lot of human beings acting like they matter at all as massive robot warriors decide the best possible place in the universe for them to work out their issues is our planet MARS IS RIGHT THERE GO SOMEWHERE WITHOUT ALL THE CULVER’S, YOU JERKS.

Anyway, this time around there’s yet another plot contrivance to set humans and Cybertronians against each other. Optimus Prime has disappeared but now seems to be back and this time is evil or something. There’s a bigger threat coming toward the planet so it’s up to Wahlberg’s Cade Yeager, Oxford professor Laura Haddock (Vivian Wembley) and Sir Edmund Burton (Anthony Hopkins) to unravel the secret history of Transformers on Earth in order to save humanity from the latest world-killing threat.

The Posters

“Rethink your heroes” we’re told on the first poster, which shows a sword-wielding Optimus Prime standing along a rocky beach as something massive looms in the background, including both sea and air.

A series of character posters were released by Bay on his Twitter that featured many of the main characters, some old, some new. The caption he used when posting them contained some kind of explanation of who they are and what they’re after in the movie. These aren’t bad.

Another poster told the audience the main conflict of the movie was going to be between Prime and Bumblebee, with the former seen looming over the latter as if he’s preparing the killing blow. That’s amplified by copy that reads “For one to live the other must die.”

Another poster plays into the theme from elsewhere in the campaign that the Transformers have been on Earth for a long, long time, by putting one at the forefront of a group of WWII soldiers storming a Nazi headquarters. “Every legend hides a secret” we’re told at the top and it’s called out at the bottom that this was filmed with IMAX cameras, a direct appeal to the tech-heads that are going to be interested in spectacle more than anything.

Black and white character posters started to come out that highlighted the various robots and humans that are in the middle of the story, all with a different descriptive word associated with them.

An IMAX poster put Prime in the middle of the design with not only the looming…whatever in the background but also a huge three-headed dragon for a moment of “what the hell.” I know some of the campaign has shown footage of Transformers fighting with knights and so on, but dragons? Where the hell is this coming from? Seems out of left-field.

One final poster brings the whole cast together, including the humans. They actual actors are arrayed just above Stonehenge, which is shooting a while space laser into the sky. Looming over them are Prime and Bumblebee on opposite sides of that space laster, setting up the conflict between them once more.

The Trailers

There’s not much story in the first teaser trailer. Burton narrates and offers some exposition about a timeless fight that’s been raging. He intones that Optimus Prime has left and asks the question of why the Transformers keep coming to Earth. After that, though, it’s all about Big F***ing Robot action. We see Prime is back, but he doesn’t seem to be acting like himself. Throughout the trailer there’s something – maybe Unicron? – that’s huge and moving toward the planet and is clearly a threat.

God bless Hopkins for doing what he can with what he’s given. His narration is meant to add some dramatic import to the trailer, but that can’t overcome the senseless action and unexplained chaos on display. This looks like exactly the same kind of movie as the previous four installments, which is just what the studio thinks people want.

The first full trailer is somewhat less concerned with the Big F***ing Robots and more with the humans who are around them. It presents a world that’s very different from what we might expect, with humans and robots coexisting in some ways and at odds in others. It almost presents Decepticons as an occupying force and some humans as the militaristic resistance. It focuses on Izzy, a young girl who’s living rough and surviving on her own. She narrates and encourages everyone to “fight like a girl” as we see some of the fighting against our new robot overlords. Izzy is the center of attention throughout, though.

There’s no bigger mythology being played into or hinted at here. It’s actually kind of an overt plea to young girls who may not have been targeted in the campaigns for earlier movies. We get some story hints, particularly with that “Enemy” sign featuring Prime’s face and the fact that everyone seems to live in bombed-out buildings.

The official trailer starts off in the past as we see Transformers in the world 1,000 years ago in castles with kings and knights. We then cut to Optimus Prime having an odd confrontation with his maker. Next it’s Yeager talking to Izzy about what he’d say to his daughter if she were there. After that it’s about Sir Edmund warning that it’s up to a couple of everyday humans to turn the tide of history and stop the persistent threat of the Transformers on Earth. Scenes of chaos raining down on the world are followed by defiant speeches about not giving up and continuing the fight. Prime then intones that the Earth must die for his world to live, meaning we’re in conquest territory here.

OK, fine. The whole idea of Prime being the bad guy here seems really odd and as with most of Bay’s movies the ambitions toward something epic and transformative (sorry) are greater than the actual execution. It’s being sold as yet another entry in the franchise and on that front it succeeds just fine.

Online and Social

Prime’s grizzled visage glares out at you from the front page of the official website, which mostly just has the usual information and a Get Tickets button on it. Remarkably non-cluttered for a movie whose entire visual aesthetic is “busy.”

Moving to the content menu at the top of the page, the first section is “Story,” which lays out the basic idea in the broadest possible terms. There’s a decent chance this is the actual script. After that the “Characters” section has the character posters mentioned above, each with a button to share that image on either Facebook or Twitter.

The “Gallery” has one of the posters along with a handful of stills and some behind-the-scenes production shots of Bay at work just so we remember who the real star of the movie is. “Videos” has the trailers, a couple TV spots and a featurette.

There’s a section for the promotional “Partners” and then “Social” is a drop-down with links to the movie’s Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Instagram profiles.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

A short TV spot appeared to have kicked off the advertising campaign showing some of the biggest, most explosive elements from the first trailer, including using the “Rethink your heroes” copy that’s interspersed throughout those shots.

A TV spot aired during the Super Bowl that featured more of Hopkins’ intellectual talking about why the Transformers keep coming to Earth and Prime talking about meeting his maker. Future commercials showed off the action and humor of the movie and some were focused intently on continuing to build up the idea that the Transformers have been here throughout history, secretly protecting Earth and participating in major world events.

The debut of movie merchandise in stores was accompanied by a campaign dubbed “Reveal Your Shield” that encouraged fans to identify as Autobots or Decepticons.

In terms of cross-promotional partners, here are some of the companies that helped promote the latest entry in the franchise:

  • Enterprise Rent-A-Car, which created TV ads that took a throwback approach, featuring kids playing with Transformers action figures that are helped in their battle by the company.
  • Maaco, which launched a cross-promotional campaign including a TV spot directed by Bay himself.
  • Schick, which offers a limited edition Transformers-themed handle when you signed up for their subscription shave product service and created other movie-branded products.
  • Sonic Drive-In, which put movie toys in their Wacky Pack kids meals and ran a sweeps offering a hometown screening of the movie and other prizes.
  • Valvoline, which ran some co-branded ads and created “Valvotron,” a new Transformer action figure sporting the company’s logo that was given away to select customers.
  • Crush, which gave away a free movie ticket with the purchase of any three of their four movie-branded cans of REM’s favorite soda.
  • Tasty Kake, which created a quiz to see if you were an Autobot or Decepticon that entered you into a sweeps. That went along with co-branded product packaging.
  • Cat, which offered behind-the-scenes exclusive material and the chance to win exclusive merchandise.

Online and outdoor ads were plentiful, all using variations on the key art, mostly of the close-up of Prime staring at the camera.

Media and Publicity

A first look at the movie’s new villain was teased ahead of time with a series of cryptic messages and really kicked off the publicity campaign outside of news and announcements about the title and filming. Speculation about the movie and its story continued with the release of a banner showing Optimus Prime taking on some sort of dragon.

A small amount of new footage was seen before the first trailer was released in this promotional video celebrating 10 years of collaboration between Bay and IMAX, which has been used for all of the movies in the franchise. The studio also held a fan event at IMAX theaters that showed off footage from the movie as a way to generate some buzz in advance of release.

A short promotional video was released that was structured to appear like it was examining old photos from throughout history from battles and other events that include giant robots. Hot Rod was officially unveiled in a first look photo that appeared in EW’s summer movie preview along with background information on that character’s history. It also included comments from Bay about the extent he went to create monuments to blow up. A clip as well as a humorous promo involving Prime trying to learn a London accent were released during the MTV Movie and TV Awards.

As the final press push was happening and both Bay and Wahlberg were making the media and TV rounds they each signalled this would be the last Transformers movie for both of them. If you’re keeping count, that’s the first such declaration for Wahlberg and at least the third for Bay and he always comes back.


Oof, there’s a lot to digest here. The story that’s being sold completely upends all the mythology of the previous Transformers movies to an extent that defies credulity unless I’ve missed something massive in the first three entries (I’ve yet to see the fourth) that hints a centuries-long presence on Earth. But honestly, does that even matter? They found a new way to create some new robots that look kind of cool and which are visually indistinguishable (my major complaint with these films) as the rest. It doesn’t matter what the story is, just come see Michael Bay light some fuses and ask a Josh Duhamel to look up at and interact with something that will be inserted digitally later.

As much as the generic designs make many of the robots indistinguishable from one another within the movie, the similarity in tone and feel of the marketing for these movies makes them virtually indistinguishable from one another. They all feature the same shots of landscapes blowing up and humans scattering, of someone warning of dire consequences should the bad guys win and so on. It’s all about selling metallic imagery with no sense of the motivations of anyone, just vague dialogue about the consequences of such and such happening.

The one interesting thing to watch is whether the fifth installment of this series will suffer the same sort of franchise fatigue that’s tanked recent installments of Smurfs and other IP as well as legacy sequels including Independence Day. This isn’t a reboot or remake and it’s only been a couple years since the last Transformers, but still: Audience preferences seem to have shifted recently. So while it’s likely this will do just fine, there’s a chance it could tank and bring the house of metal cards Paramount and Bay have built crashing down.

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Movie Marketing Madness: The Big Sick

If you’re a comedy nerd you’ll absolutely recognize Kumail Nanjiani. He’s on “Silicon Valley,” has cameoed on “Portlandia” and is well-known from other shows as well as standup and more. Now he’s poised to breakout on the big-screen in The Big Sick, which he not only stars in but wrote with his wife Emily V. Gordon.

The story is based on the real events of how Nanjiani and Gordon met and fell in love through unusual circumstances. While Nanjiani plays himself, Zoe Kazan plays Gordon and the movie begins with them meeting, hooking up and beginning to date. One day she goes silent, but it’s not ghosting, it’s that she’s fallen suddenly and seriously ill. He’s not ready to give up, though, and is a constant presence in the hospital, eventually ingratiating himself with her parents and family.

The Posters

“An awkward love story” is how the movie is being sold on the poster, which puts the two leads up from and arrays the cast behind them, with the Chicago skyline in the background to provide setting. The story is hinted at only by the inclusion of a nurse in the lineup along with items like a stuffed animal, a big balloon and a bouquet of flowers, the kinds of things you’d bring to someone in the hospital. It’s not a great poster – it looks like a promotional image for an upcoming sitcom that’s destined to not get a full-season pickup – but is notable for how it prominently it displays that it was written by Nanjiani and Wilson. That’s kind of unusual since writers aren’t usually given such overt placement and shows that the personal nature of the story is a key part of the overall marketing plan.

The Trailers

The first trailer starts out with an introduction featuring Nanjiani and Romano who talk about the essential elements of good marketing. After that we get into the movie itself, showing how Emily and Kumail meet and begin dating. That’s not so easy given their different cultures and despite being happy a rift opens between them and they break up. When she gets sick, though, he goes to visit and meets her family, who isn’t too thrilled to see him. Eventually that ice thaws, though, and everyone begins bonding.

While there’s plenty of footage of the dating between Kumail and Emily, most of what we see is the interaction between him and her father, played by Romano. it’s more about them navigating the tricky waters of relationships, culture and more, than it is about the romantic arc between the two lovers. It’s sad and funny and heartfelt and works.

Online and Social

There’s plenty going on over on the front page of the movie’s official website. Not only is there full-screen video but one corner has information on its limited release in NY and LA. Nothing corner has some of the credits as well as a Get Tickets prompt. Another has a carousel of positive pull-quotes from reviews and another has links to the movie’s Twitter, Facebook and Instagram profiles.

Moving on to the actual content, the first section in the menu on the left is “About,” which has a brief story synopsis along with a short video from Nanjiani explaining what the movie is about. There are credits for the major players including producer Judd Apatow (but not director Michael Showalter for some reason) in the “Cast” section.

You’ll find the trailer, TV spots and more in the “Videos” section and the “Trailer” gets its own section as well. The “Gallery” has a handful of stills. There’s also a section here for “Comedy Tour” where you can find out more about the tour Nanjiani, Romano and other members of the cast engaged in, also of which not only promoted the movie but benefitted a few charities.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Various TV spots focus on either the romance between Nanjiani and Gordon or the awkwardness that comes after she winds up in the hospital. Most all include something about the clash of cultures that the relationship has to fight against and all feature Nanjiani’s trademark deadpan humor.

Paid ads on Twitter were run in the wake of the debut of the first trailer that used that trailer to spread the word and raise awareness. Other online ads used variations on the key art of the cast to highlight Nanjiani and Kazan while also showing the rest of the cast.

Media and Publicity

The first bit of publicity came when it was announced the movie would have its official premiere at Sundance 2017. That screening was met with widespread and almost universal acclamation, with many declaring it the first big breakout of the festival, praise that led to it being quickly snatched up by a group including Amazon and other distributors who planned to give it a theatrical release ahead of it appearing on the streaming service.

While that was going on there were interviews with Showalter about his career to date and how he’s transformed into such a powerful director as well as with Nanjiani about creating the story and how he decided to turn such a personal story into a movie.

Right around the time of the first trailer there was a bit of a press push that allowed Nanjiani to talk about his past and his cultural/comedic influences as well as his career to date along with the origins of the movie. That feature also included comments from the actual Wilson about her history and the real story of her medical diagnosis.

There was also the (predictable) angle of how Nanjiani doesn’t exactly look like a leading man and so is an unusual choice for a romantic comedy. In it he talks about how he loves sappy movies and addresses how unusual it is for Muslims to be portrayed as “everyday” people, much less romantic interests.

Nanjiani, Gordon, Showalter and others all talked about the movie’s story and why they wanted to tell it at the premiere.

Most of the cast, including Holly Hunter, made the rounds of the talk shows to talk about the movie, how they got involved, how original and funny the story is and so on.


The key selling point here is the charm of Nanjiani. That’s what’s conveyed throughout the campaign more than anything else. It’s what’s on display throughout the push, from the trailers to the poster to the press and everywhere else. Kazan is a big part of it as well but she understandably disappears through vast swaths of the the trailer and TV advertising. It’s being sold as an unconventional romantic comedy, something that may or may not resonate with audiences depending on how much they want to be challenged by material that might be outside their comfort zone.

All the elements work pretty well together, but that’s not necessarily a good thing. The trailers are light and breezy, even in their most serious medical moments, never losing the snappy dialogue and overall feel. But the poster is just kind of a dud, the blandest possible image that could have been chosen. There’s no feel or vibe to it at all. It looks like the key art to a TBS sitcom that will last two seasons. That’s not the best foot forward for the movie. Unfortunately because that poster image is reused in so many other places the damage is spread a bit farther than it should be.

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Movie Marketing Madness: The Book of Henry

Director Colin Trevorrow made some minor waves with his debut movie Safety Not Guaranteed, at least enough that he was next offered Jurassic World, the relaunch of the popular dinosaur-based franchise. Now he’s back into smaller territory with this week’s The Book of Henry, starring Naomi Watts, Jaeden Lieberher and Jacob Tremblay.

Watts plays Susan Carpenter, mother to Henry (Leiberher) and Peter (Tremblay). Henry, in particular, is the head of the household despite his young age. One day she discovers Henry thinks the young girl who moved in next door with her stepfather is in danger and sets out to help him execute an elaborate plan to rescue her.

The Posters

The first poster promises a story of precocious children. We see two boys, one wearing an old-school football helmet and holding a plunger, starting at a chalkboard that’s filled with blueprints and diagrams and explanations. It’s like they’re making plans for some sort of big exploration or adventure. “Never leave things undone,” we’re told by the copy.

The second uses that same copy but the painted look of the poster gives it the look and feel of the one-sheets designed by Drew Struzan in the 80s for Steven Spielberg and others. There’s a boy wearing goggles, one riding a bike away from a dilapidated house of some sort, a young girl looking at the camera, another dancing in the moonlight and someone, likely the story’s antagonist, furrowing his brow. The same plans and designs are seen in the corner. The whole thing conveys the sense of childhood wonder and adventure that those 1980s posters did, promising an emotional but thrilling ride.

A third took things back in the other direction. Again, the same copy point is used but this time it’s via a note that’s attached to the front cover of a journal. Tucked into the strap of that journal is also a photo of a family, with a picture of a girl taped to it, which may hint at the character’s relationships in the story. Another used the same kid in the helmet focal point and the “Never leave things undone” copy. It’s a painted poster – you can see that clearly – and gorgeous but doesn’t add much new to the marketing.

The Trailers

We meet Henry in the trailer as he’s the smartest kid in his class and the one that manages the family finances and other responsibilities. Henry meets Christina, a new kid who moves in with her stepdad to the house next door. Henry and his family become concerned something is wrong in that house and Henry begins documenting everything that happens. His mom Susan then is responsible for executing his plan to try and fix it but finds herself getting deeper into something she doesn’t really understand.

It’s a tight, wonderful trailer that starts off as a heartwarming family drama but ends up as a tense thriller about taking justice into your own hands. Tremblay doesn’t get a whole lot of screen time here as Lieberher and Watts dominate, but that makes sense considering the story that’s on display. It looks like the best kind of movie Amblin would have produced 30 years ago but with a modern spin that makes it relevant now.

Online and Social

You can watch the trailer when the official website loads. Close that and you’ll find the rest of the site’s content, which on the splash page means promote to watch a clip, subscribe via email and more. There are also links to the movie’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profile.

Since this is a Focus Features site, there’s a kind of loose organization to the site. So scroll down and you’ll see the trailer, clips, photos, character bios and lots of other information and content. It’s all very stylishly presented, but it’s not as organized and segmented as you’ll find on other sites.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

If there was much advertising done I can’t find it. That’s a little surprising since while this isn’t a huge tentpole there are a lot of recognizable names attached. “From the director of Jurassic World” alone would have made a great hook. The only paid media that’s crossed my radar has been on social media, where the trailer has been used to drive ticket sales.

Media and Publicity

Aside from the discussion of the movie happening in the first place, something that caused quite a few stories considering Trevorrow was consciously moving away from big-scale action movies, the first bit of publicity and press came in the form of a first look photo in Empire.

Unfortunately, things then got pushed back a bit as the movie was shifted almost a year from its original September 2016 release date. As release neared, though, things ramped up starting with an appearance in EW’s summer movie preview that featured a first-look photo, comments from Trevorrow about how it’s actually Susan’s story we’re following and more.

The movie was announced as the opening night film at the L.A. Film Festival, giving it a nice platform.

Trevorrow and the rest of the cast also made the media rounds, including morning and late-night talk shows to talk about the movie and all that. If you check out the social feeds you’ll see promos for appearances and photos from the cast, primarily the kids, as they were traveling around for interviews and other appearances.


I name-dropped Amblin earlier and that’s kind of a cheap reference point, but it’s also pretty accurate. Movies like this, about the wonder and mystery of childhood that focuses on kids that are smart, self-motivated and trying to find their way in the adult world, don’t get made much anymore. But you watch the trailer here and you get flashbacks (at least if you’re my age) to movies like E.T., Flight of the Navigator, Stand By Me and more. Too often kids are either infantilized or just made super-annoying to show how hip they are, but the campaign here presents them as just being…kids, even if one of them is wise and mature beyond his years.

There aren’t any issues that come up in my mind regarding the tone and feel of the campaign. It’s great and while it may not pull people away from Wonder Woman or Cars 3, it works to sell the movie effectively. My only issue here is that there doesn’t seem to be enough of it, especially in the last couple weeks. I would have loved to have seen another trailer drop in the last few weeks or another poster released. It’s been two months or so since the official trailer hit and while there have been a few press pops here and there, nothing substantial has been released in the last month. That means there haven’t been the opportunities to keep the movie at the top of people’s awareness in a period when they’re making their moviegoing decisions and could hurt box-office prospects more than anything else about the campaign’s structure and feel.

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Movie Marketing Madness: Cars 3

When we meet back up with Lightning McQueen (voiced by Owen Wilson) in Cars 3, he’s at a crossroads, so to speak, in his career as a racer. A new generation of cars has come up while he’s been on the circuit that is faster, sleeker and surer of their abilities. Just as he and his contemporaries took over from the cars of Doc Hudson’s era, a crop of cocky young upstarts is now ready to push McQueen to the background.

He’s not quite ready to give up, though, and is determined to not quit until it’s on his own terms and in his own time. To stay at the top of his game he finds he needs the help of not just his old friends but also a technician who can help push just a little bit harder and get a little more out his efforts to stay relevant until he feels it’s time to hang up his racing stripes.

The Posters

The first poster hit the same tone as the first teaser trailer, showing McQueen in some serious danger. It actually shows him flying through the air upside down as sparks fill the space between him and the pavement, speaking to the danger that he faces in the story.

Another one came later that continued the theme of hiding things, showing McQueen and some of the other racers from ground-level so you can’t see everything, especially with the water that’s being splashed up obscuring things a bit.

A handful of character posters didn’t share anyone’s names but did show off McQueen and a couple of the other new cars that are featured in the story.

The Trailers

The first teaser trailer is kind of darkly disturbing. We see a race going on, with McQueen in the lead. But then we hear an announcer say he’s “fading fast” before the screen goes dark, only to reveal him flying out of control through the air as it fades back in. “From this moment, everything will change” the title card reads, hinting at big changes in the status quo of our favorite cars.

Another teaser keeps up the “next generation” theme to show that McQueen faces some serious competition. That leads into more talk about how he might be past his prime but that doesn’t mean he has to give up. More teases of footage showing Lightning undergoing some other training follows, but there’s still no real sense of the story here.

Finally more of the story is explained in the official trailer. We start off by seeing that McQueen is being pitched on becoming a franchise, part of the plan to capitalize after his fading racing career comes to an end. He’s facing irrelevance, in part because of the emergence of a new racer that’s setting all sorts of new records. So he goes back and trains for the new challenges he faces, with all the usual friends in tow and with the attitude that it’s not about “the stuff” that comes with it, it’s just about the racing for him.

It’s great that we’re finally getting a look at the full story and the conflict that will drive the action of the story. It’s exactly what you’d expect as the third installment of this series.

The next – and final – trailer finally lays out the full story for the audience. The focus as it starts is on Jackson Storm, the latest contender to McQueen’s throne. With the racing world changing around him he needs a new approach in order to compete and preserve his legacy and so gets a whole new training team and regimen. Talk of retirement looms but McQueen is determined not to quit but to come up with an approach that keeps him in the game on his own terms.

One more short trailer for that is all about seizing the opportunities given to you, not being too afraid to fail.

Online and Social

You get the usual Disney design when you open the movie’s official website, with a still and title treatment at the top of the page. One thing notable about Disney’s sites is they include ads, in this case a banner at the top that wants you to buy Mattel licensed toy cars based on the movie’s characters.

Anyway, the first section of content is “Video” and is well-stocked with the trailers as well as older animated shorts that debuted around the time of the second movie and in the years between releases. These mostly feature Mater and the rest of the Radiator Springs residents and were meant to just be fun little brand extensions, nothing that’s tied to this or any other movie in the franchise.

Below that there’s a link to find out more about the “Road to the Races,” a nationwide tour featuring life-size versions of the movie’s three main characters that went to 27 cities across the country. That tour is just about done, having run from mid-March through the end of June.

Keep scrolling down the site and you’ll find lots more content that’s generic to the Cars franchise, not specific to this movie. That includes games, stills, character bios and more.

If you want movie-specific information you’ll have to use the menu at the top of the page. After “Videos” the next section there is “Games & Activities” which is where you can play some games, download some iMessage sticker packs and more. “Galleries” then has stills from this movie as well as albums from the previous films.

After that, the site devolves once more into generalities, with prompts to buy all the movies in the Cars franchise, visit the “Store” to buy merch and ultimately visit the “Parks.”

They aren’t linked to on the official site but there are also Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts for the movie.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

An extended TV spot expanded on the teaser trailer and showed more of the story, including the up and down arc of McQueen’s journey. It offers quite a look at what’s going and what will happen to him and some of the other characters, though there don’t appear to be any of the old friends like Mater or anyone else from the earlier movies on display here.

A number of promotional partners joined in the marketing fun, including:

  • AutoTrader, which debuted the first in a series of spots during broadcasts of the NBA Playoffs that used the variety of cars in the movie to highlight the variety of cars available on the website.
  • Waze, which gave users the ability to change their own appearance in the app to resemble McQueen or Storm or change the voice that offers directions to one of these two characters. The app will also remind people the movie is coming out.
  • NASCAR, which aired commercials during the race broadcasts and engaged in a lot of co-branded activities at various racetracks and other events.

Outdoor ads with the key art and online ads, including social media units using the video, were also run heavily across the web.

Media and Publicity

A piece in USA Today gave us a first look not only at Lightning McQueen but also at Ramirez, the new character being introduced in the movie along with other details. During the publicity cycle for Finding Dory, Pixar’s John Lassater talked about this movie as well and what McQueen’s journey in this installment was going to be.

Later on a look at some of the movie’s new characters, along with descriptions of who they are and what their story is, continued to keep people talking about it.

John Lasseter made an appearance along with a life size Lightning McQueen at the Detroit Auto Show.

There was also a focus on the role played by Jude Brownbill, an animator on previous Pixar films who was promoted to directing animator on this movie. She also played a large part in developing the new character Cruz Ramirez, a female car we’ve seen in the trailers and who helps train McQueen.

Wilson, Fillion and others from the cast also made various TV and other press appearances on talk shows and elsewhere to talk about jumping back into this world and these characters.


I know who the Cars movies are aimed at in general. Boys love toy cars and that was the main conceit of the first movie and why the franchise keeps selling tie-in toys between movies or when the movies themselves aren’t that great. And the filmmakers have done what they can to make the stories as appealing as they can to girls as well, not wanting to draw too many clear gender stereotype lines around who is and isn’t invited to the theater.

But I’m struggling with who this movie specifically is aimed at attracting. A child who was five years old in 2006 when the first movie came out is 15 or 16 now and…are they contemplating their own mortality. I get that characters have to evolve, but this seems more at someone my age than either current 3-8 year olds or those who have grown up with the franchise. It just seems a little…dark. I’m sure it will be life-affirming and all that in the end, but from the mysterious teasers showing McQueen getting into a massive accident to those that explained the story of his chapter apparently coming to an end, this just seems like an oddly-toned campaign. Disney seems to be counting heavily on franchise-familiarity here and that might not be enough.

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