Selling Bad Boys For Life

My latest column for The Hollywood Reporter is a recap of the marketing for Sony Pictures’ Bad Boys For Life.

With tracking estimating a $38 million to $50 million holiday opening weekend, Columbia’s campaign has positioned the movie as very much a throwback to the kind of movies associated with Michael Bay, who directed the original. In fact, they’re the kind of movies he’s still making, as evidenced by the recent Netflix original 6 Underground. That means lots of explosions, lots of comedic banter and more explosions from directors Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah as well as writers Chris Bremner, Peter Craig and Joe Carnahan.

You can read the whole thing here.

Selling Spies in Disguise

My latest column for The Hollywood Reporter is a recap of the marketing for Sony’s animated Spies in Disguise.

The movie is loosely based on a 2009 short film from Lucas Martell of animation studios Mighty Coconut titled Pigeon: Impossible that can be watched in its entirety on YouTube. Fox/Disney’s campaign has emphasized the humor of an animated pigeon featuring Smith’s voice to attract audiences. The movie currently sports a 72 percent “fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

You can read the whole thing here.

Selling Jumanji: The Next Level

My latest post for The Hollywood Reporter is a recap of Sony’s marketing campaign for Jumanji: The Next Level.

Sony’s marketing for the film has sought to make the movie seem familiar to the audiences that made the first movie a success while also highlighting the changes to the story, especially the incorporation of DeVito and Glover to the cast. Reviews have been generally positive, giving it an 68 percent “Fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

You can read the whole recap here.

Selling Charlie’s Angels

My latest post for The Hollywood Reporter is a recap of the marketing campaign for Charlie’s Angels.

Sony’s second attempt at a big-screen Angels franchise (which is sitting at 59 percent on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes) is hoping to entice audiences with a campaign that’s heavy on exotic locations, incredible dresses and a strong message of women protecting and supporting other women.

You can read the whole thing here.

Selling Zombieland: Double Tap

My latest post for The Hollywood Reporter is a recap of the marketing campaign for Zombieland: Double Tap.

Sony’s marketing campaign for the film has leaned into the points that connected with audiences a decade ago while also offering more than a little self-aware humor to connect with those looking for a good laugh with their zombie-surviving mayhem.

You can read the whole thing here.

Selling Men In Black – International

My latest post for The Hollywood Reporter is a recap of the marketing campaign mounted by Sony Pictures for Men In Black: International.

Sony’s campaign for Men In Black: International features the same slick technology and humor the franchise is known for. A $30 million stateside opening weekend tracking estimate (which would mark a franchise low) speaks to a challenge that marketing for the movie faces. It hasn’t been helped by reviews as the film sits at a less than mediocre 30 percent on Rotten Tomatoes and 43 percent on Metacritic.

Read the whole recap here.

Selling Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

You can read my full recap of Sony’s marketing campaign for Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse at The Hollywood Reporter.

To launch the animated feature Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Sony has built a campaign around getting fans talking about its most unusual and unexpected Spider-Man project to date. Screenings, fan Q&A sessions and convention appearances have generated some of the franchise’s most positive reviews to date and has the movie tracking to land in the $30-35 million opening weekend range.

via ‘Spider-Verse’: How Sony Marketed Its New Spider-Man Film | Hollywood Reporter

Movie Marketing Madness: Baby Driver

Director Edgar Wright is back, bringing his unique cinematic storytelling sensibilities to this week’s new release Baby Driver. Far from his collaborations with Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, this new movie isn’t a genre satire but instead a crime thriller with musical sensibilities. The story follows Baby (Ansel Elgort), a savant behind the wheel of a car who uses music to compensate for an incessant buzzing in his ears. Baby is in hock to Doc (Kevin Spacey), a crime boss who uses Baby as a getaway driver for his heists.

Baby is tired of the life and wants to get out. That desire only increases when he meets Debora (Lily James), a beautiful young waitress who he immediately falls in love with, and vice versa. Those plans to escape a life of aiding and abetting crime are hampered by Doc’s insistence Baby help him out with one more score. But as the plans come together it looks more and more doomed to fail and Baby must decide when and how to make his stand and make his own getaway with Debora.

The Posters

“All you need is one killer track” we’re told on the first poster. Along with the title and the cast list the main element on the poster is a car that’s tearing away as if it’s being shot out of a gun. It’s simple but it’s great, a very artistic effort that thankfully just doesn’t show the big heads of the cast.

The artistic direction of the poster campaign continued on the second one-sheet. This one is more focused on the entire cast, with images of all the major players arrayed here. The fact that this looks painted, though, in conjunction with the bright pink background and the action shot of the car on the highway at the bottom makes it much more interesting than the usual collage of photos you see. It looks like the cover to a comics trade paperback collection. The same copy point from the first poster is used here as well.

Each character gets their own poster in a cool-looking series that features a pop-art looking background and a key quote from them. These are a very cool way to show off all the big names individually while maintaining the movie’s overall brand identity of snazzy visuals.

The Trailers

We meet Baby as the trailer starts. He’s flirting with a diner waitress who’s interested in his job and he’s a bit evasive. He tells her he’s a driver but we see he actually means a getaway driver for some very unsavory people. Then we find out via some exposition why Baby is always sporting earphones and listening to music. He’s warned by various bad guys about the danger of forming any connections but also see that he can’t extricate himself from the violent criminal life he’s in the middle of.

It’s insane, the movie that’s presented here. It looks fast and funny and bright and just great. It’s not the kind of thing we might normally expect from Wright, but that’s alright since he’s made a career of defying expectations. There’s just a lot of fun stuff going on here as the characters and situations are all introduced.

The second trailer is even more focused on style and attitude, working to present the movie as the coolest cinematic choice out there. It heavily features the positive reviews it’s already received from early screenings and has the great soundtrack that’s been assembled at its core. There’s minimal story here, just vibe.

Online and Social

The movie’s official website plays the “TeKillYeh” trailer when you load it up, so settle in and watch it again as you like. Close that and you get a full-screen version of the key art of the car being shot from the gun. A big prompt to “Get Tickets” is toward the middle of the page by the title and links to the Twitter, Facebook and Instagram profiles sit in the upper right corner.

Opening up the drop-down menu in the upper-left, the first link there is to “Trailer” which plays the same trailer that opened the site. After that is “About” which has a brief story synopsis.

You can see the talent that made the movie in the “Cast & Crew” section, but there aren’t any bios or links to dive in any deeper. “Partners” has the information on the few companies who signed up to help with promotion. Finally there’s a prompt to “Get Exclusive Content” that takes you to an email registration form.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

TV spots like this one boiled down the story to its core elements of Baby being an extremely-talented driver who may not be on the right side of the law. There’s a bit about the romance with Deborah and it makes it clear the movie is powered by some great tunes.

When it came to promotional partners, the movie signed up:

  • Alpha Industries, which created a movie-inspired line of apparel, with jackets named after six of the movie’s main characters.
  • New Era Cap, but details on that promotion weren’t readily apparent.
  • Subaru, which is using the movie to promote its WRX model.
  • Urban Outfitters, which offered an exclusive t-shirt and vinyl version of the soundtrack.

Online ads used some version of the key art and the trailers were heavily used for social media ads that drove views and interest in ticket sales.

Media and Publicity

While there was no lack of buzz for the movie (as is expected for Wright’s features), the first official look came in EW’s 2017 preview issue along with an interview with the director. It was later announced as one of the movies that would screen at SXSW Film, a screening that went very well.

The clear sense of unique style on display in the first trailer and posters lead to a bevy of fan art from designers and other creatives who were inspired by it, leading to some nice organic word-of-mouth for a movie that isn’t a big franchise release.

There was a profile of Eiza Gonzalez, who plays one of the criminals in Doc’s crew, that talks about her career in telenovelas and other shows to date as well as how she got the role in this movie. Wright also talked about how it had been 20 years since he came up with the idea for the movie, which came to him while listening to music unsurprisingly.

Elgort of course did a bit of press, talking about how he got into the movie, his career and fame level so far, what he’d like to do next and more. And of course given the movie’s focus on music the cast was asked for their guilty pleasure songs.

That’s just a small part of the press push, though, as Wright and Elgort in particular lead up the effort to go talk about the movie, its inspirations, its music, their careers so far and related topics. Jamie Foxx, Jon Hamm, Spacey and other members of the cast also got involved to varying degrees to play up their involvement, talk about working with Wright and so on.

Overall

There are a couple things going on with this campaign.

First, the formal marketing is almost solely focused around the music. Even when the story is being laid out or emphasized, the angle is on how that story is supported by the music that’s included on the soundtrack. Posts on social media have come with the look and feel of mixtapes and cassette singles and, as I wrote about a few weeks ago, one of the final trailers is more interested in the music than it is anything else about what might appeal to moviegoers. That angle was also heavily used in the press push.

Second, there’s the appeal of Edgar Wright himself. He has a great reputation among film geeks with his Cornetto Trilogy and Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, in addition to his fabled work on and then firing from Ant Man a few years ago, something that came back up in the last bit of press interviews. His name isn’t plastered over everything, but it’s noticeable enough that if you’re prone to give his movies extra consideration, you’ll catch it.

All that adds up to what’s being sold as just a fun time at the movies. The whole campaign has that fast and loose attitude, much like the driving that’s on display. You’ll tap your toes and watch intently, just like if you’re cruising down the highway with the windows open and your own personal soundtrack blaring from your car speakers. To finish up the metaphor, the marketing hits the gas and keeps going, showing enough of the characters to make you care about their fate but also selling more legit car action than any three Fast / Furious movies combined.

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Movie Marketing Madness: Life

We’re heading back to space with this week’s new release Life. The movie, starring Rebecca Ferguson, Jake Gyllenhaal, Ryan Reynolds and others, follows a crew of six astronauts aboard the International Space Station. That crew has a very specific mission: Retrieve a probe that’s on a return mission from Mars with the first sample of extraterrestrial life. They want to study it in space first before bringing something unknown back to Earth, which sounds sensible enough.

Of course that precautionary measure turns out to be a good idea when the sample turns out to be something less than cute and fuzzy. As soon as they start studying it, the lifeform displays aggressive tendencies and soon grows to be a fully-formed threat not only to those on the station but also to those on Earth. The space station’s orbit is quickly decaying, meaning it’s crashing back to solid ground with a violent and seemingly unstoppable alien on board.

The Posters

The first poster is all about the stars, showing off the faces of Gyllenhaal, Ferguson and Reynolds in their helmets, with life support and other systems around them. The triptych design stacks all those faces on top of each other, the title treatment running down the side. “Be careful what you search for,” the copy warns us.

The next poster aims to amp up the mystery. So instead of showing the faces of the stars, it just features a look at a space suit with a hand reaching out, presumably in terror and desperation, and pressed up against the faceplate of the suit. “We were better off alone” we’re told in copy that hints nicely at a story that involves interstellar life.

The Trailers

The first trailer starts out by establishing the setting, which is the International Space Station where a group of astronauts and scientists are conducting research. That includes collecting space trash that’s floating around in orbit and, we see, finding proof of extraterrestrial life. While examining a specimen, though, one of the crew is essentially attacked, an event portrayed here as leading to all kinds of problems aboard the ship as crew member turns on crew member and everyone is fighting for survival in the harsh environment of space.

It’s a tight, tense trailer that doesn’t try to overly sell any one aspect of the story. So it’s clear we’ve got an ensemble cast but the footage doesn’t linger too long on any one of them. And it’s clear that there’s something terrible and dangerous on board, but the focus is instead on how the crew reacts to that and how the interpersonal dynamic changes more than what this creature is and what the threat is. The pitch here is a tightly-wound, close-quarters thriller more than a big space movie.

The second trailer, which debuted in the wake of a Super Bowl TV commercial, amped up that tension. First the story’s parameters are established as we see the team is meant to recover a capsule that’s on its way back from Mars. They find the mysterious life form on board and it quickly begins causing trouble, threatening not just the crew but also life on Earth as a whole.

It’s a bit better than the first one because it spends more time on establishing the premise of the story, so we feel a bit more invested in the characters and the stakes they’re fighting for on the space station.

One more short “restricted” trailer amped up the tension and showed the havoc the mysterious alien lifeform wreaks on the members of the space station and the way those astronauts deal with the loss of life that’s happening around them.

Online and Social

The official website loads that final “restricted” trailer when it comes up. After it finishes or you close the player the site *really* wants you to buy tickets, offering a listing of nearby theaters and even a map to help you find where it’s playing.

Moving up to the content menu at the top of the page, the first section is “Videos” and is where you can watch all the trailers, some featurettes, TV spots, cast interviews and more. After that “Synopsis” offers a very short write-up of the movie’s story.

The “Gallery” has a handful of stills of very members of the cast. “Share” encourages you to post a link to the site on your own social media pages and the menu ends with links to the movie’s own Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

The studio engaged in quite a bit of social advertising around the time the first trailer was released. Ads using the trailer appeared frequently on Twitter for a week after it debuted.

The paid campaign continued with a Super Bowl commercial that sold the movie as a straight-up horror movie, albeit one featuring some of the biggest stars around right now.

More TV spots continued to sell the tension inherent in finding an alien life form that’s not altogether friendly.

Media and Publicity

There were a few stories here and there about the movie but a big pop came when it was announced as the closing film at SXSW.

Outside of that there appears to have been limited major press activities. Reynolds was interviewed here and there as was the rest of the cast and there were stories that resulted from junkets, screenings and so on. They all made the talk show rounds to hype the movie and talk about working together and other topics.

Overall

I don’t know what to make of this campaign. It features three pretty big stars but it seems like it’s being given a marketing push more akin to something that’s being burned off in January than a major release with at least two instantly-recognizable actors. Considering Reynolds and Gyllenhaal are at the top of their game both critically and at the box-office right and that Ferguson is coming off great reviews from Mission Impossible 5 now it’s strange that the marketing seems to push them to the side as often as it can.

That’s not to say they’re hidden completely, of course. It just means it seems like the studio got a bunch of stars into the movie but, because it’s an original story that isn’t meant to launch or continue a franchise, it’s not sure how to sell it. The focus is obviously on the terror of the alien that’s terrorizing the space station, but that only goes so far. Basically it seems like Sony couldn’t decide whether to sell this as a small-scale horror film (impossible because of the caliber of the cast) or as a star-studded drama (difficult because there aren’t easily-fulfilled audience expectations). The result of all that is kind of a muddle.

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Movie Marketing Madness: T2 Trainspotting

Mark, Sick Boy, Spud and the rest of the crew from the 1996 original are back in T2 Trainspotting. The new movie, appropriately, picks up 20 years after the events of the first, which ended as Mark absconded with the entirety of the money the crew had gotten as the result of a drug deal they had fallen into without entirely intending to. Mark (Ewan McGregor) is back in Edinburgh, looking to right old wrongs and heal old wounds.

That doesn’t go quite as smoothly as he intends it to. Spud (Ewen Bremner) is not doing so well, still struggling with heroin addiction. Sick Boy (Jonny Lee Miller) is still nursing the grudge over Mark walking out two decades ago while continuing to dabble in various illegal, often drug-related activities. Worst of all, Begbie (Robert Carlyle) is in prison, still angry at everyone for sending him there and ready to enact his revenge. That’s the word Mark finds himself thrust back into in this sequel, like the first one directed by Danny Boyle.

The Posters

There were a number of posters, including some character versions, released in the U.K. but for the U.S. release focused on here the main version seems to be the one showing all four of the leads staring into the camera. The expressions on their faces range from quizzical to inquisitive to outright angry, depending on the circumstance. Boyle’s previous credits, including both the original and Slumdog Millionaire, are both name-dropped here. The copy point below the title tells us to “Face your past. Choose your future.”

The Trailers

The first teaser is simple but it does what it needs to do, which is show off the returning cast. The spot opens with a train zooming by as Iggy Pop’s “Lust for Life” slowly gains in volume. As the train passes we see the four main characters standing there, with the screen eventually displaying their names as well. Again, it’s short but this is what fans are looking for out of the gate.

The first full trailer gets down into things, as Simon asks Mark the same question the audience has, which is what he’s been up to for the last 20 years. That’s about it for story, though, as the entire rest of the trailer is filled with the same sort of manic, drug-filled visuals that were in the first movie. We catch back up with Spud and the other characters as it’s clear Mark is returning home and meeting back up with those from his past and that there will be hijinks and action.

The trailer works *really* hard to capture the spirit of the first movie with its hyperkinetic visuals and drug-fueled rampages. How much of that is forced and how much is the natural result of Boyle reuniting with the original cast remains to be seen.

One more trailer – dubbed “Legacy” – draws the clear line between the first movie and this new one, showing that it’s a continuation of the story of those characters. Many of the same shots are in here from previous trailers and it still uses “Lust for Life” so it’s all about making sure the audience knows they can expect more of the same in this new installment.

Online and Social

The official website opens with video pulled from the trailers playing in the background, behind the title.

Start scrolling down the page, or use the navigation at the top, and “Videos” is the first section but it just has the one official trailer. After that “About” has a brief synopsis of the story. “Gallery” has a handful of stills, most of them showing McGregor and Miller. Finally “Cast & Crew” has the names of the major players involved in the movie.

Going off-site, “Updates” wants you to subscribe to email updates from the studio. “Soundtrack” opens iTunes to get you to buy the album and finally “Poster Maker” lets you create a version of the poster featuring your own name and photo which can be shared on social channels. There are also links here to movie’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

No TV advertising that I could find but it’s possible there was a bit done overseas, just not in the U.S. And I’m not aware of any online or outdoor advertising either.

Media and Publicity

The cast talked about the movie here and there, including an interview with Carlyle where he mentioned his emotional reaction to first reading the script and more. Clips and behind-the-scenes featurettes were dropped here and there to keep conversation going. And Boyle spoke about what convinced him to dive back into this world and these characters while he and McGregor revealed why they didn’t speak for almost a decade but eventually reconnected.

There was a lot of press and McGregor in particular did the talk show rounds, particularly in the U.K. The U.S. campaign was a little less full-throated but still worked to get the word out.

A last effort to get some positive word of mouth going came when it the movie was the “secret screening” happening at the recent SXSW film festival in the last week.

Overall

There’s an overt – and sometimes heavy-handed – reliance on nostalgia throughout the campaign, occasionally veering into selling this as a remake of the first movie more than a sequel. In that regard it’s pretty similar to this week’s Beauty and the Beast remake. But it also sells its own unique experience, catching up with these characters after 20 years to see what’s going on and what’s new with them.

It shares that approach with other recent legacy sequels to movies like Independence Day, Zoolander and others. But at least it’s more overt about it, revelling in how it recreates key moments from the original and making it part of the story, about how we keep making the same mistakes in life and are in many ways unable to escape our past, no matter how far we run. The campaign sells it as a high-adrenaline, fast-paced bit of fun, which is more you can say about those other movies.

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