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Movie Marketing Madness: The Hero

Sam Elliott plays a faded movie star in the new film The Hero, opening in limited release this week. Elliott’s Lee Hayden has been trading off a breakout role decades ago in a western that forged his reputation, but that legacy isn’t resulting in much work in the present day and Hayden finds himself longing for the good old days as well as a chance to go out and once more prove himself.

A sense of urgency is added when he’s diagnosed with cancer. Not only does he want one last shot at the spotlight, he wants to try and reconnect with his estranged daughter Lucy (Krysten Ritter). Complicating matters somewhat is an odd friendship he’s beginning with a young stand-up comic named Charlotte (Laura Prepon).

The Posters

The first poster is great, showing Elliott’s Hayden from behind as he sits on a set chair that’s placed in the shallow water off a beach so that he’s looking at the seaside homes that are in the near distance. The movie’s festival credentials are at the top and while there’s no explanatory copy there’s plenty here to convey the basic idea of the movie’s story.

A second poster takes a different approach, showing Elliott in profile, looking down with a playful smile on his face. The palm trees in the background identify it as taking place in California, but there’s nothing else here that offers any insights or clues as to the story. It’s pretty generic, unfortunately.

The Trailers

We meet Lee Hayden in the trailer as he’s recording a commercial and soon see he’s a fading actor who’s struggling with not being as active as he once was. His friend Jeremy introduces him to Charlotte, who accompanies him to awards and other events and the two form an unusual friendship. Suddenly a career revitalization beckons, as does the potential to reconcile with his estranged daughter.

It’s a moving trailer that’s all about getting old and making peace with the past while trying to live in the present. Elliott, of course, looks great here as the faded western movie star who’s struggling with getting older and running out of time to make a lasting impression. There are just enough hints as to the rest of the story to offer an intriguing complete package.

Online and Social

The official website opens with a big image of Elliott’s face alongside the title and prompts to Play Trailer or Get Tickets. Those same two CTAs are in the upper right alongside links to the movie’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram feeds.

Scroll down the site and there’s not a whole lot more going on. A “Synopsis” gives you a good overview of the story and why the characters are acting in the way they do and “Cast” just has photos and the names of those who are featuring in the movie. There are a couple pull quotes from early reviews scattered across the page but that’s about it.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Nothing here, at least not that I’m aware of.

Media and Publicity

The first bit of publicity came when it was announced the movie would have its official premiere at Sundance 2017. The mixed word-of-mouth out of that screening didn’t stop The Orchard from picking it up for eventual distribution.

Elliott did a bit of press in the last few weeks with interviews like this one that had him not only talking about this movie but also his career as a whole. Writer/director Brett Haley also got a bit of the spotlight as he talked about why he wrote the movie specifically for Elliott and how they worked together.

Overall

There’s a cool story here that’s being sold. The campaign makes it clear that Elliott’s character wants to go out if not on top at least active. He wants to die, to coin a phrase, with his boots on. Interestingly the marketing never mentions that he’s dying, just that he’s reached a point where he wants to put the pieces of his life back together and make amends with those he’s wronged. That, along with the friendship – it’s never really clear if it’s more – with the young lady he’s introduced to mean he’s feeling the years but not yet succumbing to them.

Basically though the movie is sold as Elliott’s career summation. With a character that’s not far (at least not in his public persona) from the person the audience knows and by focusing on age as the major plot point, we’re meant to be drawn into him putting a cap on his filmography. If anything the marketing plays that hand a little too strongly, but still presents an interesting option for anyone who’s followed the actor to date and wants to see him bringing his easy charm to the screen.

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Movie Marketing Madness: The Mummy

Universal is trying once more to revitalize its catalog of classic monsters with this week’s The Mummy. No, this isn’t a straight reboot of the 90’s film series starring Brendan Frasier and eventually The Rock. It’s a new story starring Tom Cruise, Russell Crowe and others that brings the franchise into the present day and ups the action by presenting a threat not just to the heroes at the center of the conflict but also the world as a whole.

In this week’s release Cruise plays Nick Morton, a…something (none of the trailers or plot synopses make this clear) who makes the tragic mistake of disturbing the sarcophagus of Princess Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella), an ancient Egyptian figure who wielded dark powers to…destroy the world? He winds up being integral to her plans even as, with the help of Dr. Henry Jekyll (Crowe), he tries to foil those plans.

Deep breath, everyone.

The Posters

The first poster takes its cue from the first teaser, which features a massive action set piece set inside a cargo plane. This image shows that same interior, with the mummy’s sarcophagus strapped down to the floor. The bigger world that the movie is setting up is teased in the copy “Welcome to a new world of gods and monsters,” which is also a line that’s featured in that first trailer.

The second effort is a close-up of Ahmanet featuring her freaky eyes and the language and characters that are embossed on her cheek. This is meant to give it a spooky, otherworldly feel.

The third one pulls the camera out to show more of Ahmanet’s face (specifically both cheeks) as it looms of the London skyline which is being eaten away by some sort of force. Cruise is standing over it all as well, looking kind of powerless and just sort of taking it all in. He looks like he’s watching a crab walk along the beach, not like there’s any urgency to his character or actions.

Two IMAX posters play up the scope of the story, one showing Cruise repelling down past the massive sarcophagus that incites the story, the other showing him standing heroically as the ancient warrior looms in the background above a city that’s being destroyed by a red swarm. They’re not that interesting visually but they do work to establish that this is a big supernatural story that’s being sold.

The Trailers

The first trailer starts out by throwing us into the middle of the story, it seems. So Morton and others are escorting the sarcophagus home on a military transport before it’s taken down by a magical swarm of bats. Halsey escapes the plane but Morton goes down with it and dies, but that doesn’t last. After he’s brought back to life we hear from Jekyll that he’s now part of a larger world of magical mysteries. That includes the now reincarnated Princess Ahmanet, who’s out to reclaim what was taken from her millennia ago and which involves…destroying the world or something.

The trailer was only half about selling this movie, for which very little story elements are shown. Instead it’s focused on selling yet another movie of Tom Cruise running away from swarms of things and trying to prove to everyone that he knows what’s going on. It’s also really concerned with establishing Crowe’s Jekyll as the cornerstone of an expanded horror creature universe, promising the audience that this is just the first chapter in a much larger story.

The second trailer starts with the discovery extraction of the mummy from its resting place, an adventure that was fairly perilous in and of itself. We get some backstory on Ahmanet before we find out that the unwitting archeologists have caused that old evil to be unleashed upon the modern world. There’s a connection between her and Morton that’s being exploited so Ahmanet can return to power and take over the world. He tries to foil her at every turn but it doesn’t look good.

At least this explains more of the story. It still looks like Mission Impossible: Ghost Squad but it should appease fans of big budget effects-laden blockbusters as well as those who are enjoying Cruise’s late-career action turn.

The third trailer opens with a condensed version of the same plane crash sequence we’ve seen before. We find out Jack survived because he’d been cursed and is now being exposed to a magical world he’s not ready for. He’s connected to the mummy he awakened and becomes part of her plan in some way and…

You know what I’m out. There’s such an overt effort here to sell a mythology that’s completely undeserved and foreign that the entire thing collapses under its own weight. Instead of simply selling an action-packed supernatural thriller with Tom Cruise, it’s selling a bloated series of set pieces strung together with long-winded exposition about a backstory that we have no context for. No.

Online and Social

The final trailer loads when you pull up the movie’s official website. After closing that it displays full-screen silent video featuring footage seen in the trailers. Down in the lower left are links to the movie’s Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr profiles along with a link to the Prodigium, the mysterious organization Cruise’s character is introduced to and invited to become part of.

That site starts with an informational video of the organization and then allows you to take a virtual tour of the facility, either fully within the browser or via VR.

Back to the main site, the first section in the drop down menu of content is “About” which is long on name-dropping Cruise and the rest of the talent but short on adding any new information or context to the story.

The “Gallery” has a decent collection of some of the posters and some stills that have been released. “Videos” has the three trailers and the Inside Look featurette.

“Partners” lists the two companies that have signed on for promotional support while “30 Rock VR” has information on the VR experience that’s being hosted in New York City that takes people inside the plane stunt that’s been a central focus in the campaign.

Finally there’s another prompt to get tickets and then one to find out about the Dark Universe the studio is trying to launch with this movie.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

One of the first TV efforts was a co-branded spot that ran on ESPN during the NBA Playoffs, featuring basketball stars all turning to watch the news as reports of an attack in London are breaking. Those reports show Ahmanet and her supernatural conjurings before it cuts to the movie’s title and release date. More traditional spots that highlighted parts of the story and showcased the massive action came later in the campaign.

Promotional partners for the movie included

  • Saks Fifth Avenue, which created movie-inspired window displays showing off some of the props and costumes.
  • Mac Cosmetics, which provided tips on how to look like an ancient Egyptian princess and offered the products to do so.

Outdoor and online ads used the key art of Cruise and Boutella’s characters while social media ads used the trailers and other videos.

Media and Publicity

At the same time the first trailer was released, director Alex Kurtzman talked about the story, how he wanted to subvert the audience’s expectations about a Tom Cruise movie, directing a fight sequence between Cruise and Crowe and more. More first look photos, including this one from EW, followed.

The studio created a VR experience at SXSW earlier this year that took viewers inside the plane sequence that was featured so prominently in the first trailer. That same stunt continued to be the focus of much of the press, with Kurtzman talking at CinemaCon about the 64 takes necessary to fully capture it.

A stream of exclusive new images like this kept the conversation at a medium boil in between big pops in the campaign. One appeared in EW’s summer movie preview along with an interview with Boutella where she talked about her character, the research she did for the movie and more.

A behind-the-scenes featurette introduced us to the Prodigium organization that is lead by Crowe’s Dr. Jeykll, making it clear that it will act as the focal point of an expanded universe dealing with monsters and other phenomena. Around the same time Universal held “The Mummy Day” with a massive 75-foot sarcophagus looming over an event attended by Cruise that invited fans to come out and hopefully get excited for the upcoming movie.

The overt efforts to sell this as an essential launch of a larger world became even more ham-handed with the announcement Bride of Frankenstein would be the next movie in the series, coming in 2019. That was accompanied by photos of Cruise and Crowe alongside Johnny Depp, who would play The Invisible Man and Javier Bardem, would would tackle Frankenstein’s Monster. It was all put under the “Dark Universe” umbrella branding that included Universal’s classic horror movies as well as those to come.

Cruise of course made the media rounds, talking about this movie as well as other upcoming projects. Crowe also did some press work in the weeks leading up to release.

Overall

Bela Lugosi: They don’t want the classic horror films anymore. Today it’s all giant bugs. Giant spiders, giant grasshoppers… Who would believe such nonsense?

Ed Wood: The old ones were much spookier, they had castles and full moons…

Bela Lugosi: They were mythic. They had a poetry to them.

Edward D. Wood, Jr.: Yes.

Bela Lugosi: And you know what else? The women… the women preferred the traditional monsters.

Edward D. Wood, Jr.: The women? Huh?

Bela Lugosi: The pure horror, it both repels, and attracts them, because in their collective unconsiousness, they have the agony of childbirth. The blood. The blood is horror.

Edward D. Wood, Jr.: You know, I never thought of that.

Bela Lugosi: Take my word for it. If you want to make out with a young lady, take her to see “Dracula”.

I can’t get this scene from Ed Wood out of my head as I try to sum up a campaign that’s done everything it can to make the movie as unappealing as possible, at least to me. I’m a huge fan of the original Universal monster movies but what I remember from them is the sense of brooding terror, of looming danger around every corner. The stakes were low – Dracula was only ever a threat to those within his reach and The Mummy didn’t have world domination in mind – but that made it more real because it warned you not to cross those characters.

There’s nothing about this campaign that presents an attractive alternative for those looking to head to the box office this weekend aside from Cruise’s star power. The story on display is threadbare and incoherent, the characters all some level of incompetence masked as mystery.

No motivation for anyone’s actions, no sense of who anyone is or why they’re acting as they are is offered at any point in the marketing with the exception of the villain’s desire to end the world as we know it. Substitute her sandstorm with a sky beam and you have any superhero movie from the last 10 years.

Not only that, but the ham handed way Universal is trying to launch a franchise just makes no sense and becomes more of a deterrent than anything else. It makes no sense (particularly since it just tried to do this a few years ago with Dracula Untold) since it publicly commits them to a big project it may not be able to deliver on if this movie flops or underperforms. Working to establish that “bigger world” took up a lot of the campaign’s breathing room, meaning this release in and of itself didn’t have that space to sell itself, it needed to sell the franchise. That’s a mistake not even Marvel has made.

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Movie Marketing Madness: My Cousin Rachel

Rachel Weisz stars as the title character in My Cousin Rachel, coming out this weekend in limited release from Fox Searchlight. Rachel is a woman who is thought by her cousin Philip (Sam Claflin) to have murdered or in some manner killed his benefactor, who was under her care. Philip sets out to exact revenge on her as she plans to come to the house he’s at.

His plans begin to go sideways, though, when he finds himself not only succumbing to her seductive powers and believing that she was the wronged party. That puts him in conflict with others around him but he’s increasingly convinced of his love for Rachel, even as he himself seems to be descending further into the same madness as the person whose death Philip originally set out to avenge.

The Posters

Weisz is, of course, the central figure on the poster. She’s shown staring cooly at the camera, the look on her face slightly disturbing but also completely in control. Her face is covered by the black lace veil of mourning but she doesn’t look said, more like someone who’s plotting her next move.

The Trailers

As the first trailer opens we hear from Philip, who’s reading a letter that’s been sent to him about the pain and suffering apparently caused by Rachel. Philip vows revenge and so goes to enact his plan. After some time, though, he falls under her spell and starts to not only develop feelings and empathy for her but in some ways question the reality around him. He becomes a bit obsessed even as she insists on her freedom. It all seems to revolve around the tea she prepares for him regularly, which may be what keeps pushing him into madness.

It’s a pretty effective spot, selling the movie as a gothic mystery. It does go out of its way to make it clear the tea is tied to her plans and his madness in some way, which is either a bit of misdirection or a huge spoiler reveal. Weisz, as always, looks great as she gives a measured and creepy performance. Some good old fashioned horror here.

Online and Social

When you load the official website you get a recreation of the key art along with prompts in the lower left to watch the trailer as well as links to the movie’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram feeds.

The “Cast” option in the menu at the top is a drop down letting you select any of the major players and see a photo from the movie along with a quote from that actor about who their character is. Same for “Filmmakers,” but the only option there is director Roger Michell.

“Story” just has a simple, one paragraph synopsis of the story that doesn’t really offer any additional detail. There are just three stills in the “Photos” section and just the trailer in “Videos.” Finally, “Social” has a few pictures that it wants you to share on Twitter, Facebook or Tumblr.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

TV spots like this one emphasize the quest for vengeance against Rachel that is being engaged in and what that might mean in the long run. It’s heavy on atmosphere and threatening overtures but doesn’t dive too deeply into the story, just showing the gothic setting and the drama on display.

Media and Publicity

Outside of a few stories about production and coverage of the marketing materials that were released there doesn’t appear to have been a major press push for the movie. A few comments from Weisz and Claflin here and there, but nothing concerted that was meant to deliver earned media coverage.

Overall

It’s kind of odd to find a campaign, especially for a movie of this size, where there was more paid than earned media activity. Usually these smaller limited releases depend more on press, even smaller, niche film fan media, to get the word out and stoke some interest in it than advertising. I’m not sure where the bevy of TV spots – at least three or four seem to have been released by Searchlight – were run, but that’s a heavy ad load for a period story like this without a Hemsworth starring.

As for the tone and feel of the campaign, it’s nicely consistent from one element to the next. It’s all about setting that dark tone full of blacks and oranges, all centered around a story that mixes Jane Austin-esque settings with a psychological drama about not being able to trust your own senses. It’s not going to appeal to everyone but the marketing makes an effort to reach an audience who’s looking for something a little darker and potentially sexier than superheroes and kids films.

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Movie Marketing Madness: Beatriz At Dinner

Beatriz (Salma Hayek) is a holistic masseuse and health practitioner for the upper crust in the new movie Beatriz at Dinner. After an appointment at the house of Cathy (Connie Britton), one of her clients, her car breaks down and she can’t get a ride back to town from the remote home. So Cathy invites her to stay for dinner, which will involve a number of guests, most of whom are similarly part of the 1%.

Things quickly get uncomfortable, though, as Beatriz’s personality and outlook on the world don’t mesh with those of Cathy’s guests, That’s especially true of Doug (John Lithgow), a wealthy business owner who believes in getting as much as you can as quickly as you can whatever the cost. He and Beatriz clash about the care for the rest of mankind, the environment and everything else.

The Posters

The poster is a literal representation of the title, showing Hayek, flanked by Lithgow and Britton, sitting at a dinner table and looking around at the other guests. “She was invited, but she’s not welcome” we’re told just below the title, hinting at the title character’s uncomfortable place in the social mix. A few positive quotes from early reviews sit alongside the movie’s Sundance badge.

The Trailers

The trailer presents an awkward black comedy about identity, values and more. We meet Beatriz as she’s introduced at a dinner party and told she’s a holistic healer. Things get weird when she’s mistaken for the help by Doug Strutt, a big time business man who doesn’t have time for little people. He and Beatriz clash on a number of fronts and she sets out to try and convince him of the error of his ways in just about every aspect of his lifestyle and business. That causes things to get uncomfortable for everyone else at the party as the two keep going at each other on one topic after another.

It’s a neat trailer that shows off the performances, especially those of Hayek and Lithgow. The two of them get all the best verbal barbs to toss back and forth and we clearly see that there’s a final confrontation between the two that will form the climax of the story, pitting her healing worldview against his more pragmatic and entitled one.

The short second trailer shows why Beatriz winds up staying for dinner, it’s because her car has broken down. She’s nervous in this situation and quickly shows she’s not a great fit with this well-off crowd, questioning and challenging their worldview of entitlement. That’s pretty much where it ends, though, without getting into the results of that conflict.

Online and Social

There’s not a ton going on over at the movie’s official website. It opens on the “Videos” section that has the main trailer so you can watch that again if you choose. Close that and go back to “Home” and you’ll see a rotating carousel of positive pull quotes from early reviews, a prompt to save the release date to the calendar of your choice and links to the movie’s Facebook and Twitter profiles. The “Synospis” offers a good overview of the story along with a cast and crew list. After that there are just a couple of pushes to get you to share the site’s link on the social platform of your choice.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Nothing I’ve seen, though there may be some paid work being done in select locations the movie is rolling out at this weekend.

Media and Publicity

The first bit of publicity came when it was announced the movie would have its official premiere at Sundance 2017. Roadside and FilmNation picked it up from there.

Hayek made various appearances and interviews to talk about the movie, but that’s about it on the publicity front and there doesn’t seem to be any sort of big pop at any point. There were a few articles like this one that called out the obvious connections between the movie’s story and the current U.S. political climate we’re in but otherwise, aside from the official marketing materials, not much activity here.

Overall

I feel like this is being sold as being a bit more dramatic than it actually is. Like there’s more tension that’s on display here than actually exists, or at least a different kind of tension. It wants us to believe that Hayek and Lithgow’s characters almost come to blows over disagreements around the dinner table when I’m guessing that’s not remotely the case.

Mostly, though, the campaign shows just how toxic political discourse has become. Oddly, though, it doesn’t try to defuse that at all, it shows that it must eventually come to a head and lead to hurt feelings and strained relationships. Some of the things coming out of Lithgow’s mouth sound like exact comments from Trump surrogates on the campaign trail and some of the lines from Hayek are just the sort of hippy talking points coming from the left. So the marketing is selling a movie that’s highly political while also trying to be very personal and intimate. It’s unclear whether the finished movie overcomes the stereotypes on display in the trailers, though.

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Movie Marketing Madness: Dean

Demetri Martin plays the title character in Dean, which he also wrote and directed. Dean is a young man who works as an illustrator in New York but is feeling stuck and overcome by grief after the recent death of his mother and his strained relationship with his father (Kevin Kline). Deciding his life needs a shakeup, he goes out to Los Angeles for a little while to try and get a fresh perspective on things.

What was meant to be a short vacation gets complicated when he begins to date and develop feelings for Nicky (Gillian Jacobs). Meanwhile his dad is in the process of selling their old house now that it’s just him and beginning what might be his first relationship since his wife’s death with the realtor selling the house.

The Posters

The poster is pretty simple. The cast list dominates the top third of the design and the credit block is the primary feature of the bottom third. In the middle are photos of the major characters, Kline with Steenburgen, Martin sketching at his table and Jacobs sitting in a restaurant. Also featured in one block are the sketches that Martin’s character creates and which were shown in the trailer.

The Trailers

When the trailer opens we meet Dean as he’s listening to what seems to be the last voice message his dead mother left him. He and his father are both grieving their loss, each in their own way, which for Dean means taking a trip to L.A. for some self-discovery. His dad is selling their old house and potentially meeting a woman while doing so. Father and son keep leaning on each other for support as they try to come to terms with their new reality.

It’s a cute and funny trailer, showing off the story and characters well. I know this is Martin’s movie but can we talk for a minute about what a national treasure Kline is? He breezes through this with a charm that looks infectious and his part of the storyline looks just as interesting and intriguing as Martin’s. Still, the whole thing looks pretty attractive.

Online and Social

Not much on the web for the movie, just a page on the CBS Films website. That page has a synopsis, the poster, the trailer, a cast and crew list, a link to the movie’s Facebook page and a collection of curated Tweets about the movie from various news outlets.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Nothing I’m aware of here.

Media and Publicity

The first real buzz for the movie came when it debuted at the Tribeca Film Festival, where it won the best narrative feature award, something notable for first-time director Martin. That eventually lead to CBS Films picking it up.

Closer to release Martin made a couple appearances on the talk show circuit. And he talked at the movie’s premiere about how lucky he felt to have made the movie and found a distributor along with how he got veteran actors like Kline and Mary Steenburgen to join the film.

Overall

It’s obviously not the biggest campaign of the week and yes, it’s yet another instance of white people with otherwise comfortable lives who are so emotionally stunted they just can’t deal with being an adult. But it’s a charming campaign that’s powered primarily by Martin’s script and performance. There’s nothing that will leave a huge impression here on the audience as it might fade into the background noise of similar movies, but a few key components including Kline’s performance may set it apart and draw in those who have followed the movie’s trek toward release.

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Movie Marketing Madness: Wonder Woman

She made a big impression in the less than 15 minutes of screentime she had in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice but now Wonder Woman is finally getting a feature film of her very own. This week’s new release is, of course, in the same “cinematic universe” as BvS and was teased in that movie, as Bruce Wayne’s path crossed with that of Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) as they were both searching for a photo of her from World War I, though for different reasons.

Diana’s solo movie – the first solo movie for a female superhero from either DC or Marvel – takes us back to that era. It begins with her as a young girl, the daughter of Queen Hipolyta of Themyscira, a hidden island of women. Completely cut off from the world, one day a fighter pilot named Steve Trevor (Chris Evans Pratt Pine) crashes near the island and tells Diana and the others of the war that’s raging and threatening to envelop the entire planet. Moved by a need to protect the innocent and punish the guilty, Diana agrees to take the unprecedented step of leaving the island and going out into the world of men.

The Posters

The first one-sheet was debuted on social media by Gadot and shows Wonder Woman in her classic garb. She’s standing in front of flames, as if she’s on a battlefield somewhere, sword in hand and lasso visible. “Power. Grace. Wisdom. Wonder.” we’re told, offering character attributes to sell the audience on who she is. Overall it’s a solid first effort and simply the existence of bright colors tells us the movie will be set apart from her appearance in Batman v Superman, which was massively desaturated.

A series of promotional posters followed that and came out around the same time as the second trailer, showing Diana in various action shots, wielding her sword, shield or gauntlets in the middle of battle. Each one has a different descriptive term, either “Courage,” “Power” or “Wonder.” They’re amazing.

The next one kept up the usage of bright, sharp colors. This time Diana is shown taking a knee on a bright beach with a sunset providing the colors in the background. “Wonder” adorns this one as well.

Another poster – likely the theatrical version – has another action shot of Wonder Woman moving with sword in hand. This one, unlike the others, finally adds Steve Trevor to the campaign, which was inevitable with Pine in the role. More followed that again showed Diana in full action mode, one with her lasso whipping around her and another with her lifting a friggin’ tank over her head.

A triptych of IMAX posters showed off General Antiope, Diana and Queen Hippolyta, each placed in front of a golden background. These are incredibly striking.

The Trailers

The first trailer, which also debuted at Comic-Con, opens with Diana finding Trevor on the beach and being in awe of him simply because he’s a man. Her mother warns her to be careful as it becomes clear she’s following him back into the world. She explains she was created by Zeus and from there on out it’s a series of action sequences as she joins in to fight World War I.

It’s…well, it’s pretty great. Gadot looks like she absolutely owns the role, getting Diana’s grace and power down pat and presenting a funny movie as well. And the action looks amazing here, especially that shot of her turning aside a howitzer shell with her shield. It’s a great introduction to the character and a promise of a satisfying movie to come.

The second trailer starts out with Diana in the modern day before we flashback to WW I as she sees Trevor crash into the ocean around Paradise Island and saves him. After a tragedy she agrees to join him back to the world of man to help fight the war. That means everything from protecting him to taking on a room full of bad guys herself to storming out of a trench to take the fight to the enemy. There’s plenty of action on display here as Wonder Woman kicks all sorts of hinder to do what she feels is necessary.

It’s a good second effort that shows off the action and visuals of the movie as well as offering a bit more about the story and plot. If there’s a quibble here it’s with the amount of time Pine’s Steve Trevor gets. I get that he’s a big star these days, but this almost sells the movie as a story where they’re operating on equal levels, with the same attention paid to both characters. If that’s true that’s…problematic, particularly for the first solo female superhero movie.

The next trailer is even better than the first. it starts out with a young Diana being shown a sword she may never be worthy to wield before a montage of clips of her training and suddenly discovering a power she didn’t know she had. When she finds Trevor on the beach she’s exposed to and decides to get out into the real world where she becomes deeply involved in WW I, taking on armies and individuals and fighting for justice and all that is good. Far less of Trevor in this one, which is good.

The final trailer hits many of the same beats, as we see a young Diana being told that fighting isn’t what makes someone a hero. Her determination to do the right thing is shown in footage from her in battle, clearly having defied her mother’s wishes. She’s moved to join that battle in an effort to save the world from the evil that’s growing and so takes her weapons and sets out, though her introduction into society is a bit tricky.

Online and Social

The official website, built on Tumblr, opens by playing the final trailer, which you should absolutely watch again. Once you close that you see, as with the sites for other movies, it keeps the DCComics.com content menu along the very top. On the splash page, which features an action shot of Diana marching through a WWI battlefield, are prompts to Get Tickets, Watch Trailer, get info about the “Soundtrack” or explore some “Games and Features.”

That last section has a few things going on. First is a link to download the DC Legends mobile game. Then there’s Rise of the Warrior, a casual online 8-bit looking game that has you controlling Wonder Woman as she walks through battle. Finally, Show Your Warrior, which lets you design a set of gauntlets and then take or upload a picture to have your creations shared to the photo, which can then be shared elsewhere.

Back to the main site, “About the film” overemphasizes the mentions of all the cast and crew but only devotes a small amount of space to a story synopsis. After that is “The Art of Wonder,” which is devoted to fan art inspired by the movie specifically but also the character in genera, much of which is pulled from social media hashtags or a submission form here.

“Partners” includes information on the companies who have signed on to help promote the movie. There’s another link to the “Soundtrack” site and then links to the movie’s profiles on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

If you scroll down the site you can see all the posts, including GIFs, videos and more, that have been published to the Tumblr blog.

Also on Facebook, Warner Bros. was one of the first to play around with the Camera Masks newly available there (similar to Snapchat Filters), this one allowing fans to place Wonder Woman’s tiara on their own heads.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

TV commercials started running a little over a month out from release that took various tacks toward presenting the movie. Some sold it as a straightforward action movie, some as a funnier action comedy, some played up the mythological story of her creation and some drew very explicit lines between this and the rest of the Justice League franchise characters. All featured, though, the character tearing through the kind of action we usually see only men tackle but also highlighted Diana’s heart and compassion.

DC and WB used the series premiere of “DC’s Legends of Tomorrow” to help promote the movie by airing a special immediately afterward that included the first look at footage from the movie along with new looks at Suicide Squad and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Later help from the TV landscape came with a fun commercial featuring the cast of “Supergirl” that aired during that show a couple weeks out from the movie’s release.

DC also made sure Wonder Woman was the focal point of its Free Comic Book Day offerings, with both a reprint of the “Wonder Woman: Year One” kickoff issue and a DC Super Hero Girls story featuring the character. Later on DC announced “Wonder Woman Day” on June 3rd with events at retailers and other locations as well as online activities and two variant cover issues available for free at stores to hook readers on those books.

The final trailer was used as an ad on Twitter by both Nickelodeon and WB to show off an appearance by the cast (more on this below) during the Kid’s Choice Awards.

There was also, of course, a significant merchandising push as exclusive products were placed at Walmart, Hot Topic and elsewhere alongside the usual bevy of widely-available toys, apparel and more.

There were also plenty of promotional partners to help give the movie an extra boost:

  • Stewart-Hass Racing/NASCAR, where driver Danica Patrick has been driving a car decked out in Wonder Woman colors and themes for the last few weeks. That exposure led to it being, according to data from analytics technology firm Amobee, the brand most associated with the movie in the month or so leading up to release.
  • Cold Stone Creamery, which offered a couple movie-themed creations in stores.
  • Dr. Pepper, which created collector edition cans featuring Wonder Woman and ran quite a bit of online advertising in support of that effort.
  • National CineMedia, but the details are unclear.
  • Orville Redenbacher, which put trailers for the movie in the Blippar app along with popcorn recipes. It also had a site that let you take an augmented reality-powered selfie with Wonder Woman.
  • PayPal, which ran a giveaway for users along with the ability to send a Wonder Woman greeting card along with whatever money you’re transferring.
  • Pinkberry, which offered its own movie-themed frozen tasty treat.
  • ThinkThin, which offered co-branded packaging and supported that through on-site content and other efforts. That partnership caused some controversy and chin-wagging, though, since many questioned (rightfully) whether diet bars are a good partner for a character that’s often all about acceptance and empowerment, not changing who you are to please others.
  • Tyson, which offered Fandango-powered movie rewards when you purchased select items at Walmart.
  • Hot Topic, which offered an exclusive collection of apparel from Her Universe.

A number of other consumer brands, particularly apparel and fashion companies, also got in on the action to various degrees.

There was also a lot of online advertising done. Social media ads used the trailers, online banners used the key art and video advertising used the trailers and TV spots. Outdoor advertising used the key art. It was a significant spend.

Eventually the extent to which Warner Bros. was or wasn’t marketing the movie to the level it could came under examination with a post by Shana O’Neil at Blastr that called out a lack of advertising and apparent lackluster support in other areas from the studio. That led to a lot of conversations about the box office viability of a female superhero and had people (including myself) comparing the marketing to that of other DC/WB movies.

A few things happened after that. Not only was there another trailer released but the advertising portion of the campaign finally kicked off. Whether or not that was a reaction to this criticism or if the timing was purely coincidental is unclear, but there was at least a PR response, with stories like this being placed that pointed out the ad spending on Wonder Woman was higher at this point in the campaign than it was for Suicide Squad. That may have been true, but Squad benefitted from a lot of press coverage due especially to Jared Leto’s eccentric on-set antics.

Media and Publicity

The first bit of real publicity came when Gadot shared an official still of her in character on Twitter at the same time shooting was said to begin on the movie. A few months later the first real promotional image from the movie was released showing Diana, Hippolyta and other Amazons. It’s a pretty cool picture. Wonder Woman’s role in Batman v Superman gave the creative team on her solo movie a chance to talk about making that and what audiences could expect when it hit theaters almost a year later.

Shortly after that a CinemaCon presentation showed off footage and had execs talking about Diana’s place in the DC Cinematic Universe. And later on props and costumes, along with various planned consumer goods, were on display at the Licensing Expo in Las Vegas.

Just before Comic-Con, where the movie was announced as one of Warner Bros.’ theatrical offerings being highlighted, an official synopsis as well as some details on the story were released. That was met with some criticism because 1) The story was credited to Zack Snyder and 2) The credits included no women writers. Also just before SDCC there was a big feature in Entertainment Weekly that featured a raft of new stills, an interview with Gadot where she talked about the character, working with a female director and lots more.

At Comic-Con the movie was a big deal, of course, doing its own promotion and drafting off the overall celebration of Wonder Woman’s 75th anniversary. So it got a special EW cover for convention goers, a display of costumes from the movie at the DC Comics booth (which also hosted a cast appearance and signing), at big Hall H panel and more.

Unfortunately it wasn’t all sunshine and roses. Not only did the movie’s image not benefit from the poor performance of Suicide Squad last year but it was included as part of an anonymous letter written by a former WB staffer who took the studio to task on multiple levels. As the writer railed against execs for rewarding failure and not knowing how to make or market a superhero movie to save their lives she also hinted that internal rumblings already pegged Wonder Woman as a mess. Jenkins came out quickly after that to deny such rumors, saying it was part of someone just wanting to stir things up for their own agenda.

The movie had a major presence at New York Comic-Con 2016, with costumes from the movie being displayed at the DC Comics booth there, a ceremony unveiling USPS stamps commemorating the character’s 75th anniversary, DC Collectibles showing off their movie statues and a panel devoted to the character featuring current talent on Wonder Woman titles and more.

DC co-pub Jim Lee drew a new picture of Wonder Woman for Variety’s “Power Women” issue that featured an interview with Gadot where she talked about taking on such an iconic role, DC Entertainment’s Diane Nelson talking about what made Gadot such a perfect choice for the role and more.

Wonder Woman was also named an honorary United Nations ambassador, largely due to her being a positive role model for young women around the world. Some people took issue with that on the grounds that her costume over-sexualized her and that was the wrong message to send, complaints that led the U.N. to drop her from that role just two months later.

A few press beats toward the end of 2016 kept things going, from a feature about how 2017 was going to be the character’s big year to the continued release of new stills showing off key moments from the movie and an interview with Jenkins. The final trailer debuted during the Nickelodeon Kid’s Choice Awards and was introduced by the whole cast along with a big group of singing and dancing extras dressed up like Wonder Woman and Steve Trevor.

Just a few months out from release Jenkins along with DC’s Geoff Johns appeared at WonderCon and brought footage to show off to fans in attendance there, footage that apparently went over very well.

EW’s summer movie preview issue contained a look at some concept art from production alongside comments from Johns and more information. A later EW cover story provided a last minute press push with Gadot talking about how of course Wonder Woman is a feminist, writer Allan Heinberg talking about the movie’s influences and more.

The campaign also made good use of Lynda Carter, the star of the 1970s “Wonder Woman” TV show. She showed up at all the panels, screenings and elsewhere to put her stamp of approval on the movie and talk about her history with the character, the way she’s always viewed Wonder Woman and much more

In the last month there have been interviews with just about everyone, from another feature on Gadot, comments from Robin Wright, Jenkins talking about the movie’s stylistic influences and how there aren’t really any deleted or missing scenes and lots more. The whole cast also did the talk show rounds, with Gadot showing up on “The Tonight Show,” “Conan,” “Ellen” and elsewhere. Pine, Wright and Nelson also did their fair share and the whole cast took over “Good Morning America” and made other early morning show appearances as well.

Overall

First off, let’s address the elephant in the room: It’s hard to argue that Warner Bros. hasn’t put its full efforts into promoting Wonder Woman, both through paid and earned media. There are some details you can take issue with and, again, it doesn’t have quite the scope of something like Suicide Squad but that’s largely because you don’t have 11 other characters to spread the spotlight across, nor do you have Jared Leto earning headlines with his borderline sociopathy.

I would go so far as to say Wonder Woman has received some of the studio’s best efforts or late. That’s especially true in the posters, all of which have been incredible. That element of the campaign more than anything else has presented a vibrant, inspirational hero that isn’t dark or depressing like Batman or, oddly, Superman. The trailers have been really good along those same lines as well, showing off the performance of Gadot, who nails both the action and the comedy.

Some parts of the campaign over-emphasize Pine, I think, though I understand you can’t cast an actor with his awareness and not put him in the trailers. Notably, though, the place he’s missing from the most is the poster aspect of the marketing.

Taken as a whole, the campaign has gotten just the kind of support across most channels that any other superhero movie, particularly one featuring a solo hero and not a full team, has received. Like I said there are some points where the counter-point could be successfully argued, but the big picture is one that shows the studio believes in the movie and is putting the money and effort into making it successful, not underplaying or trying to sabotage it.

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Movie Marketing Madness: Band Aid

Anna (Zoe Lister-Jones) and Ben (Adam Pally) have felt the spark go out of their marriage in the new movie Band Aid, also written and directed by Lister-Jones. They aren’t intimate with each other, find they don’t enjoy spending time with the other person and always seem to be on the verge of a fight. When they’re not fighting they’re just kind of tolerating each other and wind up making various passive-aggressive digs at their partner. They still love each other, but they can’t quite remember why.

One day Anna decides the therapy they need is to start a band. They’ll channel their aggression and fights into songs instead of letting it all creep out into their daily lives. With the help of Dave (Fred Armisen), a neighbor who plays drums, the band begins to come together and Anna and Ben find they’re enjoying each other’s company more than they have in a long while. It’s not all sunshine and roses, though, as the arrangement surfaces other problems lingering beneath the surface.

The Posters

The first and only poster looks – deliberately I’m guessing – like it could be a Talking Heads album cover. Disjointed blocks of color shade a photo of the three main characters, two of them holding instruments that hint that they’re part of a band. The movie’s attitude and humor are conveyed through the “Misery loves accompaniment” copy toward the bottom of the one-sheet.

The Trailers

We get insights into the relationship between Anna and Ben as the first trailer opens. Basically they have issues they’re trying to work on and aren’t feeling the passion, so Anna throws out the idea of starting a band as a way to channel their aggression. A neighbor joins them to play drums in the band and we see they are just sharing their fights on stage. The problems they face aren’t going to go away quickly, though, but they keep things going.

It looks funny and charming and the chemistry between Jones and Pally is great as they lob insights and passive aggressive commentary, along with some love, at each other. The trailer hints at but doesn’t promise a happy ending of sorts, though how accurate that turns out to be remains to be seen.

Online and Social

There’s not much to the official website IFC gave the movie. It’s just a single page that has a prompt to watch the trailer, a list of the cast and crew, a brief synopsis of the story and the poster to view and download. The studio did also give it some support on its own Twitter and Facebook pages.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Nothing here that I’m aware of.

Media and Publicity

The first bit of publicity came when it was announced the movie would have its official premiere at Sundance 2017. Some news kept coming out about how Lister-Jones hired an all-female crew to work on the movie, which kept positive sentiment going. A clip was released just before its Sundance debut and Lister-Jones spoke about making the movie and what it meant to have it play at the festival. IFC eventually picked the film up for distribution.

Jones talked about how she made the decision to finally direct a feature, what it was she was trying to convey with the story and how she worked to assemble and all-female production crew for the film. Lister-Jones also got a really nice profile that talked about her film history, her sitcom experience and her life trying to balance a love of music and a love of acting and writing.

Overall

There have been countless movies not just in the last few years but going back further than that chronicling the problems white people have and the problems white married people have in particular. It’s always about emotions and dealing with them and never feeling quite fulfilled by life. So on that count there’s not much original going on with this campaign, which shows it’s largely another exercise in showing otherwise comfortable people who expect every moment to be magical, otherwise they rage against the ennui.

The main selling point, then, is Lister-Jones. The campaign promises a unique sense of humor and story and that’s all from her. She’s the central focus of the campaign, from the trailers through the press and publicity, and it’s great to see a woman completely taking the reins like this. If you’re on board with that then you’ll be on board with the movie as a whole. The story looks sweet and, for all its issues, is a lot more original than most of what’s circulating around the indie film circuit these days.

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Movie Marketing Madness: War Machine

Political satire comes to Netflix with this week’s new release War Machine. Brad Pitt stars as Gen. Glen McMahon, a thinly-veiled version of the real-life Gen. Stanley McChrystal. McMahon is the latest in a series of generals tasked with managing the seemingly never-ending war in Afghanistan, sent there to win the conflict and protect those in the country.

The reality is, though, that expectations are all over the place. He wants to win, but is unclear about what winning looks like exactly. Politicians are tired of dealing with this albatross and bureaucrats just want the damn thing managed and closed out quietly. While McMahon has a can-do spirit and lots of enthusiasm, he doesn’t have the tools or the resources necessary to affect change. And the efforts of an investigative journalist may just bring his whole career, not to mention his efforts in-country, crashing down.

The Posters

The poster – yes, Netflix created one – has Pitt at the front of a group of soldiers, he and them all decked out in camo uniforms. Everyone’s got kind of a befuddled or goofy look on their face or is in a silly pose, helping to sell this as a comedy. “We’re gonna liberate the sh** out of you” reads the copy at the top, reinforcing the darkly humorous attitude of the movie.

The Trailers

The first trailer clearly establishes this as a dark comedy, showing everyone questioning an unseen military official in various ways and for various reasons. Some soldiers talk about the troubles they’re having until finally we meet McChrystal and his cavalier attitude about things.

The second trailer is a little less obtuse, starting off with McMahon giving a speech to the troops about how you can’t kill the very population they’re meant to protect. But when we start flashing back to his being recruited for the job we see he’s just seen as a banner holder, someone to finally get the U.S. out of Afghanistan without any further delay. Others, though, just want it done whatever the end result.

This still looks like a darkly comic take on America’s longest running war. Pitt looks pretty funny and it almost reminds me of the kind of satire that used to be regularly featured in HBO’s original films of the late 80s/early 90s. That’s a compliment.

The second trailer shows Gen. McMahon’s attitude and approach to superiors as he feigns connection issues to get out of a conversation with the Vice President. We again are told he’s there to win, not just to manage the chaos. His soldiers tell him about the problems they have with the locals and his own approach is sometimes a bit clueless and brash. The overall message here is even more clearly that this is a dark comedy about a war that’s being mishandled by people who don’t know what the goal is, much less how to achieve it, and that the generals in charge are being put in an impossible situation.

Online and Social

Still no website here. The movie got limited support, mostly around the release of new trailers, on Netflix’s social accounts but didn’t get profiles of its own.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Nothing here either.

Media and Publicity

A first-look photo appeared in EW’s summer movie preview along with comments promising a crazy story.

The movie was pegged as one of those that’s representative of the new crop of movies that present war as being both darkly funny and deeply poignant. With so many ethical and procedural boundaries constantly being crossed or questioned, and with America still fighting wars it began 15 or more years ago, it’s only natural that these movies change tone from what we saw 30 years or more in the past.

Overall

This looks like it could be pretty fun. The campaign as a whole sets the movie up as a satire based on recent events in the vein of Wag The Dog and other stories that throw shade at the combination of politics and the military. That’s not to say war is funny – that’s not the point of the marketing here – but it wants to weigh in on the absurdity of not just war in general but also the specific war America has been fighting for going on two decades with no end in sight.

Notable is Pitt, who’s a big name for a Netflix original movie. That’s likely why this movie, unlike other releases from the service, has received a relatively large campaign with three trailers and a poster. For Netflix, that’s huge. And Pitt’s performance is at the center of it. I’ve always liked the actor when he disappears fully into a character and this seems to be an example of that. He plays the general straight, letting the dialogue and situations get the laughs while he’s taking it seriously. That performance, even more than the story, makes up the largest value proposition for the audience.

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Movie Marketing Madness: Baywatch

There was a running joke on “Friends” which had Joey and Chandler enjoying “Baywatch” at its most basic level: The lifeguards running along the beach. Even when they weren’t living in the same apartment, it was appointment television and “always keep them running” was the advice they had for the show. That was a key part of the show’s appeal along with ridiculous plots and…no, that’s about it.

Now that low-premise syndicated hallmark of the late-80s and early-90s is back and on the big screen in, of course, Baywatch. Dwayne Johnson stars as Mitch Buchannon, the head of a premiere lifeguard team in Miami. To raise the team’s profile, the higher-ups bring in a former Olympian with lots of mass appeal named Matt Brody. The two have very different approaches and styles. They find they have to work together when they, along with the rest of the team, uncover a massive criminal organization that’s angling to expand into the bay and decide to stop them when the police can’t.

The Posters

The first posters for the movie were a series of character-centric ones that showed the cast in their swimwear but wearing winter clothing as well while standing in a wintry scene. In case you were wondering if sexism was still alive, the guys get jackets but the women just get boots and maybe a stocking cap. Can’t have anything hiding their figures, after all. The copy that appears along with them reads “Don’t worry, Summer is coming.” Those were also released as motion posters.

A series of theatrical posters came later that all used variations on a theme, putting Johnson and Efron in the forefront and the rest of the cast, or at least Alexandra Daddario and Kelly Rohrbach, who play Summer and CJ respectively, in the background. One also includes Priyanka Chopra, who’s become more well known because of her role on “Quantico,” which is a nice addition.

All of these make the same basic value proposition, that the movie is all about sand and surf and the personality conflict between Johnson and Efron.

The Trailers

The first trailer, teased ahead of its release of course, is actually kind of fun. Mitch starts out by narrating how his rescue team is the best of the best and we see him in action along with some of the brand’s iconic “slow motion running” sequences. We find out the department is in trouble an so brings in a celebrity to raise its profile. Brody’s style conflicts with Mitch’s, leading to tension between the two. They eventually find evidence of large-scale criminal activity on the beach and so have to work together to investigate and bring the operation down.

It’s pretty funny. The studio is selling it, at least here, as being in the same comedic vein as something like 21 Jump Street but it works. Johnson and Efron play well off each other, with lots of jokes about their differing approaches to things. And I’m sorry but the last gag about Brody not being able to take offense at “you people” is maybe the funniest line reading I’ve seen in quite a while.

The next trailer starts off with a sense of how tied the Baywatch team is to the beach they protect. Matt Brody is brought on to provide a PR bump for the fading brand, but he’s as reluctant to work with them as they are with him. Eventually a crisis on the beach means they have to investigate illegal activity, which leads them to go undercover, hide in a morgue and get into further shenanigans.

It’s just as goofy and fun as the first trailer, continuing to highlight the tension between Johnson and Efron. There are different hijinks on display here and the fact that it ha some cut-off curse words wants to give it a bit of an edge. Ultimately, though, it comes down to the interplay between the two stars, particularly the touchy and out-of-his element Olympics athlete who doesn’t really think a bunch of lifeguards should be investigating crimes.

A final red-band trailer came out just weeks before release that’s super-light on story, setting up the bare minimum of character sketches, and instead focused solely on the comedy and action the movie is promising audiences. Because it’s a restricted trailer that involves lots of cursing and sex jokes.

Online and Social

The official website opens with one of the trailers in a pop-up, which you can close or watch as you see fit. The only material that appears on the front page are prompts to watch the trailer again and get tickets along with links to the Twitter, Facebook and Instagram profiles for the movie. There’s also a big button over in the top left for “Partners” that lets you find out which companies got involved in the marketing effort.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

TV advertising kicked off with a Super Bowl spot that featured some of the same gags as the first trailer and basically was meant to show audiences that this is a humorous take on the brand. Further TV ads took the same basic approach, showing off the cast and the conflict between those who want to protect the beach and those who just want to be a lifeguard.

Outdoor billboard ads used the same character poster art and “Summer is coming” copy.

Promotional partners for the movie included:

Media and Publicity

Before the formal marketing and publicity cycle began there was plenty of conversation that was spurred by photos and other updates shared on social media by the stars. The release of images from the movie continued to be a key part of the movie’s early promotional cycle.

As the release got closer the press activity ramped up, with The Rock making comments promising that the movie was dirtier and raunchier than you could imagine and more. This new movie also provided an opportunity for the producers and creators of the original TV show to revisit its history and the problems that plagued it while marveling that it’s now becoming a movie.

A lengthy profile of Johnson showed the actor at his most human, engaging in casual conversations and showing off his private gym while sharing anecdotes. It also contained an off-hand remark about the possibility of him running for office that spurred thousands of headlines.

In the final weeks before release most of the cast, including Johnson, Efron and others, hit the talk show circuit to talk about the movie, the Baywatch brand and more.

Overall

There’s some good stuff here. The trailers are fairly funny and sell a movie that is just the sort of action comedy that audiences seem to be looking for in recent years. The plot isn’t super-important and is used sparingly, just as an occasional hook to explain why Johnson and Efron are dressing in drag, why they’re chasing people across the beach and so on. The focus is instead on those two leads and the clashing dynamic between them along with in-jokes for anyone who may have watched the original series or who knows it through subsequent pop culture references.

That all means there’s a nice consistency to the campaign, even if it does wind up being so shallow it doubles as, if you’ll excuse the analogy, the toddler splash zone at your local pool. It makes the thinnest possible argument for seeing this movie, counting on the fact that Johnson and Efron are more or less likable personalities that the audience generally enjoys and this puts them together. The late-campaign push to remind everyone that the movie is as raunchy as possible seems to indicate some amount of panic about how that insubstantial appeal was resonating.

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Movie Marketing Madness: Paris Can Wait

The new movie Paris Can Wait stars Diane Lane and Alex Baldwin as, respectively, Anne and Michael. The two have been married for a while and love each other, but the excitement is gone, largely because he’s a successful movie producer who’s detached and inattentive to his wife. Still, they get on and have a happy marriage.

While visiting France on a trip, Michael has to fly back to Paris sooner than expected. Anne is scared of flying and is offered a car ride by Jacques (Arnaud Viard), an associate of Michael’s. What should have been a straightforward drive, though, turns into a two-day long series of sidetracks and unexpected stops as Jacques shows Anne the French countryside. That breaks her out of her bubble and reminds her of all the cultural and other wonders she now fears she’s missing out on.

The Posters

The movie’s poster follows a familiar format: It shows Lane looking breezy and relaxed as she walks along the street outside a small village, a smile on her face. That she’s carrying her shoes is meant to convey that she’s carefree and enjoying life. A positive critical quote takes up a good chunk of the sky above the village to help bolster everyone’s perception that this is a can’t-miss performance from Lane.

I say this is a familiar format because it’s been used before, including to sell movies starring Lane. Look at the one-sheet for 2003’s Under the Tuscan Sun and it’s the same idea. That’s just one example and I’m sure there are others, but the point is that there’s a formula for selling movies about middle-aged women rediscovering themselves in a foreign country and the team here knows how to fit their efforts into it.

The Trailers

The first trailer isn’t bad. We meet Anne and Michael, who are in a good if unexciting marriage. The two are traveling Europe and are going to return to Paris but they decide to head back separately because he has work to do. So she hitches a ride with Jaques, a friend of Michael’s. The two explore the countryside, going to restaurants, visiting art institutions, historical sites and more. That makes the trip to Paris much longer than expected but also much more fulfilling.

There are hints that the drive with Anne and Jaques leads to something more romantic, but nothing overt. Much of the dialogue that’s shown here revolves around taking chances, whether or not she’s happy and other such personal topics. It’s easy to see this as being the latest in a series of movies about women over 40 finding unexpected love in a foreign country, but again there’s nothing that’s overtly hinted at so it may stay on this side of monogamy.

Online and Social

Sony Classics’ official website opens with the trailer, which you can watch again if you want to get your taste of the French lifestyle.

Close that and the splash page uses the key art, with a big prompt at the bottom to buy tickets in one of the two cities it’s opening in this weekend. Below that are links to the movie’s Twitter and Facebook profiles as well as the studio’s YouTube and Tumblr.

Move up to the top of the page and you’ll see a menu that takes you to sections you can also access just by scrolling down the page. The first one there is “Synopsis,” which gives you a brief overview of the story. That’s followed by “Cast “ and Filmmakers” sections that give you a list of those involved in the movie’s making. The “Gallery” has 10 stills, including a behind-the-scenes shot.

Throughout the site are interstitials that let you explore the journey that the pair take and the menu of food they sample along the way. There are also just big photos that break up the sections of content.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Nothing I’ve seen, but it’s likely there’s been some targeted online advertising in New York and Los Angeles since that’s where it’s opening this weekend.

Media and Publicity

Shortly after it debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival the movie scored a distribution deal from Sony Pictures Classics. It also later screened at Tribeca.

There was actually a pretty decent press push for the movie, mostly from Lane and first-time director Eleanor Coppola. Lane talked about her career in general and making this movie specifically, including how she signed on in large part because she wanted to work with Coppola.

It was also part of some larger narratives that emerged, including how it’s one of a few movies for older audiences that are coming from largely female filmmaking teams. The director also got some press for herself that focused on how this is a departure for her from the documentaries she usually directs.

Overall

If it weren’t someone as series as Eleanor Coppola, who has a legit track record and who apparently based this (in part) on actual events, I’d imagine the pitch for this movie went something like “It’s Eat Pray Love meets The Trip.” That’s certainly the vibe it gives off and while there’s little doubt Lane is fantastic in the role it’s hard to get too excited about another story of a white lady who’s just kind of vaguely unfulfilled in life and so ventures through the European vistas. We’ve seen this movie before, whether it starts Julia Roberts, Patricia Clarkson or any other talented actor who’s better than the material.

As for the campaign itself, it’s fine. It delivers exactly the value proposition you’d expect it to, that the movie will be filled with images of wonderful French culture and delicious food just waiting to be Instagrammed. There’s nothing all that substantive here and as I said the focus is on the adventure Anne has, not the potential for an extramarital fling that may be lurking under the surface. The marketing sells the movie as a form of idyllic dreamscape for anyone who might be feeling similarly quashed as Lane’s character, which is the main message it needed to convey.

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