respect – marketing recap

MGM brings the life and career of a musical icon to the big screen.

respect poster

Jennifer Hudson takes on the imposing real life role of the legendary Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin in this week’s new release Respect. The movie, directed by Liesl Tommy and written by Tracey Scott Wilson, follows Franklin from her childhood singing in a church choir through the early days of her career. It also covers the personal upheavals that were part of her life in that period, including what turned out to be an abusive marriage as well as her involvement in the civil rights movement in the second half of the last century.

casting and development

Hudson has been attempting to bring Franklin’s story to life for a number of years and the project even had the approval of the singer, who was involved in making it happen until she passed away a few years ago. That puts this film in stark contrast to the latest season of “Genius”, the anthology series on National Geographic, which has been denounced by Franklin’s family because they weren’t involved in that production. Cynthia Erivo portrayed Franklin in that series.

Over the course of 2019 Forest Whitaker and Audra McDonald were cast as Franklin’s parents while Marlon Wayans was brought on to play her first husband and Mary J. Blige as Dinah Washington, a pioneer in the genres Franklin would later dominate.

first marketing steps

A brief teaser – no footage, just Franklin singing the title song on stage – was released in late December 2019 to get things started.

The first poster (by marketing agency Concept Arts) came out at the same time and shows a long view of Franklin on a brightly lit stage. It’s the same basic visual aesthetic as the teaser, creating some nice consistency as the campaign kicks off.

It was June 2020 before the first full trailer came out. It’s fairly short but offers glimpses at the big beats of the story, from Franklin’s early struggles to her rise as an outspoken and unapologetic superstar. It’s surprising, though, how glitzed up the title song is here, as if the original isn’t powerful enough to stand on its own without a ton of additional production and layering.

Another poster came out then showing a closer look at Hudson as Franklin sporting her finest hairstyle and in her most luxurious coat. The light mint green of both the coat and the background set a 50s/60s vibe while the “The Queen arrives” copy makes it clear this is a story that doesn’t lack in ambition or self-confidence.

Late in the month Hudson appeared virtually at the BET Awards, performing an incredible rendition of Franklin’s “Young Black and Gifted.” The trailer was also aired as an extended ad during that broadcast.

A handful of new images from the movie debuted in Essence around that time as well.

Hudson discussed the movie as well as the imposing situation of portraying such a well-known singer on “Good Morning America” in September of that year. She was also named to Time’s 100 Most Influential People of 2020.

In a move that’s very much in-line with Franklin’s work for civil rights decades ago, Hudson and Wayans posted videos encouraging people to register to vote in what at the time were the upcoming elections. Future efforts in this portion of the campaign continued to come out through October and November, including contributions from Tommy and others.

Tommy discussed the movie in a virtual panel during 2020’s Mill Valley Film Festival in Octoer of that year.

EW featured a cover story package on the film in October that featured photos and interviews with most of the cast and crew.

pandemic delays

Originally scheduled for release in December of 2020, the coronavirus pandemic wound up delaying the movie, first just to January 2021 and then all the way to its current Augus release date. That final announcement was made in October of last year.

With that in place the marketing took a couple months off. Still, Hudson appeared on “Today” in February to talk about the movie and a Black History Month initiative she was undertaking with Mastercard – one of the movie’s promotional partner brands – focused on supporting Black small business owners. And musician Kris Bowers was interviewed about composing the film’s score.

let’s try this again

The campaign began ramping back up in May when Hudson stopped by “GMA” again to celebrate Franklin’s legacy and debut the final trailer.

That trailer starts off with a young Franklin getting a lesson both in singing and in life from her mother. When she’s older she’s seen by others as a genius but it’s not until she finds the songs she can truly connect to that her career takes off. But her personal life is less than perfect, even as she attains the kind of fame and notoriety she’s worked hard for.

The next poster shows Franklin performing with the copy “Find out what it means to me” overlaid on the photo. It’s not bad and continues the theme of focusing on Hudson as Franklin in mid-performance.

Tommy was interviewed about casting Hudson, respecting Franklin’s legacy and maintaining a cooperative atmosphere on set.

A video of Hudson reacting to comments and songs from The Queens was released in early June.

Later in the month a featurette came out that focused on Hudson’s transformation into the character of the real-life Franklin.

News came in late June that the movie would screen at the Locarno International Film Festival in August.

now with more songs

“Here I Am”, the original song from Hudson and cowriter Carole King that plays over the movie’s end credits, was released in mid-July. The two would later be interviewed together about the process of writing that song as well as Franklin’s enduring legacy and influence.

Hudson’s performances of “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” came out in this period as well.

Around the same time commercials started coming out that recapped the story in 30 seconds, focusing on Hudson’s performance and her singing, of course.

Fandango MovieClips released an exclusive featurette with Hudson and others talking about Franklin’s impact on the world and the people around her came out in mid-July. Fandango also announced early screenings scheduled for the second week of August, an attempt to get word of mouth started before the release date. Fandango also had a brief teaser from Hudson sharing her approach to staying true to Franklin’s legacy.

Franklin performs “Respect” in front of a concert crowd in the first clip that came out in late July. Another clip shows Franklin and others noodling around with the rough version of what would later become that signature tune.

In late July the Wright Museum in Detroit hosted a massive mural of Hudson Franklin to celebrate the singer and promote the upcoming movie. That mural was created by students from the Detroit Academy of Arts and Sciences, with the process of making it captured in a short video.

Hudson and Wayans appear in a short video explaining how to demand respect from those around you as well as in awkward social situations.

More interviews with Hudson continued to come out over the last few weeks covering how she dove into playing Franklin, working with the singer on developing this movie for years and more. She was even interviewed by Oprah.

Wayans also got the occasional profile and interview about taking on a dramatic role and working with Hudson. Similarly there were also interviews with McDonald about the music and life of Franklin. Tommy and others spoke about staying true to both the singer’s life and her music. Wayans also appeared on “The Tonight Show” and “GMA” to talk about the movie.

Regal Cinemas, AMC Theaters

The premiere was held in Los Angeles last week with the cast and crew in attendance.

More clips offered glimpses at a performance of “Think” (though not the filming of The Blues Brothers) and other scenes.

Hudson performed with Jon Baptiste on “The Late Show”.

Steinway & Sons, the movie’s other major brand partner, announced just recently that it was auctioning off a specially-designed piano, with the proceeds designated for Hudson’s charitable foundation.

overall

You have to admire how, from the very beginning, the campaign went all-in on Hudson’s connection with Franklin and her commitment to honoring the late singer’s life and legacy. That’s been the central message of the entire marketing push from the moment production began back in mid-2019 right up through the conclusion.

Unfortunately initial reviews haven’t been overly positive, leading to a 64% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Most don’t fault Hudson’s performance as the Queen of Soul, though, instead focusing on the movie failing to break out of the biopic routines. But the messaging has been so earnest and the targeting of key moments in the campaign has been so finely-tuned that those lackluster reviews may not mean much.

While the story focused on Franklin’s early years, it’s worth noting here that she lost nary a step later in life. As proof of that, we’ll finish off with her 2015 Kennedy Center Honors performance of Carole King’s “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” including her shedding her coat like warrior shedding bulky armor before entering the field of battle.

free guy – marketing recap

how Fox Disney has sold an action-comedy about life inside a video game

Ryan Reynolds and Jodie Comer star in this week’s Free Guy, directed by Shawn Levy. Reynolds plays Guy, an NPC (non-playable character, i.e. background cannon fodder) in an open-world video game created by Antwan (Taika Waititi). When two of Antwan’s developers insert new code into the game, Guy becomes self-aware, realizing he lives in a video game. Millie (Comer), one of those developers, uses her avatar to explore the game and help Guy save the game before Antwan, who doesn’t care for the updates or the attention Guy’s self-directed actions has attracted.

The movie, which has a solid 86% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, was one of the last developed by 20th Century Fox before it was acquired by Disney a couple years ago. It finally hits theaters this week after a number of delays and a marketing campaign that has acknowledged those delays with winking humor.

announcement and casting

The movie had been in various stages of development at Fox for a few years, with Levy and Reynolds signing on in 2018/19, finally moving things forward. Comer joined in 2019, leading to production getting fully underway.

comic-con and the first marketing attempts

As the movie had its official coming out with a well-received panel at New York Comic-Con in October, Fox released a “Meet the Cast” video that had everyone talking about how excited they were to work with the others. It included Reynolds and Waititi claiming they have never worked together before, while Comer and Keery try to correct the record, a nice bit of fun that’s in line with the public personas of both actors.

Unfinished footage from the film was also shown off to NYCC attendees, while a sizzle reel of the panel and press activities from the convention was released shortly after it ended.

Guy takes on a traditional super hero pose on the first poster (by marketing agency LA), standing with his shirt opened to show what’s underneath, which in this case is just another shirt and tie. It’s meant to communicate his ordinary nature, that he’s not a hero and doesn’t have hidden abilities and thanks to Reynolds’ expression that comes off as genuine.

Reynolds and others traveled to Brazil in December to appear at CCXP, where they showed off the trailer and other footage while working to get the audience there excited for the film.

December 2019’s first trailer (14.4m views on YouTube) starts off very dramatically, identifying the film as coming from the same studio that brought audiences Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and The Lion King (twice) before showing someone skydiving into an epic action sequence. It’s then that we meet Guy, a normal guy who takes all the violence and chaos around him in stride until he starts wondering if there’s more to life than constantly being held up at the bank where he works and being shot at all the time. Putting on a pair of glasses shows him the reality of the world around him and leads him to the realization he’s in a video game, but has the freedom to be the hero his world needs.

There’s more going on the second poster, released in December, as we see Guy strolling blindly down a city street that’s filled with the chaos of bombs being dropped, cars exploding and more. It conveys nicely the idea that he’s a character incapable of recognizing, much less impacting the events happening around him.

Another entry in the self-deprecating part of the campaign came in January with a video of Reynolds and Comer talking about the craft of acting, with Reynolds increasingly frustrated by how Comer is consistently referred to in the context of the awards she’s won.

Disney used the social media app Weibo to release a special poster designed in the style of Chinese tapestries to celebrate Lunar New Year.

delays, delays and more delays

Originally scheduled for summer of 2020, it was among the titles Disney delayed in a big announcement last April as the severity of the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S. and elsewhere was becoming clear.

When that announcement was made, Reynolds and others took it upon themselves to release an unfinished, watermarked clip of Guy in his apartment watching the news, all of which is horrible. The clip was meant to be both relatable given reality at the moment and to just keep the movie in everyone’s mind and includes the new date followed by a 🤞, which is a nice touch.

While there was a Total Film feature story on the film that included comments from Levy, Comer and Reynolds and a steady stream of new photos and other minor updates, things were quiet until October of last year.

That’s when the second trailer (2.6 million views on YouTube) came out, teased ahead of time in a video with the cast covering their bases by throwing out a number of potential release dates. It differs from the first trailer in a couple areas. First, it frames Guy’s epiphany that he and everyone he knows is living in a video game as a result of his crush on Milly. Second, it shows the chaos a free-range Guy has within the game and how it affects the real world, especially on the company that makes the game.

That second trailer gained more headlines for racking up over 55 million views in the first 24 hours following its release.

Another poster, this one showing Guy standing on a rooftop above the chaos of the city, came out at the same time.

At that point Disney was aiming for a mid-December release date, hopeful the pandemic would be receding into the background by then. The studio’s optimism was short-lived, though, and in November the movie was taken off the 2020 release calendar, with no new date announced until a month later.

ok for real this time

Fast forward to March 2021, when another video came out with Reynolds announcing a new (and eventually final) release date, though still in a way that played into the ridiculousness that had come before.

In May Disney CEO Bob Chapek confirmed the movie would receive an exclusive 45-day theatrical run instead of going to streaming simultaneously or shortly after that theatrical run.

There’s a bit more of the non-video game world that is impacting Guy’s existence in the next trailer (4.8m views on YouTube, released in early June. Other than that it hits many of the same beats as previous spots.

The whole cast shows up in a very typical action ensemble design on the poster released at that time. Differentiating it from something like an MCU entry is the upbeat and naive look on Guy’s face as he stands over everyone in the hero spot.

An interview with Comer in June had her talking about entering the world of action movies, working with Reynolds and more.

Lil Rey Howery, who plays Guy’s best friend in the game world, appeared at Essence Fest to promote the movie.

News came in late June that the movie would screen at the Locarno International Film Festival in August.

In mid-July Reynolds released a video that has Deadpool and Korg from the MCU reacting to the latest trailer. The mashup makes sense given Disney and Fox are now a single entity and that the movie stars both Reynolds and Waititi, who plays Korg.

Traditional 30-second spots began airing in mid-July that recapped the story and its visuals. Longer commercials obviously had more room to breathe but stuck to the same basic message.

Later spots expanded on what had come before while also pulling primarily from footage the audience has already seen. Of note, it was being positioned as the movie event of the summer, which may be a bit hyperbolic but what else are you going to do…

The first clip shows Guy and Millie pulling off a big fight in a nightclub. That clip really shows off the interplay between the two leads as well as the basic level of humor audiences can expect. Another has Guy being confronted by the police for breaking many of the game’s rules.

All the main characters got posters of their own (by marketing agency BLT Communications).

Guy and Millie have a meet cute over a Mariah Carey song in another clip. How important that song is to the movie and its story (it’s featured in nearly all the trailers and TV spots) was shared by Reynolds in an interview at the movie’s premiere.

Just how much Waititi riffed while on set was covered in a short featurette that had Levy, Comer and others praising his performance.

the comer and reynolds show

While it had been part of the campaign since the very beginning, the last few weeks featured a focus on Comer and Reynolds’ chemistry with a series of videos that had them playing off each other, often at Reynolds’ expense.

First, the two appeared in a promo video debating whether or not this qualified as a “date movie” especially in light of the social distancing of the last year and a half.

They then squared off in a test of their Canadian knowledge, the joke being that Comer is British.

These were fun largely because this is Reynolds’ brand in particular. For the last several years he’s consistently broken the fourth wall in his movie campaigns, so this makes a lot of sense and delivers what audiences have come to expect when he has a new movie coming out.

Individual videos had Comer and then Reynolds introducing their respective characters and having some fun with international translations of the movie’s title.

wrapping up the campaign

In early August Reynolds shared a video that had him showing off the massively bulked up physique he achieved in just a week, one that means he can no longer fit into the Deadpool suit but which allows him to appear as Dude in the movie.

A TV spot released just after that video came out showed off Dude and how he’s used by the game’s designers to try and reign in Guy.

Dolby and IMAX posters offered slightly different takes on what had come before, but they both still communicate how Guy is the lone calm in the center of endless chaos.

The movie’s premiere was held in Los Angeles last week, with Reynolds, Comer, Levy and others in attendance. At that premiere the cast and crew spoke about the unique approach they took to construct the world of the movie and more.

Comer made an appearance at the London premiere event as well.

Levy was the subject of a much-shared profile that dove into how he’s one of the most successful and hard-working comedy directors in Hollywood but has at the same time flown largely under the radar in terms of outsized press and attention. Many of the cast and crew praise Levy and his work ethic in that piece.

Overall

There have been so many campaigns over the last few months that have tried to be the end-all-be-all in jumpstarting theatrical moviegoing. Some have been more effective than others depending on where in the latest sub-cycle of the Covid-19 pandemic we are and what the audience’s appetite for breaking out of their new view-from-home norm might be.

The Free Guy campaign doesn’t make that kind of statement as explicit as the push for, say F9, but it’s still there lurking beneath the surface.

What may set this apart from what’s come before is that most of those earlier releases have been either thrillers or franchise action films while this one is clearly a comedy. That’s a different kind of communicable experience than just watching super heroes beat up bad guys or cars be pulled around by giant magnets. The campaign has played into that with its frequent tweaking of Reynolds’ and the focus on Waititi’s improv antics.

While the $15-18 million that’s predicted for the film’s opening weekend box-office may not be all that impressive compared to some other recent movies, it may actually represent a much more accurate look at how people are feeling about theaters since this one isn’t available for streaming simultaneously.

beckett – marketing recap

How Netflix has sold a drama of conspiracy and intrigue.

Beckett poster

John David Washington stars in the title role of this week’s new Netflix release Beckett. Beckett and his girlfriend April (Alicia Vikander) are vacationing in Greece when the two are involved in a terrible car accident that kills April and leaves Beckett alive but injured. He finds answers about what happened surprisingly hard to come by, with officials reluctant to mount any sort of investigation. Soon Beckett finds himself on the run as he tries to reach the U.S. embassy in Athens before those on his trail kill him.

The 64% Fresh rating the movie has on Rotten Tomatoes indicates middle reviews in advance of it hitting Netflix this week. Let’s take a look at how it’s been sold to date.

announcement and casting

Washington and Vikander, along with costars Boyd Holbrook and Vicky Krieps, were all included in the cast list when the movie was announced in early 2019. At that time the film was titled Born To Be Murdered, which is simultaneously both more interesting than its current moniker and more vague and confusing.

Netflix acquired the title in October of 2020, retaining the original title (for the moment) but not immediately setting a release date. The new, current title was announced in April of this year.

the marketing proper

The first poster (by marketing agency Concept Arts) came out in late June, marking the first element in the official marketing campaign. It’s a bit vague in how it shows Beckett walking across the roof with a gun in his hand, but it still helps to set a tone for the film. Still, it isn’t an overly-engaging design and without any kind of copy to help out there’s little to explain the story or plot to the audience.

That poster release also served as an announcement the movie’s premiere would happen at the Locarno International Film Festival in August, just days before its planned release.

Beckett and April are enjoying their secluded Greek vacation as the trailer (1.5m views on YouTube), released at the beginning of July, opens. After a car accident kills April and leaves him injured, Beckett finds no one will believe there may be witnesses to the accident. When he investigates on his own he winds up being hunted and chased by those who want him silenced. Even the American embassy isn’t of much help, leaving Beckett on his own to find out what he’s stumbled into the middle of and try to survive.

The second poster came out in mid-July and shows a closeup of Beckett, obviously a bit confused, or at least on high alert. Again, this isn’t the most engaging or informative poster, despite the inclusion of copy reading “Survival lies within.” But it does show the movie is focused on Washington, who might be on the run in some manner.

During the Locarno Film Festival Washington and director Ferdinando Cito Filomarino were interviewed, the former talking about this being a different kind of role for him compared to some of his other recent work and the latter about why he wanted Washington and what kind of influences he pulled from while making it. The actor also spoke at the festival about the importance of the theatrical experience

overall

Netflix’s campaign has some good things going for it, especially the charisma that Washington seems to bring to all his roles. The posters are unfortunately a bit lackluster, however, and don’t adequately convey key elements of the story in an efficient and easily-comprehended manner. And it didn’t receive a whole lot of social media support from the brand in the lead-up to release.

The greatest sin, though, has nothing to do with the marketing and everything to do with a story that a) casts Alicia Vikander as “generic girlfriend” and b) kills “generic girlfriend” in order to set the plot in motion. It’s notable that she’s nowhere to be seen in the publicity for this movie, though whether that’s because her role appears to be thankless or because she was just out there for Green Knight is unclear.

the suicide squad – marketing recap

Sequel? Reboot? Both?

“OK, let’s try this again.”

That seems to be the prevailing attitude in the leadup to Warner Bros.’ release of The Suicide Squad, coming to theaters and HBO Max this week.

Like 2016’s Suicide Squad, this movie is about a group of super-villains who have been captured by the government and coerced by security operative Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) into taking on dangerous missions in exchange for reductions to their sentences. This time that mission involves hunting down The Thinker (Peter Capaldi), who has unleashed a giant alien starfish named Starro who can control people’s minds.

In addition to Davis, Margot Robbie returns as Harley Quinn – widely seen as the best part of the first film – as does Joel Kinnaman as Col. Rick Flag and Jai Courtney as Captain Boomerang. They’re joined by Idris Elba as Bloodsport (taking the place of Will Smith’s Deadshot), John Cena as Peacemaker and a handful of others as the Squad is greatly expanded this time around.

Technically a sequel in that it continues the story from that first movie and features some of the same characters, WB seems eager to take the few things people liked about the first entry and eject the rest, hoping to put the poor commercial and critical reception it received five years ago in the rearview mirror.

This despite how, in the wake of Zack Snyder being given the opportunity to revisit his abandoned Justice League project for HBO Max, some fans have taken it upon themselves to call for director David Ayer to be given the same opportunity with Suicide Squad. In this case it wasn’t Joss Whedon stepping in to finish the film but a trailer editing firm that took control of the final cut.

from rumor to reality

In late 2018 a possible sequel was still just that: possible. It was one of a handful of rumored projects that would bring Robbie back as Harley, some of which have fallen by the wayside with the exception of last year’s Birds of Prey.

Plans firmed up in early 2019 when WB confirmed earlier reports it had hired director James Gunn, who had recently been fired from his Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 gig by Marvel Studios following a controversy drummed up by right-wing trolls, though he’d eventually get that job back. In fact one of Gunn’s first interviews after WB’s announcement, part of the promotional cycle for Brightburn, had him commenting on how working on TSS helped him deal with the disappointment he felt over the whole Marvel incident.

After plenty of speculation, rumors and reports about what characters would appear, Gunn finally unveiled the official cast list in September, 2019. A few months later in December Gunn along with Braga sent a video message to attendees of CCXP promising they would love the film being made.

Well before the rest of the campaign launched, Gunn celebrated his birthday by sharing the movie’s title treatment in August, 2020. Members of the cast also sent him a birthday message.

dc fandome fun and more

At that time the director along with members of the cast were revealed as part of the talent lineup for DC’s “Fandome” virtual event. A “remix” of a Zoom panel with Gunn and the movie’s cast continued to set the stage for Fandome.

Two videos came out during Fandome. The first was a behind-the-scenes sneak peak that has Gunn and the cast talking about how funny, action-packed and overall unbelievable the movie was going to be. The second was a “Roll Call” of just some of the characters included in the film and the actors playing them.

Gunn showed off not one but two versions of some promotional artwork during the Fandome period.

The first official poster (by marketing agency Works Adv) also came out during the event. Not only does it show off how many characters are part of the story but the way it has each one’s name obscuring part of their face is a nice artistic touch that speaks to the different tone and feel of the movie compared to the first one. Each one of those characters was also broken off into its own poster.

In advance of Fandome a new Suicide Squad video game was teased by Rocksteady Games. While it’s not directly tied to the movie, the trailer released during the event for Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League shows the game pulls a lot of visual and character inspiration from the films.

Courtney spoke briefly about the film while promoting other projects.

Empire ran a cover story on the film back in October of last year. That included comments from Gunn about how he had broad latitude to kill whatever characters the story necessitated.

More promotions for the movie were run during 2020’s CCXP, the second year in a row for the movie at that event.

hbo max and Peacemaker spinoff

With a successful Fandome event having revived some of the positive buzz for the Suicide Squad brand and anticipation running high, WB in September 2020 announced a spinoff series focused on Peacemaker, the character played by Cena, for HBO Max.

Then the big news came. Namely, that this movie like the rest of WB’s 2021 release slate would debut simultaneously in theaters and on HBO Max, an adjustment made to not only boost the fledgling streaming service but also accommodate what at the time were still a lot of unknowns around the Covid-19 pandemic.

Gunn was among the high-profile directors who weren’t thrilled with that decision, stating his opinion in a few interviews. Since then, though, he’s remained mum on the subject.

One of the first, albeit very brief, looks at the movie came via an HBO Max promo touting the same day theatrical/streaming availability of WB’s 2021 lineup. Another promo showed off a bit more footage.

Cena showed off his Peacemaker costume when he appeared on “The Tonight Show” in February and then did likewise on “The Late Show” in early April. A short while later Kinnaman appeared on the same show to talk about the film and more.

the marketing begins…and King Shark is a shark…

In advance of the first trailer in March two posters came out. The first (by marketing agency Concept Arts) has a retro feel, showing the main characters looking like cereal box action figures on a poster that has artificial creases in it from where the downtown grindhouse theater folded it for storage.

The second features the same characters and a similar design but without the retro conceit. This time it’s all slick and modern but still fun and outrageous, the leads framed by a giant star in the background.

The first trailer (1.9 million views on YouTube) is awesome. It shows the basic story but is primarily focused on setting a much different tone for this movie compared to the first one. Among the better moments shown here are:

  • Harley completely undoing the team’s efforts to rescue her
  • King Shark eating a guy head-first
  • Harley saying “If you cough without covering your mouth, you die.”
  • A beach full of dicks
  • Starro, ladies and gentlemen

It’s insane and looks like a lot of fun. And it led to a revival of Steely Dan’s “Dirty Work”, which the trailer’s sound designer commented on.

More character posters (by Concept Arts) were released at the end of March, showing some sort of object or symbol exploding behind that character. It’s a continuation of a visual theme established in the trailer with a shot of Harley tearing through a hallway firefight as colorful animated flowers burst from the background. By taking this approach it also continues establishing a much different visual identity for the movie from the “Hot Topic on ecstasy” tone of the first movie. These were also used in house ads appearing in DC books in the months leading up to release.

The first TV spot came out a bit after the trailer’s release, offering a cutdown version of that longer video that still had plenty of action and humor.

A green-band version that added a few more scenes and moments but otherwise hit most of the same beats came out a short while later.

In an interview with Total Film, Gunn talked more about how he wound up signing on to the movie and the amount of creative freedom – specifically to kill whichever characters he needed to to tell his story – the studio gave him. Robbie was also interviewed about the evolution of Harley Quinn in the film.

“Suicide Squad: Get Joker!”, a new three-issue mini-series from Brian Azzerello and Alex Maleev, was announced by DC in April and scheduled for release just days ahead of the movie hitting theaters and screens. There was also a King Shark one-shot with a preview of the Azzerello/Maleev series planned for Free Comic Book Day, which this year is happening the week after the movie’s release. DC also announced in May that many of its biggest titles would feature movie-inspired covers in August.

An interview with Kinnaman in June had him praising the film, saying it was “insane” and a lot of fun.

Also in June it was announced the movie would screen in August at the Fantasia International Film Festival.

The team runs through a deluge of both rain and tiny mind-controlling Starro spores on the next poster, released toward the end of June.

The second trailer (11.4m views on YouTube) also came out at that time, featuring similar levels of insanity and chaos as the first one.

Peacemaker clears up some confusion about what exactly “Project Starfish ” is and Polka Dot Man becomes a super hero in an extended TV spot from the end of June.

featurettes, more tv spots and plenty of goofy press

Fandango MovieClips got an exclusive featurette in July that had the cast talking about the unique vision Gunn brought to the project, filming the elaborate – and often practical – stunts and more.

A wide-ranging interview with Gunn had him reliving the moment he came onto the project following being fired by Marvel Studios, the attitude he tried to bring to the movie and more.

There were also a number of additional profiles and interviews with Robbie

Positive initial reactions followed a screening for press in July. That screening included a Q&A with Gunn and others where they talked more about the ridiculousness of Starro as a villain and other topics.

IMAX had an exclusive featurette, released in early July, that had Gunn and the cast talking about how the scale of the movie had to be seen on the big screen to be fully believed and enjoyed.

Another longer one goes behind the scenes, introducing some of the characters, including a few that hadn’t previously been given much of a role in the campaign.

Smashbox, one of the only promotional partners apparent, introduced a line of movie-inspired makeup products.

In what’s probably the best of the posters, the team is seen walking across a landscape which, upon further inspection, is actually Amanda Waller’s face.

WB celebrated Shark Week with a King Shark-centric spot that has Waller explaining a bit more about who he is and the rest of the team reminding him that eating people is only alright if they’re not his friends.

Red, the camera-production company, released a featurette with Gunn explaining how valuable those cameras were to making the movie he envisioned.

Gunn, Robbie and Cena – the latter once again in full costume – appeared on “Kimmel” in late July. Around that same time Courtney was interviewed about the movie, calling out the emotional heart that lies within the story.

The team is once again charging at the camera on the IMAX-exclusive poster.

That was later complemented by a TV spot hyping IMAX as the biggest and best way to see all the action.

AMC Theaters announced in July that those attending opening night screenings would receive an exclusive comic book.

Around this time outdoor and online ads using elements of the key art, especially from the second main poster.

the suicide squad online ad

grandson & Jessie Reyez released a video for “Rain,” a new song from the movie’s soundtrack, at the end of July. That video features appearances from some of the cast, their characters enjoying a night out before military bursts in and takes them away.

The cast, including Stallone, Melchior and others, continued doing various press appearances either in-person or virtually to hype of the film.

The Detachable Kid’s powers are featured in a clip that shows even Harley can’t believe what’s happening.

Just how low-rent the team is seen to be is communicated on another poster showing them arriving at the scene in an ancient broken down bus.

Bloodsport was added as a playable character in Fortnight.

One more bit of promotional art was released showing the team lying on the ground in the middle of a giant starfish drawing. The idea here – reinforced by the “Don’t get too attached” copy at the top – is to spur questions about which of the team is dead and who’s just sleeping.

Cena, Gunn and others appeared on a movie-themed episode of “Wipeout” earlier this month.

David Dastmalchian was interviewed about playing an insane, random character like Polka Dot Man.

Gunn and the cast, along with plenty of others, all showed up at the U.S. premiere of the movie in Los Angeles earlier this week. There they talked about how Gunn brought his unique level of insanity to the script

At earlier premieres and publicity tour stops, various incarnations of Starro – either as art installation or giant inflatable starfish – were used to create a unique visual spectacle.

In another substantial interview, Gunn touched on a number of topics related to the movie including why it was so much fun to write for Robbie’s Harley Quinn, what DC plans might be in his future, the “Peacemaker” HBO Max series and lots more. In another interview he shared how insistent he was on an R rating for the movie and what other conditions he had when signing on and how he wound up casting fellow director Taika Waititi in a small role.

The stars participated in an exclusive video interview for Regal Cinemas

conclusion, or “it’s king shark’s world, we just live in it

First, let’s address the Ayer in the room.

As mentioned above, ever since The Snyder Cut of Justice League became a thing a similar subgroup of fans has been demanding David Ayer be allowed to release his cut of Suicide Squad. The cast was even compelled to comment on the possibility of it happening at the premiere earlier this week.

To his credit, Ayer himself has been relatively mum, only recently releasing a statement that yes, an edit of the movie exists that’s vastly different than the theatrical version. But he also doesn’t seem bitter about it, essentially chalking it up as one more difficulty in his life he’s overcome and a story he isn’t eager to share since it would betray confidences and sour relationships. He ultimately clearly and publicly supports the new movie and Gunn’s vision for the characters.

That’s awfully big and mature of Ayer since the dominant theme of the marketing for The Suicide Squad has been “this one is different.” Brighter colors, less of a cubic zirconia vibe to the visuals and more of an emphasis on the humor inherent in the concept, especially given there’s a massive walking and talking shark involved.

King Shark Hand GIF by The Suicide Squad - Find & Share on GIPHY

The projected $30-40m opening weekend needs to be viewed on a sliding, pandemic-adjusted scale as it’s not indicative of either how well the marketing seems to have been received by the general public or the positive buzz and early reviews that have earned it a 94% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes (which is nearly four times higher than that of the first movie). By focusing on Gunn’s involvement, a clear difference has been drawn by Warner Bros. that could make this movie a hit both on streaming and in theaters.

stillwater – marketing recap

How Focus Features sold a politically-charged drama.

(ed note: This should have been published last week, but life got in the way. Let’s move on…)

Director Tom McCarthy is back with Stillwater, in theaters now. Matt Damon stars as Bill Baker, an oil worker whose daughter Allison (Abigail Breslin) has been imprisoned in Marseille, France for the last four years. She was accused of killing her roommate but maintains her innocence. When she slips Bill a note with more information about the killing it sets into motion a series of events that has Bill doing his own investigation, lying when he needs to and doing whatever he can to free his daughter.

The movie has arrived with a campaign that’s been equally heavy on the drama of a father/daughter relationship and the political environment surrounding its release. Generally positive reviews has resulted in a 76% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, so let’s see how the rest of the campaign was arranged.

The Posters

“Secrets run deep” we’re told on the first poster (by marketing agency BOND), released in May. Baker is largest element in the design, looking at the camera while around him are scenes showing the French setting of the story as well as a body floating in the water, clearly unwell.

The Trailers

The trailer (6.6 million views on YouTube), released in mid-May, clearly shows what the story entails and what audiences can expect. We see Bill travel to France to try and get Allison out of jail after she’s been arrested for murder, and that his efforts are going to be more difficult than anticipated. He’s an arrogant American, after all, presented as almost a caricature, and refuses to accept that a different approach may be necessary. There are some hints of more going on, that there may be some conspiracy at work, but for the most part it’s sold as the story of an American who’s angry he can’t bully his way through the system.

Online and Social

Not much on the ticket-focused official website, but the movie’s social profiles offer some good additional information.

Advertising, Publicity and Promotions

A first look at Damon as Baker came out in May accompanied by comments about the film and its story from McCarthy.

The actor appeared on “Today” shortly after that to talk about the movie.

News broke in June that the Cannes Film Festival would act as the movie’s world premiere.

Cottin was interviewed about what she thought after first reading the script and more.

Promo spots like this began airing at the beginning of July, cutting the story down and focusing on the drama of Bill’s love for his daughter and his attempts to prove her innocence.

A first clip showing a scene between Bill and Allison was released during Cannes. Another clip came out a short while later.

That Cannes screening was well-received, generating positive buzz for the film and Damon in particular. The actor was interviewed about his character and what he learned while preparing for the role. There was also much made of Damon’s emotional reaction to being back in a theater with other people.

More TV spots and other promos continued the buzz out of Cannes, all of them hitting roughly the same few beats as what had come before.

Damon appeared on “CBS Sunday Morning” to talk about the movie specifically as well as the more general return of theatrical moviegoing. Cottin later talked about the movie and more on “60 Minutes.”

An exclusive AMC Artisan Films featurette had comments from the cast and McCarthy about the story and more. The movie’s producer also spoke about filming in Oklahoma in an interview with the Oklahoma Film + Music Office. Regal Cinemas later offered an exclusive video interview with the cast, as did Cinemark.

Damon made another appearance on “GMA” just before release, with Breslin doing likewise a few days later.

The movie’s premiere was held in New York City last week, the cast and crew in attendance. This was Focus Features’ first in-person premiere since the beginning of the Covid pandemic last year.

An interview with Damon about what he learned – both about the people and their jobs – while shadowing oil roughnecks in preparation for the role was the first of many similar profiles to hit similar topics. Similar ground was covered in additional interviews with Damon and McCarthy where they talked about the political divide in the U.S., how respectful the movie is to the people it portrays

One more clip came out, this one exclusive to Fandango MovieClips.

News came just a week or so ago about a tie-in true crime podcast hosted by Marcia Clarke and produced by Focus Features in partnership with the L.A. Times.

An interview with McCarthy about how the story was developed resulted in Amanda Knox, famously imprisoned overseas for similar charges, to criticize an attempt to make money off her circumstances and experience. All that seemed to do was raise the profile of the movie a bit in the days before release.

A final profile of Damon focused on the actor’s ability to disappear into roles and how that serves him in this movie.

Overall

Two things:

  • If I were a cynically-minded person, the shift in the last week or two of the campaign to focus on the research Damon did in real roughneck communities and more might seem opportunistic. So many movies in the last five years have been slammed by right-leaning media anytime they portray blue collar workers or others who generally identify as conservative. This seems like an attempt to head such criticism off, with Damon and McCarthy taking pains to explain how respectful and accurate these portrayals are.
  • Labeling Damon as a kind of chameleon actor who disappears into his performances is…a stretch. He’s such a bankable face and persona that the posters for his movies – including this one here – almost universally use a giant photo of his head as the primary element. But points for trying.

Aside from those observations, it’s not a bad campaign, especially if you consider that the primary audience seems to be people in mostly red states who are alright with a gay daughter in the story if it means the righteous American character gets to be mean to a bunch of French jerks.

the green knight – marketing recap

How A24 sold an adaptation of an epic – and convoluted – story.

(ed note: This should have been published last week, but life got in the way. Let’s move on…)

For a good long while it seemed like there was no movie film critics were more anticipating than director David Lowery’s adaptation of a 14th-century poem, The Green Knight. The movie, in theaters now after long Covid-related delays, stars Dev Patel as Sir Gawain, the nephew of King Arthur who enjoys the leisurely life instead of going out and making a name for himself with acts of heroism and bravery. When his mother summons the mysterious Green Knight to help him become the man he should be, it sets in motion a series of events that will send Gawain on a quest where his fate is uncertain.

The movie, which also stars Alicia Vikander, Joel Edgerton and others, has an impressive 90% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. While the campaign has been stop-and-start because of the aforementioned delays, it has also been consistent in selling a fantasy journey even if the story hasn’t always been clear to the casual viewer.

The Posters

Just one poster (by marketing agency BOND) got out last February before the release was delayed. It shows a crowned Gawain from beyond, his head in stark contrast to the bright red background. Copy along both sides reads “When honor was everything. When courage made kings.” Both those help setup the story and setting while hiding the main character’s face helps to establish the character more than the actor.

The same design was used on a series of character posters released over a year later, in early May of this year. These showed the Lord, Lady and The Green Knight himself and playfully acknowledged the long delay with copy reading “One year hence”, which also ties into the story.

Gawane got his own poster that actually shows his face around the same time.

He stands seemingly triumphant – or at least defiant – on the final poster from mid-June.

The Trailers

We’re introduced to Gawain in the first trailer (5.6m views on YouTube) from February 2020 as someone who is out to prove himself and achieve greatness. To do that he will set out on an adventure that is fraught with danger, shown here as visions of terrible outcomes and fates that might befall him. All of that is communicated through the imagery of storytelling, specifically the kind of puppet show used to entertain children. It’s creepy, trippy and more than a little intriguing.

With the delays to the movie’s release it wasn’t until May 2021 that the second trailer (14m views on YouTube) came out. This one sells a much different story, one that is centered on Gawain’s quest to slay a creature he had faced before but which promised they would meet again one year later. That quest means he’s facing plenty of peril, has to rely on uncertain allies and is otherwise in a lot of danger.

Online and Social

You’ll find only basic information on A24’s page for the movie, but the social updates, both on a standalone profile and the studio’s, offered more context and background.

Advertising, Publicity and Promotions

While a premiere screening was initially announced for SXSW, when that festival was cancelled those plans were understandably thrown out the window. Lowery later admitted making that premiere date would have been difficult, but he also remained unsure at the time if the movie would get a theatrical release or eventually go straight to streaming or VOD.

A24 wound up punting the movie’s theatrical release date indefinitely in May, 2020.

While a new date was pending, the studio announced The Green Knight: A Quest for Honor, a tabletop game with a story set in the same world as the film. A promotional video showed off some of the game play.

A new release date was finally announced in March, with the movie scheduled to hit theaters almost exactly a year after it was originally intended to.

In late June a video was released with Ralph Ineson narrating a recap of the history of the epic poem the movie is based on as well as an overview of the story, though it’s still somewhat confusing.

Promos such as this began airing and running in mid-July. They didn’t offer much in the way of story, but continued to create a sense of mystery about the movie’s story. More traditional spots came out a bit later.

IGN debuted an exclusive clip of King Arthur asking his court for a good story of great deeds before the Green Knight himself comes in to interrupt the proceedings.

An exclusive clip at Fandango MovieClips picks up where the IGN clip left off, The Green Knight’s challenge being read aloud in King Arthor’s court.

Another clip shows the kind of life Gawain is leading before his fate catches up with him.

Just as the finish line seemed in view, news broke just last week that the release had been pulled from U.K. theaters. ‘

How Lowery filmed a key sequence in the film and how he subsequently refined it over the extended period afforded by the pandemic-related delays, was covered in an interview with the director.

Patel got the full profile treatment here, including how he’s been very selective about his roles over the course of his career.

Another interview with Lowery had the director talking about how he became aware of the source material, how he cast Patel and more.

Overall

Once the campaign got going a couple months ago it became a lot of fun. Until that point it was a tad on the dense and somewhat confusing side, not terribly so but certainly enough that casual fans might have given up on it.

In that way it presented one of the biggest challenges of all the films delayed during the pandemic. Not being part of a franchise or series meant there weren’t those easy hooks to hang audience interest on, so it couldn’t rely on a slow drip of word of mouth and press coverage.

On the whole it surmounted that challenge nicely, but likely without gaining much and who knows how much of the potential target audience from February 2020 is willing to head to the theater right now. Whatever the movie’s fate, though, the marketing can’t be blamed, especially when you put the mystery and tone created in the early elements in the context of Lowery’s career.

jungle cruise – marketing recap

How Disney has sold an action-comedy brand extension.

Jungle Cruise, based on the Disney Parks attraction of the same name, has been in development for nearly two decades. Finally hitting theaters – and Disney+ Premier Access – the movie stars Emily Blunt as Dr. Lily Houghton, a scientist in the first decades of the 20th century who’s determined to find the Tree of Life somewhere in the Amazon rainforest. With German competition on the same trail, Houghton enlists the aid of Frank “Skipper” Wolff (Dwayne Johnson). Wolff captains a steamboat selling naive tourists an embellished adventure down the river. Along the way the two have to survive not only their German competitors but all the dangers the Amazon has to offer on its own.

With a story that meshes the Disney ride with a bit of both Heart of Darkness and The African Queen, Disney has mounted a campaign that sells the movie – projected to earn $25-30 million at the box office – as an adventure comedy with two charming stars. Initial reviews have been middling, earning the film a 64% on Rotten Tomatoes. Let’s take a look at the details.

The Posters

The first poster (by marketing agency BLT Communications), released in October 2019, shows what the movie is all about, with Lily and Frank standing at the front of his rickety boat as it travels up the river and through the jungle setting. Arrows sticking out of the hull show how dangerous the trip is, as do the skulls floating in the water and piranha leaping out to try and get a bite.

Disney used the social media app Weibo to release a special poster designed in the style of Chinese tapestries to celebrate Lunar New Year.

There’s a definite The Mummy-esque vibe on the next poster, released in March 2020. Houghton and Wolff are shown in the center swinging on a vine, the boat that is carrying them below as it makes its way up the river. Surrounding the pair in a vine-covered frame are some of the supporting characters as well as the other threats they’ll face along the way.

Same goes for the next poster from May of this year as the campaign ramped back up after a year off. Both this and the previous one-sheet look like someone aiming for a Drew Struzan style, though not quite hitting the mark.

A series of character posters featuring a fun design reminiscent of promotions for an expedition came out at the end of June.

Similar approaches were taken on the posters for IMAX, Dolby and RealD 3D, all of which try to evoke a feeling of nostalgia with their painted approaches and designs that are filled with all kinds of story detail.

The final theatrical poster was released just a couple weeks ago, accompanied by two more character posters for Houghton and Wolff.

The Trailers

The first trailer (5.3m views on YouTube), released in early October 2019, immediately presents Lily as a take charge explorer on the trail of a hidden plant rumored to have incredible healing properties. To help she enlists the services of Frank, a tour boat captain who engages in a bit of showmanship to keep his customers entertained on their travels. This trip is going to bring both of them into contact with threats that are much more real, we see.

The same basic premise is laid out in the second trailer (7.2m views on YouTube) from March 2020. Frank is skeptical of Lily’s claims since he’s been on the same hunt for the great healing power in the jungle. They’re going to face a number of threats on their journey, whether it’s from the animals around them, mysterious submarines tracking their movements, or supernatural forces that protect what they’re seeking. It’s all positioned as a big adventure.

Lots of CGI-heavy action and adventure is on display in the trailer (2.4m views on YouTube released over a year after the last one in May 2021. We get the same message of how Frank and Lily are somewhat reluctant partners who have to protect each other when the jungle turns dangerous and more threats present themselves. It’s fun and silly and works.

Two trailers – one featuring Frank’s perspective and the other featuring Lily’s – came out in late June. Each has an introduction from the appropriate star, with Lily’s coming out second so Blunt can label her’s as the “real trailer” unlike the fake one Johnson put out earlier.

Online and Social

Not much to the movie’s official website, just information how to buy tickets or sign up for Disney+ and basic marketing content.

Advertising, Publicity and Promotions

Fun little set videos were shared at the beginning and wrap of production in 2018, immediately establishing that the campaign would be centered on the interplay between Blunt and Johnson.

Attendees of Disney’s D23 Fan Expo in August 2019 were treated to an appearance by Blunt and Johnson along with other details revealed at the event.

Like many movies, its release date was pushed – in this case by a whole year – as a result of theater closures in the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak. Eventually, in May of this year, Disney announced the film would receive a joint theatrical/Disney+ Premier Access release, with it becoming available to other streaming subscribers later on.

Disney announced in June it was reviving the “Behind The Attraction” series on Disney+ that would take viewers behind the scenes of popular rides and other locations at its parks, including Jungle Cruise.

Johnson made an appearance at Essence Fest in June, bringing with him exclusive footage from the movie.

TV spots like this began airing at that time, once more highlighting not only the adventure but also the chemistry between the two stars.

A featurette from early July has the stars talking about the story and its origins in the Disney World attraction. Another short featurette has the stars and director talking about the stunts and action of the movie.

At this point Blunt and Johnson began making TV appearances, either together or solo, including on “GMA,” “The Late Show,” “The Tonight Show,” NPR’s “Morning Edition” and elsewhere.

Speaking of that attraction, it got a makeover in early July that removed some of the more dated elements, many of which were much more overtly offensive than they were when the ride was first introduced.

Ramirez talked about shooting the film when he appeared on “The Tonight Show.” Johnson did likewise when he appeared on “Kimmel.” Both he and Blunt talked about working together on “Access Hollywood.”

One of Lily’s daring escapes was featured in the first clip, given exclusively to Fandango MovieClips. Other clips showed more of the supernatural and very natural threats they face as they make their way along the Amazon.

Additional videos showed off the fun the cast, including costar Jack Whitehall, had during the production, playing a game of “mystery crate” with props from the movie,

A recent THR cover story focused on the pairing of Johnson and Blunt, including how he worked to overcome her reluctance to sign on to the project because he wanted to work with her and thought she’d be brilliant. It also covered some of the initial screening reactions, which led Disney to emphasize the dynamic between the leads.

Director Jaume Collet-Serra was also interviewed about why he signed on to the project, how it fits into his career so far and more. Whitehall also spoke about his character being openly gay.

The world premiere event was held at Disneyland (natch) earlier this week with the cast and crew in attendance and talking about how much fun the film is.

A few additional clips like this showing another harrowing escape of Houghton’s came out in the last few days.

Promotional partners:

  • Applebee’s, which offered a free movie ticket for those spending $25 on food. The promotion was supported by online and other ads.
  • Echelon, which gave members a look at exclusive behind the scenes footage during scheduled themed exercise sessions.
  • GetMyBoat, which ran a sweepstakes awarding either a grand prize of a boat outing for six or tickets to see the movie.

Overall

This moment, seen in many of the trailers, TV spots and other videos, perfectly sums up Disney’s marketing of the movie.

Sorry The Rock GIF by Regal - Find & Share on GIPHY

Instead of selling it *just* as an adventure comedy, the campaign has sold the movie as a buddy adventure comedy, with Blunt and Johnson offering clear point/counterpoint dynamics that are emphasized by their very different characters and statures. That’s why they’ve frequently appeared together in TV and other interviews and why there were two or three instances of them being on opposite sides as they introduced trailers, announced production was starting and so on.

It’s a common tactic used for many movies with Johnson but it’s great to see Blunt able to show off her comedic chops a bit and have some fun, with Johnson acting as a perfectly earnest if exaggerated foil.

Now we just have to see if it’s enough to bring people to theaters.

old – marketing recap

How Universal has sold the latest twist-heavy film from a singular director

old movie poster

Director M. Night Shyamalan, known for his intricately-structured slow reveals, returns with this week’s new release Old. Gael García Bernal stars as Guy, who’s vacationing with his wife Prisca (Vicky Krieps) and their two children. The family visits a secluded beach but soon discover they, as well as others already there, are mysteriously aging rapidly, with years going by in just minutes. With time running out, they look for ways to escape before it’s too late.

The marketing campaign has focused on explaining that premise, largely because hooking audiences to come see the twists in the last act is the primary value proposition for any film from Shyamalan. With middling reviews giving it a 60% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes and projections for a $12-15 million opening weekend at the box-office, let’s take a look at some of the details.

The Posters

The first poster, released last September, hints at time being a major factor in the story by showing human beings falling through an hourglass like grains of sand. The “It’s only a matter of time” copy unnecessarily underlines that hint.

That theme is made even more explicit on the theatrical poster, released in May. This one shows a woman relaxing on the beach, her face hidden by her hat but her legs and arms visible. One side of her body, we see, is much more gaunt and aged than the other, further indicating to the audience that there’s some unnatural force at work in the story. A motion version came out at the same time.

The Dolby poster shows an aerial view of the beach, with some kind of shape visible in the lines formed by the waves and sand.

The Trailers

When the first trailer (23.2 million views on YouTube), released in May, begins, we see that some vacationing families decide to defy requests to not visit the beach near the resort they’re staying at. That choice has dramatic consequences when after a series of strange events they find they are aging years in just minutes and can’t escape, leading everyone to make some very difficult choices. It’s full of tension but not silly and works to create anticipation and wonder about what power is behind what’s happening.

Online and Social

You’ll find only the basic marketing content on the movie’s official website, including a photo gallery that has a handful of behind-the-scenes shots. There were also social media profiles for the movie.

Advertising and Promotions

Shyamalan announced the movie and debuted the first key art in September, 2020.

Shyamalan briefly spoke about the movie in early 2021 when he appeared on “The Tonight Show.”

The first look at the film came in a Super Bowl spot that aired in early February. Understandably, there’s not a whole lot of the story in that spot but it does have enough elements to hint at the kind of story audiences can expect.

After the first commercial debuted during the 2021 Super Bowl, the director appeared on Entertainment Weekly’s Instagram to discuss the movie.

While the movie didn’t screen there, did sit down for an interview at the 2021 Tribeca Festival.

Clips that hint at the mystery of what’s happening on the beach and the confusion of the characters began hitting in mid-July.

Shyamalan talked about the movie when he appeared on “Late Night” in July.

Clips like this started coming out earlier this month, but none offered much in the way of detail as to what the overall story was.

The second key art was used for outdoor ads like this as well as online ads that drove traffic to the official website where people could buy tickets.

A special movie-themed escape map was added to Fortnite where people had to collect needed resources and put together the clues to get out of that area.

Surprisingly, the cast talked about how this movie doesn’t rely on the typical Shyamalan twist at the film’s premiere earlier this week.

How Shyamalan worked with his daughter on the film was the subject of a short featurette released just before the movie came out. He also discussed how he doesn’t think he makes horror but something more akin to drama in this spot.

Another featurette, this one exclusive to Fandango MovieClips, has the cast and crew discussing the concept of time and how it relates to the movie. The director discussed how sound and other elements help create fear and uncertainty in a Dolby-exclusive video while he and the stars all appeared in a Regal Cinemas video.

Shyamalan discussed how this movie fits into his overall filmography and more in this interview. He also spoke more in this profile about what drives him creatively and what some of his film influences are and have been.

Overall

M. Night Shyamalan movies are always sold on the idea that the audience won’t believe what lies just beyond what they see in the trailers and this campaign doesn’t significantly deviate from that formula.

The concern with that approach is that it can hold so much back there’s little for the audience to actually comprehend. Put another way, there’s a minimum level of context needed for the audience to grasp the broad outlines of the story and why they should care about the characters.

Universal’s campaign for Old, in my opinion, *just* crosses that tipping point. That could mean that, whatever the merits of the movie itself, it may simply be too obscure a proposition to motivate people into making this choice. Not that the campaign isn’t well-executed from a technical standpoint – it is – but it’s right at the cusp of holding too much back to maintain the sense of mystery associated with the filmmaker.

snake eyes: g.i. joe origins – marketing recap

How Paramount has sold an action prequel/reboot of the G.I. Joe franchise

snake eyes theatrical poster

The first two live-action G.I. Joe feature films, released in 2009 and 2013, were not great movies. But they performed well enough – and the innate studio desire for franchises with built-in fanbases great enough – for Paramount Pictures to keep things going with this week’s Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins.

With a title that unfortunately evokes memories of X-Men Origins: Wolverine, the movie stars Henry Golding as a loner going by the moniker Snake Eyes who already has substantial fighting skills but lacks direction. When he saves the life of Thomas “Tommy” Arashikage (Andrew Koji) he’s invited to join Clan Arashikage, a secretive group of ninjas with their own agenda. Though they become as close as brothers, the two have falling out. At the same time they’re drawn into the nascent battle between G.I. Joe and Cobra, personified by Scarlett (Samara Weaving) and Baroness (Úrsula Corberó) respectively.

Originally scheduled for March 2020 but pushed multiple times due to the coronavirus pandemic, the movie arrives following a campaign that has leaned into the land-standing popularity of the title character and the affection fans still have for the man who defined much of that character’s backstory and persona.

The Posters

The first poster (by marketing agency BLT Communications), also released online as a motion poster, came out in mid-May and shows Snake Eyes, sans mask, in front of a bright neon version of the Clan Arashikage symbol.

Two posters (by marketing agency Works Adv) came out in early June, both still using the Clan Arashikage symbol. One shows a sword in front of that symbol, the other a pair of dice that have come up snake eyes

Character motion posters (by BLT) for Snake Eyes, Baroness, Scarlett, Hard Master, Blind Master, Storm Shadow, Akiko and Kenta. were released exclusively to IGN in June

Another poster was released in June, this one finally showing a masked Snake Eyes looking very serious against a bright Japanese downtown.

The whole cast of characters – including both masked and unmasked Snake Eyes – is seen on the theatrical poster released in early July in a design that’s similar to most other ensemble franchises, with everyone arrayed around the main character who looms over them in the background.

An IMAX exclusive poster has Snake Eyes staring at the camera with the company logo reflected in his mask’s visor. Dolby’s poster again puts Snake against the backdrop of a city street, that view coming through a window shaped like the company’s logo.

One final poster, released just last week, illustrates the dual nature of the man who is Snake Eyes, his masked and unmasked face bifurcated by his sword.

The Trailers

The first teaser trailer (17 million views on YouTube), which debuted during the “MTV Movie & TV Awards” in May, very much positions the movie as an origin story. It focuses on how The Man Who Would Be Snake Eyes is seeking purpose in his life and so joins a ninja clan devoted to maintaining peace and justice in the world. There are glimpses of his training as well as supporting characters like Storm Shadow, Scarlett and The Baroness, but the short running time means this is a teaser first and foremost, not offering many details.

Another trailer (3.7 million views on YouTube) came out in mid-June, starting off by establishing how Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow were once friends. Their falling out isn’t shown, but we do see how Snake becomes involved with the Joes and their fight against Cobra.

One last trailer (2.5 million views on YouTube) came out just days ago. It hits many of the same notes but focuses a bit more on Snake Eyes attempting to outrun his past. Also, it ends with Tommy fully embracing his new persona as Storm Shadow, which is a nice touch.

Online and Social

Not much on the official website, which is mainly about selling tickets to local theater showings, just a basic synopsis and a few videos.

Advertising, Publicity and Promotions

A brief video in January 2020 marked the beginning of production in Japan, showing the cast and key members of the crew assembled to start getting things going.

Back in February of last year Golding offered a first look at the title character via his personal Instagram.

Unsurprisingly, in August of last year Paramount delayed the film’s release a full year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Around that time Golding made an appearance during the virtual Hasbro Pulse Con event, talking about the movie.

Golding talked briefly about the movie at the end of 2020 while promoting other projects, including showing off some footage of him training on “The Tonight Show” in November.

At CCXP in December Golding, Corbero, Weaving and others all made virtual appearances to get fans excited for the movie. Also joining them was G.I. Joe legend Larry Hama, who gave his endorsement to the movie and its cast for their portrayal of characters he was integral in laying the foundation of nearly 40 years ago.

Because of the delay in release Golding made his second appearance at Hasbro Pulse Con this past February, talking more about what fans could expect and showing off more of the toys and other products coming to store shelves.

Official first look stills came via EW in May, showing off maskless pics of Snake Eyes, Storm Shadow, Akiko and others along with comments on the characters and how the story developed and evolved over time from Golding and others, including producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura.

The trailer’s debut during the “MTV Movie & TV Awards” in May was teased by Golding in advance and introduced by him during the show.

A featurette released at the same time as the first trailer has Golding and others praising Hama’s work in creating the characters, teasing what the story will cover and showing a bit of behind-the-scenes footage in addition to clips from the movie.

Golding presented at the Billboard Music Awards in May.

Short videos like this were released occasionally, not adding much but calling out different aspects of the movie. Other promotional spots and commercials came out regularly in the last month or so, each hitting on various story or character points.

An interview with di Bonaventura had him talking about various parts of the film, from the questions that came about casting Golding to turning one of the great “mystery” characters of pop culture into an action hero and more.

Fandango MovieClips had an exclusive featurette that focused on the stunts and choreography that went into the movie and its ninja-tastic action.

There was a big promotional presence for the movie at ComplexLand in June, including a recreation of Snake Eyes home neighborhood. Visitors there could also get a free poster designed by Japanese-American artist Adam Fujita and register to win other exclusive merchandise.

Another featurette had Golding, Hama and Koji talking about the backstory of the friendship between Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow.

The “Robot Chicken” team created a video that has Golding voicing Snake Eyes in a twisted version of the PSAs that were included in the classic cartoon series, though this includes the rest of the G.I. Joe team feeling pretty hurt that they were left out of the movie.

Snake Eyes had been added to Fortnite a while ago and recently made an appearance in the Batman: Fortnite comic series from DC. A video of Golding playing the game as Snake Eyes was released in July.

Online ads like this started running in the last few weeks, driving traffic to the official site where people could get ticket-buying information.

snake eyes online ad

An exclusive apparel line of movie-inspired products was released by Steve Akoi’s Dim Mak Collection earlier in July.

Just days before release there was a virtual cast panel as part of Comic-Con @ Home. This is one of the *very* few movies to make an appearance at SDCC, with studios apparently feeling the value wasn’t there this year.

Golding also appeared on “Kimmel” to talk about shooting the movie and more.

Overall

There are some good elements to the campaign, particularly the slick visuals seen on the posters. And Golding deserves a lot of credit for taking on a lot of heavy-lifting, using his personal social media in combination with a number of awards show and other appearances to sell the movie to his fans.

The marketing deserves special credit, though, for bringing the legendary Larry Hama so deeply into the effort. Having him as part of so many featurettes and interviews goes a long way toward making the movie attractive to those who may be wary, either because they’re concerned a Snake Eyes movie won’t be as good as they want it to be or because they still feel slightly burnt by the previous G.I. Joe franchise entries.

Gi Joe Mask GIF by Snake Eyes - Find & Share on GIPHY

trollhunters: rise of the titans – marketing recap

How Netflix has sold its animated feature based on a hit series.

The three seasons of “Trollhunters” have been popular on Netflix. Created by Guillermo del Toro and produced by DreamWorks Animation, the series follows a group of teenage friends who find they must protect the world from all manner of mystical monsters and other threats.

Now the story concludes in the feature-length Trollhunters: Rise of the Titans. In the movie, the group of teenage protectors, led by James “Jim” Lake Jr., (voiced by Emile Hirsch) and Aja (voiced by Tatiana Maslany) must stop the threat posed by the Arcane Order and their massive Titans and keep the world safe.

Netflix’s campaign has relied heavily on the popularity of the three previous series, selling the film as a culmination of everything that’s come before.

The Posters

The first poster, released in mid-June, shows the assembled team of heroes – human or otherwise – as they are prepared to face some unseen threat. There’s not a whole lot of information about the story, but those familiar with the series will be able to identify who’s who and make some conclusions about what to expect.

The same characters are shown on the second poster, released earlier this week. This time they’re posed on a building rooftop, the massive Titans they are facing off against looming in the background.

The Trailers

Finally the first trailer (800,000 views on YouTube) came out in mid-June. A war between mankind and magic is coming, we’re told, as we see the teen heroes told about the emergence of ancient titans determined to destroy civilization. There’s a lot of humor and a lot of action, both of which are familiar to anyone who’s seen the series, and overall it looks like a lot of fun.

Online and Social

Advertising, Publicity and Promotions

Netflix announced in August, 2020 that the movie would be coming some time in 2021, acting as a conclusion to the popular series.

A short teaser from late April finally made the movie’s release date official.

This was one of a few features Dreamworks promoted at the 2021 Annecy Animation Festival in June.

The cast appeared in a video released at the beginning of July warning people of the dangers of cyberbullying and telling anyone who’s been the victim of it to not fight back but to report the harassment.

Netflix put out the first few minutes of the video to help get people excited and show what they could look forward to.

Overall

Netflix hasn’t made as big a deal about this movie as it has for other recent releases, particularly the Fear Street trilogy, but the smaller campaign has played well to the elements that have made the original series successful. There’s a good deal of humor as well as the promise of plenty of supernatural action and adventure, which is exactly what fans are likely to expect. There could have been more done to pull in some new fans and explain how it concludes the three series already available, but that’s a relatively minor quibble in an otherwise solid push.