Movie Marketing Madness – Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

miss peregrine postJacob is just discovering he’s not like other teenagers, notably that he has unusual powers and abilities. As he uncovers more and more about his past and his skills he comes to find Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, a special refuge and home for people like him. He comes to find out there are many more like him and that his role is particularly unique in that society. That’s going to be especially important as not only does society as a whole fear them but there are dark forces who have much more malevolent intentions toward them.

The movie is the latest from director Tim Burton and is based on the popular book, the first of a series. Asa Butterfield stars as Jake, with Eva Green playing the titular headmistress of the sanctuary. Samuel L. Jackson plays the seemingly evil Mr. Barron, the head of the mysterious and dangerous Wights that are coming after the home and its residents. Ella Purcell plays Emma, the young girl who helps Jake acclimate to his new surroundings. Let’s take a look at how Fox has been selling it.

The Posters

miss_peregrines_home_for_peculiar_children_ver2The first poster introduced us to the peculiar cast of characters. So all the children are arrayed behind Miss Peregrine herself with the house they live in in the background. We can see what each kid’s gift is as one girl is floating while another holds fire in her hands and another lifts a boulder over her head and so on. At the top of the poster are some of Burton’s previous credits, which lean heavily on other movies about either odd characters or just recent popular entries in his filmography. It’s very colorful and whimsical and even without Burton’s name there you’d likely be able to peg it as coming from him.

The next poster shows Jake walking with Emma along the beach in their own way, by him holding a rope that’s wrapped around her as she floats in the air like a kite. “Stay peculiar,” the copy at the top of the one-sheet says.

A series of posters showed off all the main characters, usually with some visual demonstration of what their unusual powers are. The character names aren’t used here, so we can’t get a really good sense of who they are or connect with them, but we see what they can do and that, apparently, is supposed to be enough to spark the audience’s interest.

The Trailers

The first trailer starts out with a boy and girl out on a small boat on a lake. The girl tells the boy to follow her down and even provides him an air bubble so he can keep going and join her in a sunken ship, which she quickly clears the water out of. So it’s clear she has abilities. We then go back to Jake coming to the house and start to meet the rest of the residents of the house that’s a sanctuary for people like them. But it’s soon revealed that Jake is there to protect the rest of the kids from some threat, which we see only glimpses of toward the end.

As with the first poster, it would be easy to identify this as coming from Burton even if he weren’t name dropped (as “visionary”) toward the beginning. The visual style alone is clearly from his mind. It does a decent job of initial introductions to the cast and the basic premise without going too deep into the full story, which is fine for this first entry. Yeah, it’s slightly unusual that all these peculiar children are white, but let’s not go too far in that direction.

The second trailer starts off with X showing Jake around the grounds before she floats up in the air, introducing us to a world of unique characters. It’s explained that the house exists in a time loop that keeps it safe from harm, but there’s a group of bad guys who have been hunting peculiar people and Jake has to promise to protect everyone who lives there.

It looks like we’ve hit peak quirk here. I like that this one explains a bit more of the story and hey, I’m always on board for weird Tim Burton stories. It just remains to be seen if the quirk overshadows the actual characters, which is a real fear in a movie like this.

Online and Social

The main call-to action on the official website is to buy tickets, with a big prompt on the front page to either get individual tickets or make it a group event through Atom Tickets, the first time I’ve seen that given such prominent placement. There are also links to the movie’s Facebook and Twitter profiles.

The “Videos” section has the trailers as well as a featurette interview with Burton and a selection of clips. “About” has the same synopsis you can find on IMDb and elsewhere along with the cast and crew list.

miss-peregrine-pic-1

There’s a big call to action after that asking you to “Join Miss Peregrine’s flock” but what that entails isn’t explained here. It prompts you to enter your email address but there’s no value proposition here as to why you should do so. That seems like a big oversight since it amounts to signing up blind for something you have little to no context here.

“Gallery” has a handful of pictures for you to scroll through. Then you can download and view all the “Posters,” a section that’s followed by a series of “Motion Posters” featuring highly stylized artwork showing off the main cast of peculiar children and other characters.

Finally, there’s a list of “Partners” that shows off the companies who helped promote the movie.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

The first TV spot debuted during the Teen Choice Awards. It works a lot like the first trailer, setting up the fact that Jake is our surrogate in the movie, experiencing the world of the peculiar along with us and trying to figure out where he fits in. That role, it’s explained, is as the one who will protect the children who live in the home from the monsters who are hunting them. The spot is focused on the imaginative visuals with only a little dash of story sneaking in here and there, firmly settled on selling the movie as a spectacle more than anything else.

There were plenty of outdoor and online ads run as well that used the key art as well as other character-centric artwork.

Promotional partners for the movie included:

  • Saks Fifth Avenue
  • Marc Jacobs
  • Polaroid
  • HSN
  • Visa Signature
  • Sta Travel
  • Hot Topic

It was, unfortunately, hard to find many details about what many of these companies were doing in their promotional efforts.

Media and Publicity

The very first piece of promotion for the movie was a video that appeared on YouTube titled “Happy Loop Day.”

For anyone who’s not familiar with the source material this may have been a bit confusing, sending them to The Google to figure out what was going on. But for those who were already fans, this was likely right up their alley, playing to that fanbase well with a nod to the knowledge they had currently.

One of the first substantive pieces of publicity for the movie came in the form of a feature including first look photos and a brief interview with Burton about shooting the movie. It was soon announced the movie would have its official debut at Fantastic Fest, which is a smart target market for it.

How Burton got involved and why the producers picked him were covered in this story, which focused on the director’s ability to play in fantasy worlds while still retaining the heart and emotions of the characters. Much of the publicity was along the lines of this story, where Burton talked about getting involved with the movie, how he sketched the look of the characters and created the overall vision and so on.

Overall

So much of what’s here relies on your personal opinion of and taste for Burton’s brand of filmmaking and characters. His look and feel and his unique vision is all over the marketing, particularly in the trailers and publicity. So if you’re not onboard with Buron as a director and designer then much of this campaign will likely have a hard time resonating with you. If you’re more of a fan, even if it’s just of his later work like Alice in Wonderland, then there’s more here to latch on to.

Because it’s coming from a director with such a unique vision and sense of focus, there’s a really good brand consistency that’s evident across the campaign. The same look and feel and appeal is being made across all the individual elements, with it all coming together in the paid campaign. The audience is being sold a story about teenage feelings of being an outsider until you discover family is who you choose to hang out with and be around, all brought into focus through Burton’s visual aesthetic.

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Movie Marketing Madness: Yoga Hosers

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It’s hard to figure out how to describe the story of Yoga Hosers, the new movie from writer/director Kevin Smith. The movie is another in Smith’s recent “Canadian” series of movies that includes Tusk and the (reportedly) upcoming Hit Somebody, which keeps moving down the release schedule. Yoga Hosers stars the director’s own daughter Harley Quinn Smith and the daughter of Johnny Depp, Lily-Rose Depp. They play Colleen McKenzie and Colleen Collette, two best friends who do everything together, from work at the local convenience store to taking yoga classes.

One day they’re finally invited to a Senior party, achieving their life’s dream. But doing so uncovers an evil history lurking in their small Canadian town, one that involves a Nazi plot to take over the Great White North and which involves tiny little Bratzis, which are Nazis made out of bratwurst. Actually, to be clear, they’re sentient bratwurst that are Nazis. Not human-sized, brat-sized. It’s a ludicrous concept and features not only the elder Depp but also a cast full of Smith’s friends and family, from his wife to Jason Mewes to Ralph Garman. Let’s dive into the marketing.

The Posters

The single one-sheet for the movie gives off kind of an Army of Darkness vibe, likely intentionally. The Colleens are shown standing on top of a pile of rubble in front of the convenience store they worked at, the pair still sporting their work shirts. One is holding a hockey stick (because Canada) and the other a mop, showing the weapons they’ll use to take on the army of Bratzis that are seen peeking through the rubble beneath them.

At the top is the copy “Do your ‘wurst,” which…yeah. At the bottom, below the title and credits the audience is told this is “A kids movie from the director of Clerks and Tusk.” The inclusion of the first movie is a play to Smith’s long-time fans and a reference to his most recognizable movie. The latter is for those who are still following him and enjoyed his first foray into the Great White North. So the two titles are meant to represent the two phases of Smith’s career.

The Trailers

We start off in the trailer by meeting the Colleens, who are BFFs and who work together at a convenience store, do yoga together and are generally basic teens who live in Canada and are on their phones all the time. There’s something about their wanting to go to a party being thrown by a couple senior guys but that’s stopped when they’re forced to work that night. The crux of the trailer, though, is showing them dealing with the Bratzis, a bunch of foot-tall Nazis who are made out of bratwurst.

I don’t even know where to start. If his name weren’t slapped all over it there’s nothing about this trailer that looks like it’s coming from the director of Clerks and Mallrats. Nothing. Yeah, it looks like it might have a couple laughs here and there but it’s so high concept and the opportunities for this to go horribly, horribly wrong are so high it’s kind of hard to imagine how it’s not a complete disaster.

Online and Social

The movie’s official web presence seemed to consist of a page on the Smodcast site that had the trailer, poster and a promotion for the Fathom Events Q&A, a Facebook page that heavily promoted that Fathom Events…urmm…event and also shared short videos and image and a Twitter profile that’s much the same stuff.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

It’s safe to assume there was some online advertising done, though I haven’t seen any, particularly with the emphasis we’ll see below on the Fathom Events screening and Q&A. But there doesn’t seem to have been any TV advertising done, which isn’t surprising since the subject matter of the movie doesn’t lend itself toward appealing to a mass audience.

Media and Publicity

The first bit of press for the movie was a first look photo featuring the daughters of Smith and Depp that star in the film. Later on it was announced the story would get a prequel comic to setup the characters and lead into the movie. That was just before it debuted at Sundance, an event that garnered a bit of decidedly mixed buzz and which coincided with the release of a first clip that showed the Colleens at work. Smith would also talk about the movie along with his long history with Sundance while at the festival.

yoga hosers pic 1

After that the next big beat for the movie was the news – shared by Smith himself, of course – that the MPAA had taken issue with one of the scenes in it and slapped an R rating to the film, something he then made a big deal of appealing to try and get it to the PG-13 he felt it deserved. Ultimately the change was made before the appeal process even started, rendering this a non-issue. Shortly after that, news of distribution that included another road-show with Smith was announced.

Overall

While talking above about the poster I referenced the two phases of Smith’s career, something that’s pretty clearly delineated by the time between Zack and Miri Make a Porno and Red State. The first phase was about the writer-director basically being a big walking id and the second has been about him trying to do something more…ambitious? He clearly wants to move beyond the Askewniverse but has struggled with how to do so and, as if this was possible, he’s become even more critically divisive since 2011.

So the marketing of Yoga Hosers has to trade on the Kevin Smith name without being what most people would easily identify as a Kevin Smith movie, an idea most people still associate with Clerks and Mallrats and such. It’s trying to sell a ludicrous concept – foot tall Nazis made of bratwurst invading a Canadian city that’s defended by two basic teens – in a way that’s at all comprehensible by the audience. I don’t know that it succeeds – indeed I don’t know what success would have looked like – but it doesn’t hide the insanity lying behind the story, so the audience can’t say it wasn’t warned. 

 

Studios Expand VidCon Movie Marketing Efforts

Movie studios have noticed that VidCon is full of young digitally-savvy people with cameras and expertise in using them and so are beginning to expand some nascent efforts to shill movies directly to that crowd.

vidcon-2015

The article makes the point that this is the latest fan gathering to get studio’s’ attention, the biggest previous example being, of course, San Diego Comic-Con. For over a decade now Hollywood has flocked to San Diego to shill their latest movies with Hall H panels that feature cast and crew and show floor setups displaying costumes, props and more. That attention started out relatively small and included properties that were laser-focused on the interests of the crowd in attendance. It slowly started to lose focus as it became a waypoint on the promotional tour for almost *any* TV show or movie. Now, as mentioned previously, studios are beginning to skip it because, at least in part, it no longer does what it needs to do.

It’s hard to imagine efforts at VidCon won’t follow the same pattern, but in a condensed timeline. So if it took 15 years or so for SDCC to go from experimental efforts to overdone, the same cycle will play out over five, at most. That’s because the VidCon crowd is one that’s hip to what’s hot right now and is always on cusp of adopting the next big thing. And they’re above average in savviness to when they’re being sold something and hesitant to adopt any random shiny object as part of their personal brand.

That’s all not say the Comic-Con crowd isn’t savvy. But at VidCon you’re dealing with people whose entire mission is to curate and protect their brand. This is just like dealing with the media, where they’re deciding whether or not this is going to be good for them, whether or not their audience will react positively to the content and more. It’s not like generating word of mouth or buzz with a sizzle reel or with some awesome swag, it’s working with the press, but a segment of the press that’s even more sensitive to the whims of their unique audience than any given reporter or producer.

Some of the VidCon efforts are sure to resonate and some won’t. But the half-life of these efforts may be pretty short as the audience there quickly rejects some overtures and latches on to others, with what works and what doesn’t shifting from one year to the next as trends, whims and other factors change. So look for big flashes and a quick burn on the formal outreach to the VidCon attendees as they prove a bit too fickle for Hollywood’s tastes.

The Power of Enthusiasm

Last weekend the Thilk Family, along with countless others, celebrated Free Comic Book Day. It’s a day meant to offer people a chance to get into comic shops and try something new by offering…well…free comics books. Publishers of all sizes participate, sometimes using their free titles to promote cross-media franchises (I’m looking at you Marvel and DC), to promote popular titles or give a bit of exposure to something that may be under the radar or yet to launch and coming soon.

In our area we’re lucky enough to have Graham Crackers Comics, a chain of 10 stores around the Chicagoland area, with three of them within easy driving distance. So we pack up the family truckster and hit all three of those stores. Since Graham Crackers offers everyone who comes in the store three comics each we come home with somewhere north of 30 free comics *plus* the issues, trade paperbacks and action figures that we buy while we’re at each one because we want to continue supporting this local business.

graham crackers comics

Comics are sometimes seen as being pretty exclusionary. “The Simpsons” famously created Comic Book Guy, who’s constantly berating people for choices he sees as being inferior. And comic shops are, honestly, not always the most welcoming to new visitors simply by virtue of the usual design and display of the product.

But on Free Comic Book Day the staff at Graham Crackers, as they do every day, were doing what they could do dispel this perception and making everyone feel positive about the choice they were making, whatever it was. I saw more than a few instances of someone picking a free book that might not be in the genre you might expect – a six-year old boy dressed up as Optimus Prime picking out a Strawberry Shortcake book, for instance – and the staff behind the counter reacting with “Yeah, man, great choice” or “Oh, that one’s really fun” or something else like that. Whatever was chosen by whomever, it was the best thing they could have selected from the options available.

There’s no better way to create an emotional connection between an audience and its products than through a level of enthusiasm shown by the people who are responsible for selling it. That’s a concept that’s been lost in the age of recommendation and other systems that want to feed us a constant stream of things we’re supposed to like or enjoy because of what we’ve liked or engaged with previously. And it’s completely missing from big box stores with employees who have no personal stake in providing anything other than the minimal effort required to not be fired. Genuine emotion still carries a lot of weight.

That’s part of why I don’t get the move by marketers toward bots. Nor do I understand those who feel brands on social networks shouldn’t evince some sort of personality and enthusiasm for the products being sold. While I’m not a huge fan of examples like IHOP which veer too far, I think, in the direction of trying to be trendy with their language, I do think a friendly, positive voice is important. Every Tweet should be composed as if the brand representative doing the drafting is in the store aisle making a recommendation to a customer. How can they be helpful, how they can they convey a positive attitude and how can they make the customer feel good about their choice, whatever it is?

Take a lesson from the staff of a local comic book shop. A genuine sense of enthusiasm and positivity has the potential to not just make the person you’re dealing with feel good about themselves, but create a strong, positive emotional connection between them and you’re product.  

Movie Marketing Madness: Miles Ahead

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When Steve Jobs came out last year many people took issues with the number of artistic liberties the story took with what they were apparently expecting to be a straight biography of the Apple founder, particularly since it was based on a book that *was* an actual biography. But the movie invented lots of scenarios and situations in the interest of breaking some new ground and not treading the same ground as other 78 Jobs features and documentaries that have come out since he passed away. Still, the structure of the movie and that it wasn’t “true” seemed to rub some critics and audiences the wrong way.

Which is why it will be interesting to see what the reactions are to Miles Ahead. The movie is a biopic of the famed jazz trumpeter Miles Davis, he of “Sketches in Spain,” “Birth of the Cool” and other iconic records that pushed the boundaries of the instrument and the musical form. Davis is played by Don Cheadle, who also wrote and directed the movie. But instead of following the usual format for a movie like this it instead creates a fictional situation where Davis has to track down recordings he feels have been stolen with the help of a journalist (Ewan McGregor) who’s on assignment to interview him. The experiences of Davis’ life are then presented within that framework.

The Posters

The official theatrical poster shows Cheadle as Davis about to get into a car, which isn’t all that exciting. The image is a bit blurry but there’s nothing all that engaging about it. A couple of critics’ quotes appear at the top praising the movie and Cheadle’s performance and above the title treatment we see the badges of the festivals it’s appeared at. Below that title is the copy “If you gonna tell a story, come with some attitude,” which is pulled from the movie itself.

The Trailers

We’re immediately shown Cheadle as Davis in the first trailer as he tells people to tell the story right if they’re going to do it. We cut to him meeting McGregor’s journalist, something he does not take kindly to. Then we jump back Davis’ earlier days as he starts out in the business and meets his future wife. There’s a story about how someone has stolen a recording he’s working on and works to get it back but mostly the rest of the trailer cuts back and forth between time periods in Davis’ life to show how uncompromising the musician is in his pursuit of whatever sound he’s working on.

It’s kind of a great trailer that, true to its subject matter, has a great voice and point of view. It’s clear the movie will present Davis as a troubled genius while hitting some of the usual stations of the biopic cross. But Cheadle’s performance is the real draw here and that presents a strong case for going and seeing the movie in and of itself.

Online and Social

The movie’s official website opens with the trailer appearing in a pop-up video player.

The first main section of content is “About” which has a good Synopsis of the story along with The Making of Miles Ahead, which goes into the issues the filmmakers had with schedules and other technical issues and GoGo Nation, which lists the names of those who contributed to the IndieGoGo campaign to make up for a budget shortfall.

The people in front of the camera, with the exception of Cheadle, get bios and in-depth filmographies in the “Cast” section. Cheadle gets his due with the rest of the behind-the-scenes crew in the “Filmmakers” section, where everyone gets equally extensive write-ups.

miles ahead pic 2

There are about two dozen stills in the “Gallery” and you can find out everything you need to know about Davis himself in the “World of Miles Davis” section, which has links to his website, social network profiles and more.

“Reviews” has some blurbs from early screenings of the movie and “Find a Theater” lets you figure out where it might be playing near you.

There’s not a whole lot on the movie’s Facebook page. Links to press stories, uploaded videos like trailers and some engagement bait. But there’s lots of activity if you go back to 2014 and follow how Cheadle and the other filmmakers were using it to drum up interest in the IndieGoGo, including offering lots of perks and other incentives. The Twitter profile for the movie has lots of the same activity, but with more RTing and such, though there’s little to no engagement with or amplification of fans.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Nothing that I’m aware of on this front. There may have been some online advertising done but I didn’t see anything. It’s also a safe bet there were some outdoor ads run in the cities in which the movie is opening this weekend.

Media and Publicity

The movie was slated to debut at the New York Film Festival and the official trailer for that festival provided a few quick glimpses at the movie in advance of its own marketing efforts kicking off. Clips from the movie would continue to be released here and there to keep things going.

The big coming out party would be held at the New York Film Festival, where Cheadle had to spend some time defending the film’s artistic liberties but where it received a mostly positive reception. At that screening Cheadle and some of this cast would talk about how, as the director, he would stay in character as Davis in an effort to bring that kind of sensibility and attitude not just to his performance but to his approach to the film as a whole.

miles ahead pic 1

The difficulty in making the movie – indeed of even conceiving of the framing device for the story – was consistently the subject of press stories, including this substantial Rolling Stone interview with Cheadle as well as this New York Times interview. In it he talked about how they took an intentionally unconventional approach to portraying Davis and his life, not wanting it to be standing biopic structure. He also admitted, as he had elsewhere, that the financing for the movie never really came together until they were able to cast a white guy in a major role, which is where the invention of McGregor’s fictional journalist entered the picture.

Cheadle kept talking about the journey the story took to a finished film in this interview conducted by current jazz trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire, who’s been compared to Davis and who is seen as continuing his experimental legacy. McGregor did some press as well with interviews like this where he talked about working with Cheadle, taking direction from another actor and the movie in general.

Overall

What I get from this campaign is a lot of hustle, by which I mean Cheadle in particular is out there working hard to drum up interest for the movie. That certainly speaks to his passion for the story and how he had to work to get funding not only from traditional investors but also via the IndieGoGo campaign. He’s made the movie happen through sheer force of will and now he’s working to sell the movie in the same manner, by just getting out there in everyone’s face.

And it works. The marketing feels a little disjointed at times – the trailer has an interesting flow that takes a couple viewings to really get – and there’s no real consistency between the various elements. But regardless of some issues with the execution it all works in the direction of selling a movie that has a unique and interesting point of view and story. Cheadle is, of course, the centerpiece here in a push that sells the movie as a buddy caper that just so happens to involve a musical legend.

Movie Marketing Madness: Race

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race_onesheetWe Americans are, I’ve always felt, inconsistent in our appreciation for and embrace of our own history. On the one hand we look back so we can see how far we’ve come and try to learn from our mistakes and errors in the past. On the other we sometimes reject any looking back because it’s not where we’re heading and this country is always about where we’re going, what’s in front of us. We’re racing to the next thing at such a breakneck pace we often forget to fully appreciate where we’ve been and the struggles it took to get there as we concentrate on the struggles facing us at this moment.

Which brings us to Race, a new biopic of famed Olympic athlete Jesse Owens. The movie follows Owens (played by Stephan James) from his college career under the coaching of Larry Snyder (Jason Sudeikis) through to his appearance in the 1936 Berlin Olympics. That appearance was, of course, mired in controversy since it would mean Owens, a black man, competing in an event hosted by the ascending Nazi Party not long before the full-on outbreak of World War II. Not only that, but it was still a good 25-30 years before the civil rights movement in this country would become a force for societal change.

The Posters

The one poster sets the stage for the movie pretty effectively. The predominant image is that of James as Owens, one hand in front of his face as he races down the track. In the background you see other races on his tail – but far behind him – as well as the crowd in the stands, swastika-laden flags coming down from the rafters. Above the title treatment, which features a racing image in the middle of it, we’re told explicitly this is “The incredible true story of gold medal champion Jesse Owens.”

It’s a good one-sheet that features, as mentioned above, most of the main elements of the story. Or at least these are the most recognizable elements of the best known part of the story. There’s a lot that’s in the movie that isn’t included here, but it hits the beats that are most likely to be widely known by anyone who’s gone through sixth-grade Social Studies, so it works in that regard.

The Trailers

The first trailer opens by introducing us to Owens. We meet him, see him become part of the training program that will open up opportunities to him and begin to train under his coach. Then he’s given the opportunity to participate in the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin, something that immediately comes under scrutiny because..well..Nazis. We see him subjected to the everyday racism that was common to that era, from separate seats on the bus to not being able to use the showers. And he’s encouraged to boycott the Games as an act of support for the people being oppressed (and worse) in Germany. Ultimately, of course, he participates and blows the competition out of the water.

It’s a very effective trailer, even if it does hit all the usual biopic beats. I like how it seems to focus on a defined period of Owens’ life as opposed to a cradle-to-grave scope. That may or may not be accurate to the full movie, but that’s the impression the trailer gives.

Online and Social

The movie’s official website opens with one of the TV spots that plays automatically. After you watch and close that there are a few buttons to click on the landing page. Those include standard things like “Watch the Trailer” and “Buy Tickets” as well as a link to Jesse-Owens.org, the site for the Jesse Owens Foundation.

Going back to the main movie site, the first section of content in the right-hand menu is “Videos” but I only can find one video, the theatrical trailer, there. After that is “Story,” which has a brief synopsis of the movie’s plot as well as another link to the Owens Foundation’s website.

race pic 1

“Cast & Crew” just has bios on the cast that I can find and which are accessed when you click on the photo of the actor playing each character. There are about a dozen stills from the movie in the “Gallery.” Finally “Partners” has links to the sites for the companies that are providing some sort of promotional support.

There were also profiles for the movie on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

TV spots started running a couple months out from release with commercials that were essentially condensed trailers and which focused on the inspirational story of the movie.

Other spots would hit similar themes, all playing as variations on the theatrical trailer and selling the movie in a similar manner, though with variations here and there.

According to the official website the movie’s promotional partner companies included:

  • 24 Hour Fitness: No details I could find anywhere, though it makes sense a fitness company like this would want to tag along.
  • Shake Shack: Again, no details to be found but this one makes…a little less sense.
  • Voss Water: The only mention of the movie on Voss’ site is a fairly generic shoutout acknowledging the movie as part of its Black History Month celebration. My guess – and this is only a guess – is they provided production support.
  • Cramer Sports Med: The company is an “Official Launch Partner” for the movie and while there’s nothing explicit tying it and the story of Jesse Owens together, the company’s history says in 1932 it was selected as the official athletic trainer for the U.S. Olympic team.
  • Hormel: Ran a sweeps offering pairs of tickets to see the movie
  • Bonk Breakers: Nothing substantial, though the company site touts lots of connections with the current U.S. Olympics organization, so maybe there was something there.  

Media and Publicity

NBCUniversal put its synergistic muscles to use, scheduling an NBC Sports documentary about Owens and his trip to the Berlin Olympics that aired the weekend before the movie came out.

race pic 2

The cast, particularly James and Sudeikis, made the press and talk show rounds to promote the movie and talk about being part of such an important story. In the case of Sudeikis there was a bit of spillover between the press for this and the recent Tumbledown, which was released on VOD just a couple weeks ago.

Overall

It’s unsurprising how seriously the marketing here takes both itself and the subject matter it’s selling. Sure, there are little spots of humor here and there, particularly from Sudeikis, but for the most part this is a Very Important Topic…and rightfully so. This is a very important topic and one that defied not just the racial discrimination happening in this country but also sent an important message of racial equality to one of the most terrible governments in the history of the world. This is a big deal, which is why Owens’ moment in the games is still considered such a landmark.

So the campaign sells a serious and important movie filled with lots of dramatic moments. We know how this story plays out so it needs to really work to play up not only the big things but the smaller ones as well, which is why we see so much here of the conversations that take place in backrooms, offices and kitchens. The studio is selling a drama first and a sports drama second as it tries to tell you the story behind the one you already know.

Movie Marketing Madness: Pride + Prejudice + Zombies

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pride_and_prejudice_and_zombies_ver13People like to think the current mashup culture is a relatively new phenomenon that can maybe be traced back to rap and hip-hop in the 80’s but that’s about as far back as it goes. This overlooks centuries art, though. Differing arrangements of classical pieces are part of it. If you need any concrete proof, look no further than Miles Davis’ “Sketches of Spain” record, where the trumpeter applies jazz motifs and style to arrangements of early 20th-century Spanish folk music into something that’s both reverential of the past and wholly original.

The last few years have seen a number of literary and movie genre mashups as well. The latest, opening this week, is Pride + Prejudice + Zombies. Based on the 2009 novel of the same name it’s exactly what it sounds like: The characters from Jane Austen’s novel are placed in a zombie apocalypse. Lily James plays Elizabeth Bennett in a world where a plague has turned much of the population into the undead. A fierce and masterful fighter, Elizabeth must protect her family as well as work with Mr. Darcy (Sam Riley) to try and destroy the zombie menace before it gets any worse.

The Posters

The first poster sets up the cross-genre setting of the movie pretty effectively. It’s a portrait of a lovely Victorian-era young lady but most of her face is melting off, establishing that we’re dealing with a situation that’s not quite right here.

The next poster is…pretty great. It shows Elizabeth and Bingley standing atop a pile of zombies literally crawling out of the ground toward them, both of them with blood-stained swords, though his is raised and hers is not. The dark, ominous background behind them lends a nice sense of atmosphere to what’s obviously a tense, dramatic scene. I’d take small issue with how the poster shows him as being ready for battle where she’s not, but I may be reading more into this than there is.

The final poster is probably the best because it’s he most artistic. The outline is of a woman’s silhouette against a white background, but that silhouette is red and crawling with bodies and characters and grotesque scenes. It’s fantastic and makes a big impression on the audience.

All of these posters go for striking visuals as a way to sell the movie, going for selling the movie to the horror genre audience more than anything. Some work better than others but they all add up to a poster campaign that is meant to appeal to people who are more inclined to the “zombies” part of the title.

The Trailers

The first trailer looks like your standard-issue period drama for the first 30 seconds. Pictures of luscious estates, fancy balls and such accompanied by voiceovers about how a proper young lady of the time is supposed to act in society. Then we see our first zombie and what follows is the lead and her friends going all Buffy on a variety of undead, slashing one after another and otherwise taking them out with extreme prejudice.

The trailer gives off a fun attitude, like the film doesn’t take itself seriously at all and instead is totally aware of the ridiculous premise it’s asking the audience to accept. There’s not much here about the story or who the characters are, but who cares about that when you have a Victorian young lady of some stature and means hacking zombies, right?

Shortly after that a full trailer was released that provided a lot more details. We open on an innocent game being played when there’s a scream and we see our first zombie. Then we hear that this all started during the Black Plague and that the human race now lives in a constant state of battle against the zombie hordes. We get some dialogue about being asked to choose between the fight and love, but from there on out it’s mostly just the battle against the zombies, most of which looks pretty cool.

This is a great trailer that shows off the humor and plot of the movie’s story clearly. If you’re not hooked after seeing this then you’re just not going to see the movie.

Online and Social

The official website is nothing special but it’s pretty standard for these kind of sites lately. There’s just the poster and the trailer along with a cast and crew list. There are links to the movie’s Facebook page as well as a prompt to follow the account on Snapchat. There were also profiles for the movie on Twitter and Instagram. And…that’s about it.

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Advertising and Cross-Promotions

There were a few TV spots like this one that were run that basically play like mini-trailers. They play up the explosions and the zombie-killing violence pretty heavily in an effort to make a big impression on the audience in a limited amount of time.

I saw a few online ads, including video ads, run as well. And I’m sure there was outdoor advertising done in select markets.

Considering the circumstances of the story, it shouldn’t be surprising that Hot Topic signed on as a promotional partner, offering a line of movie-inspired items – mostly lingerie – for sale.

Media and Publicity

A couple months before release there was a feature in Marie Claire that included different covers featuring three of the cast. The director would talk occasionally to the press about the difficulty in bringing the story to the screen. The rest of the cast made the press rounds as well.

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The cast talked at the film’s premiere about how ridiculous the premise is but how fun the execution of that premise is. Later on a world record was set when the studio gathered a group of zombie cosplayers to all read Jane Austin at the same time.

Overall

It was an interesting campaign that certainly works to hit all the buttons to appeal to the target audience. It sells the movie as more of a horror film than a period drama, as I said before in a likely attempt to get the horror fans out there more interested in the film than they otherwise would be in a film set in Victorian London. But I’m just not sure how interested action horror fans are in something that presents such a unique take on the zombie mythos when what they really seem to want it just the lumbering undead stalking their would-be victims.

But my concern here is that they’re trying *too* hard. It plays well to setup the premise and all that but my guess – and this is only a guess – is that it might oversell the zombie aspect of the story when most of the running time is concerned with the characters and setting. So it’s a period drama that is about a world in which zombies are on the verge of overrunning society but the amount of zombie fighting might be minimal.

Theatrical Movie Delivery Has Changed. Posters, Not So Much

When I worked at a movie theater back in the early 90’s, we always looked forward to getting a new shipment of one-sheets. Assuming they weren’t tagged to be returned to the distributor after we were done with them we could call “dibs” and buy the ones we really liked. But all of them had to be unrolled and placed in the glass cases – a few on the outside of the theater, more inside in the lobby – to be displayed. Posters were usually delivered at the same time and by the same people who delivered the canisters containing the next week’s movies, which had to be assembled by hand and spooled onto the platters that fed into the cameras.

Now, though, most movies are presented via digital files that are sent directly to the theater. But, as I notice whenever I go to the theater, hard-copy posters are still being shoved (sometimes not well at all) into glass cases. When I was walking up to the building the other day many of those one-sheets were crumpled and others were beginning to fade. In other words, this is not the best presentation of movies that both the studio and the theater chain are hoping people will find interesting enough to spend money on. 

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It got me thinking about why this hasn’t changed along with not only digital delivery of movies but also the trailers that proceed them? Imagine if that glass case that features a backlit printed and fading poster were actually an LCD screen that could be programmed to display key art. Here are some of the possibilities that might open up:

  • Easy swapping in and out. Instead of having to ship, install and remove a physical item each screen could be tweaked and changed with the push of a couple buttons.
  • More than still images: Many movies have released “motion posters” that feature key art that’s been animated or some sort of other movement. These kinds of screens would not only for those to be displayed but also may make them the preferred format.
  • More information can be displayed. Even if the key art isn’t animated, the posters could rotate with some other information, alternating between the artwork, a curated stream of Tweets or other posts from people talking about their excitement for the film. Heck, you could even filter these so a screen in Chicago only displays updates from posts geotagged as coming from the area.
  • Different form factors: Instead of being constrained by the 27″ x 40” that still constitutes a standard key art dimension, the screens could literally be any shape. Yes, standards are still going to be necessary, but they don’t have to be the same standards as are in place today.

I’m sure this will come around eventually, but it seems the time is right for some innovation in the local presentation of key art.

Movie Marketing Madness: Spectre

PORTRAIT-FBThere is no bad in Bond. Oh sure there’s “lesser Bond” (I’m looking at you, Roger Moore) but for me at least even that lesser Bond is still a better time at the movies or with a movie than most other options. Not only am I just a big fan of spy stories, having grown up on classic Connery Bond films as well as Tom Clancy books/movies and more, but there’s just something about the swagger and style of the character that I get. Not that I have any part of that in my own life, but it’s a great escapist fantasy for me, someone who can get himself out of any situation with either his brains or his fists, whichever is going to be better in the moment. Sometimes he’s all brute force, sometimes he’s all suave charm.

Bond is back in his 24th official big-screen outing, Spectre. Picking up after the events of 2012’s Skyfall, Bond (Daniel Craig) has a new M he’s reporting to (Ralph Fiennes) and things are starting off a bit rough as James disobeys a direct order while on a mission in Mexico. The outcome of that mission, though, leads him on a winding road toward a mysterious organization that has ties to just about everything else he’s done in his time at MI6. So it’s up to Bond to not only stop the immediate threat but also to dismantle Spectre and take down its leader (Christoph Waltz) once and for all.

The Posters

spectreThe teaser poster told the audience pretty much everything it needed to know; That Bond was back and that he’d be squaring off against Spectre, which any fan worth their salt would recognize immediately as a classic foe. The image of the glass shattered by a bullet is good in and of itself, but when you realize the lines radiating out toward the bottom of the frame form something like spider legs the image takes on a new sense of menace.

Shortly after that the next poster was only slightly less minimalistic. Craig is standing in the middle of the frame, gun drawn and wearing a form-fitting black outfit like you would expect to see if Bond were on some sort of night incursion. Craig’s glowering at the camera combined with the violence and threat implied in the posture and attire all combine to show that, as we’ve seen in previous installments, this is a no-nonsense adventure James is about to embark on.

The third poster is probably the weakest so far. In this one Bond is wearing a white tuxedo suit, his gun drawn while his arms are crossed in front of him. But in the back is a faded image of someone in a death mask like they’re part of the Day of the Dead celebration. That may be a nod to what’s seems to be the movie’s opening sequence, but the overall layout comes off more like a magazine ad than a poster for a franchise of this weight and reputation. It’s not bad, necessarily, it’s just weak.

Shortly after that a fourth one-sheet hit that was much better. We still get Bond (of course) but this time he’s standing more casually, though his sidearm is still drawn and hanging at his side. This time he’s joined by Léa Seydoux, who stands beside and behind him in the classic “woman looks over her shoulder so we can see her backside as well as the side of her breasts” pose which is more than a little cliched as a design trope. The Day of the Dead figure is still in the background, though this time it’s in full color and doesn’t come off quite as oddly as it did in the earlier version.

An IMAX release poster was released that was completely sans-Bond, showing just the mysterious person in the Day of the Dead mask, staring out at us and promising that the the movie was coming in IMAX.

The Trailers

The first teaser is all about setting up the mysteries the movie will have. It opens showing the wreckage of MI6 headquarters after the events of the last movie followed by Moneypenny giving James some personal effects from Skyfall while intimating that he has a secret. Then we see Bond on his way to meet someone in a remote location, someone who is connected to Spectre. Finally Bond enters the proverbial lion’s den, where it seems he’s expected.

It works pretty well to setup the action of the movie, though there’s a decided lack of actual action. Instead this has more of a tone of intrigue and suspense as opposed to lots of car chases and other sequences. It feels maybe a little soft because there’s not much going on, but if you’re a fan of the more contemplative Bond of the last few movies then this may appeal to you.

The next trailer opens with the Day of the Dead celebration, an operation that goes bad for James. Then we cut to Bond getting some new hardware from Q Branch before going to confront the same guy we saw in the first teaser. We start to get hints that he’s chasing down an evil organization and see some of the women he’ll encounter on his quest. He’s the common thread in the whole mystery, a mystery that’s underlined when Not Blofeld starts narrating and talking about how he’s always been just out of Bond’s reach. After a few more action sequences we get Not Blofeld again taunting James, playing up the connection between the two of them.

This feels like much more of a traditional Bond trailer, with guns and women and helicopter-based action sequences and more. This is for the core Bond fan, straight up.

The final trailer immediately starts out with Bond on the trail of Spectre. This one plays up the hunt Bond is on, focusing on a face-to-face confrontation with Blofeld and featuring some of the key action sequences in the movie since we can’t forget that these movies are all about the the spectacle. It’s short and sweet and to the point, adding just a little additional flavoring to what we’ve seen before.

Online and Social

Since Spectre is just one part of the larger official 007 website we’re just going to focus on that section as opposed to the whole thing, which celebrates the entire history of the character.

The first thing you find on that site is a “Synopsis” that’s a few paragraphs long in a header, with a gallery of recent news updates below that. Those same stories can be found in the “News” section, which is the first option in the top menu bar. After that is “Trailers & TV Spots,” which has all the videos you can scroll through and play. “Behind the Scenes” has more videos, but this time more in the “featurette” category that go into the production and provide more details on the story and characters in the movie.

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There are over two dozen stills in the “Gallery.” And “Posters” has all the posters and other key art used in the marketing. The next section is called “Cars” but the only thing there is a video showing off the latest Aston Martin. “Cast & Crew” lets you dive into the actors and talent behind the camera and read brief bios of them.

007 in general has presences on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Instagram that have been devoted to the movie for the past several months.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

TV spots for the movie hit many of the same notes as the trailers, though obviously they couldn’t go into the depths of those longer videos. But spots like this give the audience everything they need to know about this latest movie: It contains guns, explosions, car chases through exotic locales and Bond being a bit of a womanizer. It’s effective as short-form content in that it provides basic awareness for the audience to latch on to.

Bond films are always great for consumer products tie-ins and this one is no exception.

In the most common sense tie-in of all time, Aston Martin announced (THR, 9/4/15) a special “Bond Edition” DB9 sports car that featured 007 license plates and lots of other franchise branding throughout. Also on the car front was a tie-in with Jaguar Land Rover, who placed a couple of their cars in the movie and who rolled out brand new models that were billed as their most advanced ever.

Sony joined the action with the “Made for Bond” campaign for its Xperia Z5 phone. That campaign included TV spots starring actress Naomie harris, who plays Moneypenny in the movie, but not Bond himself. There were other media executions as well.

Bond would actually appear in ads for Heineken, the centerpiece of which is an extended ad that features the super-spy unwittingly involving an innocent bystander in his escapades before she actually saves him, all while deftly balancing a tray of beer.

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Other partners included:

  • Globe-Trotter luggage would produce a line of Spectre-branded items.
  • MAC Cosmetics was featured as being instrumental to the look and feel of the movie, particularly the Day of the Dead sequence.
  • Visit Britain, which encouraged people to come and live like Bond for a day
  • Belvedere Vodka created 007-branded bottle of vodka and co-branded advertising
  • Omega created limited edition movie-branded watches
  • Gillette ran co-branded ads that made their razors an integral part of leading a non-dull life
  • Tom Ford had a line of menswear featured in the film that was also available for purchase

The movie would become the first paid sponsorship within Snapchat’s “Discover” news feature, showing off behind-the-scenes photos and videos from some of the key action sequences and more for just 24 hours in keeping with the app’s ephemeral content.

Media and Publicity

In what is a pretty regular beat for the Bond franchise, one of the first things that was discussed was whether or not Craig would be returning after this installment, to which he responded with a firm “probably not” (Vanity Fair, 9/1/15) or words to that effect. Much was made of this despite the fact that this kind of response was not only vague but familiar to anyone who’s been watching Bond actors over the years. Of course that was all followed later on by news that yeah, Craig was signed for at least one more Bond film (EW, 10/1/15) and that he just needed a break before considering his future with the franchise.

Months and months of speculation were finally confirmed when news broke (Billboard, 9/8/15) that yes, indeed, melancholic British singer Sam Smith would be recording the theme song for this installment of the franchise.

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There was lots more, of course, with the cast and crew doing the press rounds which sometimes turned into hot takes about Daniel Craig’s attitude or approach to the media. And there were plenty of stories about the Bond Women, especially Monica Bellucci, who got lots of attention for being the oldest romantic interest in the 50 year life of these movies, herself just a couple years younger than the franchise itself. Still, the inherent sexism of pointing out a woman’s age as being newsworthy is kind of…icky.

(Ed Note: I know there was a lot more, but as I’ve stated before, I’m still largely in catch-up mode here and so don’t have a full collection of stories that span that entirety of the campaign.)

Overall

As much of a Bond fan as I am, I’m sensing a bit of bloat here. I have no doubt the movie will open huge and be immensely successful – the campaign hits all the right notes to sell a mass audience on the experience – but I’m concerned we’re slipping back into the same territory the series was in during the last couple Pierce Brosnan films, only without the sense of whimsy.

Again, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the campaign and think it does its job well in setting up some larger mystery that’s tied to Bond’s past. And I’m a fan of how the Craig movies are all building off one another, with this potentially serving as the culmination of those stories. But it might be reaching just a bit too far since the marketing works really hard to make everything seem really big in a way that the movie itself may not be able to deliver on.

Tumblr’s Clothing Line Is A Smart Brand Extension

In the New York Times story about the new line of clothing launched by Tumblr, company spokesperson Valentine Uhovki says, ““We wanted every look to feel like a Tumblr post.” It’s hard to argue the results achieved that goal, though how much that does or doesn’t work for you will obviously vary. But their approach – to get designs from Tumblr users, show off models from the Tumblr community and use a photographer who was also active on the platform certainly shows a commitment to the people who use it.

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The shirts may be a bit much for you – they certainly are for me, someone who prefers as many plain, solid color t-shirts as he can find – but for others these are going to be right up their alley. They’re bright, vivid and are certainly unique. Just like a Tumblr dashboard.

As I wrote on Voce Nation, finding offline brand experiences is an important tactic in the marketing mix. In fact you could argue that with so much happening online, a real world experience creates even more of an impact, not just because it pulls people out of their apps and such but because these experiences are going to wind up being shared *through* those same apps. So it’s win-win.

The great thing is that this is an area where Tumblr is embracing what makes it unique among publishing platforms and social networks. It’s hard to imagine what a Twitter or Facebook-inspired line of clothing would look like. (out of context Mark Twain quotes for the former, out of context Mark Twain quotes overlayed on an image of Martin Luther King Jr. for the latter, is my guess) Because Tumblr is such a visual, interactive place it makes for a natural extension into clothing that’s not branded but is representative of the culture and feel of the network.