6 Underground – Marketing Recap

How Netflix is selling the first team up of director Michael Bay and superstar Ryan Reynolds.

six underground posterIn some regards, the pairing of Reynolds and Bay seems to make sense given the actor’s physicality and his penchant for mixing action and humor. But he’s actually a bit *too* overtly funny for Bay’s usual filmmaking style. While there are certainly humorous elements in Bay’s movies, they could never really be described as comedies.

We’ll see how that turns out in practice with this week’s 6 Underground. Reynolds stars as One, an elite operative who leads a team of similarly talented professionals, all of whom are presumed dead after being part of various military organizations. Together they take on impossible missions meant to make the world a better place, all while remaining anonymous.

Netflix has used the partnership between one of the most successful directors of the last 30 years and one of the hottest movie starts of the moment as the key selling point for a movie it hopes will bring blockbuster audiences to the streaming service.

The Posters

The design of the one-sheet isn’t great, nor does it effectively communicate what the movie is about or what the story is. One and the rest of his team of elite agents are shown in various action poses, leaping over cars or gripping their weapons in anticipation. But it never comes together into a cohesive whole, instead appearing as just a collection of individual elements. Only by process of elimination and counting can we figure out that the man in the back left, dressed in a white tuxedo, is probably the antagonist the good guys will be facing off against.

The Trailers

One leads a team of dangerous individuals, with the first trailer (3.1 million views on YouTube) – released in early October – showing just how dangerous they are. That team is made up of “dead” agents who operate with the freedom that status entails. Their presence is noted by some equally dangerous bad guys, who seek One and his team out to eliminate the threat they pose to their illegal operations. There are lots of action sequences and humor, both of which are synonymous with Bay and Reynolds, the movie being sold as a melding of their two sensibilities.

The second trailer (377,000 views on YouTube), released in November, starts off like an Italian tourism commercial. But both the beautiful artwork and peaceful atmosphere are soon broken by a car chase happening through the streets as the team seeks to evade capture. One keeps wise-cracking through the chase, making sure everyone knows this is a comedy as well as an action film. The decision to focus on one key sequence actually works in positioning the film as a clever and amusing story, giving the audience the gist of what’s happening without having to overly explain a plot that doesn’t really matter anyway.

The final trailer (490,000 views on YouTube) was released just a few days ago and more clearly establishes who the team is and why they do what they do, taking on the threats most ordinary people ignore. In fact it skips most all elements of the story in favor of introducing the specialties each member brings to the table while showing off lots of action and mayhem that they bring with them on their missions.

Online and Social

While Netflix has created websites and social profiles for other recent movies, it seems to have skipped those steps with this one. It wasn’t even given a whole lot of support on Netflix’s brand channels. That’s not wholly surprising given it isn’t exactly one of the company’s awards contenders.

Advertising and Publicity

The first big news about the movie came with the announcement Netflix had acquired distribution rights, marking its largest-budgeted movie to date and one seemingly in the line of post-Bright thinking that more blockbuster-level movies were essential to grow its original film slate.

Reynolds shared a fun little video from the set in mid-September.

6 underground online adOnline ads used the picture of Reynolds that was used on the poster to drive awareness and traffic to Netflix’s page for the movie.

In what some people referred to as the “turducken” of advertising, a commercial for Samsung that came out in mid-November starred Reynolds hyping the company’s sets as the perfect option for enjoying the big-screen action of the movie. Taking it up a notch further, it also features an ad for Reynolds’ own Aviation Gin. That’s completely on-brand for the actor and his self-aware sense of humor.

Last week Netflix released a video with Reynolds offering scientific proof that this movie is the “most Michael Bay movie that Michael Bay has ever Michael Bay’d,” offering the maximum amount of explosions and other elements that have been part of his filmography possible.

Reynolds and the rest of the cast appeared on a panel at the recent Comic Con Experience in Sao Paulo to talk about the movie and get people excited for it.

Media and Press

Surprisingly there doesn’t seem to have been much of a press push for the movie. Again, this may be the result of Netflix’s PR attention being turned to other, more serious releases, or it might be that the media landscape is a bit crowded at the moment. One way or the other, there’s not a lot going on here, mostly coverage of the trailers and other marketing materials being released.


Despite some quibbles with various elements of the campaign, including the lack of apparent press push, it’s hard to actually take issue with the marketing choices being made here. In particular, making the connection between Reynolds and Bay and then allowing Reynolds to act as the public face of the movie makes a lot of sense and takes advantage of the public’s continued appreciation of the actor.

six underground banner

What remains to be seen is if audiences are actually interested in watching the big screen action and explosions that are a hallmark of Bay’s movies on their personal screens. Netflix and other streaming companies have been public of late in seeking to create their own action/fantasy franchises to lure subscribers and this is a move in that direction. Considering original stories, even of this type, haven’t even been a hit in theaters lately the odds aren’t bad that this could be as much of an incentive as some of the high-profile dramas that have come out recently.

Picking Up the Spare

Netflix put on quite a show for the movie’s premiere, which included comments from the cast and crew on working with Bay on the film.

Reynolds appears as One in a new promotional video that crosses over with the upcoming Netflix show “La Casa de Papel.” There was also a funny video showing him doing overdubs for the movie in 39 languages.

An appearance by the star on “The Tonight Show” touched on the movie but also included lots more of what he’s involved in.

Jeff Beer at Fast Company writes about the brand that is Ryan Reynolds and how it was used to sell the movie.

A video was released by Netflix of the stonework that went into the incredible parkour sequences in the film.

A new “whisper trailer” came out that makes the movie’s marketing part of the ASMR trend online.

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.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: