Instant Family – Marketing Recap

instant family poster 2Pete (Mark Wahlberg) and Ellie (Rose Byrne) are a happily married couple who decide they want to have kids but don’t really want to deal with all the messiness of the first few years. So they decide to become foster parents, eventually choosing three siblings, including a teenage girl and her younger brother and sister.

Things don’t go smoothly, of course. Lizzy (Isabela Moner), the oldest girl, is stubborn and writes off the couple’s intentions as just being a case of some white liberal guilt being assuaged. That goes hand in hand with Ellie and Pete’s inexperience with parenting and, put together, you have the recipe for some awkward but charmingly humorous moments.

The Posters

instant family posterThe adults are on one side and the kids on the other on the first poster, each looking somewhat skeptical at the other party. A second poster shows the whole crew all together, the adults looking either naively happy or very worried while the kids look like they’re having zero fun.

The Trailers

Ellie and Pete are not joiners in the first trailer, the kind of couple who haven’t had kids yet but who decide to investigate fostering because it skips some of the early problems. They’re super awkward about the process but eventually wind up with not just one but three kids, a sibling set. It takes a while and there are some hard, uphill moments, but eventually everyone figures each other out.

Online and Social

In keeping with the theme of some of the featurettes and other material released, the movie’s official website – which has a .org address – has less about the film itself and more about adoption and foster care. The Facebook page for the movie links to a Group where people are discussing issues related to adoption and family support. There was also a Twitter profile.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Some online advertising was done, particularly on YouTube and other social networks and there seem to have been some TV spots created, but nothing under Paramount’s official banner so I’m unclear as to what is or isn’t real. There are certainly some videos shared online that look and feel like commercials, they’re just not labeled as such. The movie also promoted Tweets from Wahlberg.

Unlike most movies, the promotional partners here are all cause-based, from the Dave Thomas Foundation to AdoptUSKids and Jockey USA. The goal of these partnerships seems to be to get people involved and educated, which is great.

Media and Publicity

The movie was part of the studio’s presentation to exhibition executives at CineEurope in mid-July 2018.

At the same time the first trailer came out in early September, just after a first still hit, a featurette was released that had writer/director Sean Anders and his wife Beth talking about their own real life experiences that inspired the movie.

An interview with Spencer had her talking about the movie and how it’s among the more lighthearted projects she still chooses.

Byrne and Wahlberg did the media rounds on TV while Byrne and other members of the cast volunteered at local California charities to help during the current wildfire crisis in and around L.A.


There really are two aspects to the campaign that in some ways appear to be working toward opposite goals.

First, there’s the forgettable family comedy that’s being sold via the posters and trailer. We’ve seen variations on this movie before, including previous films starring Byrne (who really deserves better) and Wahlberg (who, not to put too fine a point on it, doesn’t). We get it, the would-be parents are flustered and out of their element and the wife looks so understanding and loving.

Second, there’s the advocacy campaign that the movie seems to be one factor of. This goes much further into selling the issue that lies at the heart of the film’s story than most campaigns for cause-based movies do. That’s really strong, making this seem like an extended PSA for adoption and foster-parenting.

For as much as the website and featurettes hit that point, I kind of wish it can gone even farther. It’s great that Paramount allowed even this much latitude, though, and good on the filmmakers for telling a very personal story that they’re trying to get in front of a mass audience.

Picking Up The Spare

I missed this featurette where adopted children answered interesting questions, unaware their parents were listening in.

Wahlberg appeared on “The Tonight Show” to give everyone in the audience a special screening while Byrne was interviewed about getting the comedy/drama ratio just right.

The filmmakers were interviewed again about how and why they decided to tell this story.


Author: Chris Thilk

Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist with over 15 years of experience in online strategy and content marketing. He lives in the Chicago suburbs.

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