Picking Up the Spare: Hidden Figures, Win It All

Hidden Figures

  • Google is promoting more details of its partnership with the movie, including offering a free digital copy of it to certain groups who host a coding and viewing party in their communities.

Win It All

  • Seems there was a poster for the movie after all, though I swear it didn’t appear until days after I published my column. It’s pretty basic, just a photo of Johnson with some dice around to convey the gambling theme. His and Swanberg’s name both appear at the top and the bottom conveys that it’s now streaming on Netflix.

Iron Man 3

  • OK, I didn’t cover the movie’s campaign (it was during my MMM hiatus), it’s notable that while a lawsuit has been dismissed Marvel is still going to have to explain why one of the posters is so similar to one featured in an independent comic book from 2001.

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.

Picking Up the Spare: Rogue One, Hidden Fences, Loving, Deadpool

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Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

  • Germain Lussier at io9 shares comments from director Gareth Edwards about the unexpected process and set of circumstances that lead to at least some of those shots from the Rogue One trailers that didn’t wind up appearing in the finished movie.
  • The team at SocialBakers looks at the volume and type of content posted by some of the movie’s licensing partners.

Hidden Figures / Fences

  • Stephen Colbert has some fun with the verbal SNAFU made at the Golden Globes and creates a mock trailer for this unintended mashup.

Loving

Deadpool

MMM Recap: Week of 12/30 New Releases

Live By Night

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The campaign really works hard to create that sense of this being an old-school movie, the kind “they don’t make anymore.” Affleck is certainly no Bogart, but the movie is being positioned as the kind of hard-nosed gangster flick that he or Jimmy Cagney used to make, not the more modern Goodfelles-esque pictures from more recent times. There’s good to that approach in that the studio and Affleck want to give this kind of a timeless feel and while it doesn’t quite succeed on that front it comes close.

Paterson

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This campaign isn’t going to knock anyone’s socks off, that’s for sure. This is exactly the kind of movie that’s going to fall under the radar of the vast majority of the audience. A small fraction of the people who are aware of Rogue One are also aware of Paterson because it hasn’t received nearly the press or advertising push, and because of Driver’s connection to Star Wars many of his appearances and interviews have turned to that topic in addition to lightly touching on this new movie of his.

20th Century Women

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This movie seems…vital. Like this is the kind of perspective we need to see more of in the world, something about irrepressible women who are shaping the lives and minds of those around them while giving zero fucks about other people’s opinions. That’s how the movie was marketed as the story of a boy who’s grown up in a world dominated by women not because that was the only way but because it…well, it just kind of worked.

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.

Movie Marketing Madness: Hidden Figures

hidden-figures-poster-2It’s funny how in 13 episodes of “From the Earth to the Moon,” the HBO mini-series that chronicled the NASA program that built a space program from nothing to landing men repeatedly on the moon (and more) I don’t remember hearing or seeing anything about the groundbreaking role played by a group of black women in achieving that nie-impossible goal. But that’s exactly the story that’s being told in the new movie Hidden Figures, starring Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monáe.

The three play Katherine G. Johnson, Dorothy Vaughn and Mary Jackson (respectively), three incredibly talented women who are recruited into NASA at the height of the space race to help with land a man on the moon. Their experience with complicated, cutting edge math – they’re referred to as human “computers” – is essential to making that happen since no one knows just what the problem that needs to be solved is. So new points of view are necessary. But this being America in the 1960s, the three face pushback from many fronts because of both their gender and their race.

The Posters

hidden_figuresThe first poster, debuting around the same time as the first trailer, lets you know exactly what you’re in for. All three of the leads are seen striding toward the camera, confident and fearless, a NASA symbol on the floor under their feet. It’s clear they’re walking through some sort of hanger or other complex and a rocket can be seen launching in the background. So between all of that and the period wardrobe the three are wearing the one-sheet does a good job of establishing both the premise and the setting, especially when you factor in the copy, which reads “Meet the women you don’t know, behind the mission you do. It’s great.

A few character posters were next, showing the three main characters who each got their own inspirational phrase that spoke to gender, race or courage. This is a great way to show off each of the lead actresses and reinforce the themes of the story in the minds of the audience.

The theatrical poster tells us “Genius has no race. Strength has no gender. Courage has no limit.” That all sums up the themes of the movie pretty darn well. It’s paired with photos of the three leads as well as smaller pictures of supporting players like Jim Parsons, Kevin Costner and Kirsten Dunst.

The Trailers

The first trailer immediately introduces us to Katherine as a young child as we’re told, along with her parents, that she has an extraordinary capability for math and calculations. Fast forward to her as an adult as she, Dorothy and Mary have car trouble on their way to NASA, leading to a police officer dropping some casual racism about that particular situation. That kind of attitude – that not only are they women but black women – is continued throughout the trailer as we see them encounter one white man-made roadblock to being taken seriously after another, despite them being part of the team that’s trying to put a man on the moon in the very near future. They deal with all of that as well as other societal expectation about a woman’s place in the world as they try to be taken seriously and get what’s due them.

It’s a pretty good trailer, leaning heavily not just on the drama of trying to get a space program (literally) off the ground but also the place society in the U.S. was in at the time, which was not friendly to black women as a whole, especially not those who worked to rise to a station traditionally seen as exclusively for white men. The performances all look strong but the real draw here is the struggle and the opportunity to see, as we’re told repeatedly, a story many of us had never heard of before.

The next trailer seems a bit tighter, even as it retains the same basic structure. We skip, though, the parts about Katherine’s childhood and skip right to the women breaking down on their way to NASA. We then see much of the same material, as Katherine in particular aims to break down the divides and barriers that are simply part of society in 1961 to get the same treatment as her white male colleagues and be seen as an equal.

Again, this one seems to be a bit more linear and coherent, not trying to cram quite so much into the running time and instead focusing on the core story of one person’s attempts to do her job and contribute to something historic. If anything, this one seems more interested in the space program elements of the story, but the central idea is still one of equality.

Online and Social

The movie gets the usual Fox official website treatment, starting off with a cropped banner of the key art and links to watch the trailer, buy tickets or follow the movie’s Facebook and Twitter profiles.

“Videos” has both trailers, a few clips and lots of behind-the-scenes and other featurettes featuring the story behind the movie as well as spotlights on the cast and crew. The “About” section that’s next has a brief story synopsis as well as cast and crew lists along with more links to the movie’s social profiles, including an Instagram page.

The “Featured Content” section has links to find out more about the soundtrack album for the film and more, including to a site called “Future Katherine Johnsons,” an ode to the real life person played by Henson. It’s a program that’s done in partnership with Black Girls Code and designed to unlock the enormous potential that lies in young black women, exposing them to the possibilities in STEM-related fields. Getting women into STEM is also the point of a program from IBM honoring the women who served as NASA’s computers and the future geniuses who are and should be inspired by them and other trailblazers.

The site finishes up with a “Gallery” of stills, a carousel of the two posters and then a section with links to news about the movie and its cast.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

TV spots like this one started airing in advance of release, laying out the story of black women’s role in achieving one of this country’s milestone moments and the struggles they faced while doing so.

There have been some social ads run using the trailers and other videos and it’s safe to assume outdoor and more online ads have been run as well. In terms of promotional partners, it looks like the major ones were the two mentioned above involving Black Girls Code and IBM.

Media and Publicity

Right after the trailer was released it was announced the movie would have its official debut at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Henson talked a bit here about how she approached the role, which reunited her with math, something she was legitimately scared of because it brought back memories of her past education. That was followed by a big feature that focused on the real women whose stories are being told and talked about the struggles they went through just to do their jobs and the role they played in a huge part of this country’s history.

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Spencer’s role and how she got it was the focus of interviews like this one where she talked about being an African-American woman in Hollywood and what that means for the parts she’s offered and accepts. Of course there was lots of talk about about Henson and Spencer getting awards nominations when the time came, which helped add to a mountain of positive buzz and word of mouth around the movie.

The cast continued talking about the movie, the historical significance of the story and the characters they play in press interviews throughout the campaign.

Overall

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.

All that aside, it’s a good campaign that does shine a light on a story few of us know about but which deserves to be more widely known. It dips into shiny maudlin territory a bit here and there as it presents that story, but that’s a small complaint and it’s more than balanced out by the performances on display.

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