Movie Marketing Madness: The LEGO Batman Movie

lego-batman-poster-5I’m not sure anyone expected Batman to be the big breakout star of 2014’s The LEGO Movie, which itself was a hit beyond what most people in the general public likely thought it would be. But the Dark Knight, as voiced by Will Arnett, wound up being a favorite with his song about dead parents, his admonition that he only works in black or very very dark grey and other narcissistic and borderline idiotic behavior. The movie had a lot of fun with the Batman mythos.

Now that’s being taken to the next logical step, a spinoff solo movie. The LEGO Batman Movie has Arnett reprising his voice role as the title character, this time joined by Michael Cera as Dick Grayson/Robin, Ralph Fiennes as Alfred, Rosario Dawson as Barbara Gordon/Batgirl, Zach Galifianakis as The Joker and lots more. The story, such as it is, revolves around how Bruce Wayne feels more himself when he’s Batman than he does in his civilian guise as well as him coming to terms with raising his young ward Grayson and continuing to fight Joker and the other villains of Gotham City.

The Posters

The first teaser poster isn’t much, it just puts a Bat symbol made of LEGO against a solid yellow background, the name of the movie in the middle of that symbol and the promise at the bottom that it’s coming in 2017.

The second poster isn’t too much different, it just shifts the Bat symbol up a bit to make room for Batman himself at the bottom, shown here putting on his cowl.

Another poster was released on Batman Day 2016 that shows Batman leaping over a bridge and toward the camera, Batarang in hand and ready for action. The copy at the top recycles an old phrase that’s been on the internet forever: “Always be yourself. Unless you can be Batman.”

That same tagline was used on the next poster, which put Batman at the head of a crowd of bad guys chasing him, Batgirl and Robin.

An IMAX poster features Batman, Batgirl and Robin all coming down from the skyline in a pose that’s familiar to comic readers. We get the IMAX-specific callout along with copy reading “He’s taking them under his wing…of awesomeness,” which nicely conveys the movie’s attitude and tone.

A series of character posters followed, each one showing off a different member of the cast, each with a short bit of descriptive copy about them. Notably added here is Harley Quinn, who hasn’t really been a part of the campaign but who apparently couldn’t be ignored any longer considering her popularity.Another big batch of posters featured a “graffiti” type of look and included a lot more characters, particularly many of the main villains that will be in the movie. So this is the first substantive appearance of Poison Ivy and Riddler in the campaign.

Another big batch of posters featured a “graffiti” type of look and included a lot more characters, particularly many of the main villains that will be in the movie. So this is the first substantive appearance of Poison Ivy and Riddler in the campaign.

 

The Trailers

There was a shorter cut but the best version of the teaser trailer opens with Batman dropping dope beats before explaining that he did everything to make this movie – write, direct, edit – because he’s Batman. We then are shown that this comes from the same studio that brought us all the earlier Batman movies, as well as The LEGO Movie. Finally, Batman explains to his computer that he saved the city again, meaning he totally deserves the lobster thermidor Alfred left him in the fridge, which he then heats up in the microwave.

It’s pretty great, showing off the movie’s sense of humor and assuring fans that yes, it’s the same kind of Batman we saw in The LEGO Movie, one that pokes a bit of fun at all the Batman archetypes from over the years. The shorter version mentioned above just cuts out the intro of Batman with the mic and the name-dropping of all the previous movies, focusing just on the little bit of footage from the movie itself.

A second trailer was released less than a week after the first and was just as great. This one, though, starts off with Batman talking to a picture of his dead parents, a moment that’s interrupted by Alfred and which descends into Batman singing.

It dropped right after Batman v Superman’s release and is notable for how it references that movie as well as other Batman incarnations going back to the 1966 TV series.

Another trailer debuted at 2016’s San Diego Comic-Con and opens with Batman being chided by Alfred for being unhealthily obsessed with vengeance and not interested enough in his ward, who he recently adopted. At that point it’s all about Robin as he discovers the Batcave, decides he’s going to be Batman’s sidekick, picks out an awesome outfit and otherwise annoys Batman to pieces.

There’s not much of the story that’s shared here but that’s alright. It’s all about introducing Robin and continuing to show audiences that this will have the same kind of sense of humor as The LEGO Movie did a few years ago. Oh, and reminding you that life doesn’t give you seatbelts.

Trailer #4 (wow) hits many of the same beats, particularly around Batman’s solitary lifestyle and his relationship (or lack thereof) with his young ward. Where it deviates most is when it comes time to introduce Barbara Gordon and in the first real look at Joker, who here gets what amounts to a tender moment with who he thought was his arch nemesis.

It’s just as funny as the first few. The story here still isn’t super-clear, but you can start to get more of the outlines here. The constant stream of trailers at this point is just about keeping the movie top-of-mind more than anything else.

Online and Social

Full-motion video greets you on the front page of the movie’s official website. The top menu has a ton of links and prompts to get you to take some action. Starting at the left there’s a link to an Instagram account that’s published as if it comes from LEGO Batman himself. Moving over along the line there’s a link to information on the soundtrack and of course a prompt to buy tickets. Finally on the right are links to the movie’s Instagram, Twitter and Facebook profiles. Down in the lower left is a link to find out more information about the movie’s partnership with Chevy, details of which are below.

The content menu starts with “Story,” which gives you a brief plot synopsis to let you know what kind of mayhem you’re in store for. All four trailers can be found in the “Videos” section.

“Fun and Games” has a whole bunch of material that should appeal to the younger audience. A series of casual games let you defeat the Joker, create selfies and lots more while a selection of Wallpapers will let you decorate your desktop. Here you can also view and download some of the character posters or get an activity book to print out with word puzzles and more.

 

You’ll find the same posters as immediately above in the “Characters” section, which also has information on the main characters. After that the “Gallery” has a number of stills from the movie and “Partners” has information on the companies that signed on to help raise awareness for it. Finally, “Products” takes you to a shopping page on LEGO.com that lets you shop the movie-themed building sets to buy.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

The first TV spot for the movie was an extended version that played like a slightly shorter trailer, hitting the same beats as the trailers that had come before it. That includes a confrontation with the Joker, the realization that he needs to be a better parent to his young ward and more. This shows off the array of villains that Batman, Robin and Batgirl will need to deal with, which is a diverse bunch to be sure.

Some of the trailers and other videos were used in social media ads on Twitter and Facebook as each one was released.

The movie also had some corporate promotional partners:

  • Chevy: The carmaker produced an animated version of their long-running focus group ads featuring the group, including Batman in the background, being asked their opinions of the Batmobile. Chevy also created a landing page for the car as if it were something it was selling with specs and the ability to see how it would look in various shades of black.
  • McDonald’s: Put movie-themed toys in its Happy Meal boxes.
  • Color Me Mine: The chain of pottery painting shops held movie-themed events in stores.
  • Screen Vision Media: Not sure about the details of this partnership, but it’s likely there were pre-show ads or other content run on the company’s network.

Outdoor and online ads used the key art and other imagery. There were additional specialized TV promos that aired during syndicated reruns of “The Big Bang Theory.” More LEGO-themed promos were appended to the CW’s DC super hero shows. And outdoor artwork around Warner Bros.’ Burbank studios was given a LEGO makeover to help highlight the company’s support for the movie.

Media and Publicity

The first publicity for the movie came when a batch of official stills was released that didn’t offer much in the way of story clues, just that there would likely be the same kind of sense of humor here that was found in The LEGO Movie. Later on, quite a bit of buzz was created as the result of a CinemaCon presentation that included footage of Robin picking out his costume. More first look pics of the characters continued to come out over the course of the next several months.

Of course the movie had a substantial presence at San Diego Comic-Con 2016, with a cast panel where the voice talent talked about what’s going on in this irreverent take on the Batman story as well as show off new footage from the movie. A bit after that WB worked with MTV to debut an episode of “Gotham Cribs” that showed viewers around not only Wayne Manor but also parts of the Batcave.

lego-batman-movie-pic

Arnett was of course the main face of the publicity campaign, talking about his role as the “absurd Batman,” how he was interested in exploring why Bruce Wayne has no friends and more.

Overall

If there’s a quibble with the campaign it lies mostly with the trailers. Not with the content necessarily but with the fact that so many of them came out so long ago. Sure, there have been a steady stream of TV spots and other videos in the last couple months to take their place, but it seems like the trailer section of the campaign hasn’t seen anything substantively new in quite a while, which feels like a slight misstep. Not that I expect it to do any damage to the public’s eagerness to see this movie, but it’s worth noting.

This is a fun campaign. It just is. We can talk about how one thing or another did or didn’t work, but it just has a spirit about it that keeps up the humor from The LEGO Movie from years ago and focuses is around the character and mythology of Batman. It’s all about selling that sense of humor and making sure everyone who thought the first movie was a good time at the movies turns out for this one as well.

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Movie Marketing Madness: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of The Shadows

teenage_mutant_ninja_turtles_out_of_the_shadows_ver10Want to get Movie Marketing Madness via email? Sign up here. Then connect with MMM on Twitter and Facebook.

I never quite got into Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I enjoyed the first cartoon show but never watched it regularly. And I certainly liked the initial comics but that’s about it. I never collected the toys, never got deep into the mythology of the characters or anything else. I’m not sure, in retrospect, if that’s because I just never really connected with the characters or story or maybe it just came in a bit later for me and I was full up on toy/comic/cartoon/movie franchises, having already sworn my allegiance to G.I. Joe, Transformers, He-Man and others. Whatever the reason, I wasn’t a Turtles devotee.

The characters have been popular on the big-screen as well as the small, though, and now are back in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, the follow up to the 2014 blockbuster that effectively reintroduced them to movie-going audiences. There’s not much to say about the story here. This time around Shredder has returned and hired Dr. Baxter Stockman (Tyler Perry) to create mutant warriors of his own, resulting in Bebop and Rocksteady, two classic characters making their debut in this franchise. Meanwhile Krang, a visitor from another dimension, is causing trouble of his own. But the heroes have help in the form of April O’Neil (Megan Fox) and Vern Fenwick (Will Arnett) along with Casey Jones (Stephen Amell) the vigilante who gets caught up in their adventures.

The Posters

The first two posters for the movie were “Wanted” style posters for the two new baddies in the movie, Bebop and Rocksteady.

A series of character posters were next that featured each of the four turtles standing on the ledge of a New York skyscraper. There’s nothing about the story here, it’s just about finally showing off the heroes themselves.

Two new posters, one for Bebop and one for Rocksteady, debuted at WonderCon. Both just showed the character walking toward the camera, looking like a tough guy.

Another poster took the four turtles and put them all together on an outcropping of a New York skyscraper, as heroes often do. There’s not much to it, it’s just another opportunity to show off the look of the main characters and doesn’t contain anything about the villains, story or anything else that adds to the understanding of the movie.

Another set of character posters showed the Turtles again engaged in some kind of fighting activity, with some on rooftops, some diving through the air and so on. The humans of the movie finally got some poster attention with a one-sheet showing Amell and Fox, with the former carrying his hockey equipment and the former in the classic – and much-derided “brokeback” pose where she’s facing away from the camera but looking back over her shoulder so we can see both her face and her posterior.

The Trailers

The first teaser, which was teased just hours before it was released, immediately signals that it’s primarily concerned with appeasing fans who felt the first movie didn’t do enough to service their nostalgia. The plot is inconsequential – we just see some apparently bad ninjas doing various vague things that the Turtles try to stop – as we see the Turtles’ yellow van, meet a new ally in Casey Jones and new villains Bebop and Rocksteady. Megan Fox is a big part of the trailer because she’s Megan Fox and we see that, yep, Will Arnett got another paycheck.

So it’s very much a sequel, but the overall message here is that whatever fans may have felt was missing from the first movie will be addressed in this installment.

The second trailer opens with some discord between the turtles, who argue about their place in the world. But there are threats to deal with and we see the transformation of Rocksteady and Bebop, with the turtles then wondering if the same ooze that turned humans into animals could turn them into humans, tying together with the opening struggle. We again meet Casey Jones and the rest of the trailer is mostly just about showing off the various fight and other action sequences as well as Megan Fox’s midriff.

I love how the studio is really trying to put a story in there about the turtles wrestling with who they are and what they’re meant to do. It’s like they think people care about that and aren’t just coming for the spectacle.

Another trailer took the odd approach of acting like this was the first time we’d met the characters. So instead of offering story points at first we get character descriptions and personality overviews of the four turtles before diving into some of the same scenes we’ve seen before along with a few additional shots.

Again, it’s just odd that the decision was made to treat the audience as being completely ignorant as to the Turtles’ names and personality quirks. Even if people just saw the first movie, that should be enough that this sort of exposition is largely unnecessary.

There was one more trailer that focused on Bebop and Rocksteady, showing the two bad guys busting through a scene from the movie and commandeering the trailer, at which point we see lots of shots of them taking on the Turtles in various scenes.

Online and Social

You get a recreation of some of the key art when you open the official website along with a big prompt to watch the trailer again.

“Videos,” the first section along the top menu bar, has a number of TV spots but not, oddly, the trailers or anything else. The “Gallery” has about 10 stills from the movie, including close ups of all the turtles.

“Soundtrack” is something I’m not used to seeing. Instead of being a link to take you to buy the album it’s the credits, including all the musicians and singers who performed. Then there’s a link to the “Partners” that helped promote the movie on their consumer packaged goods.

teenage mutant ninja turtles shadows pic 1

Finally “Shell and Tell” takes you to a Tumblr blog where the studio is soliciting and curating fan photos showing off their TMNT collections or other photos.

There are lots of promotional videos and images on the movie’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts. Twitter has more engagement, mostly in the form of RTs of positive comments from media and fans, but that’s it.

Paramount also launched a chatbot on Kik that allows you to cycle through conversations with the four characters, who respond with movie quotes, comments about pizza and more. Users who interacted were also rewarded for watching the trailer and other activities.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Advertising for the movie kicked off with a Super Bowl commercial that wasn’t concerned at all with selling story, instead just focusing on the goofy antics of the turtles. There was a better look at some of the villains, including Krang, to get people talking about it but that’s about the extent of what’s notable about the spot.

More TV spots would follow the same basic format, all just kind of hinting at the story but focusing on the visuals and the bad guys.

Promotional partners included:

  • Tastykake, which created co-branded packaging and ran an online sweeps.
  • The Ad Council, which ran an anti-bullying campaign featuring the movie’s characters and including some footage.
  • Grubhub, but I’m not sure what the tie-in is since there’s nothing readily available.
  • Crush, which created co-branded packaging and offered a free movie ticket with select purchases.
  • Del Taco, which offered movie-themed collector’s cups in restaurants.
  • Tyson, which has a poll going to help you “derate your family’s hunger.”
  • Airbnb, which offered “The Turtle Lair” as a place people could rent in Tribeca, New York, though vacancies filled up quickly of course. A sweepstakes offered the chance to reserve it for a night.

Media and Publicity

Amell talked about joining the franchise, his history as a Ninja Turtles fan, what the movie has in store for the character and more. There were a few other small-scale interviews with Amell, Fox and Arnett but nothing approaching what I’d refer to as a significant press push. Most of the press coverage seems to have come from the release of trailers and other marketing materials.

teenage mutant ninja turtles shadows pic 2

Overall

If you’re 10 years old, this campaign should work for you. It’s all about the jokey, pizza-loving side of the turtles and the big – bigger than the last movie, we can’t stress that enough – adventures they get into. Everything here is bigger and better than the last movie. That’s especially true in how they latched on to the idea that people seemingly loved that mountain chase in the first one and so have made it a point to highlight similar sequences from the new installment here. And of course there’s plenty of Megan Fox cheesecake on display along with hints as to what’s up with Arnett and Amell’s characters.

For the most part, though, it’s just about making sure people understand that the new movie is coming out and that it’s going to be as mindlessly half-enjoyable as the first one was. There’s nothing about the campaign that sticks in my memory at all – I have to keep going back and reminding myself of certain things – but I know it’s coming out, which is all that matters. Comprehension is secondary to awareness in most things but especially, it seems, here.