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.


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.


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.


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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Movie Marketing Madness: Underworld: Blood Wars

underworld_blood_wars_ver8Kate Beckinsale is back as Selene the death dealer in Underworld: Blood Wars, the fifth installment in the Underworld franchise that began all the way back in 2003. It’s been four years since the last movie and while it’s hard to say that the general populace has been clamoring for more, the movies have generally at least made their money back (though the last one can’t hold to that claim) and so in the age of pulling out any and all brand names from the closet, this one was likely inevitable for a new movie.

This one puts Selene once again at the forefront of the eons-long struggle between Lycans and Vampires, each side wanting to eliminate the other. This time she’s out to put a final end to the fight while also dealing with the Vampire clan that betrayed her, I’m guessing in the last movie, which I haven’t seen. She holds the key to the war’s end and finds that achieving her quest may lead her to make the most difficult decision of all.

The Posters

Beckinsale as Selene stands alone on the first poster, her black leather suit just barely visible beneath the white coat she’s wearing while standing in a snow-covered forest of bare white trees. So…white. She’s got both guns drawn and at the ready and look of fierce determination on her face, which is presumably in line with the movie’s story, which we’re told here is to “Protect the bloodline.” So Selene’s clearly on an important mission here.

A series of character posters came next showing Selene and the rest of the major characters. No names or other information are provided about them, just the actor’s names, on images that put them in front of some kind of gothic or snowy background. Again, the color palette here is all white and blue and grey.

The next poster just featured Beckinsale as Selene in her signature skin-tight black outfit and firing her pistols at something just below the camera, promising the audience a bit of sex appeal and plenty of violence.

Finally, the theatrical one-sheet shows Selene in a less violent and more contemplative position, looking out in the distance as rain or snow falls around her. “Protect the bloodline” copy at the top hints at the story a bit but that’s about it in terms of selling the story.

The Trailers

The first trailer starts off with Selene catching us up on the battle between the vampires and the Lycans, including how personal the war is to her since the enemy killed her parents. Things have been quiet but have started moving again, with the Lycans under new leadership. Selene, we find out, is no longer the favorite death dealer of the vampires but her skills are needed now, not to mention that her blood may hold the key to something vague and undefined.

Ohhh…kay. This certainly does sell an installment in the Underworld franchise, which means it’s confusing, more than a little nonsensical and is filled with mythology without any actual stakes. It features plenty of blue-tinged visuals and violence, hallmarks of the previous movies. It deals with the fact that it’s been several years since the last installment as well as it can with the opening narration but ultimately it fails to present a real reason why we should be interested in the return of these characters.

There’s more of a clear-cut (at least for this franchise) story on display in the second trailer. We get some talk about how Selene has been out of the fight for a while but she’s needed now because reasons. And there’s another coven that’s after both her and her daughter because they need her blood to make them more powerful than they are, something Selene’s not on board with. Then it’s just a lot of special effects and fighting.

Like I said, this one’s a bit better because it features a clearer explanation of the movie’s story, but the audience is still being asked to sign on for a muddled narrative filled with mythology that, I’m guessing, not everyone remembers from the first few films.

The main addition from the third trailer is that it makes it clearer Selene goes on some sort of journey that results in her getting new powers, powers we’ve seen in the other trailers but never had explained.

Online and Social

The movie’s official website opens with one of the trailers and when you’re done with that there are links to the Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles for the movie over in the upper right corner.

“Trailer” is the first section of content in the left-hand menu as well, followed by “Synopsis” which is where you can find a brief plot outline. “Cast and Crew” just has the names of the major players without any further information or links about them.

The “Gallery” has four stills, all of which feature Beckinsale in her signature outfit. Finally, “Partners” has links to the companies that signed on for promotional efforts.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

TV spots like this one continued to not really worry about coherently selling a story instead focusing on various aspects of the flashy visuals, offering bits and pieces of the plot. Oddly, there’s no overt appeal to nostalgia or mention of this wrapping up the series’ story or anything like that, it’s just kind of out there as a crazy, over-the-top sequel.

The studio also ran a “3D interactive lens” ad on Snapchat, a 360-degree lens that added movie-themed branding to people’s pictures and videos. There wa also a Snap-to-unlock along with that.

There were also a handful of cross-promotional companies, including:

  • Darkstorm Comics: Published a tie-in graphic novel related to the movie’s story.
  • Vampire Vineyards: Offered a movie-themed sweeps to win a hometown screening.
  • Venum: Also offered a hometown screening sweeps.

Congratulations to the studio exec who found two companies with thematically-appropriate names, but couldn’t they do anything more original with them?

Media and Publicity

It was announced that this would be one of the movies Sony brought to New York Comic-Con in advance of release to help promote it to the geek crowd assembled there. At that panel Beckinsale and others talked about returning to the franchise, their characters and more.

Beckinsale, naturally, continued to be the focal point of the press push with interviews like this that let the actress talk about her career to this point.



The campaign seems fine, though it can’t shake the fact that the movie seems to be the definition of non-essential. As I said at the outset, it’s not like this is a widely beloved franchise that has a long history of success. While it surely has a core devoted fanbase, if someone asked the average moviegoer when the last Underworld movie was they’d likely have a hard time nailing it down. It’s been around, but isn’t like some other recent sequels where we’re revisiting characters we haven’t seen in a while. This seems like someone just making sure the IP is kept in-house.

As I’ve said throughout, it’s remarkably unconcerned with selling the story, perhaps a realization that’s not the franchise’s strong suit. Just throw Kate Beckinsale in the suit and insert some random werewolf and vampire minions for her to shoot along with a couple mustache-twirling jerks out for their own agendas and hope the audience shows up to the extent it makes its money back.

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Movie Marketing Madness: Passengers

passengers_ver2Space travel and exploration has long captivated audiences, including recent movies such as Interstellar, Gravity and more. The latest to attempt to capture the imagination of the moviegoing public is Passengers, starring Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence. The two play Jim Preston and Aurora Dunn, just a couple of the thousands of occupants of Starship Avalon, a ship that’s on a 120-year trip to an outbound planet where humanity is establishing an outpost.

Problems begin with Jim and Aurora wake up almost a century earlier than planned and the rest of the travelers. So they’re alone and stranded on a ship they have no control over and will most likely die on. That means they have lots of free time and a bit of fatalism. While they play out a rom com on an interstellar journey there are problems that occur both with the ship and between each other as secrets are revealed.

The Posters

passengersNothing about the story on the first poster, just close-ups of both Lawrence and Pratt. Weird-looking characters in the middle along with the title treatment vaguely hint at a futuristic story of some sort but that’s it. This teaser is 100% aiming to just sell the movie based on your love of the two stars.

The second poster again uses the huge looming faces of Lawrence and Pratt, both airbrushed to within an inch of their humanity, as the primary element. This time though they’re separated by a huge beam of light bisecting the poster vertically, a small shot of the ship they’re on in the middle of it. Copy tells us “There’s a reason they woke up,” hinting at some sort of mystery that will be revealed over the course of the story.

The Trailers

We get as the first trailer starts a cute little flirty moment of Jim asking Aurora out via a little robot, which establishes some attraction and the sci-fi setting. That’s reinforced when, on their date and in front of the robot bartender, she asks him why he gave up his life on Earth. Then we start getting the meat of the story, about how they’re on a ship of colonists to another planet that was supposed to last over a hundred years. But these two woke up 90 years early. Soon the ship starts having troubles and the two have to fight for their own survival as well as that of everyone else on the ship.

It’s not bad, certainly tapping in to the audience’s love of both Pratt and Lawrence, who get to exercise flirty rom-com elements of their skills as well as the big franchise action set-piece chops both have developed in the last few years. It’s clear the studio wants to sell this to some extent as this year’s Interstellar, a weighty space movie that also has Something Important To Say, but this looks more like cheesy (but in a good way) B-movie fluff instead of an art film with sci-fi trappings. It’s emotional and action-oriented and is selling a big-screen experience even more than the story.

Significant numbers of social media conversations followed in the wake of the trailer’s debut.

A short trailer – really just a glorified TV spot – came next that boiled the story down to its core elements of two ridiculously good looking people being stranded on an out-of-control spaceship, with a bigger mystery looming over them. It’s dramatic and works like a TV commercial in how it get to the point quickly and with maximum effect.

Online and Social

The official website opens with the event trailer that you can close if you don’t want to rewatch it. On the home page there are links to the movie’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles. There are also prompts to buy tickets now.

Also there are links to “Become a Passenger Now,” a microsite that is basically an opt-in to receive email updates about the movie and other Sony Pictures release. Finally on the main page you can “Send a Message From the Stars,” which prompts you to visit the site on your mobile device, where you can write a short message and have it added to the others that have been created.

Moving to the content menu that’s in the upper right drop-down, the first section is “Trailer” which has the same trailer that played at the site’s loading. “Synopsis” gives you a brief write-up of the movie’s story.

“Cast and Crew” has lists of those involved with the movie both in front of and behind the camera. There are just three stills in the “Gallery” and then there’s another prompt to buy tickets. Finally, there’s a link to enter the “Zero Gravity Sweepstakes” to win a date in zero-G.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

TV spots like this one started running in early November, about two months out from release. It lays out the basic points of the story – the two characters woke up 90 years before the rest of their interstellar travelers – but basically positions it as an action romance featuring two very likeable movie stars.

Those TV spots were also used as social network ads, following in the footsteps of the first trailer.

The studio also ran “snap to unlock” ads on Snapchat that gave people access to a special movie-themed filter. This was also promoted on outdoor ads in subways and elsewhere.

Sony took advantage of corporate synergies with an installation at Sony Square NYC featuring the hibernation pods and other recreations of movie sets and props.

Media and Publicity

Lawrence would start talking about the movie as she was promoting the final Hunger Games film along with the David O. Russell movie Joy, starting with a Hollywood Reporter roundtable where she made predictably awkward comments about filming a sex scene with the married Pratt.

A while after that both Lawrence and Pratt appeared at a CinemaCon presentation to talk about the movie, their characters and the story. A few months later the public was given their first look at the movie in the form of exclusive stills in EW that accompanied an interview with director Morten Tyldum where he talked about the chemistry between the two leads, the challenge of shooting a big movie with a small story and more.The production design, particularly the look and feel of the starship, got some attention as well toward the end of the push.


That doesn’t do justice to the massive publicity tour Lawrence and Pratt went on for what seemed like four months before the movie’s release. They appeared, either apart or together, on just about every TV talk show, radio program and more, sat for joint interviews with the print press and so on until it reached overload. Of course with two such charming and photogenic actors, what else would you expect the studio to do? The campaign needed to put them out there as much as possible, even if it went well past what might be the audience’s appetite for shenanigans.


That last point is really the key to the campaign. The trailers and rest of the campaign have established the story pretty well, but the focus of the marketing has been on the chemistry between Pratt and Lawrence so it makes sense to put that on display as much as possible. It’s key considering how much the public loves these two actors, both on and off the screen,

As for the story itself, it’s…not really there in the campaign. We get the premise about the ship waking the two characters up way early and that the two start fooling around because they’re both ridiculously good looking and what else are you going to do for the 50 years you have left before you die. But what, other than some technical problems aboard the ship to keep things interesting, happens after that isn’t spilled at all. That leaves a lot of room for the audience to be either surprised or disappointed.

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Movie Marketing Madness: Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk

billy_lynns_long_halftime_walkBased on a true story, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk seems to be coming along at just the right time in society. The story follows Lynn (Joe Alwyn) through the present day as he’s recruited to be part of a patriotic halftime show during a Thanksgiving NFL game. We also see flashbacks to his time in the Army and what happened to him and the rest of his squad in Iraq that lead to him being feted in the way he is.

So as we follow Billy both during his time in the Army and his time in the spotlight, the movie appears to be tackling an important issue, from the role of the military in the world to the way we deal with and accept veterans and current soldiers when they’re back home. It’s catching us a time when everything is under the spotlight, particularly the respect that’s due to soldiers, police and others. When a football player taking a knee during the National Anthem is front-page news and everyone is discussing what does and doesn’t constitute patriotism, the story of the movie appears especially vital and relevant.

The Posters

We get a shot of Lynn’s back on the first and one-sheet, showing him from behind has he looks around as fireworks explode in the air. There’s no story explanation or copy point here, just the cast list, the title treatment and the reminder at the top that this movie comes from the director of Life of Pi.

It’s pretty simple for the movie’s only poster. The choice to emphasize some form of the spectacle as opposed to hinting at almost anything about the story is an interesting one, but it’s not clear whether that will resonate with the audience.

The Trailers

The first trailer starts out by showing us Lynn’s point of view at the Super Bowl. That continues to be the framing device for the trailer, which bounces between that and scenes of him in the military and coming home from being at war. The dialogue that’s shared tells us how Lynn is adjusting to life back in the world and what kind of people he’ll encounter and situations he’ll be put in.

It’s an emotional trailer that outlines the broad strokes of the story pretty well without actually offering much in the way of detail. There’s a lot of good stuff here as it sells a drama that will pull on the audience’s heartstrings pretty hard.

It’s surprising then that this was the only trailer. Perhaps the studio didn’t want to spoil too much, but I kept expecting a second trailer that would go a bit deeper on the story or emphasize different elements and in a different way. As it stands, though, this is all that came through.

Online and Social

When you load the official website you’ll see a recreation of the key art that was previously discussed. Up in the top right corner are links to the movie’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles where the studio has been sharing clips and other marketing materials. All three profiles have a lot of overlapping content, with a bit more fan RTing on Twitter being the primary differentiator there.

Moving into the content menu on the left of the page, the first section is “Trailer” and just has the one trailer that was produced. After that is “Synopsis” and is where you can find a decent write-up of the story that makes sure to emphasize the high-frame rate the movie was shot at.

“Cast & Crew” is just a list of the actors and behind-the-scenes talent but no further career histories or links. Finally, the “Gallery” just has two stills from the production.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

TV spots like this one played up the chaotic nature of both warfare and life at home for returning soldiers. It intercuts footage from throughout the movie as it creates a frantic pace, emphasized by the ringing sound that gets stronger as the spot races toward its conclusion. There’s little explanation of the story here, it’s all about creating an emotional reaction in the audience.

No direct knowledge of them, but I’m sure plenty of outdoor and online ads have been run as well. There were no promotional partners that I’m aware of.

Media and Publicity

Some of the first real publicity for the movie came in the form of this interview with Lee where he talked about the different technology he’s using to make the movie and more just before the first footage was screened for attendees of an industry event. A first look still from the movie came next.

A feature in Entertainment Weekly covered how Lee decided to shoot the movie at an unprecedented 124 fps, the better to catch all the grain and grit in the action sequences and make the images appear more lifelike as well as the difficulties in casting the unknown Alwyn, who had to endure a week of screen tests to get the role. The new technology was also the focus of further press coverage in the New York Times.

It was later announced the movie would have its official debut at the New York Film Festival. Just before that more press hit, some of it talking about the movie’s technical achievements and amazing visual look, some focusing on Alwyn and the short, incredible ride he’s taken after being cast in the movie, his first acting role. Lee and producer Tom Rothman also talked about the long journey the movie took to production as well as covering again the discussion of the high frame rate and other technical innovations. Lee and Alwyn covered similar ground here.


Some of the cast, including Vin Diesel, made the talk show rounds as well.


As I said in the opening, the movie would appear to be particularly timely right now, with all the conversations and debates about what patriotism does and doesn’t look like. And it’s coming just over a year after a report that events like this at NFL games aren’t organic expressions of support for the military but the result of a paid campaign by the U.S. Department of Defense. So there are multiple ways in which the studio can tap into what’s happening right now and make a strong statement.

While there are elements of that in the campaign, it suffers quite a bit from the fact that it’s just not as robust as a large-scale awards contender should be. Just one trailer, just one poster and a website that doesn’t go into any depth on the true story being portrayed all seem a bit lackluster and underwhelming. Add to that the fact that the focus of the publicity wasn’t really the story and instead kept harping on the frame rate and other technical innovations and you have a slightly disappointing marketing push from one of film’s most-admired filmmakers.

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Flashback MMM: Taxi Driver

taxi-driver-40thMartin Scorsese’s gritty, groundbreaking movie Taxi Driver is returning to theaters this weekend, with special Fathom Events-hosted screenings marking the 40th anniversary since its release, joining a new Blu-ray restoration being released in a few weeks. So it’s a good time, I think, to take a look at the movie’s campaign. But this time instead of going back to look at the 1976 campaign that originally sold it to audience I thought I’d look at the new assets created for the new release of the movie.

In case you need a refresher on the movie’s story, let’s catch up. Robert DeNiro plays Travis Bickel, a New York City taxi driver who suffers from paranoid delusions that are being made worse by his insomnia. Increasingly detached from reality he becomes more and more dangerous, convinced only he can save the city, which was falling apart due to poverty and crime at the time. Becoming involved with a campaign worker played by Cybill Shepherd, he flirts with planning to kill the president until he decides his mission is to save a young prostitute played by Jodie Foster. The movie is a snapshot of New York in the 70s, which was dirty and grimy and crime-ridden and a veritable powder-keg of tension.

The poster to mark this weekend’s re-release is more artfully designed than that of many new releases and captures much of the essence of the movie in a fairly simple image. What we see is the rear-view mirror of a car – presumably a taxi – with DeNiro’s eyes visible in the mirror. Slightly below the mirror, blurry in the unfocused distance are the city lights, including an “XXX” sign that shows the state of the city at the time and what Bickel is lashing out against. The brown and yellows of the poster are all faded and muted, giving a sense of the gritty look and feel of the movie.

The re-release trailer is focused on Bickel’s decent into madness. Dialogue from him talks about how eventually the filth and animals of the city will be washed away by a “real rain.” We see him getting more and more unhinged, briefly interacting with Shepherd and Foster and others. Generally he’s going through the city, becoming more and more disillusioned with what he sees around him, from the porn theaters to the prostitution to the violence. He obviously doesn’t play well with others. Much of the last half of the trailer intercuts between the famous “You talkin’ to me?” scene and other shots to show just how dangerous he’s becoming.

It’s a solid trailer that is meant to reenforce what audiences already love about the movie, from that iconic scene that everyone can quote (often incorrectly) to the shots of DeNiro and a young Foster to images of DeNiro becoming more and more unhinged. It’s not all that innovative but should get the job done when it comes to reinforcing the movie’s status as a classic.

There was also a shorter Fathom-specific version that condensed the best parts into 30 seconds.

So the campaign as a whole, while not huge, did what it needed to do to take what people love about the movie and reminding them that many haven’t had the chance to see it on the big screen in years, if ever. Earlier in the year the cast and Scorsese did some press to mark the anniversary, making for a nice sustained effort for the re-release, even if that press push wasn’t necessarily tied to this weekend’s events.

Movie Marketing Madness: The Magnificent Seven

magnificent_seven_ver5When 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.

The Posters

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.

The Trailers

The first 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 studio sponsored 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.

The movie was among those which debuted or otherwise screened at the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival.

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 on assembling a multi-cultural cast even though our images of the old west are almost exclusively white, at least when it comes to heroes. He also talked 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.

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Movie Marketing Madness: Ghostbusters

ghostbusters_ver8Want to get Movie Marketing Madness via email? Sign up here. Then connect with MMM on Twitter and Facebook.

There’s this notion – I think it first really came up in 1999 when the Star Wars Prequels were released – that something new that’s an extension of what you loved as a child can ruin the old things you enjoyed in said childhood. “This ruined my childhood” is the rallying cry of those who feel they can no longer enjoy a piece of popular entertainment they grew up with because a sequel, prequel, reboot, remake or other new version of that property has been released, or is going to be released, that isn’t slavishly devoted to the original.

It’s too bad that my generation in particular seems to be embracing this mindset. It’s such a victim mentality and shows how little we’ve developed emotionally that we’re still arguing over how every Star Wars movie needs to make us feel like we’re five years old again, how every Voltron adaptation needs to have certain elements to be considered real and so on. I get it…I do. These things were important to us as we were growing up and the culture has evolved with us, making sure we can by $400 replica busts of the characters we once owned $3.99 action figures of, offering us Blu-ray special editions of Saturday morning cartoons that are *not* essential and otherwise drawing upon our nostalgia for the sake of making a buck.

But this cultural warping – We’re all living in “Ready Player One,” with no culture of our own, just a constant obsession with what came three decades ago – has skewed things. It’s not only hampered the creation of a new cultural generation – my kids have little of their own, just LEGO versions of the movies I grew up with and Netflix reboots of the shows I used to watch – but babied the people who haven’t been able to move on. I’m not saying all these people are 45 year olds who still live in their parents’ basement, I’m saying that society has allowed them to maintain a state of arrested cultural development that eschews anything that infringes on their beloved touchpoints violently and with disdain for anyone who would create such seeming monstrosities or have the temerity to defend it.

Which brings us, of course, to Ghostbusters. Not a sequel to the 1984 and 1989 movies starring Bill Murray, Harold Ramis, Dan Ackroyd, Ernie Hudson and Sigourney Weaver, it’s also not a remake since there’s no desire to tell the same story. If anything it’s the dreaded “reboot” as it’s a straight up new movie that uses the name and the concept of the original to go in a new direction. This new movie stars Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Leslie Jones and Kate McKinnon as a team of spook-hunting experts who team up to take on an spectral invasion of Manhattan.

The movie, as will be discussed below, has come in for more than a full helping of nerd rage. While the original Ghostbusters is certainly a great movie – one of my personal favorites, I’ll admit – it’s not a sacred text where any attempt to alter or otherwise interpret the idea has an effect on my immortal soul. But apparently for legions of “fans” who have spent the last 20 years buying replica props off eBay the movie is sacrosanct and should never be spoiled by hands other than those of the original creators.

One suspects, though, that the “burn it all down” attitude would be somewhat muted if this reboot has been handled by, say, the Key and Peele team as opposed to not just a largely female cast (even the role of the secretary has been gender-swapped and is now played by Chris Hemsworth) as well as a female writer. And if the director had been someone other than Paul Feig, who’s known for his support for funny women, they’d probably be more on board. Neither of those is the case, though, and so we embark into a look at the campaign for a movie that has a lot of hills to climb just to be allowed to succeed or fail on its own merits, many more than most movies starring and made by men.

The Posters

Four very cool character one-sheets kicked off the poster campaign, with one for each of the ladies. These posters were largely black-and-white but for one element that offered a pop of color. On one it was a proton pack, on another it was the Ghostbusters patch and so on. This was a great way to get things started and marked, really, the first salvo in the official marketing.

The first teaser poster is just that: A teasing announcement that the movie is coming. So the familiar Ghostbusters logo is the primary element on the one-sheet along with “Who you gonna call?” and the release date.

A final theatrical poster put all four leads, plus Hemsworth, in front of the new Ecto-1, all looking tough and ready for action with the classic logo in the background.

The Trailers

The first trailer – which was teased a couple weeks before it came out – is all kinds of awesome. It starts by evoking the past, noting how 30 years ago four scientists saved the world, before introducing us to the new team as they encounter a ghost for seemingly the first time. We soon get some more explanation as to who they all are and what role they play on the team, which Patty later joins to bring some New York savvy to the organization as well as a car she’s borrowed from her uncle. There’s a bit of the story here as it’s explained that the ghosts can possess humans and someone is increasing their power, but it’s mostly about showing off the new team.

So there are a few things going on here. First of all, the character introductions are handled pretty well, giving us an idea of the personalities and backgrounds of each one. Second, the humor here is obviously going to be as dry as the desert, which isn’t surprising given Feig’s general approach. I really think things are presented here as well as they can be. And while there isn’t much story here that’s alright since it’s just a first trailer. There’s enough to let you know this isn’t just a shot-for-shot remake of the first movie but is coming at it with its’ own style.

The one thing that’s surprising is the bit at the beginning that goes back and overtly references the first movie. Since we know through various comments in the press that this isn’t tied to that movie it seems odd to work so hard to call back to it for anything other than nostalgia’s sake. That’s not a huge problem, just a choice I’m not entirely sure about if the goal here is to really set this up as its own thing.

There were, somewhat predictably, some strong reactions online to the trailer. Some of those were from the ignorant misogynists who had real problems with a movie starring women being part of a franchise started by men and so on. These are easily ignored because they’re idiots. Harder to ignore were the problems some people pointed out with Jones’ character being not only the one non-scientist/technician in the group but also a somewhat stereotypical example of “sass.” That one’s more easily understood but some people were willing to give it the benefit of the doubt, saying maybe underestimating Patty’s skills are part of the story.

All that didn’t stop the trailer from racking up 24 million views in the first 24 hours of release. Later on, though, it was reported that it had become the most-disliked trailer in YouTube history, with a completely disproportionate like-to-dislike ratio showing that yes, this was the result of a group of butthurt fanboys who were purposely downvoting the movie,

The second trailer drops us into the team investigating a case and talking about how they’re the only ones who can do what needs to be done to combat the paranormal threat. We get more shots of the team talking about how someone is amplifying the spooks and specters, we see Kevin turn evil and lots more.

It works on about the same levels as the first one, but makes some overt – and sometimes odd – callbacks to the original movie. Not only does the original theme song show up but we get Slimer and the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man and a line about “mass hysteria” that’s delivered in the office of the city’s mayor. Not to say that hurts the trailer but it seems like it’s doing nothing to create its own identity with the exception of Leslie Jones, who looks like she’s the star in the same way Kate McKinnon was the breakout of the first trailer.

A bit was made in the press about how this trailer debuted not on YouTube but on Twitter and Facebook natively, which was seen as a reaction to the unfortunate misogyny the first trailer fell victim to. There’s something to that but it does kind of ignore that the first trailer

Online and Social

Are you kidding me with this website? There’s so little going on here it’s like the site for a low-tier independent film that’s getting Amazon-powered distribution after receiving decent, but not great, buzz at Sundance.

The header is a carousel that alternates between the four teaser character posters and quotes from Murray, Ackroyd and Ivan Reitman about how much they’re supporting and looking forward to this new movie. The studio obviously feels it needs to get the original movie’s talent to endorse the new one as a way to get crybaby fanboys to maybe consider seeing it, but it also has the effect of not letting the new movie stand on its own. By bringing them into the formal campaign, not just as part of a press effort, it’s admitting that there’s almost no faith in the new movie to exist without the explicit approval of the original creators and does more to make people think of the first movie than this new one.

Next there’s a “Gallery” that not only has stills from the new movie but also the previous two. That’s followed by “About” which has a lackluster synopsis and then a “Cast & Crew” section that just lists the names of those involved in either capacity without any links or other information.


You have to go into the Menu on the left of the page in order to access the social networks, which have been promoting this movie for sure but which are also for the franchise as a whole. But that’s where you can find the Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles, which have been sharing promotional images and updates, RTing fan excitement and media stories and generally trying to put on a as much of a brave face as it can, despite the absolute garbage that’s coming in the comments and replies.

The first trailer contained a hidden URL to a website that had all kinds of background information on the tech these new Ghostbusters would be using, with featurettes that go into how they were created and more.

Oddly, a press release and accompanying video for The Proton Pack touts it as coming from not only Sony but also Jillian Holzmann and Egon Spengler, which implies some sort of actual connection between this movie and the preview franchise entries. But that had been previously dismissed by the filmmakers, creating a sense of confusion among fans and others watching the campaign.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

TV spots like this one introduce us to the team and show that they’re facing off against some major supernatural powers. Other commercials took different approaches but they all sell the movie as being very funny and a lot of fun.

The studio bought a couple sponsored Snapchat filters, one each for the front and rear cameras, that allowed you to either bust a ghost or be slimed, depending on what mood you were in.

  • Hi-C: Announced early on, before any other partnerships or marketing had begun, that they would be bringing back the Ecto Cooler flavor, which was basically green-tinted orange drink with Slimer on the packaging. That would also be supported by co-branded packaging and advertising.
  • Madam Tussauds unveiled a VR installation that took participants into an immersive experience where they become a Ghostbuster.
  • NBA: Ran co-branded ads during the Finals and which featured different players depending on where audiences were watching the game. The effort was, as was widely reported, part of a specific advertising play to reach men because we’re such delicate creatures when it comes to female-starring movies.
  • Lyft: Offered “Ghost Mode” in five cities in the U.S., allowing people to choose the Ecto-1 for their ride, which came stocked with Ecto-Cooler and movie-themed Twinkies and other snacks.

Close to release, a story about Sony’s challenges in selling the movie pointed out that many of the promotional partners featured exclusively men, without much footage of the movie itself or shots of the characters, making it seem like those companies were steering away from the “girls are icky” backlash that accompanied the movie.

Lots of online ads, particularly on social networks like Twitter and Facebook, were run throughout the campaign that included trailers, TV spots and other videos. And plenty of outdoor advertising was done on billboards, buses and other locations using any and all elements of the key art but also, interesting, emphasizing the logo as opposed to shots of the cast.

Media and Publicity

Outside of the buzz that was generated every time Feig or someone from the cast shared a picture on social media the movie got a big publicity boost when it was announced Bill Murray would have some sort of cameo in the movie, joining Dan Ackroyd in doing so. But Murray’s inclusion was notable because he’d long been the holdout in the planning of a third movie. So him signing on was seen as a seal of approval for the film which, it turns, out, is exactly how he intended it.

Rumors began to circulate in early October that Sony was working on an animated Ghostbusters film, something that would likely exist in this “expanded universe” the studio seemed intent on creating for the franchise.

More news about additional cameos from the original cast would continue to give pubs a reason to talk about the movie. But one notable omission from that news was Rick Moranis wouldn’t be coming back, a fact he addressed himself in a rare interview where he said simply that the idea of doing a small bit as a call-back to the original movies didn’t interest him, an ideal that seems to guide much of his life.

The first real official still from the movie was released to a Ghostbusters fansite in a smart and savvy move to hit hardcore fans and give them something exclusive. Another photo would debut in EW that showed the team on their way to or from some action. Later on costar Michael K. Williams dished on his role a bit and confirmed that yes, Slimer was coming back for this installment.

ghostbusters pic 3

Much of the online vitriol came into focus in this interview with screenwriter Kate Dippold, who was on the receiving end of much of that hatred. She also talked about getting aced by Feig to write the movie, what it was like to adjust to kind of seasoned improv performers who make up the cast and staying true to the spirit of the original movie while still doing something original herself.

The movie marked Administrative Professional’s Day with a short featurette about Kevin, Hemsworth’s character, and how clueless but pretty he is.

Sony announced that the original Ghostbusters would be coming back to theaters about a month before this new movie. Ostensibly this was to take advantage of the marketing for the new movie and get people excited for the franchise in general. In execution, though, this comes off as the study having no confidence in the new version and wanting to appease those butthurt fanboys mentioned earlier by assuring them that no, this original movie wasn’t going to be thrown down the Memory Hole. Far from helping the new version, this seems as if it could serve as a release valve and take people who were excited for it and give them something else which scratches that itch and is familiar. My opinion is that this is the studio tying both hands behind the new movie’s back before sending it out to fight.

Of course the online hatred that the movie’s marketing was greeted with became news fodder in and of itself, with stories talking about how it was stirring a pot of gender politics in a weird year anyway and how Sony has plowed ahead as planned (i don’t quite buy that) in the face of such obviously biased and irrational criticism.

The cast also made plenty of press appearances, sometimes as a group and sometimes on their own. That included showing up alongside the surviving cast of the original movies on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” on Ghostbusters Day, the official holiday declared on the anniversary of the first movie’s release, a day that included lots of other activities around the country at theaters and elsewhere. That Kimmel booking included all kinds of appearances by both casts, both planned and unplanned, into a significant late-night press push. What was most surprising was that Murray in particular seemed a willing participant, right there in the thick of things and with a smile on his face. Surprising considering his years of conflicted relationship with the series over the years.

Feig kept talking again and again about how his movie was for everyone and how little time he had for anyone referring to it as a “chick flick” or were otherwise dismissing it with overly sexist comments and feedback. The four leading ladies got individual covers on a recent issue of Elle, part of a feature story on the movie and the women of comedy.

The pushback against ignorant fanboys hit its peak with this New York Times story, with Feig and the whole cast talking about taking on the franchise, the benefits of an all-female cast and lots more. Feig was also interviewed by Wired about the online backlash, casting the movie and more.

Some of the late-cycle publicity introduced us to the new gadgets in the movie, including new versions of the proton packs, traps and more. There was also some attention paid to the real-life MIT scientists who consulted on the movie in order to ground at least most of the science in reality. Finally, all four leads plus Feig also made the rounds of late night, morning and daytime talk shows to hype the movie and try to build some excitement.


ghostbusters_ver5Even among critics who are absolutely not in the “don’t mess with my childhood” camp, there’s been a fair amount of backlash toward this campaign. Many people haven’t found the trailers funny (with the exception of McKinnon, who was pegged as the breakout star as soon as she winked in that first spot) and have called them out for having problems. Others didn’t like the posters, calling them too dark and not doing enough to show off the cast.

All of these criticism are valid. While I agree with the poster comment – the print and outdoor campaign is one where the studio seems to be doing everything it can to not show that this stars a bunch of women, opting for the logo whenever possible over a cast shot – I disagree with the critiques of the trailers. I find them funny, on-brand and full of a sense of humor I want to see more of. It’s so hard to sell comedy that’s not gag-based (think the broad Will Ferrell, Owen Wilson, Ben Stiller and other movies…even Keanu fell into this group) but one that’s more subtle and story-based. That’s a problem the original movie had as well, with a trailer that’s not funny almost at all, but instead presents a sci-fi movie that might be kind of amusing. By comparison, these trailers are a laugh riot.

I don’t have much more to say about the website; it’s awful and should never be spoken of again. But the press push is solid, even if so much of it became analytical of itself, talking about the backlash and then the push back to the backlash.

So it comes down to this: The campaign is really good. If it had leaned into the situation it was in and ditched some of the ties to the original cast and movie it would have risen to a higher level, but I understand why the studio felt it had to do what it did, even if I disagree. The push is solid on many levels and is at its best when it’s ignoring the haters and ignorant know-nothings who have already written it off and instead shows off the best asset it, or any other movie, could ask for: A talented group of actors and filmmakers who want to do something fun.

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Movie Marketing Madness: The Shallows

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Safety and security are often illusory things. We can feel safe in our homes or in our cars, but any number of outside forces can act upon them at a moment’s notice, giving us little to no warning they’re about to happen. Nature in particular is a magnificent, terrifying force that almost always has “bye, people” as its end goal. Extreme weather, animals, most anything in the general environment…none of it is designed for the long term sustainability of the human population. While we rightly try to make our cars safer, enact common sense handgun legislation and more to stop us from killing each other, there’s little we can do to curb the instincts and proclivities of the natural world around us. Meet a lion outside a zoo and things get real fast.

Safety is the primary theme, it seems, of the new movie The Shallows. Blake Lively stars as Nancy, a young woman who’s on vacation to a magnificent surfing location. While she’s out surfing she’s hit by a great white shark and stranded on a coral reef just 200 yards from shore and absolute safety from the shark. But getting there is next to impossible as the shark continues to circle the reef, waiting for its opportunity to get her. As good a swimmer as Nancy is, the shark is better. So it becomes a test to see whether she can outsmart one of nature’s apex predators and find her way back to dry land.

The Posters

shallowsThe first poster is meant to not only create a sense of terror and convey the overall story idea but also clearly to evoke one of movie history’s greatest shark attack movies. So the camera’s perspective is from below looking up toward the surface of the water, with a surfboard and a pair of legs dangled over it being the only things visible against the sunlight. The copy toward the bottom says “What was once in the deep is now in the shallows.”

That copy is a little heavy handed – it makes it sound like a sci-fi monster story along the lines of Pacific Rim or Cloverfield – but I get what they’re going for, that somewhere that seemed safe is no longer. But it’s great how the perspective of the camera is what primarily conveys the threat Nancy faces.

The next poster shows Lively in her bikini and holding a flare gun looking down toward the water as if she’s anticipating danger That danger is lurking behind her, where we see a massive dorsal fin breaking through the water. The copy above her reads “Not just another day at the beach,” which is clever but a massive understatement.

The Trailers

The first trailer sells a movie that’s light on dialogue but high on tension. Starting off with a shot of a small outcropping of rocks just off an island, we hear screams of “Help me!” whenever the camera dips below the waves. Eventually we see a young woman show’s stuck on that rock and who obviously wants to get to the island itself. What’s in her way? The massive shark that’s circling her and which will surely attack if she gets in the water.

There’s nothing about the rest of the story here and it kind of looks like it could be this year’s All Is Lost, with little dialogue but lots of characterization. I’m sure there’s lots of the movie that’s not being shown here but this first trailer sets up an intriguing story.

The first full-length trailer gave us more of the backstory as to what happens. We see Nancy is on some sort of exotic vacation, calling her younger sister so we know she has something to live for. But as she’s surfing she’s suddenly pulled under by a shark and barely makes it to a reef, at which point she sees the two guys who are also surfing and who she blew off earlier get flat-out eaten by the beast. The rest of the trailer is about her planning how to stay alive and make it to shore – or at least someone safe – when there’s a massive great white shark prowling the water just waiting for her.

It’s…yikes. While the trailer certainly takes pleasure in scaring us with the appearances of the shark – the shot of it jumping out of the water to take out that one dude is insane – it also focuses on Lively’s performance. She’s asked to do a lot here and based on the trailer it looks like the movie never loses sight of focusing on her character and the struggle to get to safety.

The second trailer spends most of its time on setup as we see Lively’s character getting ready to go surfing while we hear narration that’s pulled from an old filmstrip type self-help speech on self-reliance. Eventually we get shots of the shark attacking, leading to her being stranded on the outcropping.

It’s a neat conceit here with the narration. You still get a good sense of what the story is about – woman goes surfing, is attacked by shark, has to survive – but it’s presented a little sideways but without any sort of emotional impact.

Online and Social

Load the official website and the first trailer plays. After that’s finished the main site content loads, with the central feature being the chance to enter a sweeps to win a beach vacation because sure, why not?

The first section of actual content is “About,” which just has a short story synopsis. After that is the “Cast & Crew” section that has a list of the behind-the-scenes filmmakers and, which it comes to the actors, just lists Lively. There’s no bio information, though, or link elsewhere.

the shallows pic 2

“Video” just has the one trailer we already saw and the “Gallery” is kind of weak, with just two stills you can’t download or otherwise share.

The movie’s Facebook page has the trailers and other videos along with promotional and countdown images along with short cinegraphs and more, as well as links to some of the press for the movie. Same kind of stuff can be found on Twitter and both profiles also include links to recent news items about shark populations, something that seems a bit tacky. Instagram just has those same images and short videos we’ve seen elsewhere.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

There were some TV spots run (all the ones I could find were on Sony Pictures Canada’s account, so that for what you will) that all play up the angle of the attack only being the beginning, which is a common found throughout the campaign. Some, like the one linked here, show there’s some element of the story that takes place more significantly on land, but this may be just a way to create some tension in a 30 second spot and isn’t representative of the actual story as it plays out. But they’re all taut and make it clear you’re in for a riveting couple hours as you watch a survival story.

Online ads used key art and motion video from the trailers along with the same copy points we’ve seen on the site, posters and elsewhere.

Media and Publicity

Early on in the publicity cycle, shortly after the release of the trailer, Lively spoke briefly about how her husband Ryan Reynolds’ role in Buried inspired her to take on a unique, physically challenging movie like this. After that the next major press was when some new stills from the movie debuted in EW’s Summer Movie Preview issue.

the shallows pic 1

Lively, as the sole star, formed most of the press push, doing the rounds of the daytime and evening talk shows to talk about the movie. She also got a nice spread in Marie Claire to do the same thing as well as her life and career in general.

Most of the rest of the press coverage came from the release of clips and other marketing materials.


A confession: When I first heard “Blake Lively fends off a shark attack” my interest was somewhere around nil. But that first trailer…wow…all of a sudden I was completely on board. Since then there’s been a good amount of consistency to the campaign as it keeps hitting that theme mentioned before about how the attack is only the start of the story. That tells the audience that this isn’t just a “hunting shark” movie but one that deals with the after effects of such an attack.

The whole campaign, as the movie seems to be, is anchored of course by Lively, who gives a performance that might wind up being compared to Robert Redford’s in All is Lost a few years ago. That movie featured a single man up against the violent power of nature’s elements, just like this one and I see a lot of the same elements in play. Lively’s Nancy seems to talk more than Redford’s character did, but it’s the same basic idea. If she can bring the goods and create a real sense of tension for the audience in a manner that’s similar to what the trailers and TV spots provide, this could be a real treat.