Movie Marketing Madness: The Founder

founder_ver2After stories about how Apple was created, how Facebook got its start and more tales of bristly entrepreneurs, the new movie The Founder takes on the creation of another American institution: McDonald’s. Michael Keaton stars as Ray Kroc, the man who over the last several decades has been hailed as the visionary creator of the ubiquitous fast food franchise. This tells the real (though still somewhat contested by the corporation and others) story, though, how Kroc took an idea he happened upon by chance and turned it into a multinational behemoth.

The movie follows Kroc from his life as a traveling salesman who one day crosses paths with the McDonald brothers (Nick Offerman and John Carroll Lynch), who have opened a burger joint in California that serves fresh hot meals in a matter of minutes. Kroc has the idea to franchise the operation and works to convince the skeptical brothers he’s right. Once he gets his foot in the door, though, he begins pushing them out of it, claiming the company as his own and creating an American institution in the process.

The Posters

founderThe first poster does a good job of setting up the story and the premise of the movie. Keaton is seen from behind standing in front of a giant version of the iconic Golden Arches, with copy in the middle declaring “Michael Keaton is The Founder.” At the top there’s also copy declaring “He took someone else’s idea and America ate it up.” That nicely summarizes Kroc’s place in history and establishes how the movie is going to view him.

The next poster brings Keaton closer to the camera, this time standing front and center in front of the golden arches, his hands at his hips like he’s assessing an important situation. The copy at the bottom reminds us this is based on a true story while that at the top describe’s Kroc’s character, calling him a “Rule breaker” and so on.

The Trailers

The first trailer does not paint a flattering portrait of Kroc, showing him to be an ambitious but sometimes cutthroat businessman. It starts as he’s trying to sell milkshake machines across the country. One day he get a big order from a new place called McDonald’s and he immediately falls in love with the business model. At first working with the brothers who founded it and had the idea he eventually feels like there’s more in it for him and works to cut them out. That’s not something they take lightly but he’s already in a position where it’s more or less inevitable.

Keaton really shines here as Kroc, playing him as someone who isn’t super sympathetic but who *is* ultimately responsible for the place we all feel bad about eating at. There are hints here of the old Beetlejuice-era Keaton, which is combined with his more dramatic side and he plays Kroc as someone who knows what he wants and goes after it. It’s a solid trailer that presents what could be another award-winner for those involved.

A second trailer was half the length, just a minute long, but carries over the same structure as the first, showing Kroc’s journey from traveling milkshake machine salesman to usurper of the McDonald’s name. That was followed by an “online trailer” that skipped the setup of Kroc’s origins and went straight to his trying to convince the McDonald’s brothers to sign off on his vision for things, as well as his subsequent efforts to go around them and get what he wants.

Online and Social

The second trailer starts playing when you load the official website. Unfortunately that’s just about the extent of the content on the site. When you close the trailer all you get is the key art of Keaton as Kroc along with links to the movie’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

TV spots like this one laid out the basic idea of the movie – that we’re watching the founding of McDonald’s from the ground up – and add on some of the critical praise it has already accumulated, making the case for the audience that this biopic is worth their time to go out and see.

Online ads used the key art of Keaton against the familiar red and yellow to drive ticket sales and site visits. Social media ads drove video views by using the trailers. It’s likely there were plenty of outdoor ads as well.

Media and Publicity

The publicity really kicked off with the release of a first still from the movie that showed Keaton as Kroc being received warmly by a crowd outside a McDonald’s restaurant.

Director Hancock talked in a nice New York Times feature about how he didn’t think this was so much a biopic about Kroc as much as it was about the McDonald’s iconography, also going into some detail about how they counted on “fair use” protections when using the company’s actual imagery, logos and products.

There was, of course, some news about the disputed nature of the origins of McDonald’s, with the brothers’ heirs telling one story and Kroc – and the company – taking another. That story also noted that the movie and its version of history comes at a time when the chain continues to be under attack for the nutritional value of its food as well as its corporate policies toward workers and more.


Keaton also hit the publicity circuit, with interviews that talked about his career overall to date and how he approached playing a real-life person who wasn’t exactly the most scrupulous fellow. That included a couple talk-show check-ins, duty he shared with other members of the cast as well.


The campaign is really built around Keaton, which isn’t surprising given his increased profile since Birdman, Spotlight and other returns to mainstream audience and critical awareness in recent years. It’s his performance that forms the foundation of the marketing, with his name and face all over the place as the trailers focus on Kroc’s journey from humble – and sometimes humiliating – beginnings to being the head of a company that he believed epitomized America. He does play what’s essentially the title role so that’s not surprising that he’d be the focal point, but it also shows how much Weinstein Co. is counting on him once again being a box-office draw, this time not for his wild antics but now for his role as a prestige actor.

As to the story itself, it looks more or less like a standard biopic that tells the story of one person’s journey to success. So with little new on that front to sell, the campaign makes the choice to focus on Keaton and the idea that we’re going back to the origins of a company we’ve all eaten at one time or another and with varying degrees of frequency. That “look behind the curtain” angle isn’t played up quite as strongly and certainly doesn’t lend itself to the sharing of pull quotes from critics but is there, almost as if it’s being sold as a curiosity piece, the chance for people to learn something without having to endure a documentary. On both fronts, the movie is being sold as a light, fast-paced biopic with an interesting, punchy rhythm and a standout performance from Keaton.
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Movie Marketing Madness: Lion

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

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

The Posters

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

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

The Trailers

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

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

Online and Social

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

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

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

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

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

Media and Publicity

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

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


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


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

In terms of the marketing itself, it’s more or less consistent across the elements as to what it’s selling, which is Saroo’s search to uncover his true identity and find his family. That comes through just about everywhere. The website is lightest on this angle, but considering it sacrifices story for a charitable appeal, it’s hard to fault it on that front. The repeated use of the search box in the graphical elements works pretty well once you figure out what’s going on and helps to setup the story. All in all this is a decent campaign for a movie that counts on emotions more than other traditional commercial appeals to turn out the audience.

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Movie Marketing Madness: Hands of Stone

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The fascinating story of boxer Roberto Duran is about to hit movie screens in Hands of Stone. In the movie Edgar Ramírez plays Duran, the boxer who came out of relative obscurity to challenge – and ultimately beat – Sugar Ray Leonard in 1980 to take the WBC welterweight title from Leonard. When the two engaged in a rematch later that year, Duran was out of shape and famously retreated to his corner, unable to get the advantage on his opponent, and uttered the famous “no mas” that has taken on iconic status since then, though Duran reportedly refutes that’s what he said.

Duran was picked from his Panamanian homeland and trained for years by Ray Arcel, played here by Robert DeNiro. The movie covers Duran’s life from his first fight in 1968 through the heights of his fame, all the while focusing on Duran’s drive to be the best and to rise above the poverty that’s pervasive in his homeland. At the same time it’s about his relationship with Arcel, who as a boxer in his own right for much of the early 20th Century before retiring and becoming a trainer.

The Posters

Just one poster for the movie. Set against a bright red background we see a black boxing glove as if it’s being raised defiantly in the air. That matches the tone set by the copy point, which reads “No mas. No surrender.” which, of course, echoes not just Duran’s famous (if disputed) phrase but also his overall attitude toward boxing and life. Below the glove, more or less forming the arm that it’s attached to, are the names of the major stars and the title treatment.

The Trailers

The first teaser trailer starts off with Ray Arcel talking about how he’s trained more champs than anyone else. But then the focus shifts to Duran and we see his journey from the slums of Panama to the world stage, with shots of both mixed in with each other. We see Sugar Ray talking on the phone and approaching the ring for their fight and that’s about it.

For a story that’s about Duran’s journey the trailer focuses a lot on DeNiro’s trainer character. That’s not surprising as he’s the big star, but it makes me wonder how the movie will actually be structured, if we’ll be watching the whole thing from Arcel’s perspective.

The second trailer is a lot more cohesive, with a better flow overall and more of the story laid out. We start out as Arcel is explaining how he “discovered” Duran and how he ultimately came to train the fighter. The two have a bit of a clash of styles, but what comes through mostly is that the Duran is passionate about fighting, seeing it as the way to continue distancing himself from the under-privileged, ghetto upbringing he had. We see him take on Sugar Ray Leonard, suffer an unexpected defeat and then have to pick himself up from disappointment and get back on the horse.

This really does lay out the entire narrative arc of the movie. We see Duran as he travels from the slums to the height of boxing fame, be beat by Leonard and mount a come back. We also see a lot of him with his girlfriend (who’s not credited in the trailer because patriarchy), showing that the studio wants to sell all angles of the emotional story that’s being told here. Overall, though, I can’t believe how much of the story outline is on display in this trailer. It leaves little to nothing to the imagination or for the audience to discover once they actually get in the theater. I’ve already seen this movie.

One more very weird trailer was released just days before the movie hit theaters. It sells the movie as being as much about sexy time with the wives/girlfriends of Duran and Leonard as it is about boxing. So it cuts from shots of the fighters training or squaring off at a press conference to them with their significant others, and not just hints of them being intimate but full on sex scenes between the pairs.

I really have to wonder what the logic behind going red-band this late in the campaign was. This reeks of desperation, like the studio saw tracking was weak and so panicked and decided to pull out this particular stop to try and get an audience that’s interested in seeing Usher’s bare ass on the big screen into theaters.

Online and Social

If the movie had a website I can’t find it. What I could find, though, were Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles that kept sharing videos, links to sweepstakes, information on buying tickets, upcoming cast appearances and other promotional beats.

hands of stone pic 1


Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Some TV spots were run, many of which focused on the core fight between Duran and Leonard, adding select elements like the romantic lives of both boxers, the drama around who’s promoting and even allowing the fights and so on to it to show the audience there’s more than just the action in the ring that’s going on in the movie.

The movie also sponsored a recent UFC fight broadcast, which makes a lot of sense.

Media and Publicity

The movie was announced as one that would receive a special screening at Cannes designed not to be part of the awards process but to build up buzz and sell it to the general audience.

There was a cool feature here in which Ramirez talked about the training regimen he underwent in order to get as close to being an actual boxer like Duran as he could.

Usher was the focus of this feature story, mostly because this is being positioned as his big cinematic break. So he talked about trying to visiting Sugar Ray Leonard to get his blessing, the training regime he undertook so he could move like the boxer and more.

hands of stone pic 2

Ramirez made a few press appearances, sometimes with Duran himself, who also turned up at premieres and other events to help promote the story of his life.


I’m just not sure what’s going on with this campaign. It’s all over the place. On the one hand it’s being sold as a prestige drama that tells an inspiring story while on the other hand it’s suddenly being sold as the kind of movie you’d watch on Cinemax at 10:30 in 1988. And through much of the campaign Duran’s story almost seems to take a backseat to that of Arcel. That makes sense because DeNiro is obviously a movie legend while Ramirez is still relatively up-and-coming, but it takes the focus off of the subject of the story and could confuse audiences as to whose story it is we’re watching.

Similar to Ben-Hur last week, which focused almost exclusively on the chariot race, this campaign focuses heavily on the Duran/Leonard fights. It’s understandable since that’s an easy sell to the audience, but my hunch is that much of the movie’s story and drama happens outside the ring as Duran and Arcel navigate their relationship and the politics of the fight business. And much like Jared Leto in Suicide Squad, I’m guessing Usher isn’t in this movie nearly as much as the campaign features him. Let’s see if this connects with audiences at all, especially if that last-minute Hail Mary trailer did anything to move the needle.

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Movie Marketing Madness: Sing Street

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One of the best lines of the classic Dead Poets Society is when Robin Williams’ Prof. Keating explains to his students why it is we read and write poetry: “To woo women.” It’s a moment of blunt truth that cuts through all the artifice and gets to the core of the matter. And it’s true. Guys are forever being pushed to try and create new things in order to impress the girls around them. It’s the cultural equivalent of displaying your feathers: “Look at me and what I’m doing,” all to try and make an impression.

The new movie Sing Street is about just such an attempt. Set in 1980’s Dublin, Conor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo), is an average kid who’s not doing much with his life so far. One day he catches sight of Raphina (Lucy Boynton), who’s mysterious and nothing like anyone he’s ever met. In an effort to impress her Conor lies that he’s in a band. He decides to make that a reality and enlists some friends and other kids to make his band a reality. The movie comes from writer director John Carney, he of Once and Begin Again.

The Posters

The first poster is kind of great and showed up around the time of the film’s debut at Sundance. We see the two leads in a very pop art kind of style, with the tagline laying out the story with “Boy meets girl. Girl unimpressed. Boy starts band.” The whole look and feel of the poster is just great since it works well at evoking the 1980’s setting of the film. For those in the know, Carney’s previous credits are listed here as well.

The Trailers

The first trailer sets up the basic idea of the movie pretty well. We meet Conor just as his parents are transferring him to a Catholic school where, predictably, he has trouble fitting in. When he sees Raphina across the street one day he does what any boy trying to impress a girl does: Lie. In this case he tells her he’s in a band. So to give truth to the lie he enlists his friends to actually form a band. The rest of the trailer shows them all rehearsing, him getting advice from his older brother on how to be cool and what music to like, him continuing to try and woo Raphina and more.

It’s a charming, fun trailer that very much looks like the kind of thing you’d expect from the director of Once and Begin Again, both of which are name-dropped in the trailer. This kind of thing lives or dies on how much audiences connect with the main character, but that doesn’t look like it will be a problem here.

Online and Social

Near as I can tell the only online presence for the movie was a Facebook page that shared trailers, clips and more. There were occasional GIFs of Madonna, Duran Duran and other 80s music icons that were shared to try and set the mood for the movie. That helps to flesh out the page since most of what’s shared is purely promotional, so those GIFs are the only thing that breaks up the content mix at all.

sing street pic 1

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

The TV ad campaign kicked off with a spot that debuted on St. Patrick’s Day and which laid out the story of how Conor wants to start a band to impress a girl in a nice concise manner as it also gave us Carney’s bonafides as a director.

I didn’t see any but it’s a safe bet that at least a bit of online advertising was done.

Media and Publicity

Unsurprisingly, Carney was a big part of the publicity push, with stories like this that allowed him to talk about how his own experiences inspired the movie’s story.


Other than that most of the press coverage came as the result of the release of marketing materials and clips. With no big stars and no recognizable names other than Carney’s that’s not terribly surprising.


I’ll be honest, I think we should be making a much bigger deal about this movie. A new John Carney movie should be greeted with major press push that talks about not only his impact with his previous movies but the latest round of up-and-coming stars he’s working with and more. The press should be frothing at the mouth for this. While yes, many online commentators are certainly anxiously awaiting it and singing its praises from festival appearances, I still feel as though the campaign here is way too subdued.

But what is here is good. The campaign certainly conveys the same attitude as Once, even if the details are different. It’s a coming of age story, something that always plays well with certain audiences, and so the marketing should resonate with them. It’s selling a movie that, like its main character, loves music and what it can do, particularly how it can affect the relationships around us. It’s sweet, it’s personal and it’s got a soundtrack that those of us of a certain age will relate to at the very least.

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Movie Marketing Madness: The Hateful Eight

hateful eight poster 4There are few directors working today who have worked in as many genres as Quentin Tarantino. He’s done straight-up crime films like Reservoir Dogs and Jackie Brown, homages to kung-fu movies like Kill Bill, late-night B-movies like Death Proof, war movies like Inglorious Basterds and westerns like Django Unchained. He’s never made any attempt to hide he’s a fan of certain types of movies – indeed it’s part of his personal brand and a big aspect of the media narrative around him – and has his roots in the kind of obscure movies he’d discover while working at a video store. If he dabbles it’s not because he’s searching for something, it’s because now he wants to pay tribute to *this* kind of movie he loves.

Tarantino is back with The Hateful Eight, another movie that’s roughly in the “Western” genre. John Ruth (Kurt Russell) is a bounty hunter on his way to collect his due after capturing Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh), a killer with a price on her head. After meeting up with two other bounty hunters on the road they’re forced to seek shelter overnight in a stagecoach shop. But they’re not alone there and everyone else also in for the night has their own agenda and plenty of secrets, many of which will become clear as time passes and everyone acts according to their own motivations.  

The Posters

The first poster is so Tarantino it’s only marginally necessary to have the director’s name on the poster. It’s a stark while image that shows a old-fashioned wagon with blood trailing behind it. The director’s name appears at the top while the title treatment is at the bottom alongside mention of the special Super CinemaScope engagements the movie is getting. It looks like a pulp fiction (sorry) cover that hints at not just the setting but also the likely outcome for at least one or two of the film’s characters.

The next poster does more to show that this is an ensemble cast, though none of those cast are seen or even named. We see a woman being led up a hill by someone with a gun toward a cabin of some sort, blood sprinkled among the footprints they’re leaving and a group of other people waiting outside the cabin. With the exception of the cabin itself it’s all blue and while as befits an outdoor winter picture. Tarantino’s name is somewhat diminished here but this time below the title treatment there’s the copy “No one comes up here without a damn good reason.”

A series of character one-sheets was up next, with six of the eight main characters getting their own posters while Russell and Leigh appear together, which is appropriate considering their shackled to each other. Each one sets the character not only against a snow-covered mountain-top range but also a series of red, blood-like hashmarks showing where they are in the count. Each one not only promotes the movie as coming from Tarantino but also has the actor’s name, the name of their character and what that character’s “role” is. So Leigh is “The Prisoner,” Michael Madsen is “The Cow Puncher” and so on.

The theatrical poster hit about a month prior to release and didn’t show much but did focus on everyone everyone moving toward the cabin where much of the action takes place. “No one comes here without a damn good reason” the copy at the top declares, making it clear this is not a random gathering of people but something that’s very purposeful. The cast list and photos are at the bottom. Again, it’s pretty minimal without much going on, but there’s a lot of story that’s hinted at here.

The Trailers

The teaser trailer starts out by showing the stagecoach carrying Russell and Leigh coming across Jackson, who provides some helpful characterization. When they get to the lodge Russell introduces himself and his charge to the rest of the people there and makes clear his intentions. But it quickly becomes clear that not everyone there is on the up-and-up, which means we and they are in for a night of sleeping with one eye open and trying to discern everyone’s true motivations.

The trailer promises a very Tarantino-like experience that involves snappy dialogue, plenty of violence and other earmarks of the director. It is a teaser in that it doesn’t show any more than it absolutely needs to, which is just enough to get people interested, particularly if they’re already fans of the director. I’m also convinced Leigh’s motion where she pretends to hang while Russell is explaining the situation should in and of itself earn her an Academy Award nomination.

The second trailer starts out with Jackson asking what drives a man to go out in a blizzard just to kill someone. Then we get a bunch of fast cuts of various action sans context before we see Russell’s character enter the house where he’s going to be spending the night, which leads to the character cards that introduce us to the various personalities that he’ll be bunking with and keeping his bounty safe from. After that it’s all action as it becomes clear that keeping her safe isn’t exactly going to be an easy proposition.

It’s a great trailer that sets up the story in a very unique way and provides decent introductions to most, if not all the cast. Even if Tarantino’s name weren’t all over the trailer, anyone with a passing familiarity with the director would be able to pick it out as one of his.

Online and Social

When you open the official website you see a recreation of the key art from the theatrical poster, but with the added element of animated snow coming down on the scene. There are couple different ways to navigate the site so first we’ll focus on the menu that opens up when you click the hashmarks in the upper right-hand corner of the page.

The first section there is “Characters,” which gives you a picture of each of the major character/actors and when you click on that image it opens up to a career bio of that actor.

“Roashow” has information on where and when the movie is playing in Super 70 format along with an explanation as to the mindset of doing so, which is to recreate some of the “event” feeling around a movie’s release that accompanied films in the 50s and 60s when widescreen presentation was first taking off.


You can get a decent synopsis of the film’s plot in “Story.” You can find out everything you want to know about the film’s behind-the-scenes crew in the “Filmmakers” section, which reads like a press release from about six months ago, which is likely when the site really went live. Finally there’s a “12 Days Sweepstakes” you can enter if you so choose.

If you go back to the homepage you can find more content by just scrolling down the page.

First up is the official trailer, which isn’t labeled but is hidden in the red strip featuring Jackson’s face that runs across the page. Then there’s another prompt to find out more about the roadshow screenings.

Then there’s a big section of links to off-site news, including cast interviews, features on Tarantino and lots more. This is the second site I’ve seen recently that features a full section rounding up news like this and I hope it becomes a trend. There are also character banners here that, if you click them, take you to the same information on the actor that was accessible above.

There were also profiles for the movie on Twitter and Facebook.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

The first TV spot for the movie showed a lot more than the trailers, hinting at a secret the prisoner has that will impact everyone. The narration is a bit heavy-handed (as is most narration) but it’s clear this is a Tarantino movie from the visuals, the dialogue and everything else. More TV spots like this would follow, some of which would really emphasize the 70mm roadshow.

There was some online advertising done too, much of which featured the various poster art and highlighted not only the general release date but also again made a big deal about the roadshow engagements, signalling that as something the studio wants everyone to know about.

Media and Publicity

The early news about the movie was not great. The script for the movie leaked in early 2014 and Tarantino not only threatened legal action against the sites that posted it but also threw up his hands and announced that because of the leak he would no longer proceed with the movie. He obviously changed his mind a few months later after organizing a table read featuring some of the same cast members that would go on to be in the movie.

As the official publicity cycle got into full gear news broke that Tarantino was doing some interesting stuff around distribution. For one, he announced he was doing a roadshow of the film, taking it around and doing Q&As with a special 70mm version that was a few minutes longer than the theatrical cut. The idea being, it seems, that not only does 70mm allow for a slightly different experience but also that if someone bought a premium ticket to an event they should get a unique cut of the movie.

Later on the cast would be singled out for the Hollywood Ensemble Award at the Hollywood Film Awards, one of the first events to kick off awards season in the film industry. The size of the cast would be a constant theme of the publicity campaign, so much so that it necessitated a guide like this to whom all the characters were.

hateful_eight pic 2

Unfortunately not all the press good. After Tarantino made comments at a Black Lives Matter rally that were misconstrued as calling all police officers murderers (he said no such thing, he just said those who kill people without good cause are bad cops) police unions and other organizations around the country joined a boycott of the movie.

Tarantino wrote a comic book-like early look at the characters from the movie.

Just a couple weeks out from release Variety ran a huge feature that covered the whole cast but focused on the long-standing working relationship between Tarantino and Jackson, who have made a number of movies together at this point. That story also got into Tarantino’s working process, his decision to release the movie on 70mm and lots more. 

At the movie’s premiere the cast would talk about collaborating with Tarantino and how much they all trust him to not only come in with fully-formed characters for them to explore but to do all kinds of other supporting research into time periods and more material that can help inform their performances.

It’s interesting to me that much of the publicity for the film focused on the road show and the technical aspects of that production and not on the film itself. That could speak to something about the movie itself or it could be indicative of the climate the film industry is operating in right now, particularly around distribution and how to incentivize the theater-going experience.


Tarantino’s name is obviously all over this campaign, from the site to the trailers to the posters. With a director of his caliber and with his name recognition that’s not surprising since that name recognition is going to draw a fair percentage of the audience to the movie in and of itself. But as I said a couple times above, those fans are so familiar with his work the marketing could likely remove his name completely and they’d still be able to pick this out as coming from his pen and eye.

Outside of that the campaign promises a violent movie that features some great characters working to either conceal or reveal a mystery that will touch all of those character’s agendas and motivations. We get the general idea of the film’s plot – or at least it’s easy to assume we get it – from the trailers but there’s lots more that’s hinted at being just below the surface of what’s on display. It’s easy to assume that we’ll be getting a standard Tarantino movie here but the director always has at least one or two surprises he pulls out that I’m guessing the campaign here doesn’t even hint at.

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Movie Marketing Madness: Carol

carol_ver4Our current society emphasizes “being true to yourself” as perhaps the highest moral good. Things are celebrated today that would have been unthinkable to discuss in public just a generations ago because people shouldn’t have to live in denial about who they are and, it seems, it’s not the place of anyone else to judge their decisions and lifestyle choices. This is a good thing – I believe that – but it’s a situation that many people are having trouble getting used to. People move faster than groups so while individuals have come around on some topics it’s taking the mass of us a bit longer to adjust to the new normal.

Carol, the new movie starring Cate Blanchett and Mara Rooney, is about that kind of situation. Set in the 1950s, Rooney plays Therese, a young store clerk who one day meets Carol (Blanchett). The two experience an immediate attraction that becomes deeper and more complex until it impacts Carol’s facade of a marriage to Harge (Kyle Chandler), who uses the prevailing moral attitudes of the time to add an element of havoc to Carol’s life. So she finds herself having her job, her relationship with her children and more threatened while at the same time she struggles with that growing attraction and entanglement with Therese.

The Posters

There were three posters that were part of the domestic campaign. While I’m not absolutely sure of what order they were released in I’m going to do my best to get as close as possible. All three used the same basic motif but with some changes here and there in presentation.

The first poster is divided in half horizontally, with Blanchett on the top and Mara on the bottom. Both look glamorous with their 1950s hair and makeup just perfect and both looking in opposite directions, which may be a nod to the story in the movie. Both their names appear just above the title treatment while at the bottom of the poster we are told this is based on a book from the same author as The Talented Mr. Ripley, something that seems designed to appeal to art house critics specifically.

The second puts Mara on top and Blachett at the bottom. This time they’re seemingly looking at each other – at least that’s how you can interpret the positioning of the two of them – while other people speed by them. It’s meant to present these two as having an instant connection, the kind that makes you focus only on that one person to the exclusion of everyone else. That’s supported by the copy “Some people change your life forever,” copy that’s split between the two halves of the poster to bring that point home a bit more concretely.

The final theatrical poster (I think) drops the split-screen conceit and puts both actresses in the same frame. This time it’s clear Blanchett is looking at Mara, with the latter seemingly getting out of a car or something like that on a snowy day. “Longing” is the central theme here. This one drops any kind of copy that hints at the story in favor or quotes from critics praising the performances of the two leads as well as the direction by Todd Haynes.

The last one works the least well of the three, I feel. The split-screen motif was a strong one that played up both the attraction of the two women as well as the way they felt like this was something forbidden, that there were forces keeping them apart. I still like this third edition, but it’s the weakest of the batch from a thematic point of view, sacrificing subtext for promoting the accolades the movie has received to date.

The Trailers

The movie’s only official trailer – I’m not counting an international teaser – is, quite frankly, a gut-wrencher. It shows the flirtation and courtship of the two women, including how their relationship causes personal problems for Carol when it comes to her family. It’s full of longing glances across rooms, gentle touches and even more explicit physical connections. It also shows the very real impact the decision of these two women to pursue that relationship has on those around them, all of which is important.

The first half of the trailer is particularly devastating emotionally because we see that flirtation and such but it’s juxtaposed by the narration, which is obviously Carol writing a breakup letter to Therese, explaining why they can’t be together. Even without that narration, though, the trailer would back an emotional punch just based on the looks the two women give each other, the actions of the other characters and the beautiful cinematography that’s on display.

Online and Social

The official website for the movie opens with a pop-up of the trailer, which I’d encourage you to watch again because it’s really good.

Moving on from that, “About” has a pretty decent write-up of the movie’s story that covers a lot of character motivation ground. “Cast” provides career retrospectives on Blanchett, Rooney, Sarah Paulson (who plays Carol’s friend and possibly more), Jake Lacy (who plays Therese’s frustrated boyfriend), Chandler and more, including director Haynes.



“Videos” just has the one trailer, so the plural there is kind of inaccurate. “Photos” has a decent-sized collection of both stills from the movie and behind-the-scenes shots. Finally “Press” has some pull quotes from critic reviews that rotate in and out but unfortunately no link to the reviews themselves.

You can find profiles for the movie on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

There wasn’t much in the way of advertising done. There was at least one TV spot created that played like a mini-trailer, showing the relationship beginning between the two women and hinting at the repercussions of that on the lives they’re leading. It’s good, but this is the kind of movie and story that benefits not a whit from shorter material. It needs space to breathe.

Media and Publicity

The movie first got a big press blitz when it debuted at the most recent Cannes Film Festival, where it was lauded for the performance of the leads as well as Haynes’ direction.

An interview with Mara that was conducted by a friend of hers would focus on how she felt working with Blanchett, how she prepared for the movie and more. Mara would also talk about how this isn’t a political movie but one that’s just about falling in love and surrendering yourself to someone. She even mentioned she worked to change the way she spoke to sound less like a 2015 hipster and more like the kind of wispy 1950s single girl she portrays.


Mara would talk to the press about the themes of the movie, her Oscar chances, how she almost let the movie pass her by and how it was ultimately Haynes’ involvement as director that got her to commit here. Similar topics would covered in an interview with Blanchett that would also touch on whether it was still supposed to be shocking to see a love story between two women like this. All three princples – Blanchett, Mara and Haynes – would of course talk about filming the love scene between the two women, because we can’t not talk about that.

carol pic 2

Haynes on his own talked about casting the movie, its awards chances, changing some of the details from the book the movie is based on and more.

Blanchett was honored at New York’s Museum of Modern Art for her achievements in and contributions to film, something that brought out costars and directors to laud the actor’s talents.


The focus here is on the acting, which is just about right. Putting Blanchett and Rooney front and center and making it clear the movie is about the relationship between the two of them and not about anything else is a great call. That focus is shared by the trailers, the posters and more and I think it makes for a great campaign. Not only that but the way the campaign – again, mainly the trailers and other material – emphasizes the unique visual style of Haynes is a solid decision since it will bring out his fans in spades.

There are some quibbles I could make – like I said, I don’t care for the final poster or the TV advertising – but overall this is a strong campaign. Assuming it can turn out the audiences who enjoy this kind of highly-stylized feature and those looking for strong, risk-taking performances it should do pretty well.

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Movie Marketing Madness: Burnt

burnt posterDo you have a passion? I’m not talking about something that you just like doing or which interests you. I’m talking about something that burns inside you. A passion isn’t a hobby. It’s the voices in your head that pester you until you give in and do what they’re driving you to do. It’s what pushes you to stay up late, to make sacrifices, to burn bridges all in the name of doing what you need to. Those voices though are never really silenced. Give them an inch and they’ll take you a mile, pushing you to accomplish the next thing, then the next. They’re insatiable.

(It occurs to me that I’m writing a pretty good description of both someone who’s very passionate about what they do as well as straight-up murderers. Hmmm.)

Burnt is about someone who’s just that driven. Bradley Cooper plays Adam Jones, a celebrity chef who has fallen on some hard times after a previous restaurant went under and he honked off the wrong people through both his behavior and his drug use. Now he’s sober and looking to reclaim his reputation by striving to open a London restaurant that can achieve three Michelin stars, the ultimate grade in the industry. But he finds that not everyone has forgiven him for his past even as he tries to enlist new assistants and others to help him achieve his goal.

The Posters

There’s just one poster for the movie. It’s not super-involved but it gets the point across, simply showing Cooper with his arms folded as he stands in front of a kitchen. The copy across his chest says “Never underestimate a man with nothing to lose.”

So it manages to convey that Cooper is in the movie (an important messaging component, I think) as well as the setting of the action and the attitude of the character. Again, there’s not a whole lot going on here from a visual design point of view but it works from a messaging perspective, even if it looks like the cover to a novelization more than a one-sheet.

The Trailers

The first trailer opens with a kitchen being brought to life as we hear Jones explaining his background as a young chef who had and then lost it all. Then he lays out his manifesto for his new restaurant to be the best in the world as we hear what he’s been up to before trying to mount a comeback and get a hint of the bridges he’s burned.

The trailer is pretty good at offering a synopsis of the story – troubled bad-boy chef trying to mount his comeback – and maintains a focus on Cooper’s performance, which seems here to be based on moving around fast enough to not get caught in anything. He’s all frenetic motion, which is meant here, I think, to heighten the drama and tension.

The second trailer opens with more of a focus on Jones and just who he’s pissed off. So we get the woman saying “one hoped you were dead” and him running away from some bad guys with an obvious axe to grind. Then Jones meets up with an old friend who has forgiven if not forgotten the past. That starts his recruitment for his new place, which includes a street chef and a young woman who, as we see, will obviously become a love interest.

This one works maybe just a little bit better. It feels tighter and more focused and the fact that more characters besides Jones get highlighted works in its favor. The way Jones’ backstory is presented also works much better here, making this the better of the two spots.

Online and Social

The official website opens by playing, unfortunately, the first trailer, or at least the beginning of it. Once that stops it automatically scrolls down to the “About” section which has the second trailer embedded alongside a short one-paragraph synopsis of the film’s story. That section also has tabs along the bottom of the screen, one for Credits, which opens the credit block, and one for Partners, which has a list of companies that partnered with the movie on promotions.

There’s more to be found in the “People” section that’s next. That has descriptions of each of the main characters as well as the actors who play them. I really like this presentation as it draws a clear line between the two but puts an emphasis on the character, providing some background for people who may be interested.


In a nice touch, the “Cuisine” section is just that, a list of recipes, presumably for some of the dishes featured in the movie. Finally, the “Gallery” has a collection of images, GIFs and short videos that feature either characters from the movie or some of the food or cooking terms used in the film.

The last section is “Reservations,” which lets you find out where the movie is playing in your area.

On Facebook the studio shared the usual mix of images, videos, links to stories (mostly with clips, not anything more substantive) and more. Twitter was lots more active as they shared not just those official marketing materials but also Retweeted various food-based and other accounts that shared stats from the movie, provided background on the recipes and cooking details and more. There’s actually a lot of fun stuff there if you’re looking for more detail on not just the movie but the world the movie inhabits. Instagram is just photos and short videos.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

The TV spots that were run used much the same approach as the trailers. Because of the shorter runtime they didn’t include so much of the backstory, instead opting to focus on how incredibly passionate Jones is about food and showing him using graphic, sometimes sexual terms to describe his approach to cooking and what he wants people to experience.

Some of those TV spots featured some very awkward narration. The less said about those the better.

Among the movie’s promotional partners are:

  • HelloFresh: The recipe delivery company offered co-branded blog posts like this as well as a sweepstakes.  
  • Joss & Main: The cookware retailer offered a variety of products inspired by or featured in the movie as well as tips from the film’s production designer.
  • Le Creuset: Offered a chance to win a Dutch Oven signed by the film’s cast.
  • Sur la Table: Offered a cooking class on French recipes inspired by and featured in the movie.
  • Samsung: Not sure what this one was about, unless there are lots of Samsung products featured in the movie.
  • BakeSpace: Again, not sure what’s going on here since there aren’t details on either website.
  • Castello Cheese: Offered recipes inspired by the movie and showed off the cheese that’s featured in the film. The company also curated a nice media board of film pictures.
  • ZWILLING J.A. Henckels USA: Promoted the movie on its social media channels since its knives are featured in the movie.
  • Postmates: Once more, not sure what this is about since details aren’t readily available.

Media and Publicity

Of course this wasn’t the first time Cooper has played a difficult, demanding chef, having starred in the short-lived TV show “Kitchen Confidential” where he was a thinly-veiled version of Anthony Bourdain or someone very much like him.

Cooper would make the talk-show rounds, of course, including an appearance on “The Ellen Degeneres Show” where he would show off some of the kitchen skills he acquired.


Most of the press came, as I hinted at before, in the form of clips shared with various press outlets. Just a week or so before release it was announced that The Weinstein Company would be foregoing a limited initial release of the movie in favor of a wide release, something that got industry tongues wagging a bit.


I feel like the campaign is…I don’t know, “pushing” I guess is the right word. Bradley Cooper is a charming guy and a talented actor and I feel like the marketing is amping up that and trying to really convince the audience of that by repeating that idea over and over again. But we know that and don’t need to be hammered over the head with reminders of that. Just show it and let it happen.

The emphasis here is on presenting Cooper’s Adam Jones as a “bad boy” and on showing how that behavior creates drama and tension in his life and among those around him. But I’m struggling with who the target audience for that kind of campaign is. It might be women who are fans of Cooper and want to see him in a role like this. But if that’s the case I would have expected more focus on the potential romance between him and the up-and-coming chef played by Sienna Miller. It might be men, but this doesn’t present a case for the movie that’s more compelling than some of the other films playing right now. So I’m wondering if this will somehow fall in between the cracks, not completely appealing to any one core audience and so not compelling many people to come out.