Holmes and Watson – Marketing Recap

Recapping Sony’s marketing campaign for Holmes & Watson.

holmes and watson posterThe duo of John C. Reilly and Will Ferrell are responsible, as a pair, for some of the most funny bits of cinema in the last 20 years. It’s been 10 years since they last teamed up in Step Brothers and now they’re back together in Holmes & Watson, a comedic take on the famous pair of detectives.

The story involves the two being tasked with unmasking a threat to Queen Victoria. Professor James Moriarty (Ralph Fiennes) has threatened to blow up Buckingham Palace. Based on the campaign, that premise is just a thin line providing support for Ferrell and Reilly to engage in their usual brand of hijinks.

The Posters

The two main characters are shown on the first poster, each making the shape of the letter of their last name with their hands. There’s nothing here about the story, it’s just about telling the audience that Ferrell and Reilly are back together, which is the biggest draw here.

The Trailers

The main message of the first trailer is that the Step Brothers/Talladega Nights team is back together, this time playing the famous pair of detectives. Unfortunately they’re both idiots. That’s going to cause problems with Professor Moriarty kills someone in Buckingham Palace and threatens the Queen will be his next target.

A lot of the humor is derived from jokes about the time period, from Watson asking if someone would like some heroin (a popular cure at the time) to him asking to take “a sort of self photograph” with the Queen. Some land more firmly than others, but not only does Ferrell actually seem to be committed to the role (a stark contrast to some of his recent films) but Reilly is a damn treasure.

Online and Social

The movie’s official website has the trailer and synopsis, the latter of which makes it clear this is a reunion of the Step Brothers duo. Not linked on the site but shared on YouTube are links to its Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Promoted posts like this began running on Twitter a couple weeks prior to release, a shockingly tight advertising window for a movie with these two stars.

There were short form videos shared online and it’s likely TV spots were run to help sell the movie to a larger audience.

Media and Publicity

The movie had kind of been floating around the background for a while until it was included in the studio’s CinemaCon presentation, which featured Ferrell engaging in his usual brand of antics and a sizzle reel of footage. A while after that a first-look photo showed up in EW’s Fall Movie Preview issue.

A profile of Reilly appeared while he was in Toronto with other projects, putting this in the context of his career, including his other collaborations with Ferrell.

holmes and watson gifThe costars appeared in a PSA supporting the Movember Foundation, offering a number of mustache facts that appear to be somewhat suspect, though they’re funny. More information on that campaign was offered on the movie’s official website.

They both appeared on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” to introduce a clip and engage in some random silliness and both showed up either together or on their own on other shows.

The way Reilly bounces between different projects was the subject of another interview with him right before release.


There are two major messages being sent here: First, that everyone should come out and see the new movie featuring the team of Ferrell and Reilly, having enjoyed their previous work together. Second, that while the story may feature old-fashioned characters in a period setting the humor comes from those characters acting in very modern ways.

It’s not a bad campaign, it’s just that it’s not that extensive and only formally ran for three months. That may simply be Sony realized this was a particularly crowded holiday season, or an acknowledgement that broad comedy hasn’t been lighting up the box office recently. Whatever the case, it’s funny enough but it remains to be seen whether it will join the ranks of the stars’ other outings.

Picking Up the Spare

Seems Paramount approached Netflix about taking the movie off their hands but the streaming company wasn’t interested.

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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