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

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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

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

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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.

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.

Key Art Key Changes: Kubo, Hell or High Water, War Dogs and More

Reaching an audience in the home video market is much different than reaching the theatrical audience. That often means the key art that’s used for home video releases is changed significantly from the one-sheets that were available during the theatrical marketing cycle. What I’m going to try and do is see what those changes are and what they mean for the appeal being made.

Kubo and the Two Strings

There’s no difference between the movie’s theatrical one-sheet and the home video cover art. Apparently the studio thought the image of Kubo lunging toward the camera with his sword as Monkey and Beetle look on in the background worked pretty well, so why mess with it?

Hell or High Water

The theatrical poster helped to establish the story through the placement of the three main actors. So Foster and Pine are seen in the foreground walking through a Texas farm with guns and bags of money in hand while Bridges as the lawman looking over them, an indication he’s on their trailer.

The DVD art has the three actors arranged more by star power and prestige in the mainstream (read: Walmart buyers who happen to see this out of the corner of their eye) than out of concern for conveying the story. So Bridges and Pine are more or less on equal footing with their big floating heads in the background with Foster in the foreground sporting his gun. At the bottom things get overt with an actual scene from one of the bank robberies in the movie.

War Dogs

The two posters for this story of a couple of man-boy war profiteers tried to play up the violent elements of the movie as much as possible. The one recreated the style of the poster for Scarface and the other just shows Miles Teller and Jonah Hill engaging in a little gun-range therapy, with wild looks on their faces like they’re hanging out at a frat party.

That feeling is what’s emphasized on the DVD art. This time the two are shown with luggage in hand as they walk along an airport tarmac of some kind. They’re clearly tanned and it seems to be military aircraft in the background so the viewer can assume it’s a military airfield. The copy is changed to “Hustling their way to the American Dream.” It continues the focus begun in the theatrical campaign of selling the movie as The Hangover set in a warzone.

Hands of Stone

For the theatrical release the studio tried to take a somewhat artistic approach, with a one-sheet showing a gloved fist rising up against a solid red background, the words of the credits and title making up the arm the glove is attached to. That meant the stars, including Robert De Niro and Edgar Ramirez, didn’t actually appear on the posters.

That’s changed on the home video box art, which takes those to plus Usher, who plays Sugar Ray Leonard, and puts them in a very stereotypical “boxing movie” configuration, with Ramirez punching something off screen, Usher standing defiantly looking to the middle distance and De Niro as the trainer leaning against the ropes of the ring. This kind of collage design work is common for movies with a few big stars and does more to make it clear to the audience who’s in the movie and what it’s about.

Yoga Hosers

Again, there’s no change here from the theatrical poster. Both show the Colleens standing atop a pile of Bratzis with hockey sticks and mops being wielded as weapons. Either the studio decided to stick with what they liked about the initial release or there wasn’t budget for new artwork, either is a legit option.

Picking Up the Spare: Don’t Think Twice, Hell or High Water

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Don’t Think Twice

  • The cast gathered round to create a “viral video” but the hilarity comes from how they don’t really seem to know what that means.

Hell or High Water

  • A new TV spot focuses on the incredibly positive reviews the movie has generated, pulling in quotes and raves from critics.

The Hollars

  • In the last week Krasinski in particular has been doing a bunch of press. A lot of it, unfortunately for the movie, focused on his anecdote about auditioning for Captain America years ago and didn’t mention this movie. There have also been a number of ads run for the movie that have used key art.

Picking Up the Spare: Hell or High Water, Suicide Squad, Ghostbusters

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Ghostbusters

  • A really interesting op-ed at The Ringer about how the really weird expectations for Ghostbusters are informing the (reported, not confirmed) reality that it won’t get a sequel because the movie didn’t shatter records. I firmly believe the same narrative plays out much differently for movies with a male cast all the time since they’re not held to such off-kilter standards.

Suicide Squad

  • IGN recaps some of the footage in the trailers that didn’t make it into the finished movie.

Hell or High Water

  • Owen Glieberman ponders the same question that was hopefully asked by the movie’s marketing team, which is what audience is there for an original story featuring morally questionably characters that make the viewer think about real life issues?

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Kubo and the Two Strings

  • Director Travis Knight – who also happens to be Laika’s CEO – talked here about the movie’s inspiration and his personal connection with the material among other topics.

MMM Recap: 8/12/16 New Releases

Florence Foster Jenkins

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…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.

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.

Pete’s Dragon

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What’s interesting to me is that there’s not much of an appeal to nostalgia going on here. This movie’s story seems to differ pretty significantly from that of the original and so I don’t think the studio is really playing up the ties between the two. Maybe the original isn’t as well known as some of other properties (which begs the question why make this a remake and not just an original story…oh right, because you can’t sell anything with an unknown title). Whatever the reason, this is being sold as more or less an original movie, not one that requires existing knowledge of what’s come before.

Sausage Party

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But this is the Rogen brand. While many find his constant embrace of stoner humor the sign of a lazy mind, this is what he does. It’s his niche, the creative corner of the world he’s carved out for himself and dammit, he’s going to own it. Yeah, in 10 years or so he might decide the well has run dry and he needs to do an indie drama to jumpstart the next phase of his career, but for now he’s very much killing it by making movies with his friends that are filled with sex and drug humor, so if that’s not what you’re expecting from Sausage Party, I’m not sure what to tell you.

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.

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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. 

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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.