After the Campaign: Lion

When I wrote about the marketing of Lion last year I thought it made a decent emotional appeal to audiences who were looking to have themselves a good cry at the theater. I wasn’t wrong.

The story follows Saroo, a young boy in India who becomes separated from his older brother on a train platform. Boarding a decommissioned train he winds up thousands of kilometers away from home, with no way to get back or even to tell adults and authorities how they can help him out. He’s eventually adopted by an Australian couple played by David Wenham and Nicole Kidman. 25-odd years later Saroo is grown (now played by Dev Patel) and struggling with his identity. He keeps getting flashes of memory showing his brother and mother but has no idea how to find them. Eventually, he begins an online search and ultimately finds at least some of the answers he’s been searching for.

The campaign seemed to be split into a few parts: The posters played up the Google Search aspect of the story, the trailers emphasized the emotional story of the search for family and identity and the website was focused on creating awareness for charities related to the movie’s story.

Of those, the trailers are probably the most spot-on in terms of tone and subject matter in the movie. There are plenty of mentions of Google Earth and scenes of it helping Saroo’s search for the village he grew up in, but it’s never really a focus of the story. It’s not as if everyone is tied to it. In fact, it becomes a point of contention in the relationship between Saroo and his girlfriend, played by Rooney Mara.

No, the story is much more about the emotional journey Saroo is going through as he becomes more and more determined to find his real family. He becomes understandably obsessed with it while at the same time feeling if he lets anyone in on what he’s doing. It tears him up not only because the answers allude him for so long but because he feels the need to keep it all heaped on his own shoulders, only grudgingly sharing his issues with his girlfriend or adoptive parents.

Patel is wonderful, of course, as Saroo. Ultimately it’s kind of a one-note role as he’s asked to repeatedly convey the angst of his situation in various ways. That’s mainly done through him growing increasingly long and scraggly hair for a chunk of the story as he’s descending deeper and deeper into isolation and depression.

Still, it’s a good movie that will bring you to tears by the end as Saroo reaches the end of your journey. That’s more or less just what the trailers in particular promised and so it’s good to see it delivers on that front.

Picking Up the Spare: Lion, A Cure For Wellness

lion-pic

Lion

An ad for the movie was taken out in the Los Angeles Times that denounced (gag) Pres. Trump’s travel and visitation ban, making it clear that the production of the movie might not have taken place had the order been in place then. It’s a decent political statement that also doubles as Oscar-timed promotion and reminder for people to see it if they haven’t already.

A Cure For Wellness

Fox has apologized for the fake news sites it created to promote the movie, blaming faulty internal checks and balances for this one slipping through the approvals process. That’s a good move and certainly necessary. I want to believe it’s sincere but have seen too many instances of companies intentionally throwing grenades in order to get headlines, then apologizing after the buzz has already doubled or tripled because of a stunt. I’ll give Fox the benefit of the doubt here, but any marketer worth his or her salt should know that unless it’s clearly labeled as such, “fake” anything is a tactic likely only to get you into trouble and do serious reputational damage.

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

arrival_amy_adams_screenshot_h_2016

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

hacksaw ridge pic 1

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

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.

Hidden Figures

hidden-figures-pic

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

la-la-land-hed-2016_0

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

lion-pic

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

manchester-by-the-sea-pic

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

moonlight-movie-trailer-01

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: Sing, Lion

sing-movie-animals

Sing

  • The cast – and their animated alter-egos – appeared on Fallon to an acapella version of Paul McCartney’s “Wonderful Christmastime” that included MacCartney himself.
  • Illumination got their Minions involved in a short MST3K-like video to help promote the movie.
  • The studio partnered with the Lumyer app to bring movie-branded augmented reality to that app’s users.

Lion

  • A new “online trailer” has been released that touts the movie’s awards nominations so far and makes the case to come see this heartwarming tale around Christmas.

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

moonlight-movie-trailer-01

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

hacksaw ridge pic 2

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

deadpool-gallery-05-gallery-image

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

florence foster jenkins pic 2

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

lion-pic

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

sing street pic 1

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

manchester-by-the-sea-pic

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.

Picking Up The Spare: Lion, The Arrival

arrival_amy_adams_screenshot_h_2016

Arrival

  • The FiveThirtyEight looked at how the movies’ RottenTomatoes score became part of the marketing campaign and puts that in the context of the site’s continuing efforts to poke holes in RT and other rating aggregate sites.

Lion

  • Brent Lang at Variety gives the movie a big cover story about how this inspirational human story is trying to connect with moviegoers who are feeling pretty cynical right now in the wake of the U.S. Presidential election.

Picking Up the Spare: Moana, Lion, Suicide Squad

moana-pic-2

Moana

  • Disney worked with Code.org to create a special Moana-themed coding tutorial meant to encourage kids, particularly girls, to get into learning about programming and software development using the Skitch language. That’s available online and there are going to be special events at Apple stores between December 5th and 11th.
  • The studio was the first to use The Weather Channel’s new branded background ad unit that used geo-targeting to display scenes from the movie that were appropriate to the weather in the app user’s location. The ads led to the site where people could be tickets.

Lion

  • Another trailer was released just this past week, a couple days before it hit theaters. It’s not hugely different from what’s come before but does play up the elements of the story the studio feels will hit audiences hardest.

Suicide Squad

  • Screenrant counts down the scenes that were featured in the trailers for the movie, some quite prominently, but didn’t make it into the final cut.

MMM Recap: Week of 11/25/16 New Releases

Lion

lion-pic

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.

Moana

moana

Disney’s put together quite a nice campaign here, one that hits all the beats it needs to in order to appeal to all audiences. It has a female protagonist, which is great and which will appeal to girls and others while the presence of The Rock should appeal to…well…the entire audience. Add in the heavily-touted presence of Lin-Manuel Miranda and you have, before you even get to the story or do any graphic design work, a campaign that checks off a lot of boxes based on talent alone.

Allied

allied-pic

Moving outside that, though, the campaign still doesn’t present anything particularly compelling. This seems like the kind of movie that’s going to fall under the radar of most moviegoers, whether they were turned off by the aforementioned pseudo-scandal involving talent or just because there are bigger movies on both sides of the spectrum vying for attention. There are smaller movies that have received more buzz and bigger movies that are dominating more headlines, meaning this middle-of-the-road period action romance simply wasn’t marketed effectively enough to turn awareness into interest.

Rules Don’t Apply

rules-dont-apply-pic

While there’s very little consistency between the elements of the campaign, this is the rare case where they work better individually than they do as a cohesive whole. So each poster is pretty good. Each trailer works in its own way. And the TV advertising approach makes sense. But if you put them all together there isn’t an overall brand approach that’s been set out. At best that’s going to be mildly annoying to the audience, at worst it will turn them away in confusion for something that’s a surer bet.

Miss Sloane

miss-sloane-pic

What I like most about this campaign is the relentless attention being paid to Chastain and her character. Whether in the formal marketing or the publicity, it’s incredible to see an unabashedly powerful and successful woman at the forefront of the story with no apologies or quarter given. That’s a contrast to some extent to Equity earlier this year, which seemed to make the struggle of being a woman the centerpiece of both parts of that movie’s campaign. Not that there’s a problem with that, but there’s no mention of Sloane being held to a different standard because of her gender and I’m kind of digging that right now.

 

Movie Marketing Madness: Lion

lion_ver2In the new movie Lion, Dev Patel plays Saroo Brierley, a young man who was adopted by an Australian couple (Nicole Kidman and David Wenham) back when he was just a child. See Saroo was born in India but was separated from his mother and brother on the streets of Calcutta, with no idea where he was or where he should go to find them. So the Brierleys took him in and raised him as their own.

25 years later, Saroo is feeling anxious about his life. Specifically he’s curious about the life he might have had if he hadn’t gotten lost decades earlier. At the risk of alienating his girlfriend (Rooney Mara) and adopted parents, Saroo sets out to find his lost family, using only the fragments of memory he has. With the aid of Google Earth he starts to piece things together though and finds that technology has brought what might have been impossible within his reach.

The Posters

lionThe first poster is all about selling Patel as the star of the story. So it’s just a closeup of his face that dominates the design, though there’s a search bar that cuts across the middle with the text “The search begins” in it, hinting that this is a journey of some sort he’ll be undergoing. Below title the audience is told this is based on a true story, upping the emotional resonance it’s hoped is felt by the viewers.

The second offers a bit more in the way of value propositions. Patel this time is seen at the top of the poster looking down at Mara, the two of them obviously having an intimate moment. Between them we see a picture of two people, a man and young boy, walking down the middle of a set of train tracks, their backs to the camera. The same search bar cuts into that middle image, but this time the query reads “The true story of a life lost and found.”

The Trailers

The first trailer starts as Saroo is talking to a group of people about where he’s from. As we flashback to him as a child in Calcutta we see he was separated from his brother and mother while they were on a train trip, so he’s the only one on the train as it starts moving again. As an adult, he’s determined to find them, a quest that his adoptive mother and current girlfriend aren’t completely on board with, or at least caution him on the dangers of. From there on out it’s voiceover of Saroo saying he has to do this mixed with footage of both him searching online for the train stations of his memory and of him as a child running through those streets.

It’s a solid trailer but is a bit overly dramatic. I’m sure the whole movie isn’t all gushing dialogue and swelling music against montages, but that’s how it’s being sold. Could have used a little more story and character development and a little less overly-earnest tugging on the heartstrings, but it’s clear they’re going for an emotional play to the audience here.

Online and Social

When the movie’s official website loads the trailer plays so you can rewatch that if you like. Close that and the first thing you see are a few prompts to contribute to the #LionHeart project, a campaign working with a handful of organizations to help and protect the tens of thousands of children who reportedly go missing in India each year. In fact aside from a brief synopsis at the bottom, calls to find out more about this project make up most all the content on the site.

There was a Facebook page as well as Twitter and Instagram profiles.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

TV spots like this one started running a bit before release that map out (sorry) the basic story of Saroo, that he’s trying to remember his life as a child and struggling to with his identity as an adult. It’s tonally very similar to the trailer, but without some of the details about how he finds the clues to track down the rest of his natural family.

A few online ads were run along with social ads that used the trailer to raise awareness. That’s about it, though.

Media and Publicity

In advance of the movie’s debut at the Toronto International Film Festival a first look still was released that was accompanied by Patel talking about the story, his character, getting cast in the movie and more. Right after that it was announced the movie would debut at the BFI London Film Festival.

That Toronto screening garnered mixed, though generally positive results and some awards conversation for Kidman and Patel. Mostly, though, the narrative around the movie seemed to be that it was a return to form for The Weinstein Company and Harvey Weinstein in particular, especially since he and the company have been dogged for a while now by rumors the company is on the verge of collapse.

lion-pic

Patel talked about the demands the movie’s director asked him to endure if he wanted the part as well as how there just aren’t a lot of roles for someone like him as it got closer to release. The actor also appeared on the late night talk shows to talk about the movie and his career in general. Kidman also got a chance to talk about her role and the themes of the story and also made a few talk show appearances. Patel got a great feature interview in the NYT where he hit similar themes as he talked about the movie and more.

Overall

It’s pretty clear The Weinstein Co. is positioning this as their big emotional Oscar contender for this year. Everything here is setup in as emotionally manipulative manner as possible to sway audiences that this is going to be a big sweeping story they should plan to cry during. It’s this year’s The English Patient for the company, following that model of marketing and audience appeal. Not to say that’s bad or anything, but it’s clearly what the studio has in mind.

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.

Want to get Movie Marketing Madness via email? Sign up here. Then connect with MMM on Twitter and Facebook.