Movie Marketing Madness: Fist Fight

fist_fight_ver2The idea behind the new movie Fist Fight is easy to sum up: Two grown adult male teachers have a problem at school that results in one challenging the other to a fight after school. Charlie Day plays Andy Campbell, a “nice guy,” the kind that wants to help and is generally a pushover in his life, not rocking the boat in any way but just trying to get along because things will be alright.

That’s difficult, though, when he gets on the wrong side of Strickland (Ice Cube), a fellow teacher who Campbell winds up getting fired. Strickland throws down the gauntlet and so Campbell winds up spending the rest of the day trying to either get out of it or figure out a way to win. Both result in the usual hijinks as no one seems eager to help him and no one is offering him a good way out.

The Posters

Nothing hugely special or original going on with the movie’s poster. It shows Cube and Day facing off against each other with a school and a crowd of other people in the background egging them on. “After school. Parking lot. It’s on.” is the copy at the bottom, making it clear that these two are going to take each other on in an old-school fist fight.

The Trailers

The trailer starts out with big dramatic lettering and music leading up to Strickland telling Campbell he’s going to fight him after school. From there on out Campbell is trying to figure a way out of it, either by reasoning with his adversary, running away, calling 911 or seeking the advice of his friends. None of that is very helpful, though, and ultimately it seems he’s resigned to taking a beating, but we never figure out exactly why.

Because we don’t see the root cause of the conflict between the two main characters I’m inclined to think that we’re seeing footage primarily from the last half of the movie here. By that I mean I’m guessing the first 45 minutes are about establishing these two as rivals for whatever reason and then the second half is Day’s Campbell running around trying to avoid it. I might be wrong but there’s a spectacular lack of setup on display here, even if the trailer is still mildly amusing without it.

A second trailer takes largely the same approach. There are some new scenes but the idea is the same, to present Campbell as kind of a coward. We do find out here why Strickland doesn’t like him and wants to fight, but otherwise it’s many of the same gags and the same kind of vibe.

Finally there was a red-band version released to help emphasize the movie’s foul-mouthed credentials. It’s largely the same story that’s on display, just with a *lot* of F-bombs.

Online and Social

The official website loads and the red-band trailer pops up. though the player is very slow and wonky, meaning it’s hard to actually watch the trailer. After that’s either done or your patience is exhausted, close it and you get a big version of the key art and see that it’s a Tumblr-built site. Below that art are links to the movie’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles.

There are really only two sections on the site, “Videos” and GIFs.” Clicking either one just takes you to the posts on the Tumblr blog tagged accordingly.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

A number of TV spots were run, each taking slightly different takes on the material. Some like this one showed the conflict between the two teachers, others showing Campbell’s preparations for the fight. Day is clearly the star on which the TV campaign is being hung as he gets the most screen time throughout all the different spots.

Social network and other online ads were run that used the trailer and key art to drive ticket sales and generally raise awareness the movie was coming soon.

Media and Publicity

Day, Cube and the rest of the cast made the rounds of the media to talk about working together, the fun times they had on set and more. Director Richie Keen shared insights into how he tried to put his personal stamp on the story and a narrative emerged around this being Tracy Morgan’s first movie in the three years since his major accident.

Overall

There’s nothing really wrong with the campaign. It looks and feels like the same kind of comedy we’ve seen in releases like Daddy’s Home and others that feature major stars engaged in some sort of mundane and childish showdown. While there are a few laughs, almost all of them come from either Jillian Bell or Kumail Nanjiani, both of whom have supporting roles here. Mostly, though, this seems like it was lots of fun to make but is actually kind of depressing for the audience to watch. Day and Cube are both better than this material.

But the campaign is consistent, selling more or less the same message across media and platforms. There’s lots of emphasis on Day’s spineless character and how he’s viewed as the guy who’s all too happy to have sand kicked in his face. That joke may be funny in spurts, but I think it’s going to wear thin over the course of 90 minutes unless there’s some major element of the story and the film that’s not been part of the marketing. Otherwise this looks like a dry, largely unfunny but generally “pleasant” movie.

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