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: Hell or High Water

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Banks have reputations that are less than stellar. They are, to most people, necessary evils, especially if you want do anything that involves large amounts of money, often money they don’t actually have. Want to buy a car? Talk to the bank. Want to buy a house? Talk to the bank. They are usually the only option if people want to reach beyond their means but that relationship comes with a power shift as the bank is actually the owner of whatever it is you’re trying to buy, only giving you access as long as you keep making payments. If that fails there’s little mercy available, to the bank you’re just a number. Dislike of banks runs the spectrum depending on your circumstances and how deep you’re in to them.

That’s the basic premise of the new movie Hell or High Water. Brothers Toby and Tanner (Chris Pine and Ben Foster, respectively) are faced with the proposition of losing their family’s West Texas family farm. Unable to meet the payments put in place by the bank, they become desperate and decide to begin robbing banks to get the money. Eventually their actions attract the attention of Texas Ranger Marcus Hamilton (Jeff Bridges), who investigates the robberies and hunts down who’s responsible. He finds himself stymied, though, since while the banks certainly want the perpetrators caught the average citizen holds their own grudge against the bank and is in no hurry to help out.

The Posters

The movie’s poster has a washed out, desaturated tone to it as it shows Pine and Foster walking through the Texas grass, guns in one hand and money (presumably) in a bag in the other. Looming over them like Mustafa in the clouds is Bridges, clearly indicating that he’s watching them and probably chasing them. Below the title treatment we’re told “Justice isn’t a crime.”

It’s a solid one-sheet that establishes the premise of the movie pretty well. There’s nothing hugely innovative or notable here but it presents a premise and a cast that’s relatable and recognizable by most audiences, which is what it needs to do.

The Trailers

The first trailer begins by laying out the premise of the story, which is that Toby and Tanner’s mother is being stalked by a bank that wants to foreclose on her land. So the two decide to raise the money by robbing banks. That puts a Texas Ranger on their trail. As he gets closer, the stakes for their crime wave get higher as they get resistance from customers and get more and more desperate to maintain their activity and reach their goal.

The trailer is heavy on atmosphere, seeming to glory in the Texas heat and the sweat and grime on the faces of both Pine and Foster. Those two form the emotional core of the movie based on what we see here as it’s sold as an emotional but violent story of brothers willing to do anything for each other and their family.

A second trailer wasn’t too dissimilar from the first. A few new shots but the same overall structure and construction to how it presents the movie’s story.

The third trailer opted to present the movie not so much as a heist drama but as one about financial fraud and other problems. So it’s less about the “keeping mom’s land” angle and more about exacting some measure of revenge, however illegal, on the banks that are responsible for the inequality and problems the citizens face. No one here has much sympathy for the banks.

This is probably the best of the three. Or at least it’s better than the largely duplicative second trailer, presenting different aspects of the story than what was on display in the first trailer and offering a new angle on the movie.

Online and Social

The movie’s official website is well done for a smaller movie, featuring a version of the key art as the background along with prompts to buy tickets and a couple encouragements to watch the trailer.

You can guess how much word-of-mouth is going to be important to the campaign by the fact that “Reviews” is the first section of content in the navigation menu at the top of the page. That’s where you’ll find nicely-formatted pull quotes from early reviews of the movie, though unfortunately there’s no links to the full stories.

The way “Story” is laid out is pretty cool. Basically you keep scrolling down the page quotes from the characters appear that explain what’s going on. That’s a neat usage of this kind of layout that I haven’t seen before. Eventually you get to a full Synopsis that explains the plot more fully, but I like the idea of explaining things only through slowly revealed dialogue.

hell-or-high-water pic 1

That’s followed by “Cast & Crew” where you can view bios and film histories on the major actors as well as the director and writer. Finally, “Videos” has all three trailers.

On social networks the movie had profiles on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

There were TV spots run that condensed the trailer down to 30 seconds, laying out the basics of the “brothers stealing from the banks that are ruining them” story and showing off the dry, arid Texas landscapes on which that story will unfold. Pine, Foster and Bridges all get about equal screen time, which makes sense.

Not aware of anything online or outdoors, though I wouldn’t be surprised if next week, when the movie expands to more theaters, more general advertising was done.

Media and Publicity

One early press story called out a diner scene in the movie in particular and said it would go on to rank among the top scenes set in that particular locale. Pine talked close to release about how he became attached to the movie, beginning with his desire to do something that might be a bit unexpected for him and out of his normal comfort zone. 

hell-or-high-water pic 2

Bridges also got in on the press action, with a few interviews like this one where he talked about the story, getting to know a real Texas Ranger as part of his research and more.

Overall

At one point this movie looked pretty disposable, like it was just going to be a mid-level whatever kind of release that had nothing going on other than catching Chris Pine needing a paycheck between Star Trek and Wonder Woman. It looked like the kind of thing that would eventually have one sad little VHS copy on the Blockbuster Video shelf that would get picked up a couple times a week but never be rented because no one had ever heard of it.

Somewhere around the second trailer, though, that started to turn and it became more and more interesting as the story came more into focus. Foster’s performance came more to the forefront and the dynamic between him and Pine was more clear and the campaign started to show audiences what the movie was trying to say, what it’s message was. If the audience caught that message it could be enough to turn out some specialty box office success.

Movie Marketing Madness: Star Trek Beyond

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It’s a legitimate milestone for an entertainment franchise to hit 50 years of more or less uninterrupted cultural relevance. The James Bond series hit that mark and now we have Star Trek joining the hallowed halls of those hitting the half-century mark. That’s right, it’s been 50 years since the first episode of “Star Trek” hit the airwaves and the franchise has been active pretty consistently ever since, making the jump to the big-screen in what would now be seen as yet another in a long line of theatrical TV show adaptations and continuing on screens both big and small.

After all that time there’s quite a bit of activity around the franchise these days. A new show will debut on CBS’s stand-alone streaming service in the next year and, of course, there’s Star Trek Beyond hitting theaters this week. The third outing in the rebooted universe that started with 2009’s Star Trek, this entry reunites Chris Pine as Kirk and Zachary Quinto as Spock along with the rest of the crew of the USS Enterprise. The gang is out and about, beginning their five year mission into deep space but almost immediately crosses paths with a new threat that tests their mettle as a group and makes their question whether or not they’ll ever return home again.

The Posters

The first teaser poster, which debuted at the 50th anniversary fan event, goes hard on the action aspect of the movie. The Enterprise is shown swooping away from the camera, leaving a colorful wake as it rushes through the sky, moving past the giant “Beyond” that’s placed in the middle of the image.

A series of posters was released showing most of the characters on individual one-sheets, each one with some distinctive color – in the case of the Starfleet officers it corresponds to their rank and role – with the Starfleet insignia burning bright on one side and the swarm of ships streaming down, clearly the source of conflict here.

An IMAX poster really played up that feature, with the Enterprise zooming upward out of a cloud bank *and* from the “IMAX that dominates the center of the one-sheet.

The theatrical one-sheet took the same sweeping elements that have been on previous posters and used it to highlight much of the main cast. So while it sweeps down from left to right we see within that sweep – which is made up of the tiny things seen attacking the Enterprise in the trailers – Kirk, Uhura, Jaylah and others. Toward the bottom there’s a shot of Kirk on a motorcycle, which combined with the dramatic motion of the rest of the design is meant to tell the audience there’s a lot of action here, that they’re not going to be bored.

The Trailers

The first trailer definitely set a tone that differentiated this entry from the previous movies. It starts off with Pegg’s Scotty wandering around a ship making some sort of crack about the music that’s playing. We see lots of quick-cut action here but are able to get the gist, which is that the crew of the Enterprise has been captured after their ship was destroyed. So they’re stranded on a strange planet but surrounded by enemies, whose motivations are not made clear in this spot.

It’s a fast and loose trailer that, as I said, is markedly different from the previous movies. When it was released it got two basic reactions from fans: 1) That director Lin was obviously trying to bring his Fast & Furious aesthetic to the Star Trek franchise with lots of hanging off of cliffs, motorcycle chases and so on, or 2) That this was finally going to bring some fun back to the movie series by focusing on weird aliens and showing some sort of sense of humor as compared to the dour first two movies. The trailer not only raised some eyebrows among fans but even got co-star Simon Pegg to come out and publicly say he didn’t care for it but that fans should believe the movie is going to be great.

The next trailer starts out with a shot of the Enterprise as Kirk talks about the sketchy reasons he joined Starfleet and Bones telling him he needs to find out who he is. The action starts to ramp up as someone else talks about getting lost in the vastness of space. Then things really take off as a swarm of projectiles attacks and destroys the ship as the crew takes off in escape pods, landing on a strange planet. After that it’s one action sequence after another as the crew, their allies and adversaries run, jump and shoot their way out of various perilous situations.

It’s a much better trailer than the first, for no other reason than it doesn’t try to be as clever or hip as the first. So gone is the odd editing and forced musical cues, replaced by shots that sell the movie as a funny action adventure, which may be need after the somewhat ponderous nature of the second movie. Even better there are no willful misdirections as to the story or plot.

A third trailer played more or less like the second one, but a bit more somber as Kirk narrates like he’s entering a log file about this being the end of the Enterprise, but not the crew. Lots of action shots, most of which we’ve already seen, follow as we see the scattered crew do what they need to to survive.

The main appeal of the third trailer, at least to most people, is the debut of “Sledgehammer,” the new ballad from Rihanna that will appear on the soundtrack. That song actually provides a great backdrop to the action that’s on display, adding a mournful, melancholy filter to the whole thing.

One last trailer dropped just before release. Clocking in at just a minute long, it’s about setting up the adventure, showing the Enterprise under attack and focusing on the dialogue between Kirk and Bones about how much the former wants to get back into space and the latter just sees untold danger. It’s fun but doesn’t add much to the overall effort.

Online and Social

When you load up the official website you first get the third trailer – the one with Rihanna’s new song – playing automatically. That’s a good thing since it reminds you not just of the action of the movie but also the emotion that goes into it.

But, once that’s done, you find that’s about it on the site. There’s a section for “Partners” and links to the social networks but nothing else. It’s shocking a major studio release gets what amounts to a single-page site that offers nothing about the film other than a single trailer.

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So since there was little to no effort on the core site, let’s see what was happening on social media. Unfortunately there’s nothing to write home about there either. On both Facebook and Twitter it’s the same promotional updates with countdown images, prompts for when the cast is on TV or doing online Q&As and more along with trailers, photos etc.

Advertising and Cross-Promotion

TV spots appear to have started running after the release of the third trailer, with commercials like this one that emphasized the fun, rolicking action of the movie. Others would be more emotional, mirroring the bittersweet tone of that third trailer. So the TV campaign tried to bring a bit of everything from the movie to appeal to multiple audiences.

  • HP: Made a big press splash with its announcement it had contributed tech concepts in the movie that, to paraphrase its press release, showcased its vision for the future but with technology it would make available much sooner.
  • Enterprise Rent-A-Car: Ran a significant campaign, its first for a movie partner, involving co-branded signage outdoors and in select locations.
  • Vizio: Gave app users access to the movie’s trailer as well as an enhanced version of the previous film, Into Darkness
  • Microsoft Bing: When people searched for the movie they were presented with storybook-type material as well as a Star Trek trivia game to play
  • Eastern Airlines: Wrapped one of their 737s in movie-themed branding
  • Quicken Loans: Aired a co-branded spot during the Super Bowl earlier this year and drafted off the space theme to help promote their Rocket Mortgage product

Online ads were run pretty heavily, notably following the debut of the third trailer. Banner ads, particularly on YouTube’s front page, and paid Twitter posts touted not only the trailer but also the called out the Rihanna song specifically.

The producers and studio partnered with Omaze.com to offer a series of prizes people could win when they made a donation to the campaign, donations that would go to one or more of a series of charitable causes. So the cast created some fun videos to encourage people to donate. Those videos were also how Elba’s casting was officially announced since he walked out onto the set at the end of the first one, causing the internet to freak out.

Another Omaze campaign was launched just a little while before release that offered fans a chance to support veterans returning from active service and have the chance to win a trip to the San Diego premiere of the movie.

Media and Publicity

Elba was out and about doing press for other movies and would often get asked about Star Trek, questions he would occasionally answer in the most vague way possible, which didn’t stop everyone from dissecting those comments over and over again.

The movie benefited from the fact that it was coming out during the 50th anniversary of the debut of the original TV show, meaning it got ostensible support in the form of show retrospectives, commemorative stamp issues and more. More press would be generated with set visits and so on that revealed various elements of the story and caught people up on where the cast was since the last installment.

As part of the franchise’s 50th anniversary Paramount announced a “first ever” fan event that would include the debut of the final trailer along with cast appearances and more. That event included the revealing of a handful of details and teased a major IMAX debut at San Diego Comic-Con later in the year.

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The cast talked about where this new story was going to find the crew of the Enterprise, which is a little fried but not able to take a much-needed break.

Unfortunately just a month before release Anton Yelchin, who played Chekov in the series, was tragically killed, leading the cast to cancel various events and a pall to generally be cast over the whole campaign for the movie.

While they weren’t tied specifically to the movie but more to the 50th anniversary celebration, two events still gave the movie some nods: First, a massive panel at SDCC with the cast of all the TV shows was announced and second, the original Enterprise was on display at the Smithsonian, with that institution also planning a TV special about the real-life science that has and continues to inform the franchise.

A series of short character videos were released showing a key scene or two about a handful of the characters.

News broke that it would be revealed in this movie that Sulu, portrayed by John Cho, was gay and married with a daughter, making the first openly LGBTQ major character in the Star Trek universe, a nod to the sexuality of George Takei, who played the role originally. While most people saw this as a great move, Takei himself wasn’t thrilled, calling it disrespectful to Roddenberry’s original vision of the character and saying it would have been better if the filmmakers had created a new character to bring this into the world with.  Cho later got a feature story in the New York Times all of his own about his role in Star Trek specifically but also his career in general.

The cast also did the rounds of the morning and late-night talk shows just in case there was anyone left who hadn’t already made up their minds about seeing the movie.

Overall

There’s so much going on here.

First, there’s that disastrous first trailer. It’s just awful, with odd timing, no rhythm and nothing about it that positioned the movie as anything but a tonal trainwreck. It’s especially odd considering how brand consistent the entire rest of the campaign has been. Everything since then is on-point, selling the movie as a rip-roaring thrill ride that takes a premise that wouldn’t feel out of place in the original TV series and expanding it to the big screen, upping the stakes and making sure everyone knows that there’s still plenty of humor thrown in.

But what are those stakes? The campaign tells us that there’s a big bad out there somewhere who’s threatening…what, Earth? He doesn’t like humans, that’s for sure, but there’s never much detail given about his plans. So we’re asked once again to accept the destruction of the Enterprise – something that’s been done at least a few times since Star Trek III – as the main consequence of the crew’s involvement in what might simply be a local matter. Sure, that’s going to make for some entertaining visuals, but “wanton destruction” is a poor substitute for actual story stakes. I have faith in Pegg as a screenwriter so hope there’s more here but it’s not on display in the marketing.

star trek beyond pic 3

Then there’s the issue of the campaign largely only showing us footage from what I’m guessing is the middle of the second act through the middle of the third act. Yes, there’s some setup about Kirk wanting to go back into space and the crew beginning their five year mission, but mostly we’re seeing alien battles and starships flying through clouds of attacking vessels. That’s all well and good, but it doesn’t provide us with any sort of foundation as to where the characters are now, something that’s an essential part of franchise marketing. The biggest card the campaign plays in this way is in the use of a shot from the first movie of Kirk looking at a starship being built.

It’s not all that bad, though. With the exception of the first trailer the rest of the campaign is remarkably consistent in its brand voice and repetition, hammering how the sweeping visuals, either of the Enterprise itself of the alien vehicles that destroy it. So from that regard the marketing got its act together, figured out what it wanted to sell and made it happen. The lack of a robust website is certainly a misstep – you can’t ignore the desktop web just because some research says everyone is on mobile – but is an outlier in a campaign that became uniformly strong to the very end.

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Movie Marketing Madness: The Finest Hours

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finest_hours_ver2“Duty” is a frequently misunderstood term. It’s too often used interchangeably with “responsibility” or even “burden” as a way to describe something we don’t really want to do but will grudgingly put on pants and do anyway, but not without a bit of griping. It’s better, though, to understand it as being more synonymous with “vocation,” or the kind of thing we do because it’s a responsibility we’re supposed to execute joyfully as a service to our neighbor, employer or family members. Our duties and vocations define us.

In the new movie The Finest Hours “duty” is front and center. The film tells the true story of what is remembered as the greatest small ship rescue operation in Coast Guard history. During a particularly bad nor’easter that slammed into Cape Cod in 1952. The tanker “Pendleton” was split in two, with most of the crew staying afloat on one half thanks to the leadership of Ray Sybert (Casey Affleck), who took command when the captain was lost. They survived long enough to be rescued by a small craft – too small for all the remaining crew, seemingly – from the local Coast Guard commanded by Bernard Webber (Chris Pine).

The Posters

finest_hoursThe first poster sets up both the scale of the story and the stakes. In the background is a large ship that we can see is splitting in two, dozens of men on the deck waiting for the rescue that’s hopefully coming from the smaller ship in the foreground and a massive storm creating huge waves all around them. But the copy says not all is well as it explains “32 survivors, room for 12,” which isn’t good math. Below the title treatment we’re told this is “Based on the incredible true story.”

The second poster sells a similar angle but zooms in on the action a bit more. The larger ship in this one has already split, half of it moving away in the background as the rescue ship gets men off the other half as the storm swirls around them. This one features a cast list and drops the copy explaining the scale of the rescue operation but retains the note about it being based on a true story.

While the second poster does have the cast list (all-male here, despite a major portion of the story featuring a couple female characters), neither of them actually features the faces or images of that cast. That says the studio is more concerned with selling this as a big-screen epic story and not with trying to tap into the drawing power of any of the members of the cast. Which says something and I think we can all assume rightly what that is.

The Trailers

We immediately meet Pine’s character and his girlfriend in the first trailer before we’re quickly thrown over to the crisis on the shipping vessel. We hear about the massive storm bearing down on the area, something not everyone is a fan of but which is still the crew’s duty. Pine’s girl especially isn’t thrilled and bucks tradition by staying at the Coast Guard station, begging the chief to call the crew back. We see Pine’s team go through one wave and storm surge after another as they try to reach the sinking vessel.

The pacing of this trailer is kind of all over the place and so never really comes together, at least not in my mind. The transitions between trying to sell the big action and the smaller emotional moments are too sudden and to really work. I get what they’re going for here, but I feel like a tighter trailer would have made a cleaner move from establishing the connection with the characters to putting them in situations we’re asked to care about them making it through.

The second trailer takes us immediately to the ship that quickly begins breaking up, with the crew of the ship realizing soon they’re in dire straits. Pine and his crew are sent out and everyone soon sees that the situation is not great and the odds of everyone surviving are even less so.

Honestly, it’s not a whole lot better than the first but for different reasons. This one provides even less emotional hooks on which to hang our caring about the characters’ fates on, instead going right to the spectacle of the accident that drives the story.

Online and Social

The film’s official website is about as barebones as you’re likely to see for an official studio release. There’s a few trailers and other videos, a story synopsis and a cast and crew list and that’s it. No additional sections, just a button to “Get Tickets.”

finest_hours pic 3

The movie had a Facebook page where the studio shared press stories, countdown images and more but as far as I could find that was it in terms of off-domain profiles as well.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

There were a variety of TV spots run. Some were 30 seconds, some 90 but all played more or less like the trailers, showing various amounts of footage but all hitting the same basic idea and focusing on the giant storm faced by all the characters.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fa6da-yU6Qo

While I haven’t seen any of it I’m sure online and outdoor advertising was done as well.

Media and Publicity

Much of the publicity focused on how this was inspired by real events and recounted those events to show just how harrowing the ordeal depicted here was. There was even some press that featured the real people who lived through the events of the story and are still around to share their memories.

finest_hours pic 2

The primary cast made the talk show rounds as well. Most of the rest of the publicity was in the form of exclusive clips seeded out to various media.

Overall

Disney obviously wants us to be swept up in the scale of the rescue operation, heading to the theaters to experience the massive waves the feel the desperation of both the sailors hoping and waiting to be rescued as well as the determination of the Coast Guard operators who are on their way to effect that rescue. This is very (and unfortunately) similar to how WB sold In The Heart Of The Sea a few months ago, and we can see how that turned out.

The problem I’m having with this approach is that there’s very little about the campaign that allows us to form any sort of connection with the people whose story is being told. The trailers aren’t put together well enough to let us feel like these characters are anything more than cardboard cutouts who are there in service to the scale. That’s exemplified by the posters, which don’t even spotlight the cast and only once name them. I’m sure the story itself is fine and there may be a genuinely gripping movie here, but it’s largely not part of the marketing.