Widows – Marketing Recap

widows posterThere are always plenty of crime dramas in theaters, but writer Gillian Flynn and director Steve McQueen are looking to do something different with this week’s new release Widows. The movie stars Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, Elizabeth Debicki and Cynthia Erivo as four women with one thing in common: Their dead husbands, all criminals, all departed while still owing a debt to some very bad men.

Those very bad men don’t see death as a reason to forgive the debts, so it falls to those left behind to make things right. Determined to live on their own terms and get out from under the thumb of anyone who would control them, the women take matters into their own hands and do what they need to do in order to survive.

The Posters

The first poster intercuts the men and women of the main cast in strips at the top, likely to show how all their lives are interconnected. The women themselves are shown at the bottom below the title near the copy “Left with nothing. Capable of anything” to explain how they are seizing control of their future.

The Trailers

There’s lot of violence on display as the trailer opens, with scenes of crimes being committed by men who are also shown being attentive – sometimes unwillingly so – to their wives. When those men are killed in a standoff with police, the women are left holding the bag quite literally, still owing the debts their husbands ran up. So they set out to settle things up by any means necessary, determined to protect what’s left of their families.

I want to see this immediately. Looks powerful and gritty, with a bunch of very talented actors.

Many of the same themes and messages are in the second trailer as well, showing the group of wives coming together to pick up the mantle of their husbands as a way to defy expectations and make sure they never have to rely on anyone else ever again.

Online and Social

Unfortunately the movie just gets the standard ticket-centric website from Fox, with only the barest of information offered.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

TV advertising started with a spot that showed why the women are doing what they’re doing and how cognizant they are of the consequences of their decisions and actions. An extended spot offered even more information to the audience.

Promoted posts like this began running on Twitter in early October, playing up the cast and the critical praise the movie had already received. Other ads continued running right up to release, each taking slightly different approaches, including later ones that used quotes from some of the positive early reviews.

Media and Publicity

A trailer was shown off by the studio during CinemaCon to help show off the movie’s tone and impressive cast. The movie was also part of the later CineEurope presentation from the studio and later was announced as the opening night feature at the London Film Festival. It was also announced as one of those screening at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Costar Cynthia Erivo was interviewed about how this film and a few others mark her transition from stage to screen and how she got cast here. Another substantial profile of the actress followed in October.

That the movie would include a new Sade song was also mentioned frequently in the press.

A clip was released to Variety in early September showing Veronica trying to rally the other wives to take their situation seriously and start doing what needs to be done to escape their situation. Another showed the funeral of Veronica’s husband and the kind of people pressuring her to make good on his debts. One released in early October focused on Erivo’s character and her introduction to the rest of the crew.

The positive reception it got at Toronto generated some awards speculation, though some people identified the unusual nature of the movie as a reason such a campaign may be hard to mount. The topic of industry awards and cultural representation was also addressed by McQueen.

All four main actresses, while in Toronto, spoke about the female friendships and partnerships behind the story. McQueen revealed he’d been warned not to work with Rodriguez because she was “difficult,” a label often affixed by men to women who speak their mind, but he found the qualities others see as troublesome as actually adding to the role.

Given its setting, it’s not that surprising it was also added to the list of the Chicago Film Festival screenings as well as to the lineup of the Austin Film Festival and the AFI Film Festival. New York City’s Museum of Modern Art then made it part of its annual film series.

Davis appeared on “Kimmel” in late August to talk about this movie and other projects she had on the horizon.

McQueen and his vision were the subjects of a featurette that had most of the main cast talking about how he directs a scene and gets to the heart of the story. Another video had McQueen and co-writer Gillian Flynn talking about why they set the story in Chicago and how they adapted to filming there. Still another went deep into the story.

Kaluuya appeared on “Kimmel” to talk about the movie while Rodriguez was interviewed about how taking on the role was a bit scary, taking her into uncomfortable territory. McQueen also continued talking about how easy interracial casting is if you just do it.

Glamour offered a feature profile of Davis that allowed her to talk about her career and plenty of other issues and topics. At an early screening a few weeks prior to release she also made comments that were widely picked up in the press about how rare it is to see an interracial relationship on screen where the difference between the two isn’t somehow the focus or involve some kind of unequal power dynamic.


This is one of those campaigns that has won me over as time went by. The first trailer didn’t really work for me but once the featurettes started rolling out and the cast and crew started talking about the movie a bit more, it become one that became increasingly interesting.

It’s notable how the marketing has focused on the talent even more than the story. McQueen and Flynn have been frequently put in the spotlight to talk about *why* they told the story, not necessarily what it is. At the same time Davis has been placed in the position of spokesperson for the film, hopefully leading to even bigger and better things for her.

Picking Up The Spare

Viola Davis showed up on “The Tonight Show” to talk about the movie and more. She and McQueen were interviewed together about the movie, race in Hollywood and lots more.

A few new TV spots like this were released in the days following the movie hitting theaters.

Davis was interviewed about the strength and resilience of the characters in the story while Debicki was profiled about finally playing someone who wasn’t overly glamorous and rich and how she’s a standout in a high-profile cast. There was also a later interview with Duvall.

Fox released a couple roundtable videos featuring McQueen, Flynn and the cast.


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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