Brigsby Bear – Marketing Recap

I’m not going to offer my usual plot recap for Brigsby Bear here because, quite frankly, it’s too insane. Let’s just say that it involves a man named James (Kyle Mooney) who has been obsessed since childhood with a single TV show, the only one he’s been lead to believe exists. One day his world is upended and he has to not only cope but find a way to take control of his life.

That’s it. That’s all I’m saying. We now take you to the review of the marketing of Brigsby Bear. which also costars Mark Hamill.

The Posters

You’re not going to divine any clear story from the first poster, which puts Brigsby Bear and James toward the bottom, shaking hands under the watchful face in the sun or moon or whatever that is. It’s just as trippy as the rest of the marketing and just as likely to simultaneously turn off any casual moviegoers that happen across it and attract anyone looking for eccentric, offbeat stories.

The Trailers

Ummm…what the heck is going on in this first trailer? It looks like we’re following a small family that lives in some sort of remote environmental bubble and only watches a kids show that seems like a cross between Teletubbbies and Barney. Yep, barring any additional information that’s what I’m going with. Whatever the case, I’m on board.

The second trailer, released right before Comic-Con, has James and his father (?) talking about who else might be out there in the world and how important imagination is. We see he’s eventually brought into the bigger world and everyone is trying to help him but he doesn’t have the tools to do that without Brigsby. So all his interactions are very awkward and uncomfortable. There’s certainly more of the story here, which is helpful.

Online and Social

The second trailer plays when you load the movie’s official website. Watch it again if you want to get all trippy or just enjoy the creativity on display.

Once that closes we get a splash page that features a variation on the key art of James and Brigsby shaking hands under the evening sky. Down at the bottom are links to the Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr profiles for Sony Classics. They’re not linked (oddly) but there are also at least Facebook and Twitter accounts for the movie itself.

The first section of content is the “Synopsis” but be warned that it offers a lot of details about the story that haven’t been shared in other parts of the campaign. So proceed at your own level of comfort with spoilers. After that is “Cast,” which gives you good bios about the major players. “Filmmakers” does likewise for those behind the scenes.

“Gallery” is where you’ll find seven stills from the movie and a behind the scenes pic. Finally “Trailer” has the second trailer for you to watch again if you want.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Some online advertising was done, mostly involving the key art of the creepy face in the moon. That’s about the extent of what I’m aware of, though.

Media and Publicity

The movie had a big panel at San Diego Comic-Con with the cast and crew where Hamill urged all the Star Wars fans out there to check it out and give its quirkiness a try.

Outside of that Mooney was the focus of much of the press, which makes sense since he’s one of the creators. He was interviewed about what movies inspired him and co-writer Kevin Costello as they worked on the script, about the pair’s unique comedic sensibilities and history doing both YouTube videos and a stint on “SNL,” about keeping the story a secret as much as possible and jumping from the web and TV into the world of feature film production. Mooney also did a few appearances on daytime and late night talk shows to promote the movie and cover similar topics of conversation.


Usually I’m not overly concerned with spoilers. If a movie can’t still stand on its own even if I know some important plot points, then it may not be that great to begin with. My enjoyment isn’t often impacted by knowledge. This is, then, a rare case where I feel like I already know too much. So my advice is to turn back from anything you feel might offer story details because this appears to be one of the most creative, original movies in recent years. At least that’s how it’s being sold and much of the campaign supports that claim.

The secrecy of the story is sometimes overt in the marketing – Hamill repeatedly talked about how much he wasn’t going to say, as did Mooney – and sometimes more subtle. To that last point, much of the press with Mooney wasn’t necessarily directly about the movie but more about his comedic stylings in general and place as a young creative person. That, combined with the official marketing elements, worked to sell something pretty unique.

Atomic Blonde – Marketing Recap

It’s not always fair when we compare new movies to James Bond. Nothing can truly measure up the legacy of 50+ years that the British spy has established. Nevertheless “It’s like Bond, but…” is a convenient narrative shorthand and has been used plentifully in the lead up to the release of Atomic Blonde. In the new movie, based on a series of graphic novels, Charlize Theron plays Lorraine Broughton, a long-standing MI6 agent with a history of getting results, no matter what it takes.

Things turn personal (as they are apt to in spy stories) when a former partner/lover turns up dead. Not only that but she’s sent on a dangerous mission into Cold War Berlin to retrieve and extract a dossier containing highly-sensitive information. To that end she teams with local station chief David Percival (James McAvoy), albeit reluctantly. The deeper she gets, though, the more she finds enemies lurking behind every corner, including those she once considered allies.

The Posters

The first poster made quite the impression, showing Theron standing and facing the camera, a blonde wig showing up white in the monochromatic image, sunglasses obscuring her eyes and a gun at her side. it’s stylish and mysterious and pretty amazing.

The second poster uses an image from a key scene in the trailer of Theron kicking butt in a hallway full of goons as its centerpiece. The title is below that and at the top are a bunch of positive quotes from early reviews. This one is very much about selling this as an action movie, not just a sexy action movie, which is clear since Theron is fully dressed in this image.

Another poster featured a close-up (though from the side) of Theron, her bright hair standing out in the black and white photo and a gun shown against her shoulder.

One final poster was released at Comic-Con, where the movie had various other promotional efforts going on. This one features original artwork and not just a photo, as it basically mashes up Theron’s poses from the previous one-sheets, the one with her sporting shades and the one with a gun draped across her arm. In the background you can see a sea of umbrellas opened just as in the trailers. There are a few other smaller images thrown in there to add some texture and details. There’s an appeal at the bottom to see it in Dolby Cinema at AMC, promising “Atomic sounds. Brighter blondes.”

The Trailers

The first trailer starts out with Broughton suiting up for action before cutting to her taking on a group of bad guys single handedly in what may already be one of the best action sequences of 2017. We then get a bit more of her backstory finding out she’s an MI6 operative with a strong and violent skill set. She’s tasked with retrieving a document from Berlin and finding out who’s killing intelligence operatives, which involves seducing a female source and causing all kinds of damage in the process.

It’s a really good trailer and I’m absolutely here for Theron and other female stars in more action roles like this, even if I do have some issues with both how it’s being sold and how the press framed the debut of the trailer.

The second trailer starts off with Broughton narrating how how she chose this dangerous life before taking out a room full of bad guys single handedly. We get her background and find out with her what her mission is. Her trip to Berlin doesn’t start off as expected, though, until she meets her contact in the city. From there it’s’ more sexy outfits and her doing some sexy meeting of a French intelligence agent. She talks about how someone on the inside has set her up and she’s going to take it very personally. All that happens along with footage of her beating up even more various henchmen and other baddies.

The part that works best here is that it presents a more linear, cohesive story for the movie. We get a better sense of the stakes and the relationships and that all works to sell even more effectively what already looks like a fun, if violent, movie.

Online and Social

The official website opens by playing the second trailer. After that you see the key art of a cold, seductive, deadly assassin wearing shades, a bleach blond wig and ready for action. There’s a button on the bottom of the page encouraging you to Get Tickets. Also down there, just before the links to the movie’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles, is a link to the “It Gets Better Project” that helps support LGBTQ kids. There’s also a link to “Make Your Own I Am Atomic” image, which lets you upload a picture and choose your own word, then download the result as a GIF to share on the social network of your choice.

Back to the main site, in the drop-down menu on the left the first choice is another chance to buy tickets. That’s followed by “Videos,” which is where you can watch both the trailers as well as the short teasers for them.

Next up are the “Chapters” the studio released over time. These amounted to extended clips from the movie that served the purpose of introducing us to the characters and the world they operate in, as well as continuing to give fans something to talk about.

This is the first time I’ve seen a “Gallery” that is just GIFs. There don’t appear to be any stills here, just three GIFs of footage pulled from the trailers. Finally the “About” section has a story synopsis and the cast and crew list.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

A bit of TV advertising was done. This commercial, in particular, pulled directly from the scene used in the trailers of Broughton beating up the police in the apartment but added video game-like hit counters to the action. More readily seen was the plentiful online advertising that’s been done using the key art and the social advertising that used the trailers on Twitter and Facebook.

Media and Publicity

Before the trailer was released we got a glimpse at Theron and the movie as a whole with some first look photos that included comments from the actress about her training program for the role. More new photos and comments from the director appeared in EW’s summer movie preview. Theron also talked about the same-sex love scene that’s featured heavily in the trailers and how the decision to go down that road came about.

The movie was announced as having a substantial presence at San Diego Comic-Con, signaling it’s going hard after the geek audience. Not only was Theron scheduled to appear on an unrelated “Women Who Kick Ass” panel but she graced the special issue of EW that was distributed throughout San Diego. Oh, and the movie was screened for select attendees, given them an advance look so they can go home and online to talk about it to their friends and hopefully drive more ticket sales. At one of the panels Theron talked about how the story was designed to upend expectations and would be more than a little surprising to the audience.

New stills appeared in EW’s Comic-Con preview issue showing off more of Theron’s international woman of mystery along with an interview with the actress.

Both McAvoy and Theron did the press rounds to talk about the movie, with him recounting doing some “sexy fighting” and her engaging in crazy dance competitions and lots more.


It’s hard not to get on board with Theron as a hard-fighting spy in Cold War Berlin. She certainly has more action film credibility in the wake of Mad Max: Fury Road but was always a capable physical actress, even before that. It’s no more a stretch to see her in a role like this than it was in 2002 as Matt Damon, primarily a dramatic and comedic actor, prepared to storm the box office in The Bourne Identity. To hammer home the point that she can absolutely play a tough woman of mystery a good chunk of the campaign was devoted to showing Theron shoulder-deep in stunt training, working out fight choreography and talking about the physical demands of the role. That emphasis may be an attempt to cut short some old-fashioned thinking involving the phrase “the weaker sex” and related topics.

With that aside, the marketing has a wonderfully visual style. It’s all glammed up in neon, dark blues and grays that evoke the bleak conditions that are synonymous with mid-80s Berlin, which was still divided and which has often been portrayed as the turf warring spies met each other on. That permeates the campaign, starting with the posters and going through the trailers and everything else. It’s sleek and stylized, just like the movie it’s supporting.

The Emoji Movie – Marketing Recap

The average consumer is a lot smarter about what the inside of their electronic devices contain than someone in, say, 1982. Coverage of technology has made us all better informed about the inner workings of our smartphones and other gadgets. This week’s new release The Emoji Movie promises us that there’s more to it than flash memory and processors.

The story focuses on Gene (voiced by T.J. Miller), a “meh” emoji who’s not thrilled about what fate has laid out for him. See everyone has their assigned roles and his is to convey bemused detachment. He wants more out of his life, though, and so breaks free of his constraints in Textopolis, where all the emojis live when their phone is powered down, and seeks the broader world. Helping him out is his friend Hi-5 (James Corden) as well as others he’ll encounter on his travels.

The Posters

Things kicked off with a series of character posters, each one featuring a different emoji and some descriptive copy about that particular character. Nothing particularly fun or innovative here, just an attempt to give the audience a look at each individual emoji.

A theatrical poster puts all the main emojis on display in the little compartments they apparently stay in while on call. “Welcome to the secret world inside your phone” is the promise in the middle. Whatever.

One more just assembles the cast of characters in a single image, all crowded together. Gene and Hi-5 are there along with Poop and others, all with various expressions on their faces that convey their character’s attitudes.

The Trailers

The first trailer doesn’t show much in the way of footage from the movie. Instead it’s simply introduced and hosted by Meh, and he’s obviously thrilled to be announcing the first movie from the emojis. Only toward the end do we see some of the other emojis interacting in their digital environment.

The next trailer, which debuted around the time it screened at Cannes, takes us inside your phone to show the society that lives there involving emojis, apps and more. Meh isn’t that great at his job and so has to journey to a forbidden land to fix the problems he’s having and embrace his destiny to contain more than just one emotion.

Neither are all that interesting or funny. They convey the basic outlines of the story well enough but also show just how thin this premise is.

Online and Social

The first thing you’ll see when you load the movie’s official website is a map and search function allowing you to find a theater near you where it’s playing. Close that and you’re taken to the main page, which has the promotional artwork of the three main characters running toward the camera along with a “Get Tickets” button and links to the Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles. Actually, clicking any of those icons will pull up a box asking you to input your birthday before you’re taken to those profiles. These aren’t e-commerce links and this isn’t an R-rated movie so I have to think this is just for the purpose of collecting demographic data.

The main content menu is hiding over in the upper left corner, disguised as a bubble with the three dots that usually indicate someone is typing a message. That right there is the most original aspect of the campaign.

The “Our Videos” page there just has the official trailer, showing someone doesn’t know their singular from their plural tenses. “Our Story” is a synopsis that’s littered with emojis in place of certain words.

You can get to know the different characters in the “Meet Us” section, which has very short bios about each emoji. “Our Makers” gives you a list of the actors and filmmakers. Finally, “Our Pics” offers the same images that are seen on the character posters. Not sure why this couldn’t have been combined with the “Meet Us” section and some other stills made available here.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

I couldn’t find anything explicitly labeled as a domestic TV spot but there were character introduction videos like this one for Gene that were 15 seconds long and which could have easily been used as TV commercials. Outdoor and online ads used some combination of the character images and other emoji and social ads used the trailers as each one was released.

Media and Publicity

Around the time of the first trailer, Sony announced a number of popular apps including Instagram, Twitter, Spotify and others would both appear in the movie and help with some of the marketing. If any of those companies made big promotional moves in advance of release, they weren’t obvious and didn’t make much of an impact.

Miller made a big splash at Cannes that coincided with the release of a new trailer where he parachuted in and hosted an event on the coast. It’s not that huge a deal, but it got a lot of coverage. Also on the stunt front was this effort which set a Guinness World Record for the most people dressed as emoji in a single place.

Miller made some pretty serious press rounds in the weeks leading up to release, but this movie only came up occasionally and in a superficial way. Instead the conversations, whether in print or on TV, usually turned to his sudden exit from “Silicon Valley,” what was in store for Deadpool 2 and other projects he has coming up.


I get that this may be lost on at least some – probably large swaths – in the target audience, but it’s hard not to see the campaign as selling a movie that combines elements of TRON, Wreck-it Ralph, Inside Out and a few other movies. That is to say, there’s little that’s new here, just a new veneer painted on a well-worn framework, with a story that’s designed to take us into a secret world that lies just beneath our own and which has its own societal norms. “They’re just like us, only digital” is the conceit, but instead of offering anything new or heartwarming the campaign relies on poop jokes and visual gags that have less impact because of their digital rendering.

Even outside of that there’s not much to brag about with this campaign. The whole thing seems a bit lackluster, as if all the effort went into the Cannes stunt and none was left over for interesting poster designs. It wants us to find the movie interesting because hey, even your grandma knows how to use emoji at this point, so let’s laugh at how they get into their own antics. If you need an example of how lazy movie marketing, especially efforts aimed at younger audiences, can be in 2017, this is a good one to choose.

Landline – Marketing Recap

Director Gillian Robespierre takes us back to the halcyon days of the mid-90s in the new movie Landline. Jenny Slate, teaming for the second time with the director after 2014’s Obvious Child, stars as Dana, a woman who along with her younger sister Ali (Abby Quinn) discovers their father Alan (John Turturro) has been having a long-term affair, cheating on their mother Pat (Edie Falco).

This understandably throws their world, largely built around their slightly dysfunctional but still loving family, out of whack. The two set out to figure out what’s been going on while also dealing with their own issues. Dana is engaged to the boring but dependable Ben (Jay Duplass) but seems to be rethinking that future. Ali is a bit wilder than Dana had previously suspected. So there’s growth and discovery going on all over the place.

The Posters

The one poster for the movie does a number of things quite well. First is the phone cord that descends from the top to form the L in the title, a literal representation of the title and a reminder of a time when the physical range of a conversation had limits. Second is the look Slate’s Dana is shooting across the breakfast table at her father, one that conveys the upset and disappointment she’s feeling without saying a word, letting the audience know there’s something going on there. Third is the way Falco’s Pat is hovering over Ali, establishing their relationship. Finally, the “1995. When people were harder to reach.” brings the metaphor of the title to the story, telling us it’s about interpersonal dynamics family issues. There’s also the nod to Obvious Child, the previous collaborations between Slate and Robespierre.

The Trailers

The first and only trailer introduces us to the family and their dynamic as they’re on a road trip and trying to communicate with each other. We get that Dana is engaged, though she seems less than excited about the coming nuptials. She and her sister don’t really get along but bond when they find evidence their dad is having an affair. Everyone in the family is having their own crisis of sorts, whether it’s pre-wedding nerves, lack of commitment to school, feelings of being ignored or anything else.

It’s charming and low-key and looks sadly funny. The chemistry between all the actors appears effortless and like it all works to tell a simple but emotional story.

Online and Social

As has become pretty standard, you get full-screen video footage from the trailers when you load the official website. The title treatment from the poster involving the cord leading to the L and the copy are all placed in the upper left, above a button prompting you to “Get Tickets” and links to the movie’s Instagram, Facebook and Twitter profiles.

In the drop-down menu the first section after another Get Tickets link is “Videos” which has the trailer and a clip from the movie that features a conversation between Pat and Alan as well as news footage of Hillary Clinton that seems pretty specifically included based on today’s political environment.

The “Story” section has a synopsis and the cast and crew lists. There’s a link then to “Stream More Great Films” that takes you to a special section of Amazon’s streaming service devoted to movies from Magnolia Pictures, a nice way to convert people in a different way. Finally there’s a “Press Kit” where you can download stills as well as a full PDF press kit and production notes.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Some light online advertising was done using the key art and there may have been a few social ads run at the time the trailer was released. That’s about it, though.

Media and Publicity

The first bit of publicity came when it was announced the movie would have its official premiere at Sundance 2017. That screening generated mixed, but generally positive word-of-mouth even while the cast and crew talked about reuniting after their previous movie together and how the story came into being. Amazon eventually picked the movie up for distribution.

Slate talked about how the retro vibe of the movie made her nostalgic and why she chose to set the story in the 90s. That was also the topic when Slate and Robespierre were asked about the story at the premiere, where they also talked about how that was meant in part to contrast it to today’s world.

Slate was, of course, the focal point of much of the press. She talked about 90s trends and how she started working with Robespierre years ago as well as her approach to selecting roles as a whole. She also talked about relationships and crushes, how she does and doesn’t want to be grouped with other actresses her age and lots more.


If you’re on board with Jenny Slate, you’ll likely be on board with this campaign. The focus is almost exclusively on her as the star and driving force of the movie’s story, the one we’re asked to sympathize with and take sides on behalf of. Everything about the movie is presented here from her point of view, from her parents’ relationship to the discovery of a side of her sister she was previously unaware of. The campaign is designed to appeal to fans of smaller, character-driven movies, especially those who made 2014’s Obvious Child a word-of-mouth hit as that movie is referenced frequently.

The other nice thing about the marketing is that it doesn’t get obnoxious with the 90s nostalgia. Yes, there are plenty of moments where people use floppy disks and actual landline phones and it takes a moment to realize the “app” Pat refers to in the trailer isn’t a bit of mobile software but a college application. But it keeps all that in the context of the story, not as something wholly on the side that’s positioned as a conceit for the audience to chuckle at. It’s that subtle approach that makes it work because, as the tagline on the poster suggests, the time period is used as a metaphor for human connections, not as a cheap gag.

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets – Marketing Recap

Director Luc Besson is back in the world of fantastical science fiction with this week’s new release Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. Based on the popular graphic novel of the same name, the story follows Valerian (Dane DeHaan) and Laureline (Cara Delevingne), two agents of a peacekeeping force tasked with policing the human territories of the galaxy.

The pair are given an assignment that sends them to Alpha, a massive complex incorporating thousands of alien cultures, all living harmoniously with each other. There’s a mysterious threat lurking somewhere within Alpha that threatens to upend the peaceful environment and which could spread to the entire universe. It’s up to Valerian and Laureline to not only find it but stop it before it destroys the denizens of Alpha as well as everyone else.

The Posters

The first poster sells the movie as a space epic, pure and simple. Besson is referenced at the top as the director of The Fifth Element and Lucy, establishing his genre bonafides. But the main image has two characters whose faces we can’t see standing next to a giant ship with its boarding ramp down. So it’s really trying to play up the visuals here.

The next just shows Valerian and Laureline next to each other, each appearing on a different half of the V design that’s featured on the poster. There’s no copy, just the previous directorial credits of Besson as a way to make sure audiences know the movie has some bonafide credentials. It’s a nice use of whitespace though and while it might appear a bit simplistic it also doesn’t go too far in the other direction and try to crowd thousands of tiny alien images into one design.

The theatrical poster uses the “V” format from the previous one but shifts it over to the left a bit. It also adds a lot more of the creatures and characters we’ll meet in the story, from obese slugs to cute little critters to Rihanna. A mysterious alien peers out from the center of the “V”, indicating that they may be more important to the story than everyone else. While I don’t usually put much stock in these things, there *does* seem to be a nod to Besson’s The Fifth Element in upper right, with a sign saying “…orben’s.” While the first letter is cut off, it could be “Korben’s,” which would reference Bruce Willis’ character in that movie.

The Trailers

What the hell is even happening in the first trailer? Honestly, there’s almost nothing about the story here, it’s all about showing off the visuals and insane look of the movie and works incredibly well on that front. It’s great, it’s bonkers and I want to see it immediately.

The second trailer begins as Valerian and his partner are given their latest assignment, which involves big monsters on a shuttle moving across the desert. From there it’s on to Alpha, the giant city of worlds, some place that’s meant to be a neutral paradise in the violent universe. Something is amiss, though, and there are sinister forces that must be stopped. That’s where the story explanation stops and it becomes all about the visuals, showing speeding ships and strange aliens and everything else.

It’s so great looking. It’s being sold as being very much in the vein of The Fifth Element and looks funny, comically violent and mind-bending in the best possible ways. I’m just totally on board here.

The final trailer doubles down on the incredible visuals, focusing on the alien inhabitants of Alpha before explaining the peace there has been threatened and it’s up to Valerian and Laureline to stop it. What that threat is never gets explained as we’re too busy watching ships navigate tight passages, huge monsters lunging after their prey and more.

Online and Social

When you load the official website you’re greeted with a bit of marketing hyperbole about how groundbreaking the movie is and why you need to see it in 3D. On that main page there are prompts to “Watch the Trailer” and “Get Tickets” as well as links to the movie’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles. You can also choose to “Play the Game,” which takes you to page from which you can download a mobile game from Google Play or Apple’s App Store.

Using the menu that opens up when you click the icon in the top right, the first section is “Videos” and is where you can find the trailers and TV spots. Next is “About the Film,” which has a synopsis of the movie’s story.

You can explore “The World of Valerian” and learn more about the characters, aliens and the worlds they all inhabit in the next section. After that there’s a “Gallery” with several stills as well as a few behind the scenes shots. Finally “Social” not only has links to the social profiles but also a page of embedded updates from those pages.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

TV spots started running in late April that were focused on showing the audience the amazing visuals that are to be seen on Alpha and therefore in the movie. There’s some voiceover that hints at the conflict but mostly it’s a “Wow, this looks incredible” strategy being employed here. Future commercials would feature more of the story, or at least the premise, as well as some of the action and humor of the movie. As review embargoes broke, more commercials would incorporate some of the praise the movie was receiving.

The movie had some promotional help from other companies as well, including Lexus, which made a big deal about unveiling the Skyjet, a concept vehicle it designed and created for the movie, at an event with DeHaan.

Outdoor and online ads used the key art in various ways and social ads were run as new trailers were released.

Media and Publicity

While there had been lots of conversations about the movie in advance of this, the big coming-out took place at San Diego Comic-Con 2016, where Besson teased footage and talked about the process the movie has taken on its way to the screen, which included encountering the source comic’s creator while making The Fifth Element years ago. That screening generated tons of positive buzz for the movie, a new photo being released to the general public and the general sense that this was going to save the sci-fi genre when it came out a year later.

Just before the first teaser trailer hit a first look at Rihanna’s flapper character was released that provided some details but which mostly was about setting the stage for more craziness to come.

Around the time of the second trailer an op-ed in Wired pointed out some of the public perception problems the movie is facing as it tries to appeal to a mainstream audience. First, the campaign plays up its origins as a groundbreaking graphic novel. But that GN is from France and isn’t something many American readers are going to be widely aware of. Second, that source story *did* influence lots of what’s been seen over the last 30 years of sci-fi cinema, which means it runs the risk of feeling derivative of the very things that wouldn’t exist without it. Those are both great points that could indeed hamstring how the campaign’s message is received.

As part of the emphasis on the visuals of the movie, a two-hour behind the scenes feature was taken to a special effects industry event in Germany.

STX sought to take advantage of a very large platform and placed the movie’s opening scene in front of Spider-Man: Homecoming at select theaters. That was an effort to reach an apparently relevant audience and get them talking about Valerian, hopefully eager to come back and see the full thing. The movie’s opening scene continued to be the focus of at least a good amount of the press, including this interview with Besson where he talked about how he conceived and shot that sequence.


First let’s address how this campaign ties to the past. Specifically, there are large swaths of the push that are meant to either overtly or more subtly remind the audience how much they enjoyed The Fifth Element, Besson’s last big-scale outer space comedy adventure. The message here is that if you have fond memories of that movie, something reinforced by a recent limited theatrical rerelease to mark its 20th anniversary, you’ll absolutely want to check out this latest effects-driven movie.

Moving beyond that, though, the message of the campaign is that there’s a whole universe of adventure ready to explore. DeHaan and Delevingne may not be huge draws in and of themselves, but the marketing makes the case that they’re suitable bodies to watch running and jumping through the alien worlds that have been created. There are multiple times in the campaign where we’re told this comes from Besson’s unmatched imagination and it’s that which forms the crux of the value proposition to the audience. What remains to be seen is if that’s enough to make moviegoers comfortable enough to choose an original story (albeit one that’s based on existing material) with so many franchises and known quantities currently in theaters.

Dunkirk – Marketing Recap

The story behind the evacuation of Dunkirk during World War II is an incredible one. British and other Allied troops had been essentially backed into a corner, stranded on a beach with no route home and the German Army cutting off all land routes. That story is being told once again in Dunkirk, the new movie from director Christopher Nolan.

The movie tells the story of what happened to those on the beach with nowhere to go and no way back to friendly territory from three perspectives. On the land, there are the hundreds of thousands of troops who are waiting for rescue while trying to survive regular bombardment from the Luftwaffe. In the air there’s the Luftwaffe, who are the only German force harassing the troops and the Royal Air Force meeting them for battle. On the sea there’s the story of the makeshift navy made up of British fisherman and other civilians who were called upon to cross the English Channel and actually rescue the troops stranded in Dunkirk.

Continue reading “Dunkirk – Marketing Recap”

Girls Trip – Marketing Recap

We’ve seen groups of female friends learn How To Be Single. We’ve seen them embrace the dark side and become Bad Moms. We’ve seen them have a Rough Night. Now we’re going to see them take a Girls Trip. This latest installment in the “ladies behaving badly” genre follows four longtime friends as they travel to New Orleans for Essence Festival, a weekend of music, eating and inspirational speakers hosted by the magazine of the same name.

The four friends in question are Ryan (Regina Hall), Sasha (Queen Latifah), Lisa (Jada Pinkett Smith) and Dina (Tiffany Haddish), all of who are, of course, at different places in their lives. They all agree to get together for a long-overdue road trip, though. Despite the reservations of some of the group, they all wind up getting loose once in town as they enjoy all the spirits and men New Orleans has to offer.

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War For The Planet of the Apes – Marketing Recap

The conflict that’s been building over the course of two previous movies comes to a head in this week’s War For The Planet Of The Apes. Up to now the story has followed the rise of the apes thanks to a virus that made them more intelligent but which killed vast swaths of the human population. Humans have fought for their survival before but now the final battle for possession of the planet is coming.

Caesar (motion-captured by Andy Serkis) is still leading the ape population, wanting peace with the human survivors but also ready for the war many, both ape and human, seem to want. The humans for their part have rallied an army around the charismatic Colonel (Woody Harrelson), a ruthless leader who will accept nothing less than the complete elimination of the apes. Will peace prevail or will it all end in bloodshed? That’s the core question that drives the story.

The Posters

The first poster shows just how far the series and its characters have come over the years. It shows Caesar, a deadly serious expression on his face and a rifle slung across his back, riding a horse through the snow. “WAR” is the only copy on the one-sheet outside of the release date.

A second poster shows Caesar staring at the camera in a pose we know from a recent trailer is him riding horseback. Just behind him, looking out over his shoulder, is the young girl we saw in that trailer. The copy tells us this is “For freedom. For family. For the planet.” which tells us exactly what the stakes are in this final chapter of the trilogy. Another just shows Nova, the girl, in a colorful field, an ape’s hand putting a small flower in her hair. That’s designed to show that humans and apes can live together, a contrast to the attitude shown through much of the rest of the campaign.

The next poster is solely about the conflict between the two armies. We see the backs of the heads of the human soldiers, many of whom are touting their ape killing attitude or experience on the helmets that are visible here, a few ape collaborators mixed in as well. The ape army is approaching them on foot and climbing over the ramparts, a few emissaries out in front to, it’s assumed, try to broker peace.

A final poster used the same image of Caesar on horseback from the first “WAR” poster, but adds Nova peeking out from in back of him. The copy on this one makes it clear the story is wrapping up in dramatic fashion by prompting the audience to “Witness the end.”

The Trailers

The first trailer starts off with two apes riding along the beach, a human girl on one of their backs. Caesar narrates that he didn’t want, nor did he start, the war with the humans. Various scenes of fighting are followed by a shot of The Colonel overusing his troops and it’s clear he’s the primary adversary for the apes in this story. The two armies go up against each other in a number of ways as he takes over the narration, intoning that if the humans don’t win this fight, it will be a planet of apes.

Not bad. The stakes of the story are laid out pretty clearly here, primarily the conflict between the apes and the last of humanity, now heavily militarized. There’s surely lots more story in the movie itself but this gets the general premise – that it’s time for the final showdown – pretty clear.

A second trailer starts with new footage but narration from the first movies to show how far things have come. Caesar confronts a group of captured soldier before we see some of the other gorillas and then the human army that’s going to make one last attack to save their world. It’s clear a confrontation for survival is in the offing and the action ramps up from there that has both broad and personal stakes.

The final trailer starts with apes breaking into a human home, guns drawn. They take a child they find there, more out of mercy than to take a hostage. We quickly see that the conflict between men and apes is reaching its conclusion, with collaborators and sympathizers for the enemy on both sides. Apes don’t want to fight but the men do and won’t stop until everyone else is dead.

While there are some elements of a philosophical story here about the right and wrong use of violence it’s very clearly being sold as a straightforward action movie in this trailer. It’s all about the explosions and the gunplay and the big, macho speeches being given.

One more trailer acts as a “Previously on…” recap of the previous two movies and the events that have lead to all-out war.

Online and Social

The official website gets the standard Fox template, with a banner at the top that uses a cropped version of the key art of Caesar and Nova. There are prompts just below that banner to watch the trailer, connect with the movie on Facebook or Twitter and to get tickets.

Scroll down and you’re greeted with “Videos” which is where you can watch all the trailers, some featurettes and other clips. The “About” section has a synopsis that sets up the mounting conflict and lists the cast and primary crew.

The “Featured Content” section has a few interesting links. First, there’s a prompt to buy tickets to a special triple feature select theaters hosted this past Wednesday that included all three of the current Apes movies. Next is a link to buy the new Funko POP! figures based on characters from this movie. Finally, there’s a link to the Planet of the Apes hub that will tell you everything you need to know about the franchise, be it on film, in comics or elsewhere.

There are a half-dozen stills in the “Gallery” you can download. “Partners” lists the few companies that have signed on as promotional partners.

The site finishes up with a call to action to sign up for email updates about Fox movies and a gallery of embedded updates from the movie’s social media accounts, including Instagram.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

TV spots like this took on the same tone as the final trailer, with a little bit of hot take-esque philosophy and ethics wrapped up in an action movie that pits apes against humans. More commercials would follow that took varying approaches, selling it as a very small-scale story of compassion or a very large-scale story of all-out warfare.

Promotional partner companies for the movie included:

  • The Jane Goodall Institute, with which Fox partnered to help in that organization’s chimpanzee rescue and refuge programs. A TV spot accompanied that effort.
  • Chase Pay, which offered a buy-one-get-one deal when you purchased tickets through Atom Tickets, the service that encourages group movie outings.
  • T-Mobile, which also worked with Atom Tickets to give its customers $4 tickets for opening weekend.
  • Red Robin, which offered a free movie ticket when you purchased a $25 movie-branded gift card.
  • FYE, though details aren’t readily available. Presumably, the retailer had movie merchandise it was promoting.

Online ads, as well as outdoor billboards and other signage, used the key art of Caesar’s face in close-up while social advertising helped promote the trailers as they were released.

Media and Publicity

One of the first bits of publicity came when the studio launched a contest to give a lucky winner a walk-on role, with the caveat being that they would become an ape and therefore not have their face seen on-screen. Quite a while later the first story details came out at the same time the studio announced the movie would have a significant presence at the upcoming New York Comic-Con, with a “digital billboard” appearing just before that to set the stage for further announcements. That presence also included a panel where the cast and crew talked about the movie, what they have in mind for the future and more.

Further stills and other information trickled out over time, including the fact that the young girl seen in the trailer shares a name with a character from the classic series. Later on, Reeves would talk about what films and styles he was trying to ape (sorry) to create the look, feel and tone of this entry.

As with many recent major releases from this and other studios, Fox announced a virtual reality experience tied to the movie.

Once more Serkis’ motion-capture work for Caesar spurred conversation about what exactly constitutes an awards-worthy performance, and rightfully so. That feature also talked about his career as a whole and the work he does for the motion-capture field as a whole, which is substantive.

Members of the cast also made the talk show rounds in the weeks leading up to release. Harrelson did his share of that, though too often the conversation wound up being less about this movie than his role in the upcoming Han Solo movie that’s had some notable upset recently.


The primary message of the campaign here is that all-out war has finally come to the conflict between man and ape. The disease has taken its toll, the vaccine has made apes incredibly intelligent and the two alpha races are going to play one final game for control of the world. That’s hammered home time and again in the trailers and TV spots as well as through much of the poster component.

There’s also a strong element of compassion, though. Much of that revolves around the girl Nova and the way she’s found and eventually protected by some of the apes. While it’s a small part of the campaign it seems like the kind of thing that could play an outsized role in the movie itself.

Mostly, though, Fox wants audiences to turn out to see the final chapter, and that’s very much how it’s being sold. It all ends here, we’re told in various ways and in various components of the campaign, so if you’ve enjoyed the lead up to this you won’t want to miss the conclusion. Let’s see if that’s enough to catapult it over Spider-Man: Homecoming’s second week.

Lady Macbeth – Marketing Review

The moniker “Lady Macbeth” is a derogatory term affixed to a woman who someone deems to be overly-ambitious and cruel in her determination to succeed. That’s based on the character from the Shakespeare play who urges her husband on to accumulate more and more power, taking out any and all threats to them. She sees his success as hers and pulls the strings.

The new movie Lady Macbeth is not based on that character or that play but the main character is no less determined to succeed. Katherine (Florence Pugh), is a young woman in 19th century England who’s been sold into marriage to Sebastian (Cosmo Jarvis), a man twice her age. As with many such stories, she begins an affair with a younger man who works on the estate. But this affair isn’t enough and she finds herself taking desperate action to get what she wants and take control over her own life.

The Posters

The first poster shows Pugh in period dress clutching the back of a chair and looking around as if she has some scheme or plan on her mind. A positive quote from an early review is at the top and we’re told below the title that this is based on a source novel. The movie’s festival history is toward the bottom to make it more attractive to moviegoers who are interested in such things.

Another poster took the same basic approach, just this time with a photo of Pugh sitting on a small couch. Her name is given more prominent placement at the very top, showing that there’s more of a focus on her in selling the movie. A variety of positive review quotes appear between her name and the title.

The Trailers

The first trailer starts off by showing Lady Katherine is married to a mean, heartless man who doesn’t care for her dreams or personality at all. While he’s gone she starts an affair with a local farmer who’s nothing like her husband, who’s not thrilled. The lovers take matters into their own hands, which leads to more drama in the small town and in her own home, but she remains in control of the situation at all times.

It’s great, selling a psychological thriller with a story that’s both original and recognizable. Pugh looks fantastic as the woman who decides she will not be subject to anyone else’s idea of what her fate should be and goes after what she wants. The trailer hints at plot twists that should be expected in a movie like this but it looks very enjoyable.

Online and Social

The official website opens by playing the official trailer, which is certainly worth watching again. “Trailer” is actually the first item on the content menu at the top. If you go back to “Home” you can see some full screen video featuring footage from that trailer along with the same image that’s on the poster of Katherine sitting on the couch. A series of positive quotes from early reviews rotates at the top. Farther down the page you can “Save to calendar” a reminder of when tickets are on sale in your area.

The only other content on the site aside from a link to the movie’s Facebook profile, is “Synopsis.” That offers a pretty short recap of the story along with the names of those involved.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Nothing I’ve seen or am aware of here. Roadside probably did some localized advertising in the initial cities it’s playing in but that’s likely about it.

Media and Publicity

Positive buzz from a screening at the Toronto International Film Festival got things off on a good note, particularly for Pugh as her performance was pegged as being impressive. It was soon picked up by Roadside Attractions. It was later announced the movie would also head to Sundance 2017 before its eventual release.

Pugh’s performance was singled out for effusive praise and called the single best reason to see the movie. She talked in that interview about the role and how she approached while director William Oldroyd about what made her right for the part.


This is the second movie in about a month to emphasize the idea of women retaking their agency in its marketing, the first being The Beguiled last month. It shows just enough of Katherine’s motivations and actions to make it clear she’s had enough of the situation she’s been put into and is taking matters into her own hands, whatever that might entail. She will no longer be anyone’s possession but will follow her passions.

The main issue is that we’ve seen this movie before. There are countless stories in the last 10 years or so about women of the 18th or 19th century who take a lover after finding themselves married to cold or cruel men out of necessity or familial political mechanizations. There’s even one that’s supposed to come out later this year, assuming The Weinstein Co. eventually remembers it owns Tulip Fever. That’s why, I think, the press has focused so much on Pugh’s performance, because it has the potential to be the differentiating factor from those other stories and make Lady Macbeth worth seeing.

Spider-Man: Homecoming – Marketing Review

Spider-Man is back in theaters in this week’s Spider-Man: Homecoming. After an extended cameo in last year’s Captain America: Civil War, this is Tom Holland’s second outing as the web-slinger and his first in the character’s own movie. Well…kind of his own movie. The corporate cooperation that began with Civil War continues here. Sony, which owns the theatrical rights to Spider-Man, is essentially loaning him out to Marvel Studios, which manages the highly successful Marvel Cinematic Universe. So Sony gets to use the successful platform of that behemoth to help launch their third go-around at Spider-Man, while Marvel gets to incorporate Spidey into their big event movies.

Continuing the story set up in Civil War, Peter Parker is enamored with the tech genius Tony Stark (played again by Robert Downey Jr.). Stark provides him with a high-tech suit to help Parker fight local neighborhood crime as Spider-Man. The stakes get considerably higher when Spidey crosses paths with, and gets on the wrong side of, The Vulture (Michael Keaton). That conflict threatens everything that Peter holds near and dear and could upend the life he leads as a seemingly unremarkable high school student.

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