Movie Marketing Madness: Despicable Me 3

despicable_me_three_ver3Universal and Illumination are back for another go around with Despicable Me 3, the second sequel in the surprisingly successful franchise that also spun-off Minions a couple years ago. As we saw by the end of the last movie Gru (voiced by Steve Carell) is now working for the good guys, having given up his life of villainy to be a better example to Margo, Edith and Agnes, the three girls he adopted in the first movie. In that fight he’s joined by his girlfriend Lucy (voiced by Kristen Wiig).

This time out though there are problems. After letting an 80s-themed villain slip past him he’s fired by the secret organization he’s been working for. That sets the stage for him to be reunited with Dru (also Carell), the long-lost twin brother he didn’t know he had. Dru wants Gru to embrace what turns out to be the family business of being a bad guy, but Gru isn’t sure which way he wants to go.

The Posters

Lots of white-space on the teaser poster, with Gru just popping his head up through a manhole cover and the promise of a summer release date here. It’s just about telling fans it’s coming. The next poster explains that we’re going to meet Gru’s identical twin brother and shows Gru does not appear to be thrilled by this.

A series of character posters showed the Minions clad in prison overalls and sporting various (adorable) tattoos that were, it seems, designed to show how tough and still evil they are.

The Trailers

The first trailer is primarily concerned with establishing the new villain for this movie, in this case a shoulder-pad-sporting bad guy who’s still obsessed with the 1980s. Balthazar Bratt is taking over a cargo ship, but Lucy and Gru are on the case and trying to stop him. That doesn’t go according to lan, of course, and Bratt fights with a keytar and more. Oddly, it’s not until the very end when we see the Minions pop up.

Yeah, it’s not bad. It’s certainly another Despicable Me movie. Gru, it seems, is now a full-on good guy, though he’s still a bit anti-social. Other than that it’s funny enough introducing a new villain with a schtick. And maybe the studio heard the comments about the Minions being a tad overdone in their solo movie by minimizing their role in this trailer.

The next trailer shows Gru being fired after failing to stop Bratt’s heist. That means he’s out of work and doesn’t take well to unemployment. Someone comes to find him on behalf of his twin brother, who Gru runs off to meet, only to find he’s a super-rich guy with lots of great hair. Dru wants Gru to give into his criminal heritage and help him pull off one last crime. The partnership is not without its speed bumps though, but the minions are certainly on board with more villainy.

Yeah, OK. It’s funny in its own way and explains more of the plot. The Minions are still being somewhat downplayed here, lending credence to the idea that Universal is holding them back a bit.

The final trailer starts out by explaining how it is Gru doesn’t know he has a twin brother, who when they reunite tries to lure him back into a world of crime. Nothing new or different here, just some scenes we haven’t seen before and a bit more of the Minions but otherwise it’s more of the same thematically.

Online and Social

You get full-screen video pulled from the trailer when you load up the official website. On the front page there’s a big prompt to buy tickets as well as a rotating carousel of features ranging from “Watch the Trailer” to “Pre-Order the Soundtrack” to “Create Your GIF,” which takes you to another site where you find a clip from one of the trailers and edit it into a GIF to be shared on social media. There are also links to the movie’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Finally, there’s a “Partners” link at the bottom that takes you to more information on the partner companies the studio enlisted.

If you go to the drop-down menu at the left the first section is “About,” which has a decent write-up of the story. “Characters,” which is also labeled on the front page as “Meet the Good/Bad Guys,” has a small bio of the main characters, including the Minions. There are about seven stills in the “Gallery.” Finally “Videos” has the latest Pharrell Williams song along with trailers.

The movie as also one of the launch partners for Facebook’s new camera masks, which allow users to add some movie-themed element to their photos in the same way Snapchat filters work.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

The paid campaign kicked off with TV spots that showed Gru celebrating his return to villainy while working with his twin brother. That’s a slightly different tack than was taken in the full trailers and outlines a different story for the audience, one that doesn’t show his reluctance to return to his former life.

Outdoor and online ads used the key art of Gru and Dru along with some Minions, of course.

In terms of promotional partners, there were quite a few, particularly of the food kind.

  • 23andMe, which used the movie’s story of finding family you didn’t know you had to sell its genetic testing services. This is a bit odd for a kids movie like this.
  • Bounty, which put movie branding on some rolls of its paper towels.
  • Kellogg’s, which put put out cobranded packaging and offered movie-themed treats in select snack boxes.
  • Chiquita, which put Minions on its banana stickers (which makes sense as those are the characters’ preferred snacks” and offered a sticker book to collect all of them as part of a challenge to win more prizes.
  • Yummy Spoonfuls, which ran a contest to win prizes if you submitted a photo of your “messy eater.”
  • McDonald’s, which put Minion toys in Happy Meals, though that U.S. promotion is nothing compared to what the fast food chain did in select Asian cities.
  • Puffs, but there aren’t any details on what this promotion is.
  • CandyMania, which offered a movie-themed casual game to play.
  • TicTacs, which ran a sweepstakes awarding a trip to Hawaii.
  • Nutella, which put out co-branded packaging and offered some movie-themed recipes that let you use the product to create Minion-shaped food.

Zumba, which created official choreography featuring instructor Toni Costa that was available only in Zumba classes.  

Media and Publicity

Carell talked about how he approached playing dual characters and how he found the accent for Dru along with the challenge of playing both brothers in an interview that included a first look photo from the movie.

A first look at some of the new Minions appearing in this movie also hinted at some story points the trailers haven’t gotten around to, including that the little yellow guys are more than just disappointed Gru isn’t returning to his criminal ways but actively and openly rebelling.

despicable-me-3 pic

The cast and crew did some media touring, of course, talking about how they felt with returning to the franchise as well as offering thoughts while attending the premiere. There was also a bit of a publicity pop around Zumba’s partnership involving a well-known trainer.

Overall

So this is an interesting little case study in marketing a film. It’s the third movie in the franchise, the second sequel to the original, which was a big hit and has become very popular. And it comes after the Minions spinoff, which was successful but not exactly a critical darling. But the Minions have also become a corporate calling card for Illumination, appearing as ambassadors of a sort in the trailers for Sing, The Lorax and other movies from the production studio. So not only have we seen them in the Despicable Me movies but their brand (yes, I said it) has become powerful enough to be used as shorthand for the studio’s overall output, a reason in and of themselves for people to see the movie.

As for the campaign itself, this is the most profound example of selling the promise of “more of what you’ve already enjoyed” I’ve seen in quite a while, even after having just dived into the latest Transformers marketing. Not only does it make it clear that Gru is still Gru and the Minions are still the Minions, it seems to be sold on the concept of apologizing in some way for the second movie offering changes to the characters, making it clear that everyone’s real inclinations are still toward villainy. So come see this, the campaign promises, because everyone’s getting back into character to some extent. It’s like if there was a sequel to Leaving Las Vegas where Nicolas Cage got sober and then a third one where Elizabeth Shue introduced him to his brother, a bartender.

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Movie Marketing Madness: The Mummy

Universal is trying once more to revitalize its catalog of classic monsters with this week’s The Mummy. No, this isn’t a straight reboot of the 90’s film series starring Brendan Frasier and eventually The Rock. It’s a new story starring Tom Cruise, Russell Crowe and others that brings the franchise into the present day and ups the action by presenting a threat not just to the heroes at the center of the conflict but also the world as a whole.

In this week’s release Cruise plays Nick Morton, a…something (none of the trailers or plot synopses make this clear) who makes the tragic mistake of disturbing the sarcophagus of Princess Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella), an ancient Egyptian figure who wielded dark powers to…destroy the world? He winds up being integral to her plans even as, with the help of Dr. Henry Jekyll (Crowe), he tries to foil those plans.

Deep breath, everyone.

The Posters

The first poster takes its cue from the first teaser, which features a massive action set piece set inside a cargo plane. This image shows that same interior, with the mummy’s sarcophagus strapped down to the floor. The bigger world that the movie is setting up is teased in the copy “Welcome to a new world of gods and monsters,” which is also a line that’s featured in that first trailer.

The second effort is a close-up of Ahmanet featuring her freaky eyes and the language and characters that are embossed on her cheek. This is meant to give it a spooky, otherworldly feel.

The third one pulls the camera out to show more of Ahmanet’s face (specifically both cheeks) as it looms of the London skyline which is being eaten away by some sort of force. Cruise is standing over it all as well, looking kind of powerless and just sort of taking it all in. He looks like he’s watching a crab walk along the beach, not like there’s any urgency to his character or actions.

Two IMAX posters play up the scope of the story, one showing Cruise repelling down past the massive sarcophagus that incites the story, the other showing him standing heroically as the ancient warrior looms in the background above a city that’s being destroyed by a red swarm. They’re not that interesting visually but they do work to establish that this is a big supernatural story that’s being sold.

The Trailers

The first trailer starts out by throwing us into the middle of the story, it seems. So Morton and others are escorting the sarcophagus home on a military transport before it’s taken down by a magical swarm of bats. Halsey escapes the plane but Morton goes down with it and dies, but that doesn’t last. After he’s brought back to life we hear from Jekyll that he’s now part of a larger world of magical mysteries. That includes the now reincarnated Princess Ahmanet, who’s out to reclaim what was taken from her millennia ago and which involves…destroying the world or something.

The trailer was only half about selling this movie, for which very little story elements are shown. Instead it’s focused on selling yet another movie of Tom Cruise running away from swarms of things and trying to prove to everyone that he knows what’s going on. It’s also really concerned with establishing Crowe’s Jekyll as the cornerstone of an expanded horror creature universe, promising the audience that this is just the first chapter in a much larger story.

The second trailer starts with the discovery extraction of the mummy from its resting place, an adventure that was fairly perilous in and of itself. We get some backstory on Ahmanet before we find out that the unwitting archeologists have caused that old evil to be unleashed upon the modern world. There’s a connection between her and Morton that’s being exploited so Ahmanet can return to power and take over the world. He tries to foil her at every turn but it doesn’t look good.

At least this explains more of the story. It still looks like Mission Impossible: Ghost Squad but it should appease fans of big budget effects-laden blockbusters as well as those who are enjoying Cruise’s late-career action turn.

The third trailer opens with a condensed version of the same plane crash sequence we’ve seen before. We find out Jack survived because he’d been cursed and is now being exposed to a magical world he’s not ready for. He’s connected to the mummy he awakened and becomes part of her plan in some way and…

You know what I’m out. There’s such an overt effort here to sell a mythology that’s completely undeserved and foreign that the entire thing collapses under its own weight. Instead of simply selling an action-packed supernatural thriller with Tom Cruise, it’s selling a bloated series of set pieces strung together with long-winded exposition about a backstory that we have no context for. No.

Online and Social

The final trailer loads when you pull up the movie’s official website. After closing that it displays full-screen silent video featuring footage seen in the trailers. Down in the lower left are links to the movie’s Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr profiles along with a link to the Prodigium, the mysterious organization Cruise’s character is introduced to and invited to become part of.

That site starts with an informational video of the organization and then allows you to take a virtual tour of the facility, either fully within the browser or via VR.

Back to the main site, the first section in the drop down menu of content is “About” which is long on name-dropping Cruise and the rest of the talent but short on adding any new information or context to the story.

The “Gallery” has a decent collection of some of the posters and some stills that have been released. “Videos” has the three trailers and the Inside Look featurette.

“Partners” lists the two companies that have signed on for promotional support while “30 Rock VR” has information on the VR experience that’s being hosted in New York City that takes people inside the plane stunt that’s been a central focus in the campaign.

Finally there’s another prompt to get tickets and then one to find out about the Dark Universe the studio is trying to launch with this movie.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

One of the first TV efforts was a co-branded spot that ran on ESPN during the NBA Playoffs, featuring basketball stars all turning to watch the news as reports of an attack in London are breaking. Those reports show Ahmanet and her supernatural conjurings before it cuts to the movie’s title and release date. More traditional spots that highlighted parts of the story and showcased the massive action came later in the campaign.

Promotional partners for the movie included

  • Saks Fifth Avenue, which created movie-inspired window displays showing off some of the props and costumes.
  • Mac Cosmetics, which provided tips on how to look like an ancient Egyptian princess and offered the products to do so.

Outdoor and online ads used the key art of Cruise and Boutella’s characters while social media ads used the trailers and other videos.

Media and Publicity

At the same time the first trailer was released, director Alex Kurtzman talked about the story, how he wanted to subvert the audience’s expectations about a Tom Cruise movie, directing a fight sequence between Cruise and Crowe and more. More first look photos, including this one from EW, followed.

The studio created a VR experience at SXSW earlier this year that took viewers inside the plane sequence that was featured so prominently in the first trailer. That same stunt continued to be the focus of much of the press, with Kurtzman talking at CinemaCon about the 64 takes necessary to fully capture it.

A stream of exclusive new images like this kept the conversation at a medium boil in between big pops in the campaign. One appeared in EW’s summer movie preview along with an interview with Boutella where she talked about her character, the research she did for the movie and more.

A behind-the-scenes featurette introduced us to the Prodigium organization that is lead by Crowe’s Dr. Jeykll, making it clear that it will act as the focal point of an expanded universe dealing with monsters and other phenomena. Around the same time Universal held “The Mummy Day” with a massive 75-foot sarcophagus looming over an event attended by Cruise that invited fans to come out and hopefully get excited for the upcoming movie.

The overt efforts to sell this as an essential launch of a larger world became even more ham-handed with the announcement Bride of Frankenstein would be the next movie in the series, coming in 2019. That was accompanied by photos of Cruise and Crowe alongside Johnny Depp, who would play The Invisible Man and Javier Bardem, would would tackle Frankenstein’s Monster. It was all put under the “Dark Universe” umbrella branding that included Universal’s classic horror movies as well as those to come.

Cruise of course made the media rounds, talking about this movie as well as other upcoming projects. Crowe also did some press work in the weeks leading up to release.

Overall

Bela Lugosi: They don’t want the classic horror films anymore. Today it’s all giant bugs. Giant spiders, giant grasshoppers… Who would believe such nonsense?

Ed Wood: The old ones were much spookier, they had castles and full moons…

Bela Lugosi: They were mythic. They had a poetry to them.

Edward D. Wood, Jr.: Yes.

Bela Lugosi: And you know what else? The women… the women preferred the traditional monsters.

Edward D. Wood, Jr.: The women? Huh?

Bela Lugosi: The pure horror, it both repels, and attracts them, because in their collective unconsiousness, they have the agony of childbirth. The blood. The blood is horror.

Edward D. Wood, Jr.: You know, I never thought of that.

Bela Lugosi: Take my word for it. If you want to make out with a young lady, take her to see “Dracula”.

I can’t get this scene from Ed Wood out of my head as I try to sum up a campaign that’s done everything it can to make the movie as unappealing as possible, at least to me. I’m a huge fan of the original Universal monster movies but what I remember from them is the sense of brooding terror, of looming danger around every corner. The stakes were low – Dracula was only ever a threat to those within his reach and The Mummy didn’t have world domination in mind – but that made it more real because it warned you not to cross those characters.

There’s nothing about this campaign that presents an attractive alternative for those looking to head to the box office this weekend aside from Cruise’s star power. The story on display is threadbare and incoherent, the characters all some level of incompetence masked as mystery.

No motivation for anyone’s actions, no sense of who anyone is or why they’re acting as they are is offered at any point in the marketing with the exception of the villain’s desire to end the world as we know it. Substitute her sandstorm with a sky beam and you have any superhero movie from the last 10 years.

Not only that, but the ham handed way Universal is trying to launch a franchise just makes no sense and becomes more of a deterrent than anything else. It makes no sense (particularly since it just tried to do this a few years ago with Dracula Untold) since it publicly commits them to a big project it may not be able to deliver on if this movie flops or underperforms. Working to establish that “bigger world” took up a lot of the campaign’s breathing room, meaning this release in and of itself didn’t have that space to sell itself, it needed to sell the franchise. That’s a mistake not even Marvel has made.

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Movie Marketing Madness: Get Out

get_out_ver2Jordan Peele, one half of the iconic comedy team Key & Peele, makes his directorial feature debut with this week’s Get Out, a movie that’s billing itself as a socially conscious thriller. Daniel Kaluuya stars as Chris, a guy who’s getting ready to go for a weekend away with his girlfriend Rose (Allison Williams) to meet her family. He’s understandably nervous because they don’t know he’s black, but goes along with her because that’s where the couple is in their relationship.

Things get super-weird when they get there, though. Not only do Rose’s parents (Catherine Keener and Bradley Whitford) seem incredibly odd in their attitudes and behavior toward Chris but the entire neighborhood is incredibly white. That only gets weirder when Chris finds out there’s a history of black people disappearing from the area without a trace. When some black people, including the hired help of Rose’s parents, start warning him to get out while he can Chris finds himself in the middle of an all-out crisis situation.

The Posters

The U.S. poster is meant to create a sense of mystery and disorientation. It uses the look of a shattered piece of glass, with different parts of the story presented in each fragment. So in one we see a happy couple, in another it’s Chris being greeted warmly by Dean. But others are more ominous, either Chris’ frightened, wide-open eye or some insane character wearing an iron mask. It’s not anything all that revolutionary – this design concept has been used before – but it does succeed in creating an unease in the audience. Peele is name-dropped at the top of the poster along with other horror films from Blumhouse. Toward the bottom, just above the title treatment, we get the copy “Just because you’re invited, doesn’t mean you’re welcome,” which hints nicely at the story.”

The Trailers

The trailer popped up out of nowhere back in October, appearing with little to no notice and taking everyone by surprise, and with good reason. It starts out by setting up the situation, showing Chris and Rose getting ready for their weekend away and his nerves about that. Once there things quickly take a turn for the surreal as the entire world appears to be creepy and dangerous as Chris seems to be subjected to more and more psychological torture, which quickly adds a physical element as well.

This looks just amazing. It sets up so much but only hints at the depths of what Chris is subjected to. Whitford and Keener in particular look great as they give off the vibe of being the kind of liberal white people that have academic conversations about race relations but are still capable of micro-aggressions of their own. Kaluuya, though, is the star here as he’s asked to hit so many beats. Just fantastic.

Online and Social

The front page of the official website features full-motion video of clips from the trailer along with a bit “Get tickets” button to encourage your actions.

The first content section in the top menu bar is “About” and is where you’ll be able to read a fairly spoiler-free synopsis. Skipping over another “Get tickets” link, the next section is the “Trailer” which you should re-watch. The “Art Gallery” has a handful of original art pieces that were inspired by the movie some of which is just amazing.

There’s a microsite next called “You Have to Get Out” that allows you to upload a picture and add some customized text to your own warning to others to get out of a location you’ve designated.

Finally there’s “Share,” which encourages you to tweet or otherwise post a link to the website on the social network of your choice. Oddly there don’t seem to be links on the site to the Twitter or Facebook profiles for the movie.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Some TV advertising was done with spots that tried to condense the important parts of the story into 30 seconds. That meant cutting out some of the setup, the stuff about Chris and Rose’s relationship, and getting straight to the bits about Chris being stuck in the house of increasingly terrible horrors. They’re tight and are meant to play directly to the horror fans, without many of story points of social commentary.

Online and outdoor advertising used variations on the key art to raise awareness and drive ticket sales. The trailer was used in some paid social advertising as well right after it was released.

Media and Publicity

It wasn’t on the official Sundance screening list but emerged as a secret midnight screening, something that earned it a ton of positive buzz and word-of-mouth. While there Peele talked about what inspired the story and what it was like making a horror movie, specifically one that’s so clearly about race.

get-out-pic

As one half of a very popular comedy duo and the driving creative force behind the movie it’s not surprising Peele was the focus of the press push. Profiles of the writer/director appeared in GQ and The New York Times, allowing him talk about racial politics and identity, his intentions for the story, the horror and other inspirations he pulled from and lots more. At the movie’s premiere Whitford and the rest of the cast hit similar beats as well as what the experience of working with Peele was like.

Peele, as the creative force behind the film, also made the talk show rounds to talk about the movie as well as his comedy career and what’s next in all regards.

Overall

As I said before, there are elements of this campaign that seemed to downplay some of the socially aware – “woke,” to use the common vernacular – parts of the story in favor of selling it as a straight horror movie that’s just all about being trapped in a creepy house in a creepily nice neighborhood with an increasingly creepy family. That’s not true of the entire marketing push but it’s interesting that there are parts, specifically the mainstream TV segment that presumably will create most of the awareness and interest in the movie, where the racial angle is missing. Make of that what you will.

What’s also a bit surprising is that the campaign is so front-loaded to five months ago. Sure, there’s lots of press activity and TV advertising that’s been done in the last month or so, but I’m not sure why there wasn’t at least one other trailer recently. Maybe Peele and Universal decided to just let it lie and let that one trailer do the heavy lifting, but the lack of additional marketing materials means there hasn’t been fodder for additional press commentary and social chatter. The media interviews don’t achieve that entirely, meaning there’s seemingly a big chunk missing from the marketing as a whole.

That doesn’t take away from the impact of the campaign. That trailer is still incredibly good, as is the poster. It just means there isn’t the volume to the marketing that would help it achieve an even greater profile.

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Movie Marketing Madness: The Great Wall

great_wallMatt Damon stars in the new movie The Great Wall as William, a European mercenary traveling through early 11th century China when he and his group are attacked by some kind of monster, an attack only he and one other survive. They soon find themselves taken prisoner inside China’s Great Wall, which is controlled by a secretive and powerful army.

It soon becomes clear that the Wall and controlling army is there for one specific reason: To guard against a horde of alien monsters who attempt to invade every 60 years. The attack on William and his crew signal an attack is coming ahead of schedule. While the army that’s been assembled is mostly prepared for what’s coming, William and others enlist to help fight off this massive looming threat, joining an army that will need every resource at its disposal to defend the country and the world from the alien menace.

The Posters

The first poster is all about selling Damon’s gritty, dirty face. That’s the primary visual element on the poster as he’s shown in extreme close-up, looking off to the middle distance with a grim expression on his face. We get some stats on the size and dimensions of the actual Great Wall but then are asked “What were they trying to keep out?” leading us to believe that it’s something other than what we all learned in high school social studies.

great_wall_ver20An IMAX-specific poster took a much more artistic approach, showing a flurry of fireballs flying through the air across the countryside. What it is they’re aimed at isn’t clear but it’s clear this is a massive effort that is designed to rain down fury and destruction on the unseen threat.

There were also a huge amount of posters for a dozen of the movie’s characters that were specifically created for the Chinese market, unsurprising given the production and target market. But considering how much of the cast isn’t white (sorry, that’s just realistic) much less not Matt Damon, these would have had zero interest for the U.S. audience.

The Trailers

The first trailer is pretty damn effective. It focuses on, at first, the scale and scope of The Great Wall of China with stats and explanations about just how massive it is. Then it asks if we really know what it was built to keep out. Suddenly a creature snatches a soldier off the wall and from there on we hear Damon’s narration talk about how, after countless battles and wars, he finally has something worth fighting for. As that plays out we see footage of imperial courtrooms, fiery battlefields and more.

It’s a great teaser that plays up the mystery of what exactly the forces who built the wall did so for. It never explains what’s going on or what the monsters we see briefly actually are but it establishes that they’re dangerous and that it will take an expert warrior to bring them down.

There are more monsters and we get to them more quickly in the first full trailer, which debuted at New York Comic-Con. We get a bit more of the story about why the wall was built and why the war is being waged. It’s still Damon’s story that’s being followed as we see him offer his services to the battle and hear him talk about how he’d like to finally fight for something, even if others think it’s a suicide mission he’s signing up for.

It’s not bad but I’m increasingly not sure what kind of movie is being sold here. It looks, based on this trailer, like it wants to be both a prestige drama and a big, effects-laden monster movie. I’m not sure it can have it both ways.

Online and Social

The movie’s official website is actually a lot better than I was expecting it to be. The front page opens with some full-screen video of clips pulled from the trailer, with a big “Get Tickets” prompt at the bottom of the page followed by links to the Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles.

The incredibly complex story of the movie gets boiled down to a simple synopsis in the “About” section. After that “Videos” has the two trailers but nothing else.

There’s a pretty robust “Gallery” of images, only a few of which include Damon. The last link in the content menu at the top of the site is “Share,” which loads up some buttons that allow you to share a link to the site on Facebook, Twitter or Google+.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

TV spots like this one try to condense the story down to 30 seconds, explaining that the Great Wall was built to keep out a monstrous threat. There are scenes of some of those aliens and some of the spots are more explicit with explaining what they are and where they come from. But the main point is to sell the movie as a big spectacle filled with flaming arrows, fog-strewn attacks and lots of explosions.

Legendary’s comic imprint released a prequel graphic novel telling a story that takes place 50 years before the events of the movie, focusing on a young man who joins the protective detail stationed on the wall.

Online and social ads used the trailers, TV spots and key art to raise awareness and drive ticket sales. Outdoor ads used the image of Damon’s gritty face for similar purposes.

Media and Publicity

The first images for the movie were released here along with an interview with the filmmakers where they talked about the Chinese/Hollywood co-production, the sci-fi and fantasy elements of the story and much more. The first trailer was greeted with, predictably, plenty of commentary about how apparently a white guy is necessary to save China, most notably from actress Constance Wu, who was justifiably upset over the casting. Director Yimou quickly reached out to the press explaining that no, Damon’s character is not the Great White Hope of the story, that he’s one of four heroes in the movie and the only one who’s not Chinese. While this may be true, Damon’s presence as the biggest (American) star has given him an outsized presence in the marketing, leading to this assumption being pretty easy to arrive at. So even if the movie doesn’t have this problem, the marketing does.

That issue kept coming up, leading Damon to talk about how people really needed to see the whole movie before making a judgement as well as conversations elsewhere about the difference between “whitewashing,” which is having white actors play characters who either shouldn’t be or who were originally not, and the white hero narrative, which is where an enlightened white man comes in to save another ethnic group for some reason. At New York Comic-Con Damon and others kept addressing this issue as well as trying to just talk about the movie as a whole and what makes it unique and interesting. And he kept talking about it (when he really shouldn’t have), eventually blaming the whole controversy on “clickbait” as headline writers tried to present a benign issue as outlandish.

great-wall-pic

 

How the studio had created a massive campaign for the Chinese market was the subject of this story, which talked about the unique opportunities and challenges in selling it there. And the general theme of how important a play to the Chinese market this was continued to be the focus of the press. That continued to be a central theme as the motives of the studio, be they accurate representation at best or pandering to the Asian market at worst, for undertaking such a venture were examined.

Damon made the rounds of the talk shows both in the morning and late night to have fun, talk about the scale of the movie and keep up awareness and conversations

Overall

I don’t usually make box-office predictions, but I have a hard time imagining how this campaign has or will reach a target audience, at least in the U.S. With such an emphasis on the Chinese market, it almost seems like the studio wasn’t quite sure what to do to try and reach a U.S. audience and so by default Damon became the face of the campaign, which makes sense. But while that works on paper, we see how that has turned out poorly in terms of the public conversation.

The whole marketing effort has been focused on the spectacle but it’s conveyed very little about the actual story, which seems like part of the reason the movie doesn’t seem to be lighting very many conversations on fire. The trailers, posters and website are all concerned primarily with selling the mystery of the beasts that are attacking the Great Wall and building up the mythology behind that wonder’s construction. But the idea that the spectacle alone is going to bring people in seems off at the moment and while I’m sure the movie will succeed in China, I don’t think its’ U.S. fortunes are going to be all that great.

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Movie Marketing Madness: Fifty Shades Darker

fifty_shades_darker_ver2Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) and Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) are back in Fifty Shades Darker, the sequel to 2015’s Fifty Shades of Grey. Like the first movie, this one is based on a book of the same name that white women everywhere swore to everyone who wasn’t their brunch buddy that they weren’t reading.

The story continues to follow Anastasia, this time as she’s out from under Christian’s domineering influence. But a sequence of events brings him back into her world and of course the two wind up getting back together for more sexy funtime. The twist, though, is that Christian’s ex Elina (Kim Basinger) is in the picture to warn Anastasia that while Christian may say he’s changed, it doesn’t work like that. The details of the story don’t really matter as it’s all about fantasy fulfillment.

The Posters

fifty_shades_darker“Slip into something a shade darker” we’re told on the first one-sheet. We see Gray in the background affixing a mask to Anastasia’s face, which is staring straight into the camera like she’s looking into a mirror. It’s all very washed out and lit to diffuse color and is just about raising awareness in the audience that things are going to get even weirder this time out.

The masked ball is featured again on the second poster. This time we see the two characters dancing, him unmasked while she still wears hers and looks toward the camera. “Every fairy tale has a dark side” is the copy on this one, which continues to try and sell the movie as a high class affair with beautiful dresses and fancy gatherings, not big-budget late-night Cinemax.

Five character posters showed off everyone from the cast, most all of them sporting the masks they wear at the ball that’s featured prominently in the trailers and the rest just having their faces obscured by the shadows and light.

The Trailers

That same “Slip into something a shade darker” line is used at the beginning of the first trailer. We get the setup, that Christian and Annastasia haven’t been together for a while but he wants her back, which of course she submits to and they start up their torrid affair. But secrets begin to come out that threatens to upset that.

It’s ridiculous and it will sell a million tickets. That’s all I have to say about that.

Lots more kink on display in the second trailer, which again sets it up as Gray and Anastasia reconnecting after parting ways. He tells her to take her panties off in the middle of a restaurant, the two have an awkward encounter in a crowded elevator and more. We get some exposition that another man in her life – the relationship isn’t clear – doesn’t believe Gray is good for her and see more of her being warned away from him along with more shots of the mysterious teenage girl that keeps appearing.

It’s ridiculous and it will sell a million tickets. That’s all I have to say about that.

A third “extended trailer” (which was actually shorter than the other two) kept things going. Nothing all that new here and the hype around it seemed to be around the song that was used, a collaboration between Zayn Malik and Taylor Swift. Other than that it’s largely the same stuff seen in the previous efforts.

Online and Social

The movie’s official website is built on Tumblr and there’s a box of prompts in the upper right of the front page encouraging you to follow that blog as well as connect with it on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.

Scroll down the page and “Social” is the first content section, allowing you to download and share a variety of GIFs and images. After that is “Videos” and is where you can watch all the trailers as well as the lyric video for the Zayn/Taylor Swift song that’s featured prominently in the campaign.

There are sections with a “Story” recap and a “Cast” list, both of which are separated by more GIFs and other images. Links accessible via the drop-down menu in the upper left will let you access a page with details on the soundtrack as well as information on a VR experience that launched just a few days ago to take viewers inside the movie’s world.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

TV spots debuted first during the broadcast of the Latin Grammys. Further spots kept emphasizing how the story will involve Christian’s past coming back to haunt him as he tries to change from the total dick he is to something resembling a human person who doesn’t get off on exercising power and domination over women.

The trailers and other videos were promoted through paid social media ads. Online ads drove ticket sales and outdoor ads used the key art to keep interest and awareness up, letting everyone know that the sequel was on its way.

Media and Publicity

Johnson made the talk-show rounds, playing games with Fallon and so on and generally having fun with the idea of the movie being so overly sexualized. Both she and Dornan did the rest of the press circuit as well to talk about the movie’s themes and story.

Interestingly, some of that may have resulted in what was reported as a gag order on the movie’s cast, who were told to stop having such fun with the sexy elements of the story but to take it seriously during all press interviews.

fifty-shades-darker-pic

Overall

Let’s just acknowledge that I’m not in the target demographic for this movie. I have no desire to see the first one, read the source books or anything else. This is not meant for me in any way, shape or form. But putting that aside, this is basically hitting the same notes as the campaign for the first movie and that was a huge hit, so it makes sense to pluck arrows from the same quiver the second time around.What’s most surprising is that there doesn’t seem to be anything noticeable in the campaign that hints at

What’s most surprising is that there doesn’t seem to be anything noticeable in the campaign that hints at recognition of or reaction to the criticism to the first movie. That came under fire for being about as woke as a doormat regarding women, putting them in the place of wanting to be dominated and essentially abused both physically and emotionally if it means someone will love them. So it’s odd to see that the marketing here keeps that going, showing that Anastasia is ready and willing to throw away the good life she’s built up since leaving Christian as soon as he bats his eyes and demands she take off her underwear.

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Movie Marketing Madness: Split

split_ver2The kidnapping of three girls is at the heart of the story of Split, the new movie from writer/director M. Night Shyamalan. Those three friends are taken to a hiding place where no one will be able to find them. But they’re being held by a man they sometimes know as Dennis (James McAvoy), whose intentions and motives for taking and holding them are unclear.

Complicating matters is that Dennis suffers from extreme split personalities, with as many as 23 personas living inside of him. Some of them are nicer than others, ranging from a child-like personality to that of a kindly old woman. The girls try to find one that will help them escape, but all seem to know that it’s important they stay where they are, but why no one knows.

The Posters

There’s not much to the first teaser poster. It’s just the title and Shyamalan’s name, meaning there’s the expectation his name alone will be enough to bring people to the theater.

The second poster focused on McAvoy’s Kevin, showing a closeup of him so we could see his crazy eyes, with the image shattered like the glass of a frame that’s been broken to help symbolize the fractured personalities. Those personalities are also the focus of the copy, which promises a 24th persona is about to be unleashed from within him.

The next one uses the same copy but this time shows Kevin far off from the camera, with a number of shadows looming on the floor in front of him including three normal sized one and one huge, monstrous figure. We’re meant to connect that with the copy about another personality that’s about to break free.

A final version takes a slightly more artistic approach, showing a silhouette of David’s profile, with a crack running down the middle of him that smaller figures are trying to crawl out of. The same copy is used but this one makes things a bit more figurative and less explicit, making it the most interesting of the bunch.

The Trailers

The first trailer is creepy as all get out. It opens with the camera, obviously from someone’s point of view, approaching a man in a mall parking lot or garage who’s loading bags into his car trunk. We cut then to the inside of the car, where three girls are waiting for the dad to get in. But it’s someone else and when they question him he knocks them out. They awake in a murder bunker, being told that they’re there for an important reason. Later they see what they think is someone else but is actually Kevin in women’s clothing, having let that personality take over. As the trailer goes on we see more of Kevin’s split personalities, which are explained to us thanks to some exposition from a psychiatrist who seems to be treating – or at least studying – him. We find out the girls are there for “The Beast,” an unseen creature who may or may not be real but is definitely a threat to the girls in the here and now.

I actually kind of like this a lot. You can see where the twists are going to be based on the plot but not too much is explained outright in the trailer itself. The real treat is McAvoy, though, who cycles through the different personalities effortlessly and seems to be having a lot of fun letting different characters out for different reasons. If there’s a strong attraction in the trailer, it’s him.

A second trailer is much more concerned with Kevin’s psychosis than the first trailer was. We get the same setup of the girls being kidnapped but from there on out the focus is largely on Kevin and the various personalities vying for dominance in his mind. We hear constantly how disturbed he is and then get a similar payoff of the girls being prepared for something nasty and terrible.

There’s a way that this trailer hints at the big reveal that the first trailer didn’t at all. Not saying what’s shown here is actually what happens, but there are clues dropped that all add up to one possible direction. Other than that it’s just as strong an effort as the first one.

Online and Social

The movie’s official website is built on Tumblr and starts off by playing the second trailer as soon as it loads. At the top of the page are links to the Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles that were created for the movie.

There are just two actual sections of content on the site. First is “About” which is where you can read a decent synopsis of the movie’s story. Second is the “Gallery” of production stills to scroll through and take a look at the movie.

Scroll down the page and there’s all sorts of content that’s been posted to the Tumblr blog. You can sort through those a bit with the “Videos,” “Images” and GIFs” tabs that are available.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

A few TV spots were run that did what they could to spoil the movie’s big twist. They play like shortened versions of the trailer, showing off some of the personalities rattling around in Dennis’ head for the most part, using the kidnapping of the girls only loosely. It’s all about McAvoy’s performance more than anything.

Those TV spots and trailers were used as social ads on Twitter and Facebook while key art was used for other online advertising. It’s an easy guess that outdoor ads were run as well.

Media and Publicity

The movie made its first public appearance at Fantastic Fest where it racked up near-universal accolades for the terrifying story, with many people calling it a return to form for Shyamalan.

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Shyamalan sat for a number of interviews to talk about the story of the movie, why he made it and more. There seemed to be a narrative that this was the final piece of a comeback for the director after a few years of flops and critically-lambasted movies. Similarly, McAvoy did the rounds to talk about working with the director and how he got into a role that demanded such quick turns in order to play all the personalities without dipping into parody.

Overall

Shyamalan is obviously at the center of the campaign, almost as much as McAvoy is. While the director hasn’t exactly been consistent since The Sixth Sense brought him into the spotlight with its twist ending, he still has a ton of mainstream audience name recognition, which is why that name and his previous work is plastered all over the assets for this movie. How that will or won’t work depends on whether or not you associate his name more with Unbreakable or The Happening, but it’s a card the studio would have been silly to not play and so it weighed the odds and made it happen.

The movie that’s being sold here is definitely a drama that has a number of twists. There’s certainly a big one involving “the beast” that’s referenced throughout that isn’t really addressed (though it kind of is) but other smaller ones about the breadth of Kevin’s personality disorder are clearly on display. That promises the audience that the usual Shyamalan twists and turns will be coming their way, so head to the theaters to see what happens. It’s a lot of setup and a lot of mystery that’s being shown off in the campaign, meaning it’s up to the movie to deliver on the promise being made.

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Movie Marketing Madness: Sing

singThe new movie Sing is all about chasing your dreams. The story, which takes place in a world of anthropomorphized animals (similar to Zootopia from earlier this year), follows Buster Moon, a koala (voiced by Matthew McConaughey) who owns a theater that’s on the verge of closing. As one last desperate ploy to remain in business he decides to put out a call for local talent to take part in a singing competition he hopes will just keep the doors open.

The results are beyond his expectations. The call brings in amateur singers from across the city, including apes, pigs, rabbits, giraffes and all sorts of other animals. Some come because they’ve always dreamed of being a star, some come to escape their current lives for one reason or another. In addition to McConaughey the movie features the voices of Reese Witherspoon, John C. Reilly, Scarlett Johansson, Taron Edgerton and others.

The Posters

The teaser doesn’t have a lot going on. It shows a theater marquee, the name of the movie at the top and all the names of the primary voice cast on the marquee itself. On the door below hangs a sign that says “Auditions begin 2016,” signaling when the movie is coming out as well as providing some small hint about the plot.

A series of posters was up next that featured each of the main characters shown in what seems to be their natural environment in the movie. Considering the star power involved, it’s unsurprising that each poster also features the name of the person doing the voice as well as the character’s name so we can start drawing some positive associations between the talent and the movie.

The Trailers

Well, we get the premise for the movie pretty well laid out in the first trailer. A stack of fliers are scattered throughout a city of anthropomorphic animals publicizing auditions for an “American Idol”-like show and we see a group of the animals who are going to go try out for fame and stardom.

It’s cute. There’s nothing special about it, but it’s cute. Again, we immediately see what’s going to set the plot in motion but not much about what the central conflict or anything else is going to be.

In the next trailer we start off by seeing a gorilla who’s slacking on his job of being a lookout for his criminal relatives because he’s singing to himself. We cut to a theater owner who’s struggling to bring in a crowd and so decides he’s going to launch a singing competition. That leads to a montage of clips from various animals auditioning on stage and more information about what this means to both the owner and the various people who are trying to win it big, each for their own reasons.

You’d be forgiven, given the timing, for thinking this is a Zootopia sequel what with the setting of a city filled with anthropomorphic animals. And the studio will likely take whatever of that it can get. But it’s a fairly OK trailer that doesn’t look like the most annoying thing in the world, so there’s that. It devotes a lot of running time to the audition scenes, not allowing for much more room to explain the story or characters or anything like that. Make of that what you will.

Another trailer came out that didn’t do much that was new, but with the four-minute running time it allowed a bit of additional room for the character and plot introductions to breathe a bit. One more similarly wasn’t all that original, just reshuffling some elements.

Online and Social

When you load the official site you’re greeted by some full-screen animation on the home page. A series of critic’s quotes rotate on the left just above a box providing a mix of calls-to-action and a link to buy tickets. Over on the right there’s a “Follow/Share” prompt that has links to the movie’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profile as well as an option to share a link to the page on Facebook or Twitter.

Toward the bottom of the page there’s a prompt to “Scroll to get on stage.” That opens up a section where you can get to know the various characters in the movie as well as see which actor voices them.

Moving to the content menu on the left, the first section there is “Videos.” That’s where you can find all the trailers and a special Happy Holidays video of the characters singing and skating while decked out in their holiday sweaters and more.

“About” has a pretty good story synopsis, at least once you get past the ties it works hard to connect this and other movies like Despicable Me. There are 17 stills, including shots of the human cast alongside their animated characters, in the “Gallery.” Those pics that put the people beside the animals can also be found on the stand-alone gallery site that’s linked to.

Finally, the Piggy Power site has audio and pictures featuring Gunter the pic (voiced by Nick Kroll) saying various empowering things.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

It appears the TV advertising campaign kicked off with an Olympics-themed spot featuring various groups of animals driving in their cars while singing along with songs about “gold” or “winning” and such. Clever.

There was also pretty generous placement for the movie during this year’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade broadcast, which makes sense given the NBCUniversal corporate connection.

In terms of promotional partners, there was:

  • YouTube – Worked with Universal/Illumination on a competition encouraging people to submit videos of them singing and/or dancing to the movie’s theme song, with winners flown to Los Angeles for tips on creating a successful YouTube presence.
  • Post Cereals – Created movie-branded packaging that promoted an instant-win sweepstakes that was also supported with a series of TV spots.
  • Spotify – The studio created character-specific playlists on the streaming service featuring music that’s appropriate to who they are.

Media and Publicity

The movie screened at the Toronto International Film Festival just to get some buzz, which it successfully did, earning some positive reviews and general goodwill.

Stevie Wonder and Arianna Grande appeared on “The Voice” to perform a song they did together on the soundtrack. Kroll and others from the cast did the talk show rounds to talk up the movie in various ways. And the movie got some other promotions as the cast has other movies coming out recently so they’ve talked about this as well.

sing-movie-animals

Overall

It’s a decent campaign. As I’ve mentioned the movie repeatedly here it’s worth recapping just how much the fact that this is the second “city full of talking animals” movie this year and how much that may impact the fortunes of this one. While there’s certainly a different value proposition in the story – instead of a mystery thriller we get a feel good story of achieving your dreams – it’s hard not to view this in the context of the success of Zootopia.

Moving beyond that comparison, though, there’s some good stuff going on here. The studio made some smart moves that play to a younger demographic – particularly the YouTube sweeps partnership – and really hit TV hard (even if the overall press push was somewhat lackluster. The focus is on the trailers, though, since they show off the humor and story most effectively.

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Movie Marketing Madness: Frank & Lola

frank-and-lola-poster-2The new movie Frank & Lola tells an unusual and seemingly disturbing love story. Frank is played by Michael Shannon and is a Las Vegas chef. One day he meets Lola (Imogen Poots), a young woman who’s pretty new to the city and who seems to be escaping her past. The two begin a relationship and feelings intensify, but trouble is looming for them.

Lola has been on the run from some bad situations but parts of her past begin to resurface in Vegas. That makes Frank very jealous and protective as he becomes more and more obsessed not just with keeping her safe but also taking out any potential threats. While the couple has made peace with where they are themselves, Frank has fallen into a world of underground sex clubs and other criminal behavior that he can’t pull out of.

The Posters

The movie’s one poster is pretty simple. It’s basically a glorified version of the first publicity still that was released, with Shannon and Poots sitting across a table from each other. “Love. Obsession. Betrayal. Revenge.” is the copy on the one-sheet alongside the movie’s Sundance credentials and a couple of positive quotes from early screenings.

The Trailers

The trailer is at times sweet or disturbing. Frank and Lola have met and quickly fall in love, him taking on the role of her protector. But things take a turn as mysterious characters from her past reemerge, bringing to light some of her past actions that don’t mesh well with his slightly obsessive and selfish personality. There are bad people she’s trying to protect him from and he gets involved in a dark world of sexual acts as he tries to figure out a way to move forward.

Let’s just put aside the age difference between the leads, shall we? This looks dark and gritty as a character study of two people who want to be in love but either can’t overlook the past or can’t escape from its pull. Shannon and Poots both look like they give solid, emotional performances, though the subject matter is certainly for adults only.

Online and Social

The official website is pretty simple affair. A still from the movie is the primary feature on the front page along with the primary credits featuring the names of those involved.

Click on the “Press Notes” and you open up a PDF with plot descriptions, background on the story and so on. That also shows the site is hosted on Squarespace, which is the first time I’ve seen that.

“Reviews” has a handful of quotes from early reviews and other press coverage. “Stills” has a couple of production pictures as well as some other behind-the-scenes shots. There are a couple videos in the “Trailers & Clips” section.

The site finishes off with “Links” to the Wikipedia, IMDb and other sites for the cast and crew. And then there’s the Tumblr “Blog” that has a handful of updates with links to marketing materials and news stories. There’s no link to it but there’s also a Facebook page that has many of the same updates.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

There’s been nothing that I can find in this category.

Media and Publicity

The movie debuted at the Sundance Film Festival but didn’t make much of an impression. It was picked up rather quickly by Universal but laid low until a release plan from Paladin was announced.

frank-and-lola-pic

Shannon has been making the rounds of the talk shows in the last few months, not necessarily to promote this movie since he’s been in a few others recently. Director Matthew Ross has also given a few interviews to raise awareness and get the word out.

Overall

It’s nothing special and it’s almost guaranteed to fall through the cracks of a busy holiday release season. While Shannon certainly has a stellar reputation among serious movie fans, this has zero buzz and I’m assuming very low name recognition. It hasn’t gotten a boost and the lack of either paid or organic press activity means that needle isn’t being moved anytime soon.

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Movie Marketing Madness: The Girl On The Train

girl-on-the-train-poster-2Based on the hit novel from a year or so ago, The Girl on the Train is now bringing to the big screen the story that had everyone buzzing over their foam lattes. In the movie Emily Blunt plays Rachel, a woman who’s having problems getting her life together. She’s divorced from Tom (Justin Theroux) and on her own, but unable to let go. Every day she rides on the train past the house the two used to share as well as that of another couple, Megan Scott, who give every appearance of being utterly in love and who Rachel has spun elaborate fantasies about.

Things become complicated, though, when Megan goes missing on the same morning Rachel wakes up hungover, with bruises she can’t account for and no memory of what happened the night before. So she sets out, sometimes with the help of and sometimes in direct contradiction of the police, to find out what happened and learn the truth of the situation. But not everyone wants the truth revealed and Rachel finds she’s not only questioning herself frequently but also under suspicion for her own behavior. While the novel was set in London and its outskirts, the movie has moved the action to New York and the suburbs because ‘murica.

The Posters

girl_on_the_trainThings are getting kind of arty on the first poster. We see a woman from the back, her neck and shoulders shown with her hair swept to one side of her neck. Her dress is partially unzipped at the top and we see that the zipper looks like a train and tracks, a nice touch and neat way to bring all the main elements of, if not the story, then at least the title to the forefront of the design. In one corner we’re warned “What you see can hurt you,” making it clear that there’s some danger involved in the story.

The theatrical poster, of course, keeps the train motif with the tracks bisecting the one-sheet vertically. On the left is the release date, a reminder that the movie is based on the hit novel and the copy “What you see can hurt you,” which increasingly makes little to no sense. While above I stated that it hints at danger in the story, there’s nothing here to make that more clear or help it make sense. There’s no context and it really doesn’t work here without any supporting information. On the right of the poster is Blunt’s face, looking out at the audience like she’s looking out a train window.

The Trailers

The first trailer really wants to sell this as being in the same vein as Gone Girl from a couple years ago. We meet Megan, who describes herself as a master of reinvention but who’s not well-liked by others, it seems. Something, we see, happens to her and then we meet Rachel, who may have seen something as she passed by Megan’s house on the train. There’s a connection between the two and Rachel is determined to find out what really happened to Megan. The rest of the trailer is filled with women embracing their sexuality, men grabbing women and throwing them around and Rachel trying to figure out the various mysteries surrounding both herself and Megan.

I’ll be honest, I think this is kind of a mess. There’s no coherent through line to the trailer, we’re not given decent introductions to any of the characters aside from Rachel to form any kind of attachment and overall it’s just not super-clear. It’s working really hard to sell the movie as a procedural, with Rachel and the police working to run down clues and such, which wasn’t the point I, at least, took away from the book.

The second trailer has a better flow, moving from character introductions to showing the basic plot and premise, but otherwise works to hit many of the same story and emotional beats.

There’s not a whole lot new here. Some story points are new or expanded upon from the first spot but otherwise it’s largely the same presentation of a slick, cold thriller that is selling a big mystery with some largely unlikable characters.

Online and Social

There’s not much on the front page of the official website outside of the menu at the top and the social icons at the bottom linking to the movie’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts as well as the YouTube and Tumblr for Universal.

Moving to the menu at the top, the first section is “Trailer” which is where you can rewatch the theatrical trailer if you so choose. “About” has a few subsections, starting off with a Synopsis that only offers a few sentences about the actual plot and is mainly focused on the stars and producers of the movie. Cast and Crew will let you find out more about the talent and then The Book just has a link encouraging you to buy the source novel on Amazon.

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Both of the trailers are the only things in the “Videos” section, making the earlier “Trailer” section somewhat redundant. There’s a surprisingly robust “Gallery” of over two dozen images next and it’s all capped off with “Tickets” to get you to buy tickets now.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

TV spots were run, it’s safe to assume, though no such spots were easily found on YouTube, at least not domestic U.S. spots. That’s really odd since, again, with such a big launch like this with such a built-in fan base it makes sense to not just run quite a bit of TV advertising but also share those spots online.

Appropriately, the source book got a new cover featuring the initial key art for the movie.

Universal was among the first to test Snapchat’s new “Snap to Unlock” ad unit, with Snapcodes appearing on billboards around New York (of course) that unlocked special geofilters associated with the movie.

There was also quite a bit of online advertising done, usually using some variation on the key art or the image of Blunt looking out the window of the train.

Media and Publicity

The first look at the much-anticipated movie appeared in EW, just showing Blunt looking out a train window. The actress would then talk about what it was in the story that attracted her to the role and all its emotional challenges. It was a while then until there was more conversation about the movie, specifically around the first footage that was unveiled at Universal’s CinemaCon presentation.

The movie was the subject of a nice cover story in Entertainment Weekly that included exclusive photos, interviews with Blunt and others and much more.

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A substantial profile of Blunt included a look at her whole career as well as how she approached the character, what it was like shooting the movie while she was pregnant and more. Later on she talked at the movie’s premiere about how women relate to the story, her love of true-crime stories and more.

The path the movie took from its start as a humble first novel from Paula Hawkins to the big screen in a major production was also the subject of this story.

Overall

The campaign itself isn’t bad. There are a lot of good consistent elements here that connect things and create a strong brand identity. Sure, the trailers are a bit overwrought and silly and it’s clear the studio is trying to play up the psychological thriller aspects of the story more even than Rachel’s search for the truth. But what do you expect with pulpy source material like what was used here?

The fate of the movie relies, I think, on the word-of-mouth coming out of opening weekend. If X percentage of the people who loved the book go and see the movie and come out thinking it’s the silliest, most ridiculous thing ever and don’t recommend it to the rest of their friends, there’s no way this goes on to become a hit. If it’s just grounded enough to not be a complete joke and shows, despite the change in story setting, some allegiance to the source material then it could make a decent impact on the box office.

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Movie Marketing Madness: Bridget Jones’s Baby

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

Bridget Jones was kind of a cultural phenomenon back around the turn of the millennium, first when the original book came out then when it was translated into a film starring Renee Zellweger. The story, a loose adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, wasn’t complex and certainly raised lots of questions about what constitutes being a feminist and what an empowered woman actually looked like. The first two movies, the original and its sequel Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, were based on books by Helen Fielding and featured Jones going through all kinds of problems related to balancing career and romance.

Now it’s time for the next phase of life in Bridget Jones’s Baby. Zellweger is back as Jones, who is once again single having found that storybook romances don’t always last. The story begins as, on consecutive days, she has one-night stands with her ex Mark Darcy (Colin Firth) and Jack Qwant (Patrick Dempsey), an American she has just met. Jones finds herself pregnant but doesn’t know who the father is because of the circumstances surrounding conception. So a comedy of manners commences as the investigation into the father’s identity begins and Jones has to figure out what that means for her love life at the same time.

The Posters

The first teaser poster is pretty basic Zellweger is shown in the same style as the one-sheets for the previous movie, only this time her face is obscured by a pair of stretchy pants she’s holding up. Above her in the whitespace is the copy “We’re going to need bigger pants.” It’s not all that original or visually interesting, but it gets the point across that a new Bridget Jones movie is coming out, so missing accomplished.

A handful of character posters made sure we were familiar with all the characters. Each one not only sports a massive picture of the actor’s heads but their character is given a helpful, simple description. So Darcy is the “Old flame,” Qwant is the “New Fling” and Jones herself is the “Big Problem.”

The theatrical poster uses the same layout as the one-sheets for the two previous movies, with Jones in the middle sporting a surprised or shocked expression as the two guys, in this case Darcy and Qwant, throw a little sideeye at each other behind her.

The Trailers

The first trailer debuted on “Ellen” and throws the viewer a curve by starting out with a fantasy sequence of Bridget’s wedding that quickly gives way to her still-single life. It’s alright, though, since things are going well for her otherwise. We get a meet-cute with a new guy and then find out she’s pregnant, though she doesn’t know who the father is. That leads to some uncomfortable situations, including an ultrasound with both of the potential candidates. 

Yeah…alright. It’s cute and everything and is designed to appeal to the fans of the first two movies, but…hasn’t the conversation about female empowerment and gender roles evolved a LOT since the last one? I feel like we’re still in 2004 here and the cliches of the character were a bit hoary even then.

The first full trailer sets up the premise of the story, which is that Bridget has recently slept with two different guys, a current boyfriend and her ex. When she winds up pregnant and doesn’t know which one it is it sets off a bit of baby-daddy drama as they go through all the stages of the pregnancy as a threesome, from lamaze classes to the actual delivery.

I’m….not sure what to make of this. Most of the humor is apparently going to come from the uncomfortable situations the two guys are forced to endure, with Bridget seemingly fretting over the unknown while also making them jump through hoops that seem unnecessary. I’m sure there will be a reason why a paternity test isn’t an option that’s explained in the movie, but it’s not here and it’s noticeable.

Online and Social

There’s not a whole lot going on on the movie’s official website. The front page of the site features full-motion video in the background, with a big “Buy Tickets” button toward the bottom of the page. In the upper right corner are links to the movie’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles.

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The “About” section has a decent synopsis of the story that catches us up with where the characters are at this point, over a decade after we last saw them. Then the “Trailer” section just has the theatrical trailer. Finally, there’s a “Photos” gallery that has about a half-dozen production stills.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

TV advertising took a variety of approaches to selling the movie but never drifted too far from the central theme. So some played up the rivalry between Jack and Mark a bit more, some focus more on the scenes with Emma Thompson’s doctor, but all play up the awkwardness of the situation and the way Bridget deals with it.

Online ads used the key art to drive people to buy tickets or watch the trailer. And I’m sure there was a bit of outdoor advertising done that also featured Zellweger.

Media and Publicity

The first publicity beat for the movie was the release of an official still which showed Jones clutching not a baby but an iPad, which seemed oddly appropriate. Months later it got an Entertainment Weekly cover and feature package that caught the audience up with where the characters are years after the last movie and introduced new characters like the one played by Dempsey.

Unfortunately there was a bit of a dust-up around Zellweger’s looks. That started with an Owen Gleiberman Variety op-ed where he took issue with her appearance, basically wondering whether she’d undergone so much work that she was now a completely different person. The piece, and the opinion itself, gleefully overlooks the amount of pressure women are under to maintain an appearance that men just aren’t. Zellweger later responded with an op-ed of her own saying she wasn’t going to wait around for a male gaze to validate her and blaming the tabloid culture of speculation on who’s had what kind of nips and tucks made.

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Zellweger, in a nice cover story in The Hollywood Reporter, kept talking about the unfortunate obsession in the media with looks and appearance, her brief time off from acting and more. Dempsey and Firth were both interviewed here and talked about how they approached the roles, with Firth saying he didn’t want to trod over old story ground but bring something new and Dempsey relating how he’s the unknown variable in the story, the one who’s not doing what anyone might expect. And another big feature on Zellweger continued focusing on her extended absence from the big screen along with the conversations around her appearance and other familiar themes.

Dempsey and Zellweger also made various appearances on talk shows as well as on online series to talk about jumping into the series and returning to the character, respectively.

Overall

What I find interesting about the campaign is that it actually feels a lot more genuine than the campaigns for some of the other franchises and series that have returned this year after 10+ years away. Maybe that’s a byproduct of this being a smaller movie than, say, Independence Day: Resurgence. It’s more personal and emotional as opposed to just trying to up the ante and make the special effects bigger than the last time out, which is the usual way these dormant series revivals are usually sold.

The question that remains is whether Jones, who was such a touchstone of early, somewhat aimless singles 25 years ago can connect once again with the audiences that made her a popular character back then. Or if there is a new audience who will pick this up as their entry into the franchise. There’s a funny, potentially sweet movie being sold here but I’m just not sure if that will be enough to bring people in or if Jones as a character is no longer relevant to the cultural conversation.