Breaking News In Yuba County – Marketing Recap

How MGM has sold a dark comedy.

From writer Amanda Idoko and director Tate Taylor comes this week’s comedy Breaking News In Yuba County. Allison Janney stars as Sue Buttons, a suburban housewife who becomes something of a local celebrity after her husband Karl (Matthew Modine) goes “missing” and she embarks on a search to find him. Entranced by her newfound fame, Buttons keeps the charade going through a series of increasingly desperate actions that bring her into contact with local crime figures, persistent police officers and other colorful characters.

The movie also stars Mila Kunis, Wanda Sykes, Awkwafina, Regina Hall and others.

The Posters

You definitely get a sense of the movie’s sense of humor on the poster (by marketing agency Art Machine), released just a couple weeks ago. That comes through not only in the wild artistic design of the primary images, which place the supporting cast around a wide-eyed Sue while offering glimpses of the locations of the story’s action, but also in the copy reading “Sue Buttons has one killer story.”

The Trailers

The trailer (1.2 million views on YouTube), also released in mid-January, follows the rough flow of the story itself, from Sue’s panic over what to do about her dead husband through the notoriety she gains when it seems like he’s been kidnapped and into how it all starts to fall apart when it becomes clear she made much of it up. Along the way we meet some of the unusual local personalities that get involved in some manner and really see the dark sense of humor the film is selling, one conveyed well by the cast, especially Janney.

Online and Social

There is a website listed at the end of the trailer, but repeated attempts to load it were unsuccessful, so it’s not clear what’s on the site. MGM did give the movie some support on its social channels, including running regular little “daily affirmations” featuring brief clips from the film.

Advertising and Promotions

MGM, through its relaunched American International Pictures, acquired the project in October of last year, announcing a January release date at that time.

Some shorter versions of the trailer were run as pre-roll on YouTube, but that’s all the paid advertising I’m aware of.

Media and Press

Janney stopped by “Kimmel” recently to talk about the movie and lots more.

That is, surprisingly, about the end of the press efforts.


A good poster and strong trailer make me want to like this campaign a lot more than I actually do. The disconnect is caused in large part by the lackluster effort elsewhere, including the site that won’t load, the mostly non-existent press push and so on. Such a showcase for Janney in particular needs more support, not provided here.

It’s such a small campaign, it actually makes me wonder if the theatrical-only release plan for the film caused MGM to scale back the marketing because what’s the point of going big when your maximum box-office take is around $5 million?

Picking Up The Spare

Bridget Everett appeared on “The Tonight Show” to promote the film.

Bad Education – Marketing Recap

How HBO is selling its new drama set in the world of public education.

bad education poster

This week HBO is debuting a new drama directed by Cory Finley and based on a true story. Bad Education stars Hugh Jackman as Frank Tassone, superintendent of a Long Island school district and the architect of the district’s ranking as the fourth best in the country. He’s beloved by staff and popular with parents and can seemingly do no wrong.

His end begins with what should be a routine story for the school newspaper being written by student Rachel Kellog (Geraldine Viswanathan) about the budget. Kellog’s investigation, though, uncovers irregularities that point to potential embezzlement. Tassone, on the verge of having all his work undone, begins scrambling to cover up the emerging scandal, ultimately turning him from hero to criminal.

HBO’s campaign for the feature has focused on Jackman and costar Allison Janney as the company worked to keep positive buzz from festival screenings going.

The Posters

Earlier this month the first and only poster (by marketing agency Leroy and Rose) came out. It features Tassone and coworker Pam Gluckin (Janney) sitting on stadium bleachers, firmly establishing the story’s setting. Both of the actor’s names include the fact Jackman is an Academy Award nominee and Janney is a winner, helping to give it an air of prestige. That sense is reinforced by a couple positive pull quotes from festival reviews. The copy reading “Some people learn the hard way” hits on the education theme but doesn’t offer a lot of insights into the story.

The Trailers

There are certainly shenanigans afoot in the first trailer (since removed from YouTube) released at the end of January. Frank has been placed in charge of an effort to raise the school district’s profile, something that’s meant to help the whole community. But how he does so may not be strictly ethical, and the hints we see of his plans falling down around him show a scramble to maintain a coverup even as those around him still see Frank as the key to fixing the problems.

Things are going well as the full trailer, (383,000 views on YouTube) released in March, begins, with Frank and his team enjoying the success of their efforts to raise their school’s prestige. The discovery of some budgetary discrepancies puts everyone on edge, though, threatening to expose embezzlement and other problems with the school leadership. All of this because of a story being written for the school newspaper.

Online and Social

No unique online presence of note, but the movie has been given plenty of promotion on HBO’s social channels.

Advertising and Promotions

A debut screening at the Toronto Film Festival led to widespread positive reviews, especially for Jackman’s performance as well as the timeliness of the story. HBO picked up distribution rights shortly after the festival ended. It was later scheduled at the Tribeca Film Festival.

Beginning in early April a series of commercials and other promoted spots started running. Some were cutdown versions of the trailer while others were formatted as more traditional spots. There were also videos that focused on some of the main characters, including Bob (Ray Romano), Pam, Frank, Rachel and others. Some of those offered more insights into what kind of trouble exactly the people have gotten themselves into than the trailers do.

Media and Press

An interview with Jackman had the actor talking about working to perfect a Long Island accent as well as the process of playing a man with multiple layers of both personal and professional deceit going on. Another had him offering some admiration for Tassone, pointing out that despite the problems many of his solutions were so good they’re now in widespread use.

There were also interviews with Janney where she talked about how she approached her character and the story and with Viswanathan, who commented on working with Jackman and her career to date.

Jackman was also among the celebrities dialing into talk shows – in this case “The Late Late Show” – to promote the film and talk about all sorts of other things.

Many of the stars and filmmakers were quoted in a piece that explored the movie’s background, why it fits into HBO’s history of original films and more.


Having Jackman in the lead is never really a bad thing, and the campaign makes sure everyone knows he’s in it and that he’s a big reason to see the movie. That effort is helped by the plethora of positive festival reviews there were to draw quotes from, many of which are sprinkled liberally around the campaign. Janney too is a big presence here.

Sometimes that emphasis, though, gets in the way of the story. As mentioned above, the trailers never really explain what’s going on other than that it’s financial shenanigans in some manner, but that is cleared up later in the marketing as the paid spots began running.

HBO is likely hoping the movie is attractive enough not only to retain its current subscribers but maybe even add a few who are in the midst of isolation and social distancing. Goals like that explain why, more than some of its other recent features, this one seems particularly geared to garner mainstream attention, positioned as a breezy drama with a bunch of extremely likeable actors.

Picking Up the Spare

More from Jackman  here  on how he embraced the crazy true softy of his character during filming. 

Another interview with Viswanathan where she talked about working with Jackman on the film and more.

Troop Zero – Marketing Recap

How Amazon Studios is selling a period piece about gender equality and seizing the opportunity to make an intergalactic impression.

troop zero poster 2Christmas Flint (McKenna Grace) is a young woman with dreams of doing something big in the new movie from Amazon Studios, Troop Zero. Christmas is a girl who doesn’t fit in and doesn’t have a lot of friends, so joining the Birdie Scouts (roughly the Girl Scouts) seems like an unusual step for her. Despite that, she aspires to do so because she’s learned one group will be chosen to record a message on the Golden Record being shot into space with the next probe.

When she finds the group is less than welcoming to her, she decides to form her own troop and enlists misfits like her to make a play at the competition. In doing so she finally makes some important and lasting friendships while also showing everyone who’s doubted that she – and girls in general – can do anything they want.

The movie has been sold with a simple but charming campaign that highlights the 70s-setting of the story and the quirky nature of the main characters.

The Posters

troop zero posterThe first poster (by marketing agency cold open) came out out in January of last year, just as the movie was screening at Sundance. It doesn’t show much but manages to convey a lot, offering a picture of a bunch of girls in scouting uniforms leaning out the windows of an old bus, clearly on their way to some sort of camping or other getaway. “Show the universe who you truly are” reads the copy at the top.

The second poster (by marketing agency LA) shows most of the main characters strolling down a wooded nature path toward the camera. It uses the same tagline and offers a better look at the overall film, but the placement of the people on the path is so obviously artificial, with the scale clearly off between them and the trees they’re walking past.

The Trailers

Christmas is an unusual girl, we see in December’s first trailer (3.8 million views on YouTube), one who dreams of outer space and worries the adults around her. When she finds out members of a local scout troop might have their voices recorded on a record being launched by NASA on an upcoming mission, she decides to join up but finds the other girls aren’t exactly welcoming. So she recruits other local misfits to create their own troop, getting into plenty of hijinks while upending social norms of the late 70s.

Online and Social

Advertising and Promotions

After a successful debut at last year’s Sundance Film Festival, Amazon acquired the film’s distribution rights. It wasn’t until November that it was given a January release date on Amazon Prime, part of the company’s shift away from substantial theatrical releases.

A featurette came out December that had the filmmakers – including directing team Bert & Bertie – and members of the cast talking about the story and what its message is.

Amazon brought a movie-themed float to the Rose Parade earlier this month, with the cast and crew speaking to the volunteers that helped build the float and more.

The studio partnered with a New York City craft studio to sponsor a night where kids could come in and make their own movie-inspired projects.

Advance screenings with key target audiences were held at the MIT Museum, the Smithsonian and other locations.

Everyone turned out for the premiere red carpet earlier this week.

Media and Publicity

A first look still from the movie was released at the same time it was announced it would be screening at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival.

Davis spoke about how this was an unusual kind of role for her while the movie was appearing at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year. Grace was interviewed and commented on how it was important for kids to know they can be weird, which is good. The movie’s directors spoke about the gender-balanced crew they put together as well as other aspects of production. Gaffigan was also interviewed about how this was one of a few films he was in that were screening at Sundance.

Davis, Gaffigan, Allison Janney, Grace and others made the media rounds in the last couple weeks, stopping by various morning and late night talk shows.


There’s almost nothing controversial or questionable in the campaign, which is nice to see. Instead, what’s being presented here is a movie that is pleasantly nostalgic and inspiring in a comfortable, familiar way. It’s the blanket you find at the back of your closet that is just perfect for cold, rainy days of watching your favorite movie.

Whether or not that translates to genuine audience interest remains to be seen. Amazon knows that, which is why the movie is one of their first releases to go straight to Prime Video instead of getting a theatrical release window. It’s not that the studio doesn’t have faith in the feature per se, it’s just that it apparently realizes it can’t realistically compete with this week’s other major releases.

Picking Up the Spare

A number of featurettes have been released by Amazon in the immediate wake of the movie hitting streaming. Those included a focus on the making of the film, how it encourages empowerment, the dynamic between the two leads and more on the gold record that forms the crux of the story.

There were also clips of the scouts selling cookies and the characters offering good old fashioned southern advice.

Viola Davis was interviewed about how personal the story of the movie was to her.