the tomorrow war – marketing recap

How Amazon Studios has sold its latest sci-fi action movie.

Chris Prat stars as Dan Forester in this week’s Amazon Studios release The Tomorrow War. Dan is a husband and father who retired from the military but is called back into service when time travelers from the future arrive seeking recruits for a battle against an invading alien army. Determined to save the future his young daughter will ultimately live in, Dan leaves his wife Emmy (Betty Gilpin) and teams up with his estranged father James (J.K. Simmons) and a scientist from the future (Yvonne Strahovski).

Reviews haven’t come in yet, but the movie — the feature debut of “Robot Chicken” director Chris McKay — has received a campaign that’s focused on the sci-fi action in hopes of getting people excited.

The Posters

Dan, Muri, Charlie (Sam Richardson) and Dorian (Edwin Hodge) are locked and loaded on the first poster (by marketing agency MOCEAN), released at the end of May. In the background is a city skyline that’s crumbling from the destruction of battle while in the sky a big portal has opened up. All of that offers some context as to the story, but the generic positioning of the characters is a bit over the top.

A second poster, released in mid-June, offers the same conceit but zooms in on Dan and Muri.

The Trailers

The movie’s futuristic setting, alien enemies and overall tone were conveyed in a teaser released in late April.

About a month later the full trailer (8.1 million views on YouTube) was released. When a mysterious army appears from the future seeking help in fighting an alien invasion Dan is drafted/volunteers so his wife won’t have to go. He and the other recruits are fighting with the very existence of humanity at stake, leading to lots of dramatic posturing in addition to the usual running and fighting.

The final trailer (6.5 million views on YouTube) opens with Dan reaching out to his dad for help before setting up the premise and showing how Dan decides to leave his family to take part in the fight. From there it’s lots of shooting and running and talk about the fate of humanity and such.

Online and Social

No standalone website but in addition to the Amazon Video landing page there were social outposts like this Twitter profile.

Advertising, Publicity and Promotions

Due to the massive shuffling of release dates by Paramount in 2020 due to the Covid-19 outbreak, the movie’s release was moved back several months. Reports emerged in early 2021 that Skydance Media, which produced the film, was shopping it around to streaming distributors. Those reports came to fruition in early April, when Amazon acquired it and set an official release date.

A handful of first-look stills were released a few weeks later.

Pratt and screenwriter Zach Dean were interviewed together about the story, how it’s different from other alien invasion flicks, with the rest of the cast and crew also commenting on the production and other topics, including Simmons’ buff physique.

Short promos like this pulled out different aspects of the movie’s action and/or humor to present slightly different messages to the audience.

A little behind the scenes video had Pratt hamming it up for the camera and leaning more to his comedic side instead of actually offering anything substantive.

An interview with Pratt had him extolling Strahovski’s stuntwork and talking more about the production.

Amazon exercised its monopoly powers engaged in some cross-divisional promotion by putting promotions for the movie on shipping boxes used for retail delivery, the first time it’s used that medium to sell an Amazon Studios release.

More commercials emphasized how Dan’s decision to join the fight is rooted in his desire to protect his daughter.

Late night talk show appearances included both Gilpin and later Pratt on “Kimmel.”

Online ads like this used elements of the key art to drive traffic to the Amazon landing page for the movie.

this ad, of course, appeared on the Amazon-owned IMDb.com

The Pocono Raceway recently hosted a booth devoted to the movie where visitors could find out more and enter a sweepstakes for a $5,000 Amazon gift card.

Amazon scheduled a watch party on Twitch (which it owns) for this Friday. There was also one planned for Amazon Video itself.

A clip given to Fandango’s MovieClips shows the moment the time travelers arrive in the present looking for help in the war they’re fighting.

JoBlo then got an exclusive featurette with the cast and crew talking about the story and the production of the film.

It also setup “The Tomorrow War Experience” at various spots around Los Angeles where people could come find out more and see one of the alien enemies.

Overall

It’s a fine campaign, but what seems to be missing is a clear definable brand for the movie. The visual identity of the film isn’t very strong or identifiable. Even Pratt’s presence for the most part is just kind of general and not centered around something specific. That could be part of what seems to be a general lack of buzz around the release.

What does seem to be clear is that Amazon’s acquisition of the movie is part of its broader strategy of focusing more on big, tentpole-type titles. Whether or not this particular tactic supports that strategy remains to be seen, but the campaign doesn’t make a very strong case for this being a contender for people’s time and attention.

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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