tetris – marketing recap

How Apple has put all the marketing blocks in order for its latest feature release

Tetris movie poster with Taron Egerton from Apple TV+
Tetris movie poster with Taron Egerton from Apple TV+

This week’s new release Tetris isn’t an adaptation of the classic video game, something that would be difficult (though not impossible) to pull off. Instead, it’s a dramatic telling of the behind-the-scenes business maneuvering that helped bring the simple yet addictive game to the mass market decades ago.

Directed by Jon S. Baird and written by Noah Pink, the movie stars Taron Egerton as Henk Rogers, the business executive who in the 1980s was introduced to the game and immediately saw its potential both in Japan and the U.S. The only problem at the time was that the game had been developed within the Soviet Union, meaning the state held the copyright. A complex series of negotiations and deals ensued, all mired in Cold War politics and Soviet secrecy, ultimately leading to the game breaking out from behind the Iron Curtain.

Nikita Yefremov costars as Alexey Pajitnov, the Russian developer of the game, and Toby Jones plays Robert Stein, another executive who believed at several points he was the one who held the rights to distribute Tetris.

Let’s avoid any too-obvious metaphors and dive into the marketing campaign mounted by Apple TV+.

announcements and marketing

The project was first made public in mid-2020, with Baird attached to direct and Egerton already signed on to star. The rest of the cast joined over the rest of that year prior to filming getting underway.

Apple announced it acquired the project for its Apple TV+ service in November, 2020.

In February of this year news came the movie was scheduled to premiere at SXSW.

the marketing campaign

It’s just been a bit over a month since the first trailer (6.2m YouTube plays) was released in mid-February, launching the marketing campaign for the film. It starts with Rogers trying to explain to his boss why he’s become so addicted to Tetris since first playing it and how he feels it’s “the perfect game.” He’s tasked with getting the rights to the game so it can be packaged with the about-to-debut GameBoy handheld system. But nothing is simple with the KGB and all this is happening as the Soviet Union is on the verge of collapsing, so Rogers has to engage in more than a little spycraft to make his dream come true.

A few weeks later at the beginning of March the poster came out showing Rogers’ face with colorful Tetris blocks falling in front of it. The copy at the top reads “The game you couldn’t put down. The story you couldn’t make up.”, which promises the audience something familiar as well as something new.

Rogers and Pajitnov enjoy a party in the first clip, though that is about to be interrupted by some very serious looking individuals, likely with Soviet intelligence.

The SXSW premiere of the film included a Q&A with Egerton and others from the cast and crew along with the real-life Rogers and Pajitnov, all of whom talked about how the movie is “emotionally true” or something along those lines, even if it plays a bit loose with the facts. There was also a “Tetris Experience” at the festival where attendees could buy swag and have their picture taken.

Most everyone involved appears in a featurette where they talk about the amazing real story they’ve adapted for the screen.

Audio ads on Spotify and other platforms all used sound clips from the film to make it seem as pulse-pounding and thrilling as possible.

Another featurette goes a bit more in-depth on the real people involved, not just the story.


There’s some good stuff in the campaign outlined here, especially having the movie debut at SXSW and bringing the real life subjects along for added geek cred, but ultimately there just isn’t a lot here. It might make enough of an impact to get the attention of those who have signed up for Apple TV+ to catch the new season of “Ted Lasso” but outside of hardcore devotees of the original game I’m guessing that’s the primary audience for the marketing here.

That’s not to say it’s a bad campaign, just that there’s not much substance to it given it’s all been run in the last six weeks.

picking up the spare

Egerton appeared on “The Late Show” and “Late Night” to talk about the movie and the true story that inspired it.


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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