Movie Marketing Madness: The House

Two veterans of “Saturday Night Live” team up in this week’s new release The House. Amy Poehler and Will Ferrell play Kate and Scott Johansen, a married couple who are so proud and excited for their teenage daughter as she’s been accepted to a prestigious college. There’s just one problem: They’ve apparently spent all the money they’d put aside for that education.

Faced with the prospect of telling their baby girl she can’t go to school, they do what anyone would do: Open an underground casino in their house to make up the shortfall in cash. To help with that they enlist Frank (Jason Mantzoukas) and of course things quickly get out of hand. Not helping matters is that a local law enforcement official (Nick Kroll) is on their trail, suspecting something is going on.

The Posters

The first poster is all about selling the audience on a couple of amiable comedy stars that they’re likely to enjoy. So Ferrell and Poehler are seen fully decked-out in their Vegas-like duds, the lights of their makeshift casino win the background. “If you can’t beat the house, be…The House” we’re told in copy that leads into the title. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with it as it clearly conveys the value proposition of the movie, it’s just that it’s blandly boring in the same way the posters for many recent comedies have been.

Character posters for both of the stars showed them at the height of their new gaudy lifestyle, with quotes that are pulled from footage we’ve already seen in the trailers. Another series of two posters took a similar approach.

The Trailers

The first trailer lays out the premise, which is that Kate and Scott have somehow lost their daughter’s college fund. Not wanting to disappoint her, they resolve to come up with a way to pay for her dream school. Enter Frank, who convinces them to open a casino in their house. Things of course escalate as they become more adept at operating the illicit operation, getting deeper into the personas they’ve adopted to do so.

It’s pretty funny and it looks like, unlike his last few roles, Ferrell is actually trying here. Poehler is always great and it’s clear she’s given just as much material to chew on as Ferrell, which is nice. And the presence of Mantzoukas is always a welcome one. Sure, it looks like a series of variations on the same note and it’s not clear how the daughter could continue to live in a house with all this going on and remain clueless, but let’s just assume that gets cleared up in the full movie.

Another trailer, a red-band version, hits most of the same story beats about the parents not being able to afford college and turning to an illegal casino operation to make money. It ends with an extended, graphic version of the “cutting the guy’s finger off” scene we’ve seen previously.

Online and Social

You get a recreation of the key art when you load the official website, with the addition of Mantzoukas. There’s a big button to click to buy tickets in the middle of the page and links to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles in the upper right corner.

Scroll down the page – or use the content menu at the top – and the first thing you’ll see is a surprisingly well-stocked “Gallery” with about two dozen stills. The “Story” is light on the actual story synopsis but heavy on mentioning all the producers and other technical personnel.

“Trailer” opens a pop-up window that plays the all-ages trailer. Next – and finally – there’s the “Pit Boss Name” generator that, from all appearances, takes your name and spits out some random combination of gambling-related words.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Outdoor ads used images of Ferrell and Poehler rolling in the cash from their illicit enterprise, just using the familiarity with the stars as the main selling point without any information or context of the story.

Both Poehler and Ferrell appeared in a commercial for “SportsCenter” with Kenny Mayne to offer the host some ideas on new catchphrases.

Media and Publicity

Just before the first trailer dropped EW shared a first look photo from the movie alongside some comments from Poehler and others. Another new photo came in EW’s summer movie preview. Yet another was featured along with an interview with Ferrell where he talks about both the comedy and genuine emotion of the story.

A little viral video hosted by Frank (Jason Mantzoukas) showed us around the underground casino he operates and resulted in a nice little press pop.

Both stars made the talk show rounds, engaging in the usual hijinks with late night hosts, many of whom the two stars had worked with on “SNL” and more. That included Ferrell appearing in tiger face paint as if he’d just left a child’s birthday party, Poehler recreating old routines with Seth Meyers and so on. There was also a big profile of Ferrell where he talked about politics, old sketches and more, including this new movie.

Overall

You’d be forgiven for feeling like you’ve seen this movie already. Will Ferrell acts slightly stupid and shouts about how he loves something so much. Amy Poehler acts stoic and responsible until she lets her wild side loose. Jason Mantzoukous is a vaguely shifty and sleazy bro who will definitely get other characters into trouble. It’s not selling anything new.

That’s probably the point, though. The campaign seems to *want* to feel as generic and unmemorable as possible. Not that it’s not trying to be funny or bring in ticket buyers, but it’s trading on the well-known personality types of its three leads, offering the audience exactly what they would expect. That even extends to the title, which tells you nothing about the movie or the story but is just a label slapped on the box. There are a few genuine laughs here, but for the most part it’s not making a case for anything intriguing.

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Imagining A Superman: Red Son Movie Marketing Campaign

News has been bouncing around online today that Warner Bros. is at the very least kinda sorta considering the idea of creating a feature film version of the Superman: Red Son story from the comics, hearing pitches from various directors about how they’d tackle the project.

If you’re not familiar, Red Son is what DC Comics usually refers to as an “Elseworlds” story, one that takes place in an alternate reality that’s completely separate from the main DC Universe. There’s always the potential for universes to collide, of course, and various mainstream character have bumped into this incarnation of the Man of Steel from time to time, but it’s not part of “our” world.

Everyone knows Kal El crash-landed in Kansas, U.S.A.. What Red Son, as written by Mark Millar in 2003, presupposes is: What if he didn’t? What if instead he landed in the Soviet Union during the height of the Cold War? Instead of being brought up to embody the spirit of small town America, where you help everyone and believe justice prevails, Kal is instead raised in Ukraine to believe in the expansion of socialism and the almighty, unquestioned power of the soviet collective.

While the comic, released in a three-issue “prestige” format, came out 14 years ago, the political winds have shifted since then. Where Russia was considered for decades as being, in general, an opponent of the U.S., now America’s ruling political party is alternatively denying collaborating on election tampering with Russian state actors or saying even if they were that’s not even a crime, man. So relations with the former Soviet Union are at an odd place in history. All of that would make a marketing campaign for the movie…well, it would be interesting to watch. Let’s do some speculating:

The Hypothetical Poster

It’s easy to imagine WB adhering fairly closely to the trade dress for the collected edition of the comics, which shows Superman standing upon a platform that’s shaped like his traditional symbol but with the Soviet hammer and sickle inside it instead of the “S” that we all know. The same symbol adorns his costume, which is now not blue, red and yellow but dark brown and red, the colors of the Soviet Union.

That might be a tad overt for the mainstream U.S. audience, though. Instead a poster might take a more mysterious approach, showing Superman largely from the rear, perhaps walking away from the camera and toward something that’s clearly Russian like the Kremlin building in Moscow. The symbol doesn’t have to be shown since, again, it would might be a bit much to swallow. So it’s going to use shadows, shading and other visual cues to sell the idea of an alternate, non-traditional Superman. It doesn’t have to explicitly sell the idea of a Soviet Superman, just one that’s not Christopher Reeve.

The Hypothetical Trailer

A teaser would take a similar approach to what I’ve outlined above for the poster, hinting and teasing the idea that this Superman isn’t who we’ve all known for 75+ years. In fact a slow-motion shot of him walking toward the Kremlin as we see more aspects of his different costume are shown could be supplemented with title cards that lay out the premise, that at the height of the Cold War a strange alien craft crashed in a rural part of the Soviet Union. The alien aboard grew up to fight not for liberty and justice, but for the forces that opposed those ideals.

A full trailer would be a bit more difficult in terms of masking the very, very Russian tone of the story. We’d have to see Kal’s craft landing on the Ukraine farm and the child being whisked off by government agents to test him. I’m imagining a montage of Kal’s strength being tested that, in my head, plays out like Drago’s training montage in Rocky IV.

This one could focus not on the political ideals of the characters but instead on the conflict between Superman and Lex Luthor, who in this story has been elected President of the United States. (This keeps getting too real.) Cut out the bits of the story that involve Luthor enlisting a Russian-trained version of Batman and using a cold, heartless characterization of Wonder Woman as bait and stick with selling it as Superman vs. Lex Luthor, the essence of any good Superman story.

OK, But Even So…

There are multiple elements of the source material that make it almost unfilmable, including Luthor creating a global American empire and curing all disease before living for 1,000 years, variations on the Green Lantern mythology, Brainiac’s involvement on both sides of the conflict and much more.

Beyond even the story logistics, though, it’s hard to see how this is successfully sold the audience. The current cinematic incarnation of Superman as played by Henry Cavill only has two movies under his belt, 2013’s Man of Steel and what amounted to a supporting role in 2016’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. He’s been completely absent from 95% of the marketing to date for Justice League, coming later this year.

So would Cavill play Red Son Superman? How would the marketing convey to the audience that this is an alternate reality and not the same DC Cinematic Universe that only really got off the ground for fans with Wonder Woman? And how would the dark, dystopian tone of Red Son go over after Wonder Woman was praised by fans and critics alike for its hopeful, optimistically-heroic tone that was such a contrast to Man of Steel, BvS or Suicide Squad?

Those are the real questions Warner Bros. would have to answer as it not only produced but eventually sold a Red Son adaptation to the mass audience. While the project is still barely, if reports are accurate, in the larval stage, they’re still hanging out there and will have to be addressed before a single frame is shot.

Flashback MMM: Superman

This past Monday was Superman Day, which is admittedly a made up holiday. It combines almost 40 years Metropolis, IL has held its annual Superman Celebration and the anniversary of “Man of Steel Day,” which DC Entertainment introduced in 2013 as part of the lead-in to the release of Man of Steel. Metropolis picked the second weekend of June because it’s close to what’s widely considered the publication date of Action Comics #1, June 14, 1938. That’s no doubt part of the reason Warner Bros. released Man of Steel on that date in 2013.

Despite being almost a full week late to the party, I’m taking this opportunity to flashback to the 1978 marketing of Superman: The Movie. Christopher Reeve stars in the role of Clark Kent/Kal-El/Superman in an extended origin story that covers what are now standard beats in any Superman story. We see the destruction of Krypton in an incredible – and fairly lengthy – sequence starring Marlon Brando as Jor-El, Kal’s father and the planet’s leading scientist who’s marginalized for his warnings of impending doom. Unwilling to stand idly by, he and his wife decide to send the infant Kal out into the stars, to Earth. There he’s adopted by Johnathan and Martha Kent (Glenn Ford and Phyllis Thaxter) and raised as a human to hide his powers. When he’s older he goes to Metropolis to work as a reporter at The Daily Planet alongside Perry White (Jackie Cooper) and Lois Lane (Margot Kidder). Eventually, he embraces his heritage and begins actively fighting crime and saving people as Superman, but that brings him into conflict with Lex Luther (Gene Hackman), who has plans of the evil variety.

The theatrical poster immediately sets the tone for the campaign and the movie as a whole. The sigil of the House of El is set among the clouds, a red, yellow and blue streak running behind it. “You’ll believe a man can fly,” the copy reads, setting the expectation for the audience that they’ll be awed by the effects and presentation of the movie.

It’s notable that it doesn’t include a photo of the title character. You would think that with such recognizable intellectual property – at the time Superman was celebrating 40 years of pop culture popularity – it would have made complete sense for him to be front and center. Perhaps the decision was made to not do so because Reeves was an unknown quantity at the time, with just a few acting credits to his name. And while Brando and Hackman were well-known (and the only actors to be named above the title), neither was Superman. Whatever the reason (other posters would show all three actors), this one is going for feel and style, not just shots of either the characters or the actors in those roles.

A teaser trailer was created by director Richard Donner to highlight the all-star cast at a time when the fate of the movie was reportedly in doubt, with Warner Bros. wringing their hands over its fate in the wake of 1977’s Star Wars. In fact, it was added to Star Wars during that movie’s theatrical run to raise awareness and created sizable anticipation for the movie. It contains no footage, just the names of the actors and ends with the title treatment that was, and continues to be, in use on the Superman comics to help with the familiarity.

The theatrical trailer takes a different tack, starting out just where the movie does, on Krypton as Jor-El warns of the cataclysm to come. We hear they are an evolved and more intelligent civilization just as the planet starts crumbling around everyone’s ears and eventually explodes. But, we see, there was one survivor and we’re shown the landing of Kal-El’s pods into the farmland of Kansas. Superman emerges and we then get the credits of the actors, director and producers and others.

At one point the narration hits the “only son” beat a bit hard, really taking advantage of the Christ-like figure Superman is often portrayed as, including in the trailer for 2006’s Superman Returns. And it’s shocking that while we see Brando’s Jor-El we’re not shown Hackman’s Luthor. Instead, this comes off in much the same way as the poster, emphasizing the feel-good heroism of the title character and not his actual battle against an adversary.

It’s a bit surprising how the campaign would consistently hide one, if not two, of its biggest assets, namely Hackman and Brando. There may have been contractual issues factoring into that decision – Hackman reportedly was prickly during production and fairly mercenary in his acceptance of the role – but those were big bullets to keep chambered and had to be for a reason. Warner Bros. wouldn’t keep the stars of The French Connection, The Godfather and other movies already classics in 1978 out of the spotlight unless there were factors that made doing so necessary. Still, that reality, whatever it was, contributed to a campaign that was more hopeful and heroic than it might have otherwise been. It sold the experience and spectacle, not the specific story. That may have been part of what has made the movie so timeless, because it already existed on a whole other plane.

Movie Marketing Madness: Wonder Woman

She made a big impression in the less than 15 minutes of screentime she had in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice but now Wonder Woman is finally getting a feature film of her very own. This week’s new release is, of course, in the same “cinematic universe” as BvS and was teased in that movie, as Bruce Wayne’s path crossed with that of Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) as they were both searching for a photo of her from World War I, though for different reasons.

Diana’s solo movie – the first solo movie for a female superhero from either DC or Marvel – takes us back to that era. It begins with her as a young girl, the daughter of Queen Hipolyta of Themyscira, a hidden island of women. Completely cut off from the world, one day a fighter pilot named Steve Trevor (Chris Evans Pratt Pine) crashes near the island and tells Diana and the others of the war that’s raging and threatening to envelop the entire planet. Moved by a need to protect the innocent and punish the guilty, Diana agrees to take the unprecedented step of leaving the island and going out into the world of men.

The Posters

The first one-sheet was debuted on social media by Gadot and shows Wonder Woman in her classic garb. She’s standing in front of flames, as if she’s on a battlefield somewhere, sword in hand and lasso visible. “Power. Grace. Wisdom. Wonder.” we’re told, offering character attributes to sell the audience on who she is. Overall it’s a solid first effort and simply the existence of bright colors tells us the movie will be set apart from her appearance in Batman v Superman, which was massively desaturated.

A series of promotional posters followed that and came out around the same time as the second trailer, showing Diana in various action shots, wielding her sword, shield or gauntlets in the middle of battle. Each one has a different descriptive term, either “Courage,” “Power” or “Wonder.” They’re amazing.

The next one kept up the usage of bright, sharp colors. This time Diana is shown taking a knee on a bright beach with a sunset providing the colors in the background. “Wonder” adorns this one as well.

Another poster – likely the theatrical version – has another action shot of Wonder Woman moving with sword in hand. This one, unlike the others, finally adds Steve Trevor to the campaign, which was inevitable with Pine in the role. More followed that again showed Diana in full action mode, one with her lasso whipping around her and another with her lifting a friggin’ tank over her head.

A triptych of IMAX posters showed off General Antiope, Diana and Queen Hippolyta, each placed in front of a golden background. These are incredibly striking.

The Trailers

The first trailer, which also debuted at Comic-Con, opens with Diana finding Trevor on the beach and being in awe of him simply because he’s a man. Her mother warns her to be careful as it becomes clear she’s following him back into the world. She explains she was created by Zeus and from there on out it’s a series of action sequences as she joins in to fight World War I.

It’s…well, it’s pretty great. Gadot looks like she absolutely owns the role, getting Diana’s grace and power down pat and presenting a funny movie as well. And the action looks amazing here, especially that shot of her turning aside a howitzer shell with her shield. It’s a great introduction to the character and a promise of a satisfying movie to come.

The second trailer starts out with Diana in the modern day before we flashback to WW I as she sees Trevor crash into the ocean around Paradise Island and saves him. After a tragedy she agrees to join him back to the world of man to help fight the war. That means everything from protecting him to taking on a room full of bad guys herself to storming out of a trench to take the fight to the enemy. There’s plenty of action on display here as Wonder Woman kicks all sorts of hinder to do what she feels is necessary.

It’s a good second effort that shows off the action and visuals of the movie as well as offering a bit more about the story and plot. If there’s a quibble here it’s with the amount of time Pine’s Steve Trevor gets. I get that he’s a big star these days, but this almost sells the movie as a story where they’re operating on equal levels, with the same attention paid to both characters. If that’s true that’s…problematic, particularly for the first solo female superhero movie.

The next trailer is even better than the first. it starts out with a young Diana being shown a sword she may never be worthy to wield before a montage of clips of her training and suddenly discovering a power she didn’t know she had. When she finds Trevor on the beach she’s exposed to and decides to get out into the real world where she becomes deeply involved in WW I, taking on armies and individuals and fighting for justice and all that is good. Far less of Trevor in this one, which is good.

The final trailer hits many of the same beats, as we see a young Diana being told that fighting isn’t what makes someone a hero. Her determination to do the right thing is shown in footage from her in battle, clearly having defied her mother’s wishes. She’s moved to join that battle in an effort to save the world from the evil that’s growing and so takes her weapons and sets out, though her introduction into society is a bit tricky.

Online and Social

The official website, built on Tumblr, opens by playing the final trailer, which you should absolutely watch again. Once you close that you see, as with the sites for other movies, it keeps the DCComics.com content menu along the very top. On the splash page, which features an action shot of Diana marching through a WWI battlefield, are prompts to Get Tickets, Watch Trailer, get info about the “Soundtrack” or explore some “Games and Features.”

That last section has a few things going on. First is a link to download the DC Legends mobile game. Then there’s Rise of the Warrior, a casual online 8-bit looking game that has you controlling Wonder Woman as she walks through battle. Finally, Show Your Warrior, which lets you design a set of gauntlets and then take or upload a picture to have your creations shared to the photo, which can then be shared elsewhere.

Back to the main site, “About the film” overemphasizes the mentions of all the cast and crew but only devotes a small amount of space to a story synopsis. After that is “The Art of Wonder,” which is devoted to fan art inspired by the movie specifically but also the character in genera, much of which is pulled from social media hashtags or a submission form here.

“Partners” includes information on the companies who have signed on to help promote the movie. There’s another link to the “Soundtrack” site and then links to the movie’s profiles on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

If you scroll down the site you can see all the posts, including GIFs, videos and more, that have been published to the Tumblr blog.

Also on Facebook, Warner Bros. was one of the first to play around with the Camera Masks newly available there (similar to Snapchat Filters), this one allowing fans to place Wonder Woman’s tiara on their own heads.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

TV commercials started running a little over a month out from release that took various tacks toward presenting the movie. Some sold it as a straightforward action movie, some as a funnier action comedy, some played up the mythological story of her creation and some drew very explicit lines between this and the rest of the Justice League franchise characters. All featured, though, the character tearing through the kind of action we usually see only men tackle but also highlighted Diana’s heart and compassion.

DC and WB used the series premiere of “DC’s Legends of Tomorrow” to help promote the movie by airing a special immediately afterward that included the first look at footage from the movie along with new looks at Suicide Squad and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Later help from the TV landscape came with a fun commercial featuring the cast of “Supergirl” that aired during that show a couple weeks out from the movie’s release.

DC also made sure Wonder Woman was the focal point of its Free Comic Book Day offerings, with both a reprint of the “Wonder Woman: Year One” kickoff issue and a DC Super Hero Girls story featuring the character. Later on DC announced “Wonder Woman Day” on June 3rd with events at retailers and other locations as well as online activities and two variant cover issues available for free at stores to hook readers on those books.

The final trailer was used as an ad on Twitter by both Nickelodeon and WB to show off an appearance by the cast (more on this below) during the Kid’s Choice Awards.

There was also, of course, a significant merchandising push as exclusive products were placed at Walmart, Hot Topic and elsewhere alongside the usual bevy of widely-available toys, apparel and more.

There were also plenty of promotional partners to help give the movie an extra boost:

  • Stewart-Hass Racing/NASCAR, where driver Danica Patrick has been driving a car decked out in Wonder Woman colors and themes for the last few weeks. That exposure led to it being, according to data from analytics technology firm Amobee, the brand most associated with the movie in the month or so leading up to release.
  • Cold Stone Creamery, which offered a couple movie-themed creations in stores.
  • Dr. Pepper, which created collector edition cans featuring Wonder Woman and ran quite a bit of online advertising in support of that effort.
  • National CineMedia, but the details are unclear.
  • Orville Redenbacher, which put trailers for the movie in the Blippar app along with popcorn recipes. It also had a site that let you take an augmented reality-powered selfie with Wonder Woman.
  • PayPal, which ran a giveaway for users along with the ability to send a Wonder Woman greeting card along with whatever money you’re transferring.
  • Pinkberry, which offered its own movie-themed frozen tasty treat.
  • ThinkThin, which offered co-branded packaging and supported that through on-site content and other efforts. That partnership caused some controversy and chin-wagging, though, since many questioned (rightfully) whether diet bars are a good partner for a character that’s often all about acceptance and empowerment, not changing who you are to please others.
  • Tyson, which offered Fandango-powered movie rewards when you purchased select items at Walmart.
  • Hot Topic, which offered an exclusive collection of apparel from Her Universe.

A number of other consumer brands, particularly apparel and fashion companies, also got in on the action to various degrees.

There was also a lot of online advertising done. Social media ads used the trailers, online banners used the key art and video advertising used the trailers and TV spots. Outdoor advertising used the key art. It was a significant spend.

Eventually the extent to which Warner Bros. was or wasn’t marketing the movie to the level it could came under examination with a post by Shana O’Neil at Blastr that called out a lack of advertising and apparent lackluster support in other areas from the studio. That led to a lot of conversations about the box office viability of a female superhero and had people (including myself) comparing the marketing to that of other DC/WB movies.

A few things happened after that. Not only was there another trailer released but the advertising portion of the campaign finally kicked off. Whether or not that was a reaction to this criticism or if the timing was purely coincidental is unclear, but there was at least a PR response, with stories like this being placed that pointed out the ad spending on Wonder Woman was higher at this point in the campaign than it was for Suicide Squad. That may have been true, but Squad benefitted from a lot of press coverage due especially to Jared Leto’s eccentric on-set antics.

Media and Publicity

The first bit of real publicity came when Gadot shared an official still of her in character on Twitter at the same time shooting was said to begin on the movie. A few months later the first real promotional image from the movie was released showing Diana, Hippolyta and other Amazons. It’s a pretty cool picture. Wonder Woman’s role in Batman v Superman gave the creative team on her solo movie a chance to talk about making that and what audiences could expect when it hit theaters almost a year later.

Shortly after that a CinemaCon presentation showed off footage and had execs talking about Diana’s place in the DC Cinematic Universe. And later on props and costumes, along with various planned consumer goods, were on display at the Licensing Expo in Las Vegas.

Just before Comic-Con, where the movie was announced as one of Warner Bros.’ theatrical offerings being highlighted, an official synopsis as well as some details on the story were released. That was met with some criticism because 1) The story was credited to Zack Snyder and 2) The credits included no women writers. Also just before SDCC there was a big feature in Entertainment Weekly that featured a raft of new stills, an interview with Gadot where she talked about the character, working with a female director and lots more.

At Comic-Con the movie was a big deal, of course, doing its own promotion and drafting off the overall celebration of Wonder Woman’s 75th anniversary. So it got a special EW cover for convention goers, a display of costumes from the movie at the DC Comics booth (which also hosted a cast appearance and signing), at big Hall H panel and more.

Unfortunately it wasn’t all sunshine and roses. Not only did the movie’s image not benefit from the poor performance of Suicide Squad last year but it was included as part of an anonymous letter written by a former WB staffer who took the studio to task on multiple levels. As the writer railed against execs for rewarding failure and not knowing how to make or market a superhero movie to save their lives she also hinted that internal rumblings already pegged Wonder Woman as a mess. Jenkins came out quickly after that to deny such rumors, saying it was part of someone just wanting to stir things up for their own agenda.

The movie had a major presence at New York Comic-Con 2016, with costumes from the movie being displayed at the DC Comics booth there, a ceremony unveiling USPS stamps commemorating the character’s 75th anniversary, DC Collectibles showing off their movie statues and a panel devoted to the character featuring current talent on Wonder Woman titles and more.

DC co-pub Jim Lee drew a new picture of Wonder Woman for Variety’s “Power Women” issue that featured an interview with Gadot where she talked about taking on such an iconic role, DC Entertainment’s Diane Nelson talking about what made Gadot such a perfect choice for the role and more.

Wonder Woman was also named an honorary United Nations ambassador, largely due to her being a positive role model for young women around the world. Some people took issue with that on the grounds that her costume over-sexualized her and that was the wrong message to send, complaints that led the U.N. to drop her from that role just two months later.

A few press beats toward the end of 2016 kept things going, from a feature about how 2017 was going to be the character’s big year to the continued release of new stills showing off key moments from the movie and an interview with Jenkins. The final trailer debuted during the Nickelodeon Kid’s Choice Awards and was introduced by the whole cast along with a big group of singing and dancing extras dressed up like Wonder Woman and Steve Trevor.

Just a few months out from release Jenkins along with DC’s Geoff Johns appeared at WonderCon and brought footage to show off to fans in attendance there, footage that apparently went over very well.

EW’s summer movie preview issue contained a look at some concept art from production alongside comments from Johns and more information. A later EW cover story provided a last minute press push with Gadot talking about how of course Wonder Woman is a feminist, writer Allan Heinberg talking about the movie’s influences and more.

The campaign also made good use of Lynda Carter, the star of the 1970s “Wonder Woman” TV show. She showed up at all the panels, screenings and elsewhere to put her stamp of approval on the movie and talk about her history with the character, the way she’s always viewed Wonder Woman and much more

In the last month there have been interviews with just about everyone, from another feature on Gadot, comments from Robin Wright, Jenkins talking about the movie’s stylistic influences and how there aren’t really any deleted or missing scenes and lots more. The whole cast also did the talk show rounds, with Gadot showing up on “The Tonight Show,” “Conan,” “Ellen” and elsewhere. Pine, Wright and Nelson also did their fair share and the whole cast took over “Good Morning America” and made other early morning show appearances as well.

Overall

First off, let’s address the elephant in the room: It’s hard to argue that Warner Bros. hasn’t put its full efforts into promoting Wonder Woman, both through paid and earned media. There are some details you can take issue with and, again, it doesn’t have quite the scope of something like Suicide Squad but that’s largely because you don’t have 11 other characters to spread the spotlight across, nor do you have Jared Leto earning headlines with his borderline sociopathy.

I would go so far as to say Wonder Woman has received some of the studio’s best efforts or late. That’s especially true in the posters, all of which have been incredible. That element of the campaign more than anything else has presented a vibrant, inspirational hero that isn’t dark or depressing like Batman or, oddly, Superman. The trailers have been really good along those same lines as well, showing off the performance of Gadot, who nails both the action and the comedy.

Some parts of the campaign over-emphasize Pine, I think, though I understand you can’t cast an actor with his awareness and not put him in the trailers. Notably, though, the place he’s missing from the most is the poster aspect of the marketing.

Taken as a whole, the campaign has gotten just the kind of support across most channels that any other superhero movie, particularly one featuring a solo hero and not a full team, has received. Like I said there are some points where the counter-point could be successfully argued, but the big picture is one that shows the studio believes in the movie and is putting the money and effort into making it successful, not underplaying or trying to sabotage it.

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Movie Marketing Madness: Everything, Everything

Maddy Whittier (Amandla Stenberg) is seriously ill in the new young adult tearjerker Everything, Everything. Her immune system is so compromised she can’t go outside but must remain indoors in a controlled and disease-free environment lest she is exposed to something her body can’t handle. Turns out that list includes Olly Bright (Nick Robinson), a cute boy who moves in next door.

The two strike up a flirtation that’s carried out via texting and longing glances through pane glass windows. Eventually, things progress to the point they always do and Maddy realizes she’s only living a fraction of a life and Olly might be key to unlocking the rest of it. So despite everyone’s warnings, the two set off to explore the ocean she desperately wants to see and begin to act on the passion that’s been building between the two teens.

The Posters

The poster shows off the dynamic of the relationship between the two characters as they attempt to touch each other through the plate glass door, her looking at their hands almost connecting and him looking at her. At the top we’re reminded this is based on a popular book and toward the bottom, the movie’s story is summed up in the copy “Risk everything….for love.” The flowery title treatment is a nice indication of the fragrant, colorful world that sits outside Maddy’s grasp.

The next poster frames the would-be lovers in an array of flowers and other whimsical drawings. It’s not great, but I think they were going for an idea of doodling the world she’s never able to experience that just doesn’t quite pay off.

The Trailers

The trailer starts out by introducing us to Maddy’s situation, which is that she’s chronically sick and has been kept inside by her mother her entire life. One day Olly moves in next door and the two start flirting through the window and via text. The budding romance leads her to adventure more into the outdoors with him at her side, defying her worried mother but trying to live life to the fullest for the days she has.

There’s a lot going on here, mostly in how it tries to just hit all the young adult tropes. This is like Me and Earl and the Dying Girl with the focus on how the guy is helping the girl be all she can before she dies. It looks like it will be full of heavy-handed emotional moments, which is just what the audience likely wants.

The second trailer hits many of the same emotional beats as the first one but is less concerned with selling the movie as presenting it as a showcase for some new music by current popular singers. It even starts with the name of the song and the artist like an old-school music video.

Online and Social

Of course the official website is built on Tumblr, this is a movie that’s trying to reach teens and tweens. When you load the site the trailer pops up and plays. Once you close it the splash page has the flowery title treatment along with links to the movie’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles. Below there’s a carousel with prompts to “Snap to Unlock” exclusive content, get information on buying tickets or “Create Your Own Everything, Everything.” That opens up a new site that encourages you to connect with one of your existing social networks, at which point it pulls photos from that profile to create a collage similar to what’s seen in the movie, complete with title treatment in the middle. That collage can, of course, then be shared on your network of choice.

Back to the main site, if you just want to scroll down the page you can see all kinds of videos and photos that have been posted to the Tumblr blog.

The first section of content in the menu in the upper left is “Trailers,” where you can watch all three trailers. “Story” has a decent synopsis that in and of itself reads like a young adult novel. The “Gallery” unfortunately throws a 404 error. It’s meant to link to the photos that have been uploaded to the blog but looks like they got the link wrong in some way so there’s nothing there.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

While I can’t find any TV spots it’s hard to believe there weren’t a bunch run, specifically on networks frequented by the demographic the studio is clearly aiming for. The trailers were used for ads on YouTube, Twitter and elsewhere and I’m sure there were other paid executions happening, just nothing that made any news or crossed my radar.

Media and Publicity

Nicola Yoon, the author of the source book, spoke about what it was like having her work adapted and being on the movie set as it was filming. She also commented on the casting and how important having a cast that wasn’t all-white was to her.

After that the next major pop was a big feature interview of Stenberg where she talked about the story, the relationship that’s at the center of it and more. That story also exclusively debuted an “emoji trailer” that was meant to resonate with the teens. Throughout the campaign, Stenberg would talk more, sometimes about her history of working with female directors and diversity, sometimes about social media and the activism she’s engaged in, all at the same time promoting the movie.

The movie got a big boost when a first clip debuted during the MTV Movie and TV Awards that showed the budding, frustrated romance between the two characters.

Overall

Let’s just stipulate right at the outset that I am not the target audience for this movie. There couldn’t be anything about this campaign that interests me less. It’s…not my thing. But, I’m aware enough to know what’s being put on display here is likely attractive to the teens and tweens being targeted and who might need a break from the computer-generated superheroes to go get their cry on at the local theater. The story of frustrated and slightly forbidden teen romance has been around for centuries, if not longer, and this plays right into that idea effectively.

From one element to the other, the campaign has a nice consistent tone and feel, helped largely by the repeated use of that flowery design applied to the title treatment. The entire push is designed to pluck every single emotional heartstring the audience might have, showing longing glances and dreaming and promises to take each other away from it all. The movie is essentially being sold as an updated version of Rapunzel or other similar stories where the gallant prince comes to save the princess who’s been locked away in the tower by her over-protective father and show her there’s more to life than what she knows. With Snapchat.

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Movie Marketing Madness: King Arthur: Legend of the Sword

I think we can all agree that, to date, the definitive cinematic version of the King Arthur story was the one told in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. That’s just science. But this week director Guy Ritchie is going to throw another contender in the ring with King Arthur: Legend of the Sword. Despite having a title like the third entry in a video game franchise, the movie is not a sequel but instead offers Charlie Hunnam in the title role as Arthur, the man who would be king.

“Would be” is key here as in the story Arthur has had the kingdom that is his birthright stolen and kept a secret from him, growing up a hardscrabble rapscallion. When he, through some means or another, pulls the magic sword Excalibur from a stone he gains an insight into his destiny and joins the forces taking up arms against Vortigern (Jude Law), the less-than-benevolent current ruler of the land. He will do whatever it takes to not only quash the rebellion but also take out Arthur and stop the one man who could actually oust him from his comfortable position.

The Posters

The first poster looks like an outtake from an Anton Corbin photoshoot for the pictures for a mid-90s U2 album. It’s a black-and-white shot of Hunman, standing stoically and looking out into the distance while clutching and leaning on the sword we all know symbolizes his right to rule. The title treatment is in purple to stand out from how it’s overlaid on the photo. I get that it’s meant to show this is a gritty movie but it just comes off a bit pretentious, as if they literally couldn’t figure out any other way to introduce the character other than through someone’s junior-year photography class final project. Plus, is Hunman that big a star that he can just be there with little supporting material or information and still be expected to sell the movie?

“From nothing comes a king” we’re told in the latest example of a poster that aims to make an impact by putting bold copy over a stark closeup of the lead actor’s face. Hunman looks grizzled and worn here in a shot that’s designed to appear as bleak as possible. A similar poster featuring the face of Law used the copy “Temptation blackens the heart,” which sounds like a lyric from a Christian speed metal band and other characters got similar treatments.

Another poster, maybe the theatrical version, just shows a full-body shot of Hunnam standing there with sword in hand. “From nothing comes a king” we’re again told on the one-sheet, which also again touts this as coming from the director of Sherlock Holmes. It’s not that interesting, just a publicity shot with the title treatment and some other elements laid over it.

The Trailers

The first trailer is so very Ritchie. It starts out with Arthur and others on the run through a city, footage that’s intercut with someone asking him to tell the story of what happened. Arthur is presented as kind of a cad and a scoundrel right up to the moment he attempts, successfully, to pull the iconic sword from the stone. That sets into motion a series of events that appears to lead to war with…someone, presumably a neighboring kingdom that wants what Arthur’s land has.

Hunman looks completely bland in the role. It’s possible this isn’t actually an actor we’re watching, just a bag of straw that’s being controlled like a marionette. Law chews the scenery around him as the bad guy, but it just reminds the audience that he’s never given a leading role of his own in Ritchie’s movies. Overall this looks like it turns King Arthur, like other characters such as Sherlock Holmes, Tarzan and others, into a super hero in need of an epic origin story where he rises to the potential he didn’t know he had.

We meet Arthur in the next trailer as a young boy who’s being spirited away from danger by his father the king. Cut to him as a grown man as someone who’s living in exile until he comes out to claim Excalibur. But there’s another who wants that power and will fight to take it for himself. So there are two conflicts, one between the two men who are vying for power and one within Arthur himself as he struggles to embrace his destiny.

So…Excalibur is some sort of magic sword that imbues the weilder with powers of speed and more? That seems different. It’s a big, ridiculous trailer for a movie that seems to make an epic spectacle out of what always seemed a more personal story. Again, there seems to be an effort to keep Hunman in the background to some extent, focusing more on the big visuals than on his actual story. Basically it appears that any excuse the trailer could find to not include the title character, it took.

The final trailer is mostly more of the same, showing Arthur’s reluctant journey to become king even as the current holder of that office wants him found and dead. There are training sequences and fights and dramatic slow pulls and CGI armies talking of becoming more than a myth and magic and dragons and so on. It all looks utterly ridiculous.

Online and Social

The key art of a black-and-white Hunnam looking like he’s promoting his album of 1960’s soul covers greets you when you launch the official website. At the top are links to the movie’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles as well as prompts to email a link to the site to someone you know or to buy tickets.

Down at the bottom of the front page are lots of options if you care to engage in any of a number of movie-related activities. You can find out more about the mobile game, download the VR experience, generate your own version of the poster, find out when the “Sword in the Stone Tour” is coming to a location near you or listen to or buy the movie’s soundtrack.

Going back to the content menu that’s in the drop-down found in the upper left, the first section there is “Social” and just has a few posts that have been published to a Tumblr blog and which can be shared if you so choose. All three trailers are all you’ll find in the “Videos” section.

The “About” section has a decent synopsis of the story along with the usual credits of those involved in the movie’s making. A whopping three stills can be found in the “Gallery.” The site finishes off with “Partners” and information about the companies who signed on for cross-promotions in some manner.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

The first extended TV spot sells the movie as a science fiction “claim your birthright” kind of story involving embracing your destiny and defeating some kind of massive creature that’s destroying castles and kingdoms. It’s full of spectacle but tells the audience almost nothing about whatever story the movie might have. Future TV spots hit on the same or similar themes, selling the movie as a big action movie about embracing your destiny. Spots closer to release sought to tap into peer recommendation by featuring Tweets from fans who had seen it already and who were enthusiastic in their reactions.

Warner Bros. was the first to buy into Snapchat’s sponsored puzzle-game selfie ad unit, allowing people to put a robe and crown on their pictures and then unlock a puzzle, with their time posted to the image. And of course there was a 360-degree VR experience that took viewers inside the world of the movie and let them explore a bit while trying to not die.

In terms of promotional partners, there are a few that were listed on the official website, including:

  • Wahoo’s, which offered a sweeps to win a prize pack including movie tickets, food gift cards, a Vans shopping spree and more.
  • Xperia Lounge, which offered a King Arthur-centric theme to Sony Mobile users and which included the “Sword and the Stone” experience at Mashable House during SXSW this year.
  • Visit Britain, which understandably created a whole campaign around the movie.
  • Men’s Health, which offered a movie-themed version of their subscription box that’s usually full of snacks, health tips, exercise packages and more.
  • UberEATS, which offered – only to those in select CA cities – a sweeps awarding free movie tickets to users who ordered meals using the service.

Media and Publicity

The first look at the movie came in the form of stills in Entertainment Weekly showing off Hunnam and Law. A little bit later the movie would be part of WB’s overall Hall H presence at San Diego Comic-Con, where the cast and crew made comments about it.

Ritchie spoke later about how he wanted to do something different with the Arthur story, what was behind the multiple release date shifts the movie has undergone and more, including details about the effects and visuals in the movie. Hunnam talked about how he created the character in EW’s summer movie preview.

Hunnam and Ritchie in particular did the press rounds of talk shows and more, talking about making the movie, the challenges of the story and everything else. The campaign dovetailed with Hunnam’s promoting of The Lost City of Z, which came out just a few weeks ago, so the two often overlapped and if that publicity push seemed small, with a focus on director James Gray, it’s likely because the actor was being saved for this release.

Overall

Getting over my belief that Charlie Hunnam isn’t actually a human actor but the result of a Hollywood exec feeding a machine pictures of other leading men in an effort to create the blandest, least memorable movie presence ever…actually, I don’t have an ending to that. Hunnam’s lack of screen presence really comes through here as he fails to hold what little attention the campaign, particularly the trailers, give to him. Yes, he shows up on the posters, but in the trailers we want to watch him as little as possible, getting straight to the part where the sword gives him super powers to fight dragons or some such.

Instead the focus seems to be mostly on Law and his scenery-chewing bad guy. The campaign wants to sell this as a big action movie with a wounded, reluctant hero at its core, but the stakes are never clear here. The trailers for Gods of Egypt made that story more understandable, and that’s a low bar to clear. It’s all science-fiction action instead of political intrigue as Arthur tries to reclaim his rightful throne because reasons, all of it presented in a muted color palate that even Zack Snyder probably thinks is desaturated a tad too much. It’s hard to see how this makes a meaningful impact at the box office unless Guardians Vol. 2 suffers really bad word of mouth and drops significantly.

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Movie Marketing Madness: Going In Style

As a filmmaker, Zack Braff has a reputation for telling very personal stories about 20- or 30-something wandering spirits. This week he takes on his first seeming “director for hire” gig with Going In Style. The movie stars Morgan Freeman, Alan Arkin and Michael Caine as a trio of retirees who have been living off the pension they earned while working at a company for most of their lives. Now, though, they find out the pension is being cut because of corporate mismanagement, which hits at the same time mortgages are rising and more.

Angry and bored, they decide to take extreme measures. Specifically they start making plans to rob a bank and take the money they feel they’re due. That plan goes predictably sideways as these are not hardened criminals we’re dealing with. So with no experience to speak of in the robbery arts and plenty of potential for things to go wrong, wackiness ensues as we watch three elderly gentlemen try to act like big bad gangsters.

The Posters

The first and only poster is just as bad as you’d expect, with three figures on whom the faces of the lead actors have been badly pasted on walking toward the camera, each carrying guns and bags full of money. “You’re never too old to get even,” the copy at the top tells us but this just seems pretty awful.

The Trailers

We start off in the first trailer by getting a sense of why these guys are so upset. The banks are shafting them and their former company is cutting their pensions. So after seeing someone else get away with it they all decide to rob one of the banks responsible and get their money back. So much of the trailer is about them practicing for the heist, with predictably zany results as they act their age.

….aright. It’s fine for what it is. Ann-Margaret may actually be playing the same character she did in Grumpy Old Men. In fact, that’s what I’m going to believe regardless of anyone who says different. All three lead actors are better than this material, but whatever, they can goof around and have some fun and that’s fine.

Online and Social

The official website loads and you can rewatch the trailer if you so choose. After that ends you see there’s not much else going on here. There’s a prompt to enter a sweepstakes that awards the winner $5,000 and links to the movie’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram sites.

Keep scrolling down the Tumblr-based site and you’ll find lots of images, short videos and GIFs. Some of these are pretty funny, others are a little more groan-inducing. But there’s a solid collection here of posts that are working to promote the movie, including a couple Michael Caine GIFs that I’ve added to my repository.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

A few TV spots like this one didn’t feature footage from the movie but instead had the three leads as well as Braff just standing around chatting and encouraging people to go see the movie when it opens. There were some that featured more footage from the movie than others, but the point here is still to put the focus on the actors more than anything.

Media and Publicity

All three of the main stars appeared on the morning talk shows to show off their chemistry, talk about working with Braff and otherwise have a good time as they remind America how much they’re a bunch of beloved older actors.

There were other interviews and press opportunities with the four primary players as well. Also, co-star Joey King got her own spotlight where she talked about working with Caine. And there was a big career-spanning feature on Ann Margaret, who plays a love interest of Arkin’s in the movie where she talked about him, Braff and lots more.

Braff himself also did some press, mostly TV talk show appearances here and there to talk about working with a trio of Oscar winners, taking on his first big studio film (as opposed to his own project) and more.

Overall

As should be clear from the above, there are elements of the campaign I’m not a fan of. The trailer and poster are both very weak and the website isn’t exactly robust enough to make a big impact. Everything here points to an unnecessary remake (of the 1979 George Burns movie of the same name) that might be pleasant enough if you find it on HBO while you can’t sleep in a hotel room in 18 months, but that isn’t important enough to actually make plans to head to the theater.

What’s striking, though, is how much the story and actual movie is seemingly a secondary consideration. Instead what’s really being sold is on display in the TV advertising and publicity portions of the campaign: A charming feature with some of your favorite can’t-miss older actors. The chemistry between Caine, Freeman and Arkin is the real value proposition of the marketing, which is why that’s what is mostly on display outside of the trailer and poster. It’s likely not enough to actually pull people in, but it’s seemingly the strongest message the studio found it had.

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Movie Marketing Madness: CHiPs

Dax Shepard isn’t the biggest movie star in the world but he does have a loyal following thanks to supporting roles on the big-screen and a long run on TV’s “Parenthood.” Now he’s looking to more fully establish himself at the box-office with CHiPs, a feature adaptation of the classic 70s/80s TV show. Shepard wrote, directed and stars as Jon Baker, an extreme motorcyclist who signs on to the California Highway Patrol.

One day he’s assigned a new partner, Frank ‘Ponch’ Poncherello (Michael Pena) who’s actually an undercover FBI agent assigned to root out what appears to be a cadre of corrupt cops on the CHP. Baker is mostly trying to impress his ex-wife (Kristen Bell) and win her back. The new, somewhat reluctant partners have to make the best of the situation in order to get to the bottom of the corruption in the department and bond along the way.

The Posters

“Chip happens” according to the first poster, which shows Ponch and John speeding cluelessly away from a scene of massive destruction in the background. So we know where the focus of the movie will be.

Two character posters showed Ponch and John and just how different they are in personality. There’s nothing inventive or interesting about the posters, they’re just pulled from stills from the movie with text awkwardly laid over them. This is a lazy effort from a studio that doesn’t seem to be trying.

The Trailers

As the first trailer opens we meet Ponch and John, who are put together as a team to try and rout out some corrupt cops within the police department. They are, of course, an unlikely pair and have very different styles. After a bit of “getting to know you” we devolve into comedic violence as they investigate what’s going on and who the dirty cops might be.

There’s a distinct 21 Jump Street vibe here, where the concept from the TV show is being played for laughs. Shepherd and Pena have a lot of comedic chemistry that’s on display and there are some great little cameos by friends of the two of them. The story isn’t all that important, it’s just about showing off the hijinks that take place in the movie.

A red-band version played more or less the same as the first one, just with a bit more raunch in it and a bit more naked Shepherd.

Online and Social

The movie’s official website opens with the trailer, which is totally worth rewatching.

That same trailer is available in the “Trailer” section that’s the first option on the content menu at the top. After that is “Tickets,” followed by a surprisingly robust “Gallery.”

“Story” has a pretty good synopsis of the movie’s plot along with the usual array of credits and other information. “Partners” has info on the companies that are helping to promote the movie in various ways. Finally there are links to the film’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles.

If you just scroll down the page there’s a button encouraging you to play “Protect and Swerve,” a casual game that lets you control the two motorcycle cops and move them through traffic and avoiding obstacles. Further down you’ll find all sorts of photos, GIFs and videos that have been posted to the Tumblr blog.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

I’m sure there’s been some TV advertising done but there aren’t any domestic spots that I’ve found on YouTube. Likewise, I’m confident online and outdoor ads have been placed. The one part I’m confident of is that the studio ran social ads when the trailers debuted.

There were a few companies that signed on as promotional partners as well:

  • eBay: Hosted a charity auction on one of the bikes actually used in the movie
  • Wahoos: Offered a sweeps with prizes ranging from movie tickets and swag to free food
  • Dianese: No details on the promotion but it’s a bike accessory company, so the tie-in is natural
  • Ducati: Encouraged people to test drive the Hypermotard, a new model that’s featured in the movie

Media and Publicity

While there were comments here and there previously, Shepard really kicked off the publicity cycle with an interview where he talked about shooting in California, how the movie will vary tonally from the original TV show and more. It was a while, though, before the next promotional salvo, which came in the form of a first look still via EW.

There was a big pop when the first trailer debuted on “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” including an in-costume appearance by Shepard and Pena. Later on Shepherd talked extensively about how he wanted the movie to not be satire but just a raunchy buddy comedy, how he doesn’t exactly have a history of being able to open movies successfully and lots more.

Regular press and publicity activity continued, often with either joint appearances with Shepard and Pena or with the two of them plus Bell, the three making up a pretty solid comedic trio. So there were more talk-show chats and promotional videos and other tactics.

Overall

There’s a lot to like about this campaign. Shepard is charming as all get out, exuding that California hippie surfer vibe easily despite his Michigan roots. And he puts all that charm right out on the line to sell a movie where he has a lot at stake, with his name all over the credits here. His loose, lopsided sense of humor is the cornerstone of the marketing push, promising audiences they’re going to have a really good time in an aw-shucks kind of way when they stop into the theater.

Shepard – and the studio – want to differentiate this movie from other recent big-screen adaptations like 21 Jump Street and the upcoming Baywatch. It’s successful in some areas but with so many gags and so much raunchy humor on display it’s also hard to take it and just accept it as simply a loose adaptation of the source material. If you are into comedic takes on previously non-humor based material or are pulled in by the wattage of Shepard’s smile, though, there’s a lot in this campaign for you to like. If not then this one probably passed right by you.

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Movie Marketing Madness: Kong: Skull Island

King Kong is back on the big screen for the first time in about a dozen years in this week’s Kong: Skull Island. The story follows a group of explorers lead by James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston) and Bill Randa (John Goodman) who are searching for a long-lost island that’s cloaked in legend and mystery. Along with them is photographer Mason Weaver (Brie Larson) and a contingent of soldiers, including Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson) who are there for the safety of the group.

Things take a turn, though, when they find that the island is already full of inhabitants, many of whom are of the “giant monster” variety. That includes Kong, a massive ape that gives them an inhospitable welcome but who eventually becomes an ally against the other creatures that have less humanity than he does. But will any of the team survive long enough to get home?

The Posters

The first teaser poster took the name very literally. It shows a person dressed in military garb and sporting a machine gun standing atop an actual skull popping green smoke like he’s marking a landing zone. Barely visible through the mist in front of him is the face of Kong, who looks none too pleased and is obviously massively larger than the person standing in front of him.

Later on at New York Comic-Con a poster was handed out featuring a map of Skull Island that appeared normal but, as some people discovered, revealed all sorts of hidden locations and clues about the story when put under a blacklight.

Two new posters debuted along with the second trailer. The one shows a group of soldiers and helicopters moving toward a sunset that’s being partially obscured by Kong, which gives a nice sense of the size and perspective of the creature. The other goes for a similar effect by simply showing a closeup of Kong’s face with a helicopter moving across it.

In case the nods to Apocalypse Now in the rest of the campaign weren’t obvious enough the IMAX poster underlines the parallels with a design that’s pulled straight from Coppola’s masterpiece. Kong is put in the place of Kurtz, the sun in the background shows helicopters flying in from to fit and in the foreground is a shot of some sort of crashed aircraft. Even the design of the title is similar.

Another IMAX poster takes a similar approach as one of the earlier designs, showing a swarm of helicopters all moving toward a massive Kong, who’s backlit by the glowing sun. It’s not exactly original, but it still works to sell the scale of the character and the story.

The Trailers

The first trailer, which debuted at San Diego Comic-Con last year, really wants to sell this movie as Apocalypse Now. So it starts off with a group of civilians being helicoptered to a remote island by the Army, helicopters which are quickly knocked down by unseen forces. That – and a gun to the head – prompts Goodman to explain that whatever’s here is from a bygone era before mankind. There are lots of shots of giant footprints and skeletons and of the surviving helicopters taking on something. Just a few shots here and there of the ape itself, which is usually seen in the far distance as the military approaches but lots of footage of the humans, both military and civilian, reacting to the damage that creature is doing.It’s not bad. But it does have a markedly different tone than most other summer blockbusters and franchise releases. Whether this is indicative of the movie itself remains to be seen, but this plays much more seriously than what the audience might expect, meaning there may be actual stakes in the story. At least it may not be filled with one-liners and so on as the attention here seems to be on making sure the peril felt by the human characters is understood to be very real.

It’s not bad. But it does have a markedly different tone than most other summer blockbusters and franchise releases. Whether this is indicative of the movie itself remains to be seen, but this plays much more seriously than what the audience might expect, meaning there may be actual stakes in the story. At least it may not be filled with one-liners and so on as the attention here seems to be on making sure the peril felt by the human characters is understood to be very real.

The next trailer once again sets up the idea that the expedition to the island has been undertaken under false circumstances. Some know that monsters, like Kong, exist there but they are looking for proof. From there on out the guide for the characters and the audience is Bill Randa, played by John C. Reilly, as we see more of the enormous creatures, some peaceful and some terrifying, that inhabit the island.

Seriously, Riley’s role here just upped my interest in the movie by a solid 48%. He’s basically playing Dennis Hopper’s role from Apocalypse Now, which is so great I can’t even put it into words.

The final trailer starts off with the team being assembled and warnings that everyone is likely to die on the mission. Most of the first half of the spot is then focused on the first encounter with Kong, which ends badly for the soldiers in the helicopters that are swatted easily from the sky. After a brief interlude the action shifts to the fight against the “skull crawlers,” a fight that involves not only the tiny humans but also Kong, so it’s clear that the big monkey winds up on the same side as the island’s interlopers by the time of the climax.

It’s a fun and stylized trailer, using music of the era to set the time and provide some structure. There’s a lot of action and a bit of humor, again provided by Reilly. The whole thing continues to show how the style and story seems to be influenced by elements of Apocalypse Now, with lots of nods to that movie here, beginning with the soldiers starting up the music as they board their helicopters. It’s a decent final statement for the movie’s campaign.

Online and Social

The Tumblr-based official website opens with a recreation of one of the final bits of key art, with a big prompt to watch the trailer or to check out one of the special limited engagements in 70mm.

There’s a menu bar below that which links to “Story,” which is where you can read a brief synopsis of the plot, and “Partners,” with information on the companies that signed up for promotional help. Below that are the posts that have been published to the Tumblr blog containing GIFs, links to a Spotify playlist, videos and more. There are also links to the movie’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles.

Back toward the top of the page there’s a button labeled “Kong-Sized,” which takes you to another site with more interactive features. You can find out just how huge Kong is and how you, as well as other beasts, stack up to his size, more about the tribesmen who share the island with Kong, who the ape’s natural enemies are and lots more. It’s all a bit of background to build out the world of the movie, but I’m not sure why it couldn’t be on the main site. I’m also not sure why movies based on real events couldn’t have this much information.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Various TV spots took various approaches to the story, some showing it simply as a “kill the monster” movie, others like this one showing the empathy some of the characters begin to feel toward the beast. Altogether they form a decently well-rounded picture of the movie for anyone who’s interested.

A “Destination: Skull Island” VR experience was created that took people inside the mission to the island as the crew of the choppers gets a first-hand look at the monsters that live there.

There were quite a few companies that signed on as promotional partners for Kong’s latest big-screen outing, including:

Media and Publicity

The movie had an…odd… announcement at San Diego Comic-Con 2014, where it was just kind of dropped into a list of other upcoming releases from Legendary, with very few details were offered, though there were lots of rumors about it.

With the exception of casting news and rumors the next big bit of news was when, in an unusual move, it was announced that Legendary was in talks to move the movie from Universal to Warner Bros., where it could potentially crossover or at least be in the same universe as WB’s 2014 Godzilla movie. Those rumors were confirmed when WB said that yes, the two franchises would share a universe and would cross-over in a series of movies over the next several years.

Several months later there was news Universal would exercise some corporate synergy and was working on a theme park attraction tied to the movie.

A while later a first look at footage from the movie, set within a behind-the-scenes visit with the cast, debuted during the MTV Movie Awards, with Larsen, Hiddleston and others talking about shooting the movie, what the story is and who their characters are. An interview later on with the cast and crew had them sharing some new stills and promising the biggest Kong yet along with other thrills for the audience.

The first real good look at the gorilla came via Entertainment Weekly, which also featured an interview with the director where he talked about taking on the project, the vision he had and more.

Closer to release there were the usual press activities as the cast made the rounds of the TV talk shows, spoke to the print press and so on.

Overall

It’s big and audacious, that’s for sure. But it also seems kind of low key in spots, particularly in how the campaign took a significant amount of time off before the final trailer was released. Yes, there were other activities going on but there didn’t seem to be any big pops of press and publicity that were designed to keep people talking and buzzing about the movie in the period just before it hit theaters. Unfortunately, some of that was simply the result of the press focusing on the other movies – particularly Marvel Studios titles – Larson, Hiddleston and Jackson were involved in when writing stories that should have been about Kong.

That’s not to say the movie’s marketing was severely hurt by that. It’s hard to believe awareness is low for the release. Any tentpole of this size is going to have decent awareness simply by virtue of it being part of the studio system. And the whole campaign has a nicely consistent tone and feel, particularly in how it’s meant to evoke earlier movies that took place during the Vietnam War. As should be clear from the above, my favorite part of the push is when it stops selling a movie about a big monkey and starts selling a human drama, particularly if that involves more of John C. Reilly’s crazed character. But that actually exposes a flaw in the system, which is that it seems split between presenting the movie as a serious wartime drama, a big monster movie and a human-level story of survival. It remains to be seen which one of these is closest to the finished product.

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Movie Marketing Madness: Fist Fight

fist_fight_ver2The idea behind the new movie Fist Fight is easy to sum up: Two grown adult male teachers have a problem at school that results in one challenging the other to a fight after school. Charlie Day plays Andy Campbell, a “nice guy,” the kind that wants to help and is generally a pushover in his life, not rocking the boat in any way but just trying to get along because things will be alright.

That’s difficult, though, when he gets on the wrong side of Strickland (Ice Cube), a fellow teacher who Campbell winds up getting fired. Strickland throws down the gauntlet and so Campbell winds up spending the rest of the day trying to either get out of it or figure out a way to win. Both result in the usual hijinks as no one seems eager to help him and no one is offering him a good way out.

The Posters

Nothing hugely special or original going on with the movie’s poster. It shows Cube and Day facing off against each other with a school and a crowd of other people in the background egging them on. “After school. Parking lot. It’s on.” is the copy at the bottom, making it clear that these two are going to take each other on in an old-school fist fight.

The Trailers

The trailer starts out with big dramatic lettering and music leading up to Strickland telling Campbell he’s going to fight him after school. From there on out Campbell is trying to figure a way out of it, either by reasoning with his adversary, running away, calling 911 or seeking the advice of his friends. None of that is very helpful, though, and ultimately it seems he’s resigned to taking a beating, but we never figure out exactly why.

Because we don’t see the root cause of the conflict between the two main characters I’m inclined to think that we’re seeing footage primarily from the last half of the movie here. By that I mean I’m guessing the first 45 minutes are about establishing these two as rivals for whatever reason and then the second half is Day’s Campbell running around trying to avoid it. I might be wrong but there’s a spectacular lack of setup on display here, even if the trailer is still mildly amusing without it.

A second trailer takes largely the same approach. There are some new scenes but the idea is the same, to present Campbell as kind of a coward. We do find out here why Strickland doesn’t like him and wants to fight, but otherwise it’s many of the same gags and the same kind of vibe.

Finally there was a red-band version released to help emphasize the movie’s foul-mouthed credentials. It’s largely the same story that’s on display, just with a *lot* of F-bombs.

Online and Social

The official website loads and the red-band trailer pops up. though the player is very slow and wonky, meaning it’s hard to actually watch the trailer. After that’s either done or your patience is exhausted, close it and you get a big version of the key art and see that it’s a Tumblr-built site. Below that art are links to the movie’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles.

There are really only two sections on the site, “Videos” and GIFs.” Clicking either one just takes you to the posts on the Tumblr blog tagged accordingly.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

A number of TV spots were run, each taking slightly different takes on the material. Some like this one showed the conflict between the two teachers, others showing Campbell’s preparations for the fight. Day is clearly the star on which the TV campaign is being hung as he gets the most screen time throughout all the different spots.

Social network and other online ads were run that used the trailer and key art to drive ticket sales and generally raise awareness the movie was coming soon.

Media and Publicity

Day, Cube and the rest of the cast made the rounds of the media to talk about working together, the fun times they had on set and more. Director Richie Keen shared insights into how he tried to put his personal stamp on the story and a narrative emerged around this being Tracy Morgan’s first movie in the three years since his major accident.

Overall

There’s nothing really wrong with the campaign. It looks and feels like the same kind of comedy we’ve seen in releases like Daddy’s Home and others that feature major stars engaged in some sort of mundane and childish showdown. While there are a few laughs, almost all of them come from either Jillian Bell or Kumail Nanjiani, both of whom have supporting roles here. Mostly, though, this seems like it was lots of fun to make but is actually kind of depressing for the audience to watch. Day and Cube are both better than this material.

But the campaign is consistent, selling more or less the same message across media and platforms. There’s lots of emphasis on Day’s spineless character and how he’s viewed as the guy who’s all too happy to have sand kicked in his face. That joke may be funny in spurts, but I think it’s going to wear thin over the course of 90 minutes unless there’s some major element of the story and the film that’s not been part of the marketing. Otherwise this looks like a dry, largely unfunny but generally “pleasant” movie.

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