I’m pretty sure this week’s new action comedy The Spy Who Dumped Me could be sold simply on the fact that it stars Mila Kunis and Kate McKinnon. The two play long-time best friends who get caught up in games of international intrigue when Audrey’s (Kunis) ex-boyfriend reveals he’s a government spy on the run from enemies who want to kill him.
With the help of Morgan (McKinnon), the pair do their best to survive as they’re chased across through cities around the world, the bad guys believing they have secrets and items they’re after. The premise provides plenty of opportunity for Kunis and McKinnon to riff off each other, something we’ll see has been a prominent message of the campaign.
A pair of posters lead things off, one with McKinnon and one with Kunis, both looking tough and ready for anything as they stand behind a transparent heart-shaped target. That’s a cool way to show that not only are these women going to stand up for themselves but that the story is what the title would imply.
A couple character posters went a bit further in explaining each character’s basic personality and the split nature of the story. The one with McKinnon labeled her as going “From unemployed to undercover” while the one featuring Kunis said she was going “From damaged to dangerous.” The same purple/blue split was used on a one-sheet that put the pair back-to-back in typical spy movie style, reassuring the audience “They got this.”
The final theatrical poster has the two ladies back-to-back assuming standard spy positions, though the gun McKinnon is holding is just her fingers. They’re looming over Paris, with supporting characters below them as well.
Lionsgate also commissioned and released a whole series of artistic posters were commissioned by Lionsgate that offer fun, colorful takes on the characters and premise. Some were just bright and vibrant, others took a more retro approach, showing the characters in very Bond-like poses and settings. Those are all viewable on the website.
Free of any context or setup, Audrey and Morgan are shown as the trailer opens on the run from an apparently dangerous situation. Their attempts to commandeer a car to escape are less than successful, though. Jumping back a bit, we find out Audrey’s ex-boyfriend, who recently dumped her, is CIA and is being sought by some nasty people. What follows are a lot of spy movie cliches, but with two innocent civilians in place of seasoned professionals, all leading up to the two being tortured by someone who gets more answers than she bargained for.
I’m on board. These two look hilarious together and I’m all for more subverting of the spy genre.
The second trailer is even stronger, showing both more of the story and more of the dynamic between Aubrey and Morgan. There’s an expanded explanation as to why the two find themselves in the situation they do and what sort of trouble they get into, all while relying on each other for mental as well as physical survival. I feel like this is a strong example of how the action comedy genre can be made more for the female audience since it’s about support, not constant little quips and jokes to get through rough situations. Also…Gillian Anderson.
Online and Social
Moving along the top content menu, “Videos” has all (or most) the trailers, clips and TV spots. There’s just a simple synopsis in the “Story” section while “Cast” just has photos of the actors, not any additional information. The “Gallery” has a bunch of photos and then there’s sections for “Posters” as well as one for the “Artist Series” posters that adds information, including Twitter handles, for the individuals that created them.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
TV advertising started in mid-July, with spots that focused on the action of the story or the ridiculous nature of that story. Additional commercials kept hitting those and other themes, with some close to release emphasizing its positive early reviews and the “dream team” of Kunis and McKinnon. Online ads used the key art to drive ticket sales.
Media and Publicity
Director Susan Fogel talked about tackling the project and how she worked to make it happen when the trailer debuted at EW. The movie was part of Lionsgate’s CinemaCon showcase, designed to get exhibition execs and press excited about it.
A clip that came out a couple weeks prior to release showed Aubrey and Morgan evaluating their options after having been approached by terrorists. It was meant to showcase the dynamic between Kunis and McKinnon, the primary value proposition of the entire campaign.
Kunis got a nice Cosmopolitan profile and a bit later both she and McKinnon talked about how they’d fare as spies at the movie’s premiere. The two did a video for Marie Claire about embarrassing moments from their younger days and a joint USA Today interview had them both talking about motherhood, friendship, the movie and more.
It’s obvious Lionsgate has wisely decided the premise of the movie is secondary to the core selling point: The comedic interplay of McKinnon and Kunis. That’s a strong bet to make.
What’s a bit surprising is that the studio didn’t adopt more tactics similar to what’s been done for movies like Bad Moms and a few others, specifically make a strong appeal to women to see this with a group of friends. There was one promotion in conjunction with Atom Tickets to celebrate National Girlfriends Day recently, but that’s it.
Still, with lots of nods to other spy movies and an emphasis on the way the lead characters adapt and survive whatever is thrown at them, it’s still a strong campaign.
Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.