Word of Mouth is Word of Mouth

There’s an interesting story in the New York Times from over the past weekend about the difference between online and offline consumer sentiment.

Nothing in the story should be all that surprising to the seasoned social content marketing professional. Yes, there’s often a clear divide between online and offline sentiment and conversation. And yes, people often make impassioned, knee-jerk statements on social media that they don’t wind up following through on. Finally, yes, social media is terrible at conveying nonverbal cues that can add nuance to comments being made.

Where I have more issues is in the arbitrary distinction between “social media conversation” and “word of mouth.” That’s never been true.

Social media *is* word of mouth, just in a different manner. We don’t apply different labels when people share their opinion of a brand or experience in church as opposed to Starbucks. And we don’t call it something different when it happens over the phone or via text as opposed to in-person.

If you’re a business owner and you find that 85% of your online conversation sentiment is negative but 85% of your offline conversation sentiment is positive, you have mixed word of mouth. The one can’t be discounted or weighted differently because of the platform it happens on.

In-person word of mouth may have more influence on the receiver. A 2015 Nielsen study showed recommendations from family and friends – the kind of input you’re largely going to get via personal interaction – are among the most trusted someone can get.

Online recommendations have a longer half-life, though. For more and more people social media plays an important role in either the awareness or research stages of the sales funnel.

In short, you have to address the whole picture. A disconnect between online and offline conversations and attitudes may mean the situation is more nuanced than one or the other may initially present itself to be. But that doesn’t mean you can ignore either. Doing so means you’re setting yourself up for failure in one way or the other.

The one big difference between online and offline for brand managers is that the former is more immediately addressable than the latter. If you find sentiment on social media has suddenly turned negative, you can take steps to remedy that and engage with people to clear up misunderstandings, fix problems or otherwise turn their attitude around. You can measure and execute. That’s harder offline, where you can’t immediately access the thoughts of hundreds or thousands of people and begin talking with them efficiently.

Stop segregating online from offline word of mouth. It’s all part of one big ball that needs to be recognized and dealt with appropriately if you’re going to be a responsible brand manager. That’s the only real way to ensure a consistent and reliable brand reputation that reaches all your customers.

Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.

Social Media Drives Young People to Theaters

A study released last week from Omnicom (disclosure: the parent company of Porter Novelli, which owns Voce, which is where I actually work. It’s complicated) and National CineMedia has some interesting things to say about what it is that prompts young people (I won’t use *that* word) to head to the movie theater.

The full infographic is below but there are some interesting points to pull out:

First, the main reasons for going and seeing a movie in theaters are social. Either they don’t want to be left out of the conversation around a movie or they’re going as part of an outing with others.

Second, while traditional marketing tactics like trailers are working, 30% of respondents say they’ve seen a movie in the last six months based on social media recommendations. That translates to word-of-mouth, meaning it’s the people coming out of the theater and recommending it to others on Facebook and Twitter that are driving movie ticket sales.

Those and other points raised in the study point to peer-to-peer being the primary way people are deciding what movies to see. That means it’s not about reaching everyone with a marketing effort, it’s about reaching the right people who are influencing group decisions, talking online about the movies they see and more. Which isn’t to say that every movie needs an “influencer” campaign, at least that’s not what the study findings would suggest. It means that once you reach the group decision maker you can go a long way toward securing not just one but five or six or more ticket sales. Yes, it all starts with the marketing campaign, but it ripples out from there.

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TALK Influencer Recap

New from me at Voce Nation:

I had a chance to attend the TALK Influence event held by WOMMA at Google Chicago this morning. Here’s a Storify collection of the big takeaways from the speaker presentations and panels.

Source: Influencer Marketing at WOMMA’s TALK Influencer Event « Voce Communications

20th Century Fox Won’t Feed Pirates, Drops Out of SDCC Hall H

Reports are circulating today that 20th Century Fox has decided it will not participate in Hall H panels at San Diego Comic-Con this year, a direct response to repeated incidents involving it and other studios where exclusive footage revealed there is quickly leaked online via cellphone videos and more. Last year in particular Fox had its sizzle reel for Deadpool leaked and Warner Bros. had the exclusive look it prepared for Suicide Squad hit YouTube shortly after it debuted. Fox bit the bullet and released that clip shortly thereafter, as did Warner Bros., but the latter whined about it pretty hard, releasing a statement that chided fans and made it clear the studio was doing this because y’all are jerks, jerks. Fox will continue to participate in other SDCC events, just not in the main hall.

comic con hall h

This is Fox pulling the nuclear option in response to these leaks and it’s a big blow to the marketing efforts of whatever the studio might have brought to the event. It’s them saying there are no other options available to stem the tide of leaked clips. As some people pointed out on Twitter, it’s logistically impossible to check 6,000 cellphones at the door as people go in. So with no other options in front of them, the studio has decided to pull the plug entirely.

A Hall H panel is a *huge* part of the marketing for many tentpole releases, an opportunity to have the whole cast of a movie come out and talk about how much fun they had making it, what it was like to dabble in whatever the applicable universe is and so on. It’s a place for studios to firmly tag an upcoming release as an EVENT and get some word-of-mouth for it. These panels are the whole reason many movie news sites go to Comic-Con as they spend the whole weekend either in line for a panel or in the seats at one, rarely if ever setting foot on the actual show floor.

So putting a foot down and refusing to participate is a big trigger to pull. It can eliminate anywhere from 25 to 100 percent of a movie’s presence there.

There are certainly options that could have been available to Fox if piracy of clips was the primary concern. A panel without footage still would have been notable, if slightly less so. But making that move could have slowly changed expectations of what a Hall H event is supposed to be. Maybe not at first, but certainly over time, particularly if other studios got on board and followed their lead. Or they could go in the other direction and release clips as soon as – or nearly so – they’re shown in San Diego. There are issues with both approaches, to be sure, but they are options. And I’m sure there are others, including some that don’t include SDCC but which still involve exclusive events for select influencers or media types. Perhaps that’s where things will wind up going, sacrificing the mass reach of Comic-Con for the more narrow approach of working with a more select, vetted group.

It’s a shame that people have violated the implicit and explicit trust that goes with attending these events. But that’s where we are, where the privilege of being in the room where it happens is superseded by someone’s desire to share something that’s supposed to be an exclusive treat with the world, against the wishes of the rights holder.

I don’t know which side I think is right or wrong, but I do know this could be a sea-change in how movies are marketed. A big tool has been removed from the box and it will be important for Fox and any studios who follow their lead to find an equally impactful replacement.

Twitter and Facebook Want to Enhance TV Viewing, But What About Movies?

Facebook announced recently a collection of new tools designed to help TV networks and studios encourage and curate fan interaction, conversation and engagement around their shows.The status network is encouraging networks and studios to post clips in near-realtime, engage with fans throughout show broadcasts, offer polls that solicit fan feedback, publish custom graphics and more. Facebook wants its platform to be the place for these TV-centric conversations as a way to appeal to media companies and draw their attention (and ad dollars) away from Twitter.

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Similarly, if you are checking Twitter via the web or in the official mobile app during a TV broadcast you’re constantly seeing prompts like this, which encourage you to view more of the conversation around those shows.

Part of why Twitter and Facebook are trying to encourage real-time conversations around TV shows is because that’s what the networks want, no matter what social platform it’s on. They want people to watching these shows when they air, not one, three or seven days later, because if they’re watching them now then they’re also watching the ads they rely on for revenue. And Twitter and Facebook want those networks to see that they’re doing everything they can to get people involved in real-time so they themselves can get some ad dollars from networks looking to boost some conversations about their shows.

So two of the biggest social networks around right now are doing everything they can to promote themselves as THE place to discuss TV shows. But what about discussing movies?

Unfortunately – and for obvious reasons – movies are a tougher nut to crack. They can’t exactly prompt people to be discussing The Martian while they’re watching it because everyone has silenced their cellphones before the movie started JUST LIKE THE M&MS TOLD US TO, RIGHT? And even if they haven’t and are Tweeting during the movie, their conversation at 10:20AM in Chicago isn’t going to be very contextual to someone who’s in San Diego. Or even someone five miles away who’s seeing the movie later that afternoon, next week or waiting for it to come out on video. Movies are locally a communal viewing experience but aside from that it’s a disparate and isolated one. So it’s hard to get everyone talking about a movie at the same time regardless of location.

That doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Or that time-shifted conversations can’t take place on social networks like Twitter and Facebook around movies that are respectful of people’s differing viewing schedules.

Twitter’s “See more about…” prompts could be easily, I think, translated into movies during opening weekend. “See more about Bridge of Spies” could lead to a collection of top Tweets about the movie just like the network is doing for TV shows right now. And it’s not to much to think that Facebook could adjust some of its tools to accommodate movie studios’ desire to spur conversations. This would make sense for all the networks since it’s just as important to appeal to movie studios as it is to TV networks.

But right now that’s not where the focus is at Facebook and Twitter. So it’s on the studios to create talkable moments either on social channels or on-domain where they can rally fans and centralize the conversation, showing what people are talking about and encouraging people to not only view that curated collection but also participate themselves. That would take some work – not much considering the availability of tools like Storify and others, many of which live inside CMS products like Shoutlet, Spredfast and more – but it would be worth it for the benefits it would bring in word of mouth.

Tracking 2014 movie buzz

Two separate stories about tracking buzz and anticipation for some upcoming movies:

First, Buzzfeed and Variety are working together to track social media buzz and headlines around the movies nominated for Golden Globes.

 The BuzzFeed Movie­Tracker (methodology below) measured online interest for Dec. 15-29 and found “Wolf of Wall Street” racked up most page views for best picture drama, with Leonardo DiCaprio on top as lead actor.

More generally, the LAT reports on research from Fizziology about buzz for movies coming later in 2014 to see who’s getting strong word-of-mouth lifts.

Research firm Fizziology used social media data to rank the 10 most buzzed-about movies for the upcoming year and gave the top spot to “Divergent,” Summit Entertainment’s futuristic action-adventure coming out in March. The movie is getting “Hunger Games”-like buzz from young female fans of the young-adult book by Veronica Roth.

Hollywood and Social Media V2.7

From a Wall Street Journal story from earlier this month that I’ve been sitting on since then because I’ve had other things going on:

Hollywood is doing more than using Twitter and Facebook as mere promotional tools. After several years of experimenting, studios have thrown themselves deeply into a medium which is still barely understood. They are now developing elaborate social media campaigns early on, sometimes as soon as a film gets greenlit. Researchers are conducting deep numerical analysis on posts and tweets to guide marketing decisions, sometimes predicting box office revenue with pinpoint accuracy. They’re looking not just at opening movies, but sustaining their word-of-mouth through subsequent weeks. And they are getting more surgical about targeting their ever-fickle, ever-elusive core audience of young people.

Movie marketing has always been something of a black art. Studios typically intensify advertising the month before a movie opens, spending heavily on a barrage of television spots. Upcoming films are now surfacing on social media far earlier. On July 14, nearly a year before the release of M. Night Shyamalan’s “After Earth,” the producers released a video in the form of a Facebook timeline using headlines and photos to describe the historical run-up to an alien-driven apocalypse (the film stars Will Smith).

I’ve yet to see a major movie marketing effort on Twitter or Facebook that I really liked and that was engaging, interesting and enough to make me really tune in to what was going on. Mostly that’s because I have no bandwidth for short-term campaigns, which is what all movie marketing campaigns inherently are.

The story also resurrects the anecdote about how 2009’s Bruno opened big on Friday but then was savaged by immediate (hugely negative) reactions posted to social networks and once again presents this as a case of social media contributing to the sharp drop-off of a movie’s box-office. While there may be some truth there the story fails to adequately point out that this isn’t special, it’s just an example of social media amplifying word of mouth, not some wholly new creation that has to be feared.

Movie Marketing Madness: Shame

Many of us struggle with an addiction of some sort. Whether it’s over-eating or too many chocolate cravings or something far more serious there’s something that draws us and compels us to indulge even if our conscious mind knows that it’s bad for us. For some people that’s sex. And while that is often the subject of jokes and derision it is a real thing and can cause real problems for people.

The new movie from director Steve McQueen is about just that topic. Shame stars Michael Fassbender as Brandon, a New York City professional who lives a closely guarded private life, one that allows him to indulge in and hide his terrible sexual addiction, something that leads him to sleep with an endless string of women. But that routine is disrupted when his sister Sissy (Carey Mulligan) visits him for an extended period of time, something that leads to the collision of his personal problems and the fact that he’s no longer as solitary as his addiction necessitates.

The Posters

The first teaser poster – which oddly turned out to be the only one-sheet released – got more or less straight to the point while also merely hinting at the movie itself. It showed just a bed with wrinkled covers, the title of the film over that image. So we’re clearly into some kinky territory here though the details remain unclear and vague.

The Trailers

The first official trailer for the movie offers a decent look at the themes the story will touch on. It’s all framed around the idea of Fassbender’s character running, which we see him doing in-between shots of him checking out various beautiful women. Then his sister decides to stay with him and things get even weirder. We see him continuing to hit on and make love to various women and his sister is trying to help him overcome what she sees as a problem.

It’s kind of creepy, kind of fascinating and very intriguing. It’s obviously Fassbender’s show here and so it’s going to rise or fall based on whether he can pull the character off, which he likely can. It’s a very good trailer that shows what the film will be about without giving away all the points on the story arc completely.

The second trailer features a lot of the same footage of Fassbender’s character hitting on and then getting it on with a variety of women. But this one has over all that his sister singing “New York, New York” in a plaintive kind of way, something that serves to make what we’re watching just that much more sad and kind of depressing. It’s short – only 90 seconds or so – which means we’re still not getting much of a look but what we do see is kind of fascinating.

A red-band trailer was released just a week or so before release. The core component here is an extended look at the subway sequence that’s shown in the other trailers, showing a bit more of the gaze-filled flirtation that happens between Brandon and the girl he sees there, something that ends with her apparently ditching him. Inbetween that, though, there’s lots of shots of the various kinds of sex that he has with the neverending stream of women he manages to hook up with. The only surprise here is that age-restricted material wasn’t a bigger part of the trailer component of the campaign.

Online

The official website is has a brief Synopsis, profiles of Fassbender, McQueen and Mulligan as well as the two all-ages trailers. That’s all wrapped in a nice interactive display at the top of the page that ties in nicely from a design perspective to the trailers and poster, which is good.

Also there are all the usual Fox Searchlight features: A widget taking you to the studio’s Facebook page, a scrolling box of Twitter updates mentioning the movie, a list of blog posts and news stories about the film and more.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Nothing that I saw or was aware of. Because of the NC-17 rating the film wound up earning from the MPAA (more on that below) there would have been severe restrictions placed on its advertising ability, with most all TV/cable stations as well as print outlets have a strict policy on no ads for movies with this rating.

Media and Publicity

The 2011 New York Film Festival marked the movie’s first known public appearance and was heralded as one to definitely see at that event. But before that it debuted at the Telluride Film Festival (Hollywood Reporter, 9/1/11) to generally positive buzz (Los Angeles Times, 9/5/11) though the consensus is that the movie is a tough sit and likely a tough sell to non-festival audiences.

It also appeared at the Toronto Film Festival, where the buzz around it led to a relatively quick acquisition by Fox Searchlight (THR, 9/9/11) and at the Venice International Film Festival, where Fassbender won that festival’s best actor award (LAT, 9/10). It would later go on to appear as one of the most anticipated films at AFI Fest (LAT, 10/18/11)

During the festival period both Fassbender and McQueen talked to the press about the film, with Fassbender labeling the controversial movie a social critique (LAT, 9/12/11)  and McQueen saying he was surprised (LAT, 9/13/11) by the controversy around the movie despite its graphic subject matter.

That subject matter continued to be the focal point the press revolved around as Fox Searchlight declared its intention to release the film as widely as possible regardless of the rating (THR, 10/20/11) just before it was officially given an NC-17 by the MPAA (THR, 10/25/11). Fassbender, at least, came out as being of the opinion (LAT, 11/10/11) that the rating was actually a help to the movie.

Something that got pointed out was that this was one of two movies Fassbender starred in that opened within just a week or so of each other (Time, 11/18/11) and both of which were apparent awards contenders. It was also pointed out that this was the second collaboration between the actor and the director (New York Times, 11/27/11), the first of which was Hunger a couple years ago.

Overall

Whatever your comfort level with the subject matter might be – and there have already been numerous discussions about the movie and how it portrays the nature of sexual relationships – one thing that can’t be denied is that there’s been an effective campaign built up around selling the film. With the two central components being the trailers and the publicity the focus has been put squarely on Fassbender’s performance and a sense of mystery that’s been built up around the movie.

That’s heightened by the fact that the trailers, particularly the two all-ages versions, show much of the same footage but in different ways. Where that usually creates a sense of “uh oh, that might be the only good two minutes there are” here it instead makes the audience wonder why nothing else could be shown. While it’s not likely to set the box office on fire this weekend my guess is that there will be a small contingent that seeks out this movie not based on titillation but on the feeling of this being something truly unique even if it might be largely distasteful.

Movie Marketing Madness: The Artist

Stars can fall just as fast as they rise. The attention span of the celebrity following public is, and always has been, notoriously short. As soon as one star or starlet captures the attention of the public they’re already looking for another that is newer and more exciting to follow. The moment one is found we can’t wait for one of the older ones to fall, to embarrass themselves in some way or to otherwise do something humiliating so we can watch their descent from the limelight with the same fascination we watched their ascent.

The new movie The Artist about just such a cycle. Set in the silent film era (and itself a silent movie, with no dialogue at all) the story follows a dashing romantic leading man George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) who on the red carpet one day encounters a female fan Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo) who suddenly captures the attention of the press. She then becomes an actress in her own right, at first riding his coattails and enjoying a great deal of success. But then his fortunes start falling at the same time hers takes off. The movie is a melodrama romance of sorts that, in addition to being silent, is in black-and-whilte in order to heighten the sense that we’re stepping back in time.

The Posters

The first poster featured a wonderfully monochromatic image of the two main characters looking at each other with passion in their eyes. At the top of the poster is an acknowledgement of its Cannes win for Best Actor and at the bottom is the only splash of color to be seen, the red that’s part of the title treatment.

The Trailers

The movie’s first trailer starts off by letting us know we’re in Hollywood in 1927 and shows us Valentin performing for an audience. He has a run in on the red carpet with an adoring female fan and the two become something of a tabloid item, much to the chagrin of his wife. We see the two performing together until there’s obviously some sort of change of fortunes and his star diminishes while hers ascends.

The trailer shows an awful lot of the film’s story arc, basically taking us through the high points of the entire plot. I’m sure there are grace notes that make the film more interesting but we get quite a lot spoiled here I’m guessing.

That being said it shows a movie that’s quite intriguing. If nothing else it makes you want to see whether or not a silent movie can still be pulled off, whether the performances of the actors can overcome the fact that they can’t speak to the audience.

Online

The official website for the movie opens by playing the trailer and, as I often say, it’s well worth rewatching.

After that the first section of content is “About” which has a pretty good Synopsis of the film’s story as well as an About the Production section that goes into multiple areas of how and why the film was made.

“Video” just has the one trailer while “Photos” has by my count 20 stills from the film.

You can learn more about the actors and filmmakers in the “Cast and Crew” section and then read some of the reviews – including links – that have been published about it already, mostly based on festival screenings.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

There may have been a couple TV spots I saw but that’s about it and I honestly can’t remember if that actually happened or not.

Media and Publicity

The movie first garnered some serious accolades at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival, where it wowed audiences and started some serious word of mouth buzz. But the fact that the industry audience there loved it didn’t necessarily translate into Oscar worthiness (Los Angeles Times, 8/28/11) since the movie had such a starkly different look and feel from anything else out there. It would later also appear at the Telluride Film Festival to additional positive word of mouth, at the Hamptons International Film Festival where it won the Audience Award (Hollywood Reporter, 10/16/11) and at AFI Fest where it was pegged (LAT, 10/18/11) as one of the top films appearing there.

There was also some non-festival press such as this story (New York Times, 10/19/11) that talked about how it sought to recapture the Hollywood of yesteryear and how the movie worked its way through development before finally being picked up by Miramax. Development would continue to be a theme in further stories like this one (LAT, 11/13/11) that talked about bringing the cast on board such a high-concept movie.

Overall

There’s a lot to like about this campaign but the strongest element, and the one on which its success or failure largely depends, is the buzz that came out of festival screenings. If any amount of that can spread beyond those circles and find anyone who wasn’t confused and annoyed by trailers without any dialogue then there could be some level of success for the movie. If not it will go down as another one of those that couldn’t capitalize on early raves, something that’s far too often the case.

Movie Marketing Madness: My Week With Marilyn

These days we think we know the private lives of big stars. With paparazzi taking photos of them whenever they step out for a Slurpee with their kids and countless magazines, blogs and other publications ready to run them and elaborate on what their entire outing was like there seems to be no moment that doesn’t go unexamined. The audience, in large part, enjoys these looks at celebrities because it feeds a need some people have for gossip and what the feel are peeks behind the curtain.

There’s no starlet that did more to further the idea of celebrity press coverage than Marilyn Monroe. She’s the subject of the new movie My Week With Marilyn. With the famous actress played by Michelle Williams, the story takes place during the shooting of The Prince and the Showgirl. Colin Clark (Eddie Radmayne) is assigned to be her personal assistant by Sir Lawrence Olivier (Kenneth Branagh) and the two become close and start up a fling, despite everyone warning him away from the idea. But he’s convinced he’s seen the real, more vulnerable Marilyn and continues to pursue the relationship to the extent he can.

The Posters

The first poster is all about selling Williams and Monroe and so shows her walking amidst a sea of reporters with cameras and notepads while being guided by a young assistant of some sort. She looks kind of aloof and not all that happy with her situation and so it’s about making it clear that Williams isn’t playing Monroe as some sort of clueless ditz but as a genuine human being, something that may not be as sensational but is more promising from an artistic point of view.

A second poster was a nice black-and-white effort that had Williams striking a sexy Monroe-esque pose, just her head and one hand being seen. To the side are a couple of choice quotes about the performances of Williams, Branagh and Dench.

The Trailers

The first trailer starts us off as Marilyn is getting off the plane in England and attending a press conference to promote her appearance there. A young man enters her life as a sort of assistant and the two of them obviously hit it off, with her using him to escape the crush of her regular life. But he’s warned off from her by just about everyone around him, warnings that he ignores since he’s seen her in very unguarded moments.

It’s enormously effective at selling the movie as the kind of awards bait that usually comes out this time of year. It’s got lots of big names playing famous people, something that always goes over well. But it’s also clear those performances are quite compelling, with the actors appearing to really try to inhabit the skins of the actors they’re portraying. This isn’t a full-fledged bio-pic like Chaplin or others but it’s about a single moment in time and so may have more focus for everyone involved because of that.

Online

The movie’s official website opens with some full-screen video of the film’s trailer. After you let that play or skip it you’ll see you can scroll right or left through a series of stills or small video screens that show off most of the main cast. At the top of the screen there’s also a scrolling series of press quotes about the movie complete with the logo of the press outlet they came from though without links to the full stories. That problem is solved, though, in the “Press Accolades” section.

The first section of content is “About” which has a Synopsis that’s pretty well written and which explains the film’s story very well as well as Cast and Filmmaker profiles. There’s also Production Notes here that can be read on the site as well as more extensive ones available as a PDF download.

There are 13 stills in the “Gallery” though none of them can be downloaded. “Videos” has two Trailers (though they seem to be the same one), a behind-the-scenes video and an extended clip.

At the bottom the “Social” area links to the movie’s official Facebook page, which has photos, videos and other updates, and a Twitter profile that has similar updates. Both are just called “Marilyn Monroe,” which is an interesting little bit of sideways selling there.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Nothing that I’ve seen either online or on TV. I may have missed something but there hasn’t been any advertising that I’m aware of.

Media and Publicity

While there had been plenty of talk about the movie’s production the first bit of substantive news came when it was announced (Los Angeles Times, 8/4/11) that it would be one of the movies debuting at the 2011 New York Film Festival.

A sizable interview with Williams (Vogue, Oct, 2011) was up next where the actress talked about how she very much wanted to play the part of Monroe and how doing so changed things about how she herself viewed life.

Overall

It’s a pretty small campaign for a movie that I would have expected to have more “oomph” behind it. I’m really surprised there isn’t more a full-throated for a movie that seems to have a number of strong performances, hits a favorite theme (celebrity impersonations) of awards season and is about a person who still causes all sorts of speculation and conversation. I would have thought there’d be much more publicity from the Weinsteins about those performances and more. As it is the marketing itself isn’t bad, just feels small at a time movies like this can’t afford to feel small.