Movie Marketing Madness: Fifty Shades Darker

fifty_shades_darker_ver2Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) and Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) are back in Fifty Shades Darker, the sequel to 2015’s Fifty Shades of Grey. Like the first movie, this one is based on a book of the same name that white women everywhere swore to everyone who wasn’t their brunch buddy that they weren’t reading.

The story continues to follow Anastasia, this time as she’s out from under Christian’s domineering influence. But a sequence of events brings him back into her world and of course the two wind up getting back together for more sexy funtime. The twist, though, is that Christian’s ex Elina (Kim Basinger) is in the picture to warn Anastasia that while Christian may say he’s changed, it doesn’t work like that. The details of the story don’t really matter as it’s all about fantasy fulfillment.

The Posters

fifty_shades_darker“Slip into something a shade darker” we’re told on the first one-sheet. We see Gray in the background affixing a mask to Anastasia’s face, which is staring straight into the camera like she’s looking into a mirror. It’s all very washed out and lit to diffuse color and is just about raising awareness in the audience that things are going to get even weirder this time out.

The masked ball is featured again on the second poster. This time we see the two characters dancing, him unmasked while she still wears hers and looks toward the camera. “Every fairy tale has a dark side” is the copy on this one, which continues to try and sell the movie as a high class affair with beautiful dresses and fancy gatherings, not big-budget late-night Cinemax.

Five character posters showed off everyone from the cast, most all of them sporting the masks they wear at the ball that’s featured prominently in the trailers and the rest just having their faces obscured by the shadows and light.

The Trailers

That same “Slip into something a shade darker” line is used at the beginning of the first trailer. We get the setup, that Christian and Annastasia haven’t been together for a while but he wants her back, which of course she submits to and they start up their torrid affair. But secrets begin to come out that threatens to upset that.

It’s ridiculous and it will sell a million tickets. That’s all I have to say about that.

Lots more kink on display in the second trailer, which again sets it up as Gray and Anastasia reconnecting after parting ways. He tells her to take her panties off in the middle of a restaurant, the two have an awkward encounter in a crowded elevator and more. We get some exposition that another man in her life – the relationship isn’t clear – doesn’t believe Gray is good for her and see more of her being warned away from him along with more shots of the mysterious teenage girl that keeps appearing.

It’s ridiculous and it will sell a million tickets. That’s all I have to say about that.

A third “extended trailer” (which was actually shorter than the other two) kept things going. Nothing all that new here and the hype around it seemed to be around the song that was used, a collaboration between Zayn Malik and Taylor Swift. Other than that it’s largely the same stuff seen in the previous efforts.

Online and Social

The movie’s official website is built on Tumblr and there’s a box of prompts in the upper right of the front page encouraging you to follow that blog as well as connect with it on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.

Scroll down the page and “Social” is the first content section, allowing you to download and share a variety of GIFs and images. After that is “Videos” and is where you can watch all the trailers as well as the lyric video for the Zayn/Taylor Swift song that’s featured prominently in the campaign.

There are sections with a “Story” recap and a “Cast” list, both of which are separated by more GIFs and other images. Links accessible via the drop-down menu in the upper left will let you access a page with details on the soundtrack as well as information on a VR experience that launched just a few days ago to take viewers inside the movie’s world.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

TV spots debuted first during the broadcast of the Latin Grammys. Further spots kept emphasizing how the story will involve Christian’s past coming back to haunt him as he tries to change from the total dick he is to something resembling a human person who doesn’t get off on exercising power and domination over women.

The trailers and other videos were promoted through paid social media ads. Online ads drove ticket sales and outdoor ads used the key art to keep interest and awareness up, letting everyone know that the sequel was on its way.

Media and Publicity

Johnson made the talk-show rounds, playing games with Fallon and so on and generally having fun with the idea of the movie being so overly sexualized. Both she and Dornan did the rest of the press circuit as well to talk about the movie’s themes and story.

Interestingly, some of that may have resulted in what was reported as a gag order on the movie’s cast, who were told to stop having such fun with the sexy elements of the story but to take it seriously during all press interviews.



Let’s just acknowledge that I’m not in the target demographic for this movie. I have no desire to see the first one, read the source books or anything else. This is not meant for me in any way, shape or form. But putting that aside, this is basically hitting the same notes as the campaign for the first movie and that was a huge hit, so it makes sense to pluck arrows from the same quiver the second time around.What’s most surprising is that there doesn’t seem to be anything noticeable in the campaign that hints at

What’s most surprising is that there doesn’t seem to be anything noticeable in the campaign that hints at recognition of or reaction to the criticism to the first movie. That came under fire for being about as woke as a doormat regarding women, putting them in the place of wanting to be dominated and essentially abused both physically and emotionally if it means someone will love them. So it’s odd to see that the marketing here keeps that going, showing that Anastasia is ready and willing to throw away the good life she’s built up since leaving Christian as soon as he bats his eyes and demands she take off her underwear.

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Movie Marketing Madness: How To Be Single

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how to be single posterThe important role a mentor can play in someone’s life can’t be overstated. Sometimes that’s professionally, as someone more experienced helps a younger, greener person not only navigate the tricky world of corporate politics but also gain the experience and knowledge they don’t yet possess. Having the right mentor can be invaluable since it can push you to be better as a person and professional than you ever could have been on your own.

In the new movie How To Be Single we see a similar, though very different, dynamic in play. Alice (Dakota Johnson) is newly single, having just broken up with her long-time boyfriend. It’s been a while since she was “out there” and so her coworker Robin (Rebel Wilson) takes her under her wing to help her get used to having boys by drinks and more.

The Posters

The first poster for the movie makes it clear just what the movie is about and what audience it’s going after. The four main actors are sitting on a street curb, Wilson with a bottle of champagne in her hand and all of them dressed like they’re heading out for the night. Below the title treatment there’s the copy “Welcome to the party” in case you were wondering whether this was going to be a raucous comedy or not.

Four character posters were released to introduce us to the ladies we’ll be watching in the movie. Each one shows a single lady with some sort of element that, I think, is supposed to tell us something about that character. So Brie is holding her phone, Johnson is holding up sunglasses, Mann has a glass of champagne and Wilson has some sort of fruity cocktail. They’re not tremendously effective, but they show off the ensemble so I get what they’re going for.

The Trailers

The first trailer opens up with Wilson convincing Johnson to go out for some fun. But it’s clear Johnson hasn’t been in the dating game for a while based on her awkwardness as she tries to get free drinks from a group of guys. Leslie Mann’s character isn’t much better, though, as she’s immediately suspect of a younger guy who seems in interested in her. All of this while Wilson continues to dispense her wisdom of living the single life to the fullest. Finally, there are a number of clips continuing commentary on Johnson’s shaving situation.

It’s a funny trailer that relies greatly on Wilson’s public persona as a wild woman to sell the comedy. But Johnson is a comedic force to be reckoned with as well, even if this trailer doesn’t give her much chance to show that off. Also, there’s not very much Allison Brie. But what we do see gives the sense that this could be a really funny movie featuring a group of really funny women.

Online and Social

The official website for the movie is built on Tumblr and seems to be taking advantage of what that platform has to offer. Along the left-hand side of the page there are a couple prompts to buy tickets, including one to buy group tickets, presumably because all the ladies are going to go see it as part of a girl’s night out. There’s also a link to, which is the landing page for a Fandango-sponsored sweepstakes that asks you to share pics showing off your singlehood.

If you open up the Menu the first section is “Trailer,” which just has the one trailer. “Story” has a good synopsis of the plot along with cast and crew credits.


“Tumblr” takes you into the GIFs, images and other media that are on the main part of the page. Those range from meme-type stills with quotes or other copy to drink recipes to promotions for the cast’s appearances on various late-night or other talk shows. “Partners” has information on the companies helping to promote the movie in some way or another, though nothing about those promotions specifically.

Other than section for “Worldwide Release Dates” the last bit of information on the site is for the film’s soundtrack.

The movie had active profiles on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Weirdly, I can’t find any U.S. domestic TV spots, though there were a bunch on YouTube from the U.K. and other territories. Regardless, I’m *sure* there was TV advertising done for a broad, female-focused comedy like this along with the online ads I did see, including a bunch of Promoted Tweets and Promoted Posts on Twitter and Facebook.

There were also a number of promotional partner companies, including:

  • Blissworld: Nothing I can find on what this might entail.
  • Bloomingdale’s: Again, no details I can find.
  • Ciroc: Nothing.
  • Coffee Beanery: Ran a sweeps offering the chance to win a “BFF Weekend” in New York City.
  • Cosabella: No details available.
  • The Dry Bar: The hair salon is apparently in the movie and so got a shootout on the website.
  • eBay: Gave people the chance to bid on a “How To Be Single Experience” in New York City including a makeover, dinner and more.
  • ShoeDazzle: Nothing specific I could find.
  • Wine Tasting Network: One last time, nothing I could find any details on.

I can only assume that the missing pieces, the ones that weren’t running sweeps or other promotions had some sort of in-kind deal where they are name-dropped in some manner in the film itself and may have chipped in for production expenses and services.

Media and Publicity

Official stills like this one would trickle out from time to time in advance of the formal marketing and publicity cycles starting. As the cast began its press circuit, one interview generated lots of press because it featured Mann and Johnson flirting with the Miami TV anchor and clearly idolizing his body.


Most all the cast also made the late night and morning talk-show rounds, telling stories and being charming and all that.


It’s a neat campaign for something that looks to be this year’s Bridesmaids-type of movie, a story about women actually having some agency in the story, making their own choices based on their own desires and getting some laughs in the process. I like the brightness that’s consistent throughout the campaign elements, how there’s a regular usage of bold colors and big text to sell the movie as a bright and fun adventure that, as that “group tickets” button on the site makes clear, might be a good choice for viewing with your friends. That’s a similar tactic to what was used last year with the friendship drama I Miss You.

And it is a bright, fun campaign and it looks to be a bright, fun movie that’s being sold very much as a “girls comedy” instead of just a “comedy” since we still have to fully accept as a culture that women can make the same kind of movies Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson did in 2004. It looks like most of the comedy will come from the resistance of the more conservative Alice to the advice Robin is giving her, but it remains to be seen whether things end with Alice getting a faux happily-ever-after with a guy or if she embraces the single life and follows Robin in fully embracing her singledom. Johnson is a funny, unique comic actor as is Wilson and I’m hopping Leslie Mann and Alison Brie have larger roles than what’s hinted at here.