The Marketing Campaigns for 2017’s Academy Awards Best Picture Nominees

The nominees for this year’s Academy Awards were announced yesterday. While Deadpool didn’t get the nomination the filmmakers and many in the press had been hoping it would there were still a few surprises, including that the acting categories actually featured people of color after years of #OscarsSoWhite being the dominant theme of the reactionary commentary. To mark the occassion, let’s look back at the marketing campaigns for this year’s nine Best Picture nominees

Arrival

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As for the marketing itself, it all seems to be working together to create a slick, stylish brand identity for the movie. Everything here is crisp and clean, presenting an adult thriller that’s geared for the adult and discerning audience. There’s little pandering here to the unwashed masses. Many have drawn the connection between this and previous movies like Interstellar and Gravity and it’s very much in that vein, an art film for grownups that’s dressed up like a big-budget alien movie. It’s more about the themes of the story, though, a message that comes through clearly in the campaign.

Fences

Denzel Washington plays Troy Maxson and Viola Davis plays Rose Maxson in Fences from Paramount Pictures. Directed by Denzel Washington from a screenplay by August Wilson.

The movie that’s being sold looks incredibly powerful. It’s a story about long-delayed dreams, unfulfilled potential, what you owe the generation after yours and how all that relates to race told by some of the best of today’s working actors. It’s a vital story in this time in history and it’s one that will hopefully continue to garner not more awards consideration but also an audience to see that story told.

Hacksaw Ridge

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It’s hard to get a sense of the scale of the actual movie from the campaign. This seems like a big release and an important movie. But there’s only one trailer, a mismatched TV campaign and a press push that was kind of light for what seems like it should be an awards contender. It just seems like there should have been more. And there certainly should have been something on the official site that offered a bit more background on Doss, considering his story is so important.

Hell or High Water

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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.

Hidden Figures

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I honestly feel like this movie couldn’t be more 2016 if it tried. At least the marketing campaign couldn’t. It’s all about how women of color have been removed from the narrative of one of the country’s – hell, mankind’s – greatest achievements. If “men get all the credit for something women were an integral part of” doesn’t sum up this past year I’m not sure what does. So the campaign has worked not only to tell people there’s an important story here, but it’s one that’s likely repeated daily as men talk over their female colleagues and mansplain what’s it’s “actually” about. For that reason, the movie is likely to become a lightning rod as one group claims the story as their own and the other complains how it downplays the contributions of white men. I’m guessing the phrase “white genocide” may even come up in one or two Facebook comments.

La La Land

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The entire campaign is meant to evoke a timeless nature. The throwback images that were used in early posters and the way the trailers make you think the movie could take place this year or in 1961 all creates a sense that the story exists out of time to some extent, reinforcing the slight nostalgia-esque approach to the marketing. Add to all that the almost universally positive word of mouth that’s resulted from festival screenings and the love the soundtrack has received and you have a campaign that’s…yeah, it’s ridiculously charming

Lion

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In terms of the marketing itself, it’s more or less consistent across the elements as to what it’s selling, which is Saroo’s search to uncover his true identity and find his family. That comes through just about everywhere. The website is lightest on this angle, but considering it sacrifices story for a charitable appeal, it’s hard to fault it on that front. The repeated use of the search box in the graphical elements works pretty well once you figure out what’s going on and helps to setup the story. All in all this is a decent campaign for a movie that counts on emotions more than other traditional commercial appeals to turn out the audience.

Manchester by the Sea

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There’s a ton of emotion in this campaign and it’s great to see. As with other movies from Lonergan, the focus is clearly on the relationships that are driving the story here. These are not shallow emotional waters we’re wading into, something that comes through in most every aspect of the marketing. The audience is expected to connect with all the characters, from Lee to Patrick to Randi, throughout the campaign.

Moonlight

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The movie’s personal focus and touch really comes through in this campaign. Everything here is focused on making sure the potential audience sees that it’s a human story with a very small scale, focusing on Chiron’s journey and emotions. The trailer, the press push and the posters all work to make it clear the spotlight will never leave him and his struggle for identity and acceptance.

Golden Globes Best Picture Nominee Marketing Campaigns

The Golden Globe nominees were announced yesterday, bringing with it the predictable annual mix of responses that range from outrage over who was perceived as being snubbed, complaints about those nominated seemingly only because the HFPA wants to party with them and more. Whatever the case, below is a list of the movies nominated for Best Picture to remind you all how they were sold to the audience for their theatrical run. Some of these are more recent than others and it excludes 20th Century Women, which comes out later this month.

Moonlight

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The movie’s personal focus and touch really comes through in this campaign. Everything here is focused on making sure the potential audience sees that it’s a human story with a very small scale, focusing on Chiron’s journey and emotions. The trailer, the press push and the posters all work to make it clear the spotlight will never leave him and his struggle for identity and acceptance.

Hacksaw Ridge

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It’s hard to get a sense of the scale of the actual movie from the campaign. This seems like a big release and an important movie. But there’s only one trailer, a mismatched TV campaign and a press push that was kind of light for what seems like it should be an awards contender. It just seems like there should have been more. And there certainly should have been something on the official site that offered a bit more background on Doss, considering his story is so important.

Deadpool

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And the campaign conveys all that. It relies heavily on Reynolds’ inherent charm to sell a character a very small percentage of the audience is likely familiar without outside his one premious ill-fated cinematic outing. The sense of humor of the movie comes through in all elements of the movie to sell something that may not be a laugh-a-minute time at the movies but which certainly looks like it’s going to work hard to entertain. The focus on gags over story in the campaign has me *slightly* worried there’s little of the latter to be found, but we’ll see.

La La Land

la-la-land-hed-2016

The entire campaign is meant to evoke a timeless nature. The throwback images that were used in early posters and the way the trailers make you think the movie could take place this year or in 1961 all creates a sense that the story exists out of time to some extent, reinforcing the slight nostalgia-esque approach to the marketing. Add to all that the almost universally positive word of mouth that’s resulted from festival screenings and the love the soundtrack has received and you have a campaign that’s…yeah, it’s ridiculously charming

Florence Foster Jenkins

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All that aside, it’s a solid, consistent campaign for a movie that instantly shot to the top of your parent’s To See Soon List. It’s hard to see this generating much interest in the under-45 age group outside of a few individuals who are big Streep fans. My guess, though, is that’s fine and the older crowd of white people might be enough to turn it into a modest hit. The marketing promises the audience won’t be challenged at all but instead be taken for a moderately enjoyable ride on a story that is charming and slight. You know, like a super hero movie but with some Oscar aspirations.

Lion

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In terms of the marketing itself, it’s more or less consistent across the elements as to what it’s selling, which is Saroo’s search to uncover his true identity and find his family. That comes through just about everywhere. The website is lightest on this angle, but considering it sacrifices story for a charitable appeal, it’s hard to fault it on that front. The repeated use of the search box in the graphical elements works pretty well once you figure out what’s going on and helps to setup the story. All in all this is a decent campaign for a movie that counts on emotions more than other traditional commercial appeals to turn out the audience.

Hell or High Water

hell-or-high-water pic 1

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.

Sing Street

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But what is here is good. The campaign certainly conveys the same attitude as Once, even if the details are different. It’s a coming of age story, something that always plays well with certain audiences, and so the marketing should resonate with them. It’s selling a movie that, like its main character, loves music and what it can do, particularly how it can affect the relationships around us. It’s sweet, it’s personal and it’s got a soundtrack that those of us of a certain age will relate to at the very least.

Manchester By the Sea

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There’s a ton of emotion in this campaign and it’s great to see. As with other movies from Lonergan, the focus is clearly on the relationships that are driving the story here. These are not shallow emotional waters we’re wading into, something that comes through in most every aspect of the marketing. The audience is expected to connect with all the characters, from Lee to Patrick to Randi, throughout the campaign.

MMM Recap: Week of 11/4 New Releases

Trolls

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The campaign is consistent from one element to the next, that’s for sure. Everything is presented in the brightest possible colors and with the peppiest possible music, with very few deviations from that approach. The two stars, Kendrick and Timberlake, have been front and center throughout, either in the press or introducing trailers, which allows the marketing to play off their inherent likability and appeal to their fanbases. It’s a solid campaign that knows what it’s selling and gets the job done.

Hacksaw Ridge

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It’s hard to get a sense of the scale of the actual movie from the campaign. This seems like a big release and an important movie. But there’s only one trailer, a mismatched TV campaign and a press push that was kind of light for what seems like it should be an awards contender. It just seems like there should have been more. And there certainly should have been something on the official site that offered a bit more background on Doss, considering his story is so important.

Doctor Strange

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The biggest asset that’s been amplified by the campaign is that this is once again an origin story, something that’s been in relatively short supply in the Marvel Cinematic Universe over the last couple years. Not only that, but it’s basically being sold as the same movie as Batman Begins from back in 2005, with an entitled white guy going to Asia for spiritual guidance and purpose. That’s not a bad, thing, it’s smart for the movie to make it clear this is a new hero we’re following, providing for a new franchise audiences can latch on to.

Loving

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And that encompasses the movie that’s being sold as a whole. Negga and Edgerton obviously give amazing performances and that’s the main draw here. It’s interesting that Nichols’ name actually appears on the poster, a bar that other directors like Robert Zemeckis have failed to clear of late. That makes sense considering the solid reputation he’s built up over the last few years, though. At the end, the campaign sells a compelling story that, as has been reinforced time and time again, is just as relevant today as it was 50 years ago.

Movie Marketing Madness: Hacksaw Ridge

hacksaw_ridge_ver2Army Medic Desmond T. Doss refused to pick up a weapon during World War II, citing his religious beliefs as his reason to become a conscientious objector, someone who will not actually take up arms because of some deeply-held moral or ethical belief. Now his story is being told in the new movie Hacksaw Ridge. Doss is played here by Andrew Garfield as we follow him from being drafted from his small town through the Battle of Okinawa and his eventual receiving of the Medal of Honor, becoming the first conscientious objector to be so commended.

The movie comes from director Mel Gibson and, of course, the movie’s story is not as simple as it seems. While on the surface it’s a war movie, nothing is that simple anymore and it can’t be viewed outside of the potential point of view it might have for us on the events of today. So this story of someone refusing, on account of his religion, to take up arms against the enemy but still working tirelessly and heroically to save lives of scores of his friends, is going to have to be viewed in light of not just where we were but where we are.

The Posters

hacksaw_ridgeThe first poster is concerned mostly with showing the setting. So we get a shot from behind of Garfield running across a battlefield, with copy saying “When the order came to retreat, one man stayed.” So it’s clear we’re watching a story of unique heroism. This also tells the audience this is based on a true story and comes from the filmmaker behind The Passion of the Christ and Braveheart, though Gibson’s name isn’t pronounced on the poster.

The next one is actually pretty decent, featuring a photo-realistic painted look to the image of Garfield hoisting one of his comrades on his shoulders to show that he’s a healer, not a fighter. “One of the greatest heroes in American history never fired a bullet” says the copy toward the bottom of the poster, which is some sentence structure I’ll take minor issue with. Again, we get Gibson’s credits at the top and the promise that this is based on a true story along with the title treatment.

The Trailers

The first and only trailer, out-of-place introduction aside, opens with Doss preparing to leave his hometown sweetheart to go to war because, as people in movies often do, he can’t sit still while others die. Once he’s in boot camp, though, he refuses to touch a weapon since he doesn’t believe in killing, only healing and helping. That attitude not only brings him into conflict with his fellow recruits, who haze him violently for being a coward, but also leads to charges being brought against him. Ultimately it’s decided he can be unarmed if he wants but he’s still going into war. Quickly, though, his do-no-harm attitude wins the admiration of his fellow soldiers as he shows plenty of bravery on the field, saving people from imminent danger and healing their wounds as best he can.

It’s a touching trailer that, if you can look past Garfield’s accent, pulls on all the emotional heartstrings you’d expect it to. We get the shots of him with his girl, who makes him promise to come home. We get the shot of him yelling in frustration on the battlefield and so on. There’s a lot of paint-by-numbers here, to be honest. But it still presents a movie that might be more than just an interesting side story we’ve never heard before and actually tell something important about war and the soldiers who fight it. Granted, that’s reading a lot into this trailer, but the potential is there.

Online and Social

When you load the official website for the movie you get a version of the key art that also shows a big button encouraging you to watch the trailer again. In the upper right corner are links to the Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles that have connected the movie with fans on those platforms.

The main content menu is over to the left and starts with “Story,” which has an alright synopsis of the movie and characters that focuses on the actual movie and not the producers and other behind-the-scenes movers and shakers. “Cast & Filmmakers” has the names, characters and stills of the major players on both sides of the camera, but just that without any further bios or links to deepen the content.

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The “Gallery” has a number of stills in it you can view and download, most all of them featuring Garfield. Same goes for “Posters” which is where you can find both one-sheets. The “Trailer” section just has the one trailer.

The last section is pretty interesting. It’s called “Testimonials” but doesn’t actually have any content. Instead it opens a Google Form asking the visitor to share whether Doss’s story has inspired them or a veteran they know. There’s a disclaimer asking you to allow them to use your story in future marketing, but there are no details about what they might be.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

There were two distinct forks to the paid TV campaign. Some commercials like this make it clear that Doss is a pacifist who will not be engaging in hostilities. It doesn’t go too in-depth on the full story but doesn’t hide the anti-war – or at least anti-violence – message of the movie. There were others, though, that presented it as a straightforward war movie, often compared to Saving Private Ryan, without explaining anything about Doss’s pacifist perspective or anything else. So it’s hoping that some people will be attracted by the message while others by the sheer spectacle on display.

I’m sure there were online ads and outdoor billboards run as well. Some social advertising was done too to promote the trailer and other videos.

Media and Publicity

While the movie was debuting at the Venice International Film Festival – to mostly positive reviews and buzz – Gibson and Garfield talked about making the movie, with Gibson admitting he prefers at this point to be directing and Garfield talking about how he feels Doss is an example we can still learn from today.

The narrative also emerged, largely exemplified by this story, that this was part of Gibson’s comeback in Hollywood after a decade of being on the sidelines after his unfortunate anti-Semitic rant that went viral in the news. He’s starred in a couple well-received movies recently as well, but this is his big welcome back, it seems.

Garfield made some of the late night and other talk show rounds to talk about the movie, working with Gibson and more.

Overall

It’s hard to get a sense of the scale of the actual movie from the campaign. This seems like a big release and an important movie. But there’s only one trailer, a mismatched TV campaign and a press push that was kind of light for what seems like it should be an awards contender. It just seems like there should have been more. And there certainly should have been something on the official site that offered a bit more background on Doss, considering his story is so important.

The movie itself is a bit of a mixed bag. It seems on some level, even taking out the bifurcated TV campaign, to be caught between selling it as a war movie and an emotional story of a pacifist. While it may have elements of both in it, there are distinct parts of the campaign that sell the movie in different ways. That may lead to some marketplace confusion or at least make the audience, when paired with the continued public perception of Gibson, question whether or not it’s worth their money and time.

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