My Spy – Marketing Recap

How [checks notes] Amazon Studios is selling an action comedy.

My Spy has gone through some stuff on its way to this week’s release direct to Amazon Prime.

Dave Bautista stars J.J., a CIA operative known for leaving behind more carnage and destruction than usable information. Pulled out of the field by his superiors, he’s sent on a mission with surveillance expert Bobbi (Kristen Schaal) to watch an arms dealer and his family. That becomes more complicated when that dealer’s niece Sophie (Chloe Coleman) manages to stumble upon their operation. She decides to blackmail the spies, wanting to learn what they do in exchange for not ratting them out, though she’s not aware her family is the target they’ve been tasked with.

The movie, from director Peter Segal, is the kind of “big tough guy has to deal with a small child who is more than a match for him” story Hollywood has been turning out for decades. But the path it’s taken to release has not been smooth, to say the least, and the marketing campaign has been run in fits and starts depending on A) which studio owns it at any given moment and B) what release date they have in mind.

The Posters

Sophie and J.J. are at opposite sides of the first poster from April, 2019 (by marketing agency Works Adv), separated by a thick red line in which we’re told “He’s a pro. She’s a natural.” That’s meant to explain how they approach dangerous situations and such, but it’s not super clear. Basically it’s being sold in the same way as others in a long line of “big tough guy has to deal with/take care of tiny girl” action comedies.

A second poster came out in November of last year, before the release date was once again changed. Sophie and J.J.’s faces are shown close to each other, his with a bright adhesive on his cheek. It gives off strong Curly Sue vibes, tbh.

One final poster came out just a couple weeks ago, using the same photo of J.J. and Sophie with their faces next to each other. This time there’s no tagline or other information but the fact that this is “An Amazon Original” is touted at the top.

The Trailers

J.J. isn’t very good with people, he says in the opening of the first trailer (4.4 million views on YouTube) from April 2019, but he is good at blowing things up, which makes it difficult for the agency he works for to interrogate suspects because they’re all dead. On his last chance assignment his operation is discovered by Sophie, who essentially blackmails him into teaching her how to defend herself against school mean girls. While that goes exactly as you’d expect it to she’s also teaching him how to lighten up and enjoy life a little instead of always looking for danger and calculating how to counter it.

Amazon Studios put out basically the same trailer just a day before the film hit the Prime streaming platform.

Online and Social

The website for the film has the basic marketing materials along with an introduction to the main characters but that’s about it. There were also some social profiles.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Bautista was in attendance at CinemaCon in April 2019, part of the studio’s bigger presentation to industry executives. STX later included the movie in its CineEurope presentation to exhibitors there.

A short while later – and just a month before it was scheduled to hit theaters – the studio pulled the movie from its expected mid-August release date, promising it was still coming soon but might not be until early 2020. Publicly the reason given was to put a bit of space between this movie and Bautista’s other recent comedy Stuber, but the movie also came amidst a series of stories about troubles STX was having in the wake of some expensive and high-profile flops like Uglydolls.

In December of last year a new release date in March was finally revealed, but that wouldn’t last long.

Online ads using elements of the key art – especially the faces of Sophie and J.J. – along with short video snippets began running in late February. At the same time TV commercials began running with spots that introduced J.J. and Sophie and their bond, the deal they cut after she discovers his operation and other elements of the story. Some of those, particularly shorter spots, were also used as pre-roll and social media ads.

The first clip, released in March, shows J.J. making it clear to his new partner Bobbi that his personal things are not to be touched. It’s meant to show how tough he is.

An entire wave of commercials – over a half-dozen – were released before the movie was pushed another month, from March to April, to try and take advantage of the opening provided by No Time To Die moving to later in the year.

In April, STX sold the movie to Amazon Studios, which didn’t immediately announce a new release date, but it was clear the existing plan (such as it was) was being discarded. It was mid-June before Amazon announced a Prime-exclusive release date just two weeks out.

TV spots also used online were released in the last few days.

Online ads used the key art to drive people directly to Prime where people could start streaming the movie.

There was also behind-the-scenes featurette put out recently that has all the major players talking about having fun on set and so on.

Media and Publicity

Bautista and Coleman engaged in a few interviews, but not many and it kind of seems like Amazon was keeping a lid on this to some extent.

Overall

The campaign is pleasant enough, especially for a movie that will be available in homes immediately, not requiring the commitment involved in going to a theater, even putting aside the current closures and other problems relating to that experience.

It’s really just offering audiences the same kind of experience previously provided by Hulk Hogan, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Dwayne Johnson and other strong men, that watching them realize all their muscles and combat training aren’t enough to deal with a 10 year old child is inherently hilarious.

There might be issues with the film itself, just as there have been with those other similar movies, but the campaign doesn’t build it up any more than that.

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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