This week saw the release of the festival favorite La La Land, an original musical about two young struggling entertainers who find each other and fall in love surrounded by showbiz and Los Angeles. So it’s only fitting that this week’s Flashback MMM focus on an earlier movie musical that also told a love story against the backdrop of Hollywood.
1952’s big-screen musical Singin’ in the Rain follows Don Lockwood (Gene Kelly) at the advent of sound being introduced to motion pictures. Don is a big star alongside his frequent costar Lina Lamont (Jean Hagan), though while the two often woo each other on-screen they barely tolerate each other off camera. Through a series of comedic circumstances he meets Kathy Seldes (Debbie Reynolds), a chorus girl in the theater. Don, Kathy and Don’s friend Cosmo (Donald O’Conner) wind up working out a way to salvage a new movie Don and Lina have shot that’s being changed to a talkie after being initially shot as a silent picture. Lina’s singing voice is unusable in what’s now a large-scale musical and so Kathy winds up dubbing over her singing, but it’s uncredited. After the usual round of hurt feelings and misunderstandings, Don and Kathy profess their love for each other and everyone dances off into the sunset.
The poster shows MGM knew exactly what they were selling, which of course it did at this point in film history. Kelly, O’Conner and Reynolds are all shown walking toward the camera decked out in raincoats and holding umbrellas as the rain pours down over them. “What a glorious feeling” is the copy at the top, a nod to the lyrics of the title song. Below the image of the actors is the real sales pitch, that this is “MGM’s Technicolor Musical Treasure,” copy that sells two of the big points that would have resonated with audiences at the time, thefact that it came from MGM and that it was in Technicolor. Those were both big draws at the time, as well as the mention of it being a musical since this is when that genre was super-popular with filmgoers.
Thetrailer is really where it’s at though. It starts out like a musical overture, with a full chorus of extras on a soundstage as text tells us about the movie’s lineage. Cut to the top three singing the title song as they walk toward the camera just like what’s seen on the one-sheet. Further text establishes the setting at the dawn of Hollywood’s sound age. We then see that the introduction of sound has upset the production of a period drama and that the innovation has upended the entire apple cart. What follows is a montage of clips from most, if not all, the movie’s songs, including a shot of Kelly singing and dancing his way through the most iconic scene to come out of the picture. We’re introduced to the rest of the case, including a…memorable appearance by Sid Charisse. It finishes out by positioning the movie as a big spectacle that has to be seen to be believed before ending on a shot of Kelly and Reynolds kissing, promising the audience that yes, there’s a love story here too.
It’s obvious just from the trailer why this has become the standard by which many other movie musicals are judged. It’s everything the genre is largely known as and for. Kelly is the biggest draw here but it shouldn’t be forgotten what a star O’Conner was at the time either. Reynolds as an up-and-comer is the biggest new name on display here though she gets significant screen time. The emphasis is on the spectacle, though, selling the audience on a collection of incredible songs and some of, as it says itself, the biggest and most innovative dance sequences to date.
When Emma Cullen (Haley Bennett) sees her husband gunned down in front of her she sets out to get her share of revenge for the slaying. So she and the rest of her town that’s being terrorized turn to a bounty hunter named Chisolm (Denzel Washington) to break the grip of violence. That’s what sets the events of The Magnificent Seven, a remake of the classic Yule Brenner/Steve McQueen film, in motion.
One man against an army isn’t very good odds so he recruits his own gang of misfits and fighters. That starts with a mercenary gunman named Josh Faraday (Chris Pratt) and also includes a tracker, a sharpshooter and others who will bring their own unique skill sets to the fight. Together they’re out to not only get vengeance for the widow who hired them and save the town from a very bad man but also maybe find some redemption for themselves as well.
A sweet banner arrayed all seven of the main characters, arranged outward in order of importance with Washington as the center. It’s pretty great in showing off all the actors and the gritty look of the movie, with “Magnificent” spelled out behind them and “Justice has a number” at the bottom.
The next poster takes the visual cues of the character sheets – that grey background and the faded yellow typography – and collects all seven of the vigilantes, arraying them around in order of box office clout. “Justice has a number” we’re told, along with how this comes from the director of Training Day and The Equalizer, the two films obviously picked to highlight previous collaborations with Washington.
One more poster was released specifically to promote the IMAX release. It’s not too terribly different from the others but did feature a cool design, placing the title treatment and black-and-white shots of the cast walking toward the camera on an off-white background. Very washed-out and giving off a cool sense of this taking place on a vast landscape of nothingness.
Thefirst trailer starts out by introducing us to the situation, which is that a woman wants to hire a band of gunfighters to protect her town from a gang of outlaws. He then goes about recruiting others, though the only one we really spend any time with is Pratt’s character. The entire rest of the trailer is just shot after shot of our heroes engaging in some plentiful violence in one way or the other.
It’s a good first look that, as I said, shows off the characters played by Washington and Pratt in particular since they’re the biggest names right now. It’s selling the movie as being heavy with explosive and violent action sequences, with shot after shot of machine guns being shot, arrows being fired and so on. It works pretty well and provides a decent first hook for the movie.
The second trailer mixes it up a bit, by first introducing us to Sam Chisolm and his quest to gather a team, starting with Pratt’s Farraday and including the rest of the team. They each get some shorthand information that explains to the audience who they are before we get more background on the widow who has hired them to exact revenge on the main who killed her husband. The rest of the trailer is about the action that ensues as they take on the army coming at them against all odds.
Again, it’s a solid trailer that sells the movie as an action-packed western that relies largely on the charm and charisma of the leads. Thankfully between Washington and Pratt there’s plenty of that to go around.
Online and Social
The trailer plays automatically when you load the movie’s official website. After you close that the seven main characters are presented on the screen and you can mouse-over them to see the names of the actors. Kind of surprised there’s no click-through information there and instead it’s just a glorified credits block. Up in the corner of the page there are links to the movie’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles.
“About” is the first section of content accessed via the menu at the top and gives you an alright overview of the story and the names of the actors involved. More info along those lines is in the “Cast & Crew” section, but again there’s no links or extended bios for the big names, just a simple list.
There are a number of stills in the “Gallery” that are available to download but they’re PNG files, which might be the first time I’ve seen that. The final section is “Videos,” which just has the same trailer that was at the opening of the site.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
TV spots like this one took similar tones to the trailers. Some spent more time introducing the team, some spent more time focusing on the long odds facing the motley crew and the odds they’re up against. But they almost all set out the premise that they are going to be fighting the good fight and that there are explosions and wisecracks everyone will enjoy.
Online ads using variations on the key art have driven people to find out more information on the movie’s official website or to buy tickets now. And I’m sure the key art was used extensively in outdoor billboards and other ad units.
The studiosponsored a Twitch tournament of a shooting game with an event featuring appearances by Pratt and Manuel Garcia-Rulfo as well as movie footage during breaks in game play.
Media and Publicity
Buzz and conversation around the movie really kicked off when a trailer was shown and the cast made an appearance at a CinemaCon presentation for distributors. The press campaign then got started with the release of a few official stills just before the first trailer.
Pratt and Washington were obviously, as the biggest stars here, the focus of the publicity push. That included an interview about their favorite Westerns and other topics. The whole cast made various appearances in the media and at events that were part of the publicity tour. That included late night and early morning talk shows to talk things up.
While the movie was at Toronto Fuqua talked about the importance he placed onassembling a multi-cultural cast even though our images of the old west are almost exclusively white, at least when it comes to heroes. He alsotalked here about getting the various actors, especially Washington and Pratt, on board, the dangers of embarking on remakes and more.
It’s a very on-brand campaign, and that’s a good thing. In fact it might be the most consistently on-brand movie campaign of the summer, including Suicide Squad. Everything here is brown and yellow and looks like it’s been transported hundreds of miles across harsh landscapes in a leather bag, meaning there’s a worn and rough feel to the most all the print elements of the push. Combine that with how there’s dust flying in almost every shot of the trailers and the characters all look rough and ready for action and you can certainly see that while the action may be amped up, Fuqua and his team were going for a lived-in look for the movie.
As to the story…it’s pretty standard. We get the basic outline of the action but that’s about it. The campaign is much more interested in the dynamic between the seven…heroes? No, that’s not right, but neither is anti-heroes. These are hard men who have each taken on the offered job for their own reasons but who are committed to a cause that’s morally right, even if the means aren’t exactly righteous. So we’re being sold kind of a gritty western tale of revenge but mostly a story of seven strangers who are teaming up to do the right thing for the right reasons, quipping and shooting their way out of whatever situations they find themselves in.
There are some scenes from movie history that are define the word “iconic.” Think Bogart leaning on the bar in Casablanca. Chaplin being put through the machinery in Modern Times. Daniels violently defecating in Dumb & Dumber. Right there has to be the chariot race in 1959’s Ben-Hur, as Charlton Heston drove his cart around the track, fighting for his life as those competing against him try and take him and his chariot apart. It’s a set piece that’s straight out of Hollywood’s Golden Age, filled with spectacle with huge sets and an army of extras and filmed in bright, eye-popping color to amaze audience. That kind of scene, one that becomes part of the societal and cultural narrative in a deep-seated way, can be tough to tackle when it comes to remakes.
Which brings us to another of this week’s new releases, Ben-Hur. Judah Ben-Hur (Jack Huston) is a wealthy and well-respected prince who is one day betrayed by his adopted brother Messala Severus (Toby Kebbell) because reasons. Judah is sent into slavery and taken from his homeland for years but works his back after the ship he’s on is destroyed. He immediately begins to plan revenge on his brother, now a high-ranking general in the Roman army. As he goes through the motions, though, he meets certain people – including Jesus of Nazareth – who begin to make him think there’s a better way to live.
The first poster uses this movie’s version of the iconic chariot race as the main selling point, showing the title character screaming as he holds onto the reins of his horse as it zooms around the track. It’s all variations of brown to really sell the sand-based setting of the story and the copy above the title treatment lays out the stakes: “First to finish. Last to die.” Which…doesn’t make a lot of sense if you think about it.
A set of character posters came after that showing off the five main characters, each with three descriptive characteristics so the audience can get to know them a bit better. So Judah’s poster says “Slave. Rebel. Champion” and so on.
Another group of posters took the same approach but used photos that were a bit more tightly focused than the first batch. Same goal here, to provide the audience with some background and potential motivations for the characters. Jesus appears to it into this group twice.
The theatrical one-sheet, shockingly, uses a shot from the chariot race. In fact, it’s more or less the same shot as the teaser poster, only this time the background isn’t obscured by a cloud of dust but allows us to see Severus racing against him.
Thefirst trailer sets up the epic, Gladiator-like nature of the movie. We meet Ben Hur as a slave on a ship, having been sold into slavery after his brother betrayed him and his family in Jerusalem five years before. That brother is now a major player in Rome and Hur is out for vengeance. He gets some help and is told the arena is the place to take his brother on in since anything goes there. It all leads to a final confrontation in the chariot race, though before the end we’re treated to a montage that includes the love interest, Christ being crucified and lots of horse-based action.
It’s not bad, but it’s obvious Paramount wants this to be a big, sweeping epic filled with lots of sweat and and. They’re selling this on the spectacle, with the relationship and drama between the brothers as an afterthought, an excuse to get from one set piece to the next. Again, it’s not bad, but if you have a low tolerance for this sort of thing it’s not really going to work for you.
Thenext trailer starts out with a passage from Scripture before introducing us to Judah Ben-Hur as an escaped slave. Then we get the backstory as to who he was before he became a slave and how that happened, a betrayal from his own brother. He sets out for justice for his family and we cut immediately to the chariot race sequence. Along the way we have a couple interactions between Ben-Hur and Jesus Christ.
It’s a pretty strong trailer that works a lot more well than the first one. It’s not that it’s radically different from that initial spot, but it’s just a bit tighter in its presentation. It also hits the Christian angle a lot more overtly, not only through the regular appearances by Jesus but also the copy at the end encouraging people to go find related faith resources to share.
One moreshort trailer hits most of the same beats as what we’d seen previously, ranging from Ben-Hur’s time as a slave to his challenge of his brother in the arena for the chariot race.
Online and Social
The movie’sofficial website is one in the latest trend of being almost completely devoid of content. The page features the key art as its key element, with big buttons to watch the trailer and buy tickets there in the middle of the page.
At the top is where most everything is found, though it’s notable that there’s almost nothing actually on this site, it’s just links elsewhere. First there is “#MyGreatestChallenge,” a site that asks you to share some moment from your own life where you’ve overcome adversity using that hashtag, with the site displaying those posts. Then there’s a link to another site where you can enter an official sweepstakes. Other than that there are just buttons for Group Tickets – because turning out evangelical groups has been a big focus here – and one for “Partners.”
Offsite, the movie had profiles onFacebook,Twitter andInstagram where it did the usual sharing of photos, videos and other promotional items. Nothing revolutionary there that I’ve seen.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
A pretty heavy TV presence helped advertise the movie, with spots that differed pretty clearly. Where the 30 second spots likethis one tried to show more of the story, including Ben-Hur’s time in slavery, his return for revenge and then the chariot race, the 15 second versions focused almost exclusively on that chariot race as it continued to be the centerpiece of the campaign.
Two companies are listed on the official site as promotional partners:
Langers: The juice company offered a free movie ticket when you bought four bottles of select items
Frey: The detergent-for-men company (yes, that’s apparently a thing) offered a free movie ticket when you made an online purchase
On social media, the studio used various trailers and TV commercials as the basis for paid posts. Key art was used for other online ads as well as for outdoor billboards.
Media and Publicity
While there was plenty of news about casting and production and such the first real publicity for the movie came in the form of somefirst-look stills that showed Huston as the title character and more, including a glimpse at the anticipated chariot race.
Director Bekmanbetov wasprofiled hereas he talked about his career to date and how someone who’s primarily known for dabbling in horror and other genre movies came to direct what amounts to a Biblical epic remake of a classic film. He also explained at length how this was a different movie and story than the original, though that’s countered somewhat by the focus on the chariot race in the trailers. He also talked about the support he got from producers Roma Downey and Rob Burnett, who also spoke a bit about the movie and why they wanted to bring it back.
Hey, did you know this movie, just like previous versions, has a chariot race? Because it’s literally everyone in the campaign. You can’t watch a trailer or TV spot for more than five seconds without that race showing up and it even makes its way into the publicity and press push. That seems to be indicative of where we are with movies in general in 2016, that it’s more important to have one centerpiece sequence that will wow people with visuals than it is to clearly convey the characters, story and stakes that go into the movie. It’s better to give them something to create a talkable moment that will hopefully provide enough of a lure for the audience than to get them invested in the story.
Outside of that this isn’t a bad campaign but it does have some identity issues that unnecessarily create speedbumps for the audience. It’s being sold as both a big, breathtaking epic and a story with a strong religious (specifically Christian) identity, with at least one of the trailers making Jesus a central component of the story and the character’s motivations. That could cause some confusion in the target audience, but the push for evangelical support – something that’s oddly not mentioned on the website, where it’s usually found – is apparently meant to counter that. If the movie does succeed at the box-office, which I don’t think it will based on this campaign, it will be because of that targeted outreach.
Chicago, as the saying goes, is a city of neighborhoods. From Beverly to Lincoln Park, Austin to the Near North Side and everywhere inbetween, these are the result of ethnic groupings, a little political gerrymandering and other factors. People live in Chicago in name only, with many residents identifying more with their specific neighborhoods than the city as a whole. It’s like a group of small towns that banded together out of necessity against a common enemy, with local alderman and their clout making more of an impact than City Hall. Local institutions and figures are the focal points of many of these.
Last year’s Chi-raq was a dramatic, if sometimes fantastical, look at one such neighborhood and now Barbershop: The Next Cut is here with a somewhat more light-hearted look at another one. The movie, the third in the series, comes 12 years after the last installment and picks up the story of Calvin (Ice Cube), the proprietor of Calvin’s Barbershop, a local shop that serves as neighborhood gathering place. In order to stick around Calvin’s is now sharing a space with a women’s hairstyling parlor. More than that, the surrounding area has taken a turn for the worse and so Calvin and the rest of the gang find themselves fighting for the very soul of their neighborhood as well as the survival of their business.
The first poster shows the whole cast inside the barbershop. Cedric the Entertainer and Nicki Minaj are seated in chairs while Ice Cube stands between and slightly in front of them, the rest of the cast relegated to standing in the background. It’s not a super-exciting poster, but it doesn’t need to be, it just needs to tell people the movie is coming out.
A whole series of character posters came next that showed off the employees of both shops and their patrons. There’s nothing much to them visually, it’s just about giving each member of the cast a big shout-out with their name and photo Photoshopped into the barbershop background.
The first trailer is quite good and pretty funny. We’re reintroduced to the crew of the barbershop, particularly Cube’s character, who talks over and over again about how much he loves his Chicago neighborhood. We see that the status quo has changed a bit, with his shop having merged with a women’s salon that was also struggling. That means the clientele has changed as well, with the shop no longer being a men-only refuge. The second half of the trailer is less about the shops and more about the difficulty of not only living in a neighborhood that’s subject to random shootings and other violence but also raising kids in that environment.
I’m actually a big fan of the tonal shift in the trailer as it shows that the movie will be funny but also try and address a serious topic, maybe in a less heavy-handed way than some other recent notable releases. It’s a great cast – even Nicki Minaj looks like she’s well-used in the movie – and looks like a solid entry in the series.
Thesecond trailer starts off by establishing the barbershop as the community gathering spot in a neighborhood that has plenty of challenges. After some joking around to show the relationships of the characters and the dynamics in the shop we see that they decide to affect some change by making the shop into a safe space to try and turn things around.
It’s pretty funny for many of the same reasons the first one is. Basically if you enjoy some trash-talking coupled with a social message of being responsible members of your community, this is for you.
Online and Social
Theofficial website opens with the second trailer, which is certainly worth rewatching. When you close that you’re taken to the Tumblr-based site and a version of the key art featuring most of the main cast. There’s a menu there so let’s look at that first.
“Story” takes you to About the Film (okay….) which is where you can read a decent synopsis of the story and find out about the talent on both sides of the camera. “Partners” has the names and logos of the companies who are helping to promote the movie in some way. “Get Tickets” is pretty self-explanatory.
Going back to the site you can scroll down and get lots of videos like a short featurette with the cast talking about why they came back to the franchise along with other videos, plenty of GIFs that counted down to release and more.
TheFacebook page,Twitter profile andInstagram feed for the movie are all full of promotion updates like videos, GIFs and more. Twitter, of course, has lots of RTs both of movie talent and of fans who are talking about how much they love the talent and what they’re doing to promote the movie.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
It’s hard to believe there wasn’t any TV advertising done but there’s nothing on the site or YouTube that I could find along these lines. I did see a handful of Promoted Tweets on Twitter that shared the trailer and contained a call to action to see it in theaters.
In terms of promotional partners there were a few:
Creme of Nature: The official hair care partner of the movie. Nothing unique on that company’s site outside of a big splash graphic to that effect.
FYE: Nothing on their official site that’s unique to the movie.
Wahl: Again, nothing about the movie I could find. Safe to assume they probably provided product for production.
Media and Publicity
Minaj was understandably a big part of the publicity, talking in interviews like this about what she wanted to do with her character and more in the context of her overall career. Lamore Morris also got a nice profile in connection with the movie that also touched on his role on “New Girl.” And the whole cast talked about the movie at the premiere.
Cube, though, was still the focal point. He appeared on “Good Morning America” and other talk shows to talk about the movie and returning to the franchise. He also joined other cast and crew in other press visits to keep the drumbeat going. And there was an attempt at getting plenty of local coverage with a bus tour of the country that brought a mobile barbershop to major markets, Ice Cube and other members of the cast along with it.
I like this campaign quite a bit. It’s all on-brand and knows what it is that it’s selling, which is a charming, funny movie that also has an important message to say. I’m a sucker for movies that involve heavy amounts of characters just trash-talking with each other so this campaign is right up my alley in that regard. Even more than that though I like the tight sense of rhythm the campaign has as it balances humor very real human drama.
More importantly, the campaign seems to know what the movie is. It’s a charming low-key comedy with lots of vibrant characters that deals with some of the issues facing inner-city neighborhoods in 2016. That’s no small order but Cube and the rest of the cast look like they pull it off nicely. The marketing all comes together to emphasize the story and the ensemble, both of which should provide attractive options for different segments of the audience and give them different, though no less powerful, reasons to go see it.
The Rocky movies are part of the American mythos and, in fact, do a lot to reflect that mythos back to the audience. The original movie was all about a guy who worked hard, put in his time and rose from the rundown streets of Philadelphia to be a champion, the ultimate “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” kind of story. While that would get watered down a bit over the next couple movies before Rocky ended Communism in the fourth entry the core was still there: When you apply yourself and put your heart into your work you can accomplish great things.
Now Rocky is older (as are we all) so how does Hollywood continue the franchise? Not with his own son but with the son of Rocky’s best rival, friend and trainer, Apollo. So we have Creed. While Sylvester Stallone returns as Balboa, Michael B. Jordan joins as Adonis Creed, Apollo’s son, who now wants to take his shot at a boxing title. To help him he seeks out Rocky’s guidance as a trainer. But not only does he have to become a world-class fighter, Adonis has to embrace the history that comes with using his father’s name in the ring, particularly since he’s had a rough childhood and life to date. Not a reboot, not a remake, this is a true series sequel that picks up the same narrative through line as the previous six installments of the Rocky franchise while putting the focus on a younger character that may grow into his own on film.
The first poster is mainly focused on not only selling this as a new movie but also a passing of the torch from the legacy Rocky franchise to a new generation. So the poster shows Rocky and Adonis in the ring together, Rocky’s hands on Adonis’ shoulder as he’s in the middle of passing on some sort of advice or guidance. So that “passing the torch” idea is very literal here. Above the image we get the same theme in the tagline that we have in some of the trailers that were already out, which is “Your legacy is more than your name,” which is the central struggle of the title character.
A second version again puts both characters in or at least around the boxing ring, this time with Rocky on the side looking out as Adonis prepares in his corner to go out and meet his unseen opponent.
Stallone and Jordan were each featured solo on character posters.
What I’m calling the final poster has Jordan as Creed in black and white alone against a black background looking like he’s in the middle of a fight. Between the cast names and the title is the copy “Fight for your name,” which seems to be one of the predominant themes of the movie.
All the posters are pretty visually consistent and all work very well. The stark, simple nature of the design sells this as a no-frills drama, which is very much in line with the trailers as we’ll see. And all of them put the focus on the two main characters, which is a good thing.
The first 30 seconds of the initial trailer are focused solely on Adonis as he gets himself ready and pumps himself up before a fight. So we sweep in on his shoulders and back as he flexes, punches the wall and eventually walks out into the arena. Then we cut to him training in Philadelphia, including at a gym where some trainer is trying to talk some sense into him by calling out how tough his opponents will be and reminding him that his father died in the boxing ring. He’s determined, though, so through a series of quick cuts we see the rest of his life and hear from his narration just how committed he is.
What’s remarkable here is that the movie, while it *is* a sequel and the latest installment in a long-running franchise, is being sold here as an original story. Rocky doesn’t show up until 1:30 into the trailer and if you don’t automatically put together the name “Creed” with “Apollo” and tie it to the Rocky series this looks like a stand-alone film. That is a great approach since it allows fans of Jordan and others to approach this fresh, without being turned off by it being part of Rocky’s world. And it means the movie can be sold, at least initially, without the baggage of a film franchise that’s been going on for decades. This is a great trailer and a great approach to marketing it to a new generation of moviegoers.
The second trailer is, if anything, even better than the first. It shows everything that Creed is going to go through, from fights with his mother, struggles with his girlfriend, Rocky getting sick at some point and more. But the overall theme here is to, as the song that plays over it says repeatedly, “fight.”
Jordan shines in this trailer since it focuses very clearly on his journey through the story, from someone who’s just railing against anything to someone who embraces his father’s name and legacy as he prepares to enter the ring himself. It’s emotional and effective at showing that it’s not just an interesting character study but also a story that will put Rocky in the role once taken by Mickey in the first few movies, something that’s emphasized by the “catch a chicken” sequence at the very end. It’s great.
Online and Social
Theofficial website, built on Tumblr, opens with a recreation of the teaser poster key art. At the top there’s a prompt to “Get Tickets” while in the lower left corner there are links to join the “#IFightFor” campaign (more on that below, watch the trailer or watch Future’s “Last Breath” video for the song from the movie.
If you click the “Tumblr” link in the menu you’re taken to the posts that have been made, including images, GIFs and more. There’s a section for “Fan Art” asks people for their submissions as part of a contest that was judged by Stallone and Jordan.
There are a half-dozen stills in the “Photos” section and both trailers along with a featurette can be found in “Videos.” “The Story” has a synopsis of the plot and “Cast & Crew” goes into the history of those in front of and behind the camera.
TV advertising for the movie started a couple months out from release with a spot that cribbed a few beats from the two trailers. So we see Rocky meet Adonis, begin training him and such. We also see how Rocky gets sick at some point, so Stallone has more to do here than just give inspiring speeches.
There was so much TV advertising done the movie was the top ad spender about two weeks prior to release. Thanks to some Warner Bros. corporate synergy the movie got a big push during a TNT NBA broadcast that featured featurettes and ads for the film that were sprinkled in throughout the game
There was a tie-in mobile game, a version of the Real Boxing game that was skinned to include the characters from the film.
Media and Publicity
One of the first major pieces of publicity was this feature on Jordan (GQ, 9/15) where he talked about not just the movie but his career to date, his background, what kind of roles he’d like to take in the future and more. It’s a wide-ranging interview and shows Jordan to be every bit the rising talent he’s shown himself to be so far.
The director and stars would talk from time to time about the genesis of the movie and the approach they tried to take to revive the franchise in a way that paid respect to the legacy while also making it appealing to a new generation of fans. That would continue to be a theme of the publicity as Jordan and Coogler talked about how this was an opportunity in telling a new story that took the focus off of Rocky as well as Jordan’s film history, his training routine for the movie and more.
There was lots of coverage of the kick-off to a campaign dubbed “#ifightfor” which encouraged people to share videos and photos of the important things in their lives.
Despite the prostrations that Rocky is not the focal point of the story Stallone continued to be a major part of the publicity as he talked about how this movie deals with Rocky’s mortality and how he approached the character going into this new film.
This is a really good campaign. I love the fact that Jordan is such a big, important part of the campaign and hasn’t been pushed aside by Stallone as part of a pure nostalgia play by the studio. Not that Rocky isn’t still here in a big way, but it’s clear it’s not his story we’ll be following, it’s Creed’s. While that may not sit well with some longtime fans it will likely go a long way toward attracting a new generation of fans to an original movie featuring talent – both Jordan and Coogler – that are on their way up.
There’s also a great consistency to the campaign. I mentioned this when speaking about the posters and I think it’s true to all elements that there’s very little that’s flashy here. This is a street-level, character-driven campaign that’s designed to show this is a serious movie, not a flashy, over the top story. That too is going to prove very attractive to people who may need a bit of a more serious movie after so many years of films with their tongues in their cheeks. The posters and trailers all convey a stark, earnest drama that I’m hoping the movie itself delivers on.
There is no bad in Bond. Oh sure there’s “lesser Bond” (I’m looking at you, Roger Moore) but for me at least even that lesser Bond is still a better time at the movies or with a movie than most other options. Not only am I just a big fan of spy stories, having grown up on classic Connery Bond films as well as Tom Clancy books/movies and more, but there’s just something about the swagger and style of the character that I get. Not that I have any part of that in my own life, but it’s a great escapist fantasy for me, someone who can get himself out of any situation with either his brains or his fists, whichever is going to be better in the moment. Sometimes he’s all brute force, sometimes he’s all suave charm.
Bond is back in his 24th official big-screen outing, Spectre. Picking up after the events of 2012’s Skyfall, Bond (Daniel Craig) has a new M he’s reporting to (Ralph Fiennes) and things are starting off a bit rough as James disobeys a direct order while on a mission in Mexico. The outcome of that mission, though, leads him on a winding road toward a mysterious organization that has ties to just about everything else he’s done in his time at MI6. So it’s up to Bond to not only stop the immediate threat but also to dismantle Spectre and take down its leader (Christoph Waltz) once and for all.
The teaser poster told the audience pretty much everything it needed to know; That Bond was back and that he’d be squaring off against Spectre, which any fan worth their salt would recognize immediately as a classic foe. The image of the glass shattered by a bullet is good in and of itself, but when you realize the lines radiating out toward the bottom of the frame form something like spider legs the image takes on a new sense of menace.
Shortly after that the next poster was only slightly less minimalistic. Craig is standing in the middle of the frame, gun drawn and wearing a form-fitting black outfit like you would expect to see if Bond were on some sort of night incursion. Craig’s glowering at the camera combined with the violence and threat implied in the posture and attire all combine to show that, as we’ve seen in previous installments, this is a no-nonsense adventure James is about to embark on.
The third poster is probably the weakest so far. In this one Bond is wearing a white tuxedo suit, his gun drawn while his arms are crossed in front of him. But in the back is a faded image of someone in a death mask like they’re part of the Day of the Dead celebration. That may be a nod to what’s seems to be the movie’s opening sequence, but the overall layout comes off more like a magazine ad than a poster for a franchise of this weight and reputation. It’s not bad, necessarily, it’s just weak.
Shortly after that a fourth one-sheet hit that was much better. We still get Bond (of course) but this time he’s standing more casually, though his sidearm is still drawn and hanging at his side. This time he’s joined by Léa Seydoux, who stands beside and behind him in the classic “woman looks over her shoulder so we can see her backside as well as the side of her breasts” pose which is more than a little cliched as a design trope. The Day of the Dead figure is still in the background, though this time it’s in full color and doesn’t come off quite as oddly as it did in the earlier version.
An IMAX release poster was released that was completely sans-Bond, showing just the mysterious person in the Day of the Dead mask, staring out at us and promising that the the movie was coming in IMAX.
The first teaser is all about setting up the mysteries the movie will have. It opens showing the wreckage of MI6 headquarters after the events of the last movie followed by Moneypenny giving James some personal effects from Skyfall while intimating that he has a secret. Then we see Bond on his way to meet someone in a remote location, someone who is connected to Spectre. Finally Bond enters the proverbial lion’s den, where it seems he’s expected.
It works pretty well to setup the action of the movie, though there’s a decided lack of actual action. Instead this has more of a tone of intrigue and suspense as opposed to lots of car chases and other sequences. It feels maybe a little soft because there’s not much going on, but if you’re a fan of the more contemplative Bond of the last few movies then this may appeal to you.
The next trailer opens with the Day of the Dead celebration, an operation that goes bad for James. Then we cut to Bond getting some new hardware from Q Branch before going to confront the same guy we saw in the first teaser. We start to get hints that he’s chasing down an evil organization and see some of the women he’ll encounter on his quest. He’s the common thread in the whole mystery, a mystery that’s underlined when Not Blofeld starts narrating and talking about how he’s always been just out of Bond’s reach. After a few more action sequences we get Not Blofeld again taunting James, playing up the connection between the two of them.
This feels like much more of a traditional Bond trailer, with guns and women and helicopter-based action sequences and more. This is for the core Bond fan, straight up.
The final trailer immediately starts out with Bond on the trail of Spectre. This one plays up the hunt Bond is on, focusing on a face-to-face confrontation with Blofeld and featuring some of the key action sequences in the movie since we can’t forget that these movies are all about the the spectacle. It’s short and sweet and to the point, adding just a little additional flavoring to what we’ve seen before.
Online and Social
Since Spectre is just one part of the larger official 007 website we’re just going to focus on that section as opposed to the whole thing, which celebrates the entire history of the character.
The first thing you find on that site is a “Synopsis” that’s a few paragraphs long in a header, with a gallery of recent news updates below that. Those same stories can be found in the “News” section, which is the first option in the top menu bar. After that is “Trailers & TV Spots,” which has all the videos you can scroll through and play. “Behind the Scenes” has more videos, but this time more in the “featurette” category that go into the production and provide more details on the story and characters in the movie.
There are over two dozen stills in the “Gallery.” And “Posters” has all the posters and other key art used in the marketing. The next section is called “Cars” but the only thing there is a video showing off the latest Aston Martin. “Cast & Crew” lets you dive into the actors and talent behind the camera and read brief bios of them.
TV spots for the movie hit many of the same notes as the trailers, though obviously they couldn’t go into the depths of those longer videos. But spots like this give the audience everything they need to know about this latest movie: It contains guns, explosions, car chases through exotic locales and Bond being a bit of a womanizer. It’s effective as short-form content in that it provides basic awareness for the audience to latch on to.
Bond films are always great for consumer products tie-ins and this one is no exception.
In the most common sense tie-in of all time, Aston Martin announced (THR, 9/4/15) a special “Bond Edition” DB9 sports car that featured 007 license plates and lots of other franchise branding throughout. Also on the car front was a tie-in with Jaguar Land Rover, who placed a couple of their cars in the movie and who rolled out brand new models that were billed as their most advanced ever.
Sony joined the action with the “Made for Bond” campaign for its Xperia Z5 phone. That campaign included TV spots starring actress Naomie harris, who plays Moneypenny in the movie, but not Bond himself. There were other media executions as well.
Bond would actually appear in ads for Heineken, the centerpiece of which is an extended ad that features the super-spy unwittingly involving an innocent bystander in his escapades before she actually saves him, all while deftly balancing a tray of beer.
Other partners included:
Globe-Trotter luggage would produce a line of Spectre-branded items.
MAC Cosmetics was featured as being instrumental to the look and feel of the movie, particularly the Day of the Dead sequence.
Visit Britain, which encouraged people to come and live like Bond for a day
Gillette ran co-branded ads that made their razors an integral part of leading a non-dull life
Tom Ford had a line of menswear featured in the film that was also available for purchase
The movie would become the first paid sponsorship within Snapchat’s “Discover” news feature, showing off behind-the-scenes photos and videos from some of the key action sequences and more for just 24 hours in keeping with the app’s ephemeral content.
Media and Publicity
In what is a pretty regular beat for the Bond franchise, one of the first things that was discussed was whether or not Craig would be returning after this installment, to which he responded with a firm “probably not” (Vanity Fair, 9/1/15) or words to that effect. Much was made of this despite the fact that this kind of response was not only vague but familiar to anyone who’s been watching Bond actors over the years. Of course that was all followed later on by news that yeah, Craig was signed for at least one more Bond film (EW, 10/1/15) and that he just needed a break before considering his future with the franchise.
Months and months of speculation were finally confirmed when news broke (Billboard, 9/8/15) that yes, indeed, melancholic British singer Sam Smith would be recording the theme song for this installment of the franchise.
There was lots more, of course, with the cast and crew doing the press rounds which sometimes turned into hot takes about Daniel Craig’s attitude or approach to the media. And there were plenty of stories about the Bond Women, especially Monica Bellucci, who got lots of attention for being the oldest romantic interest in the 50 year life of these movies, herself just a couple years younger than the franchise itself. Still, the inherent sexism of pointing out a woman’s age as being newsworthy is kind of…icky.
(Ed Note: I know there was a lot more, but as I’ve stated before, I’m still largely in catch-up mode here and so don’t have a full collection of stories that span that entirety of the campaign.)
As much of a Bond fan as I am, I’m sensing a bit of bloat here. I have no doubt the movie will open huge and be immensely successful – the campaign hits all the right notes to sell a mass audience on the experience – but I’m concerned we’re slipping back into the same territory the series was in during the last couple Pierce Brosnan films, only without the sense of whimsy.
Again, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the campaign and think it does its job well in setting up some larger mystery that’s tied to Bond’s past. And I’m a fan of how the Craig movies are all building off one another, with this potentially serving as the culmination of those stories. But it might be reaching just a bit too far since the marketing works really hard to make everything seem really big in a way that the movie itself may not be able to deliver on.
When Twitter launched Moments a couple weeks ago they announced that while advertising wasn’t a part of the news curation product it would be coming soon. And everyone speculated – myself included – that movie studios would be among the first adopters of the new ad unit.
Well…we were right.
Promoted Moments has been introduced today. These are ad units that will live in and look just like ordinary Moments that are curated by the Twitter editorial team and be live for 24 hours, making them particularly appealing to advertisers looking to act fast or pivot off a key moment, either cultural or within the life of the campaign. The first Promoted Moments will go live this Sunday with an ad buy from MGM/Warner Bros./New Line to promote Creed. Here’s an example from the blog post of how the Promoted Moment will look.
You can see based on that both how the Promoted Moment will fall within the list of other Moments – including what the “Promoted” disclosure will look like – as well as how it will appear when you expand it and dive into the story.
We’re about a month out from Creed’s release date, so this is just about the point where people are beginning to plan what movies they want to see and when, so it makes sense to run this ad now. I’m sure that the studios involved got some sort of “first mover” discount on the buy compared to what these will cost going forward. Plus, they’re getting all sorts of ancillary impressions from the press coverage in both the entertainment and advertising/marketing trades today.
I’d expect more studios will jump on this going forward. No word on how many Promoted Moments Twitter will offer each day, but if they keep supply tight – to one every 24 hours – they could likely get significant dollars out of Hollywood studios and others who are trying to reach people at just the right…well…moment.