Mank – Marketing Recap

How Netflix is selling a story about one of Hollywood’s greatest films.

I’ll be honest, I wasn’t familiar with the controversy around who exactly wrote Citizen Kane until the campaign for Netflix’s new release Mank began in earnest. The movie goes into some of that story, following screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz (Gary Oldman) as he develops the script for Kane, basing Kane on William Randolph Hearst (Charles Dance), with whom Mankiewicz had recently had a personal falling out and Kane’s second wife Susan Alexander on Hearst’s mistress Marion Davies (Amanda Seyfried ). The tension with Welles (Tom Burke) grows as production on the film gets underway and it becomes clear the director is playing fast and loose with Mankiewicz’s work, adding his own material and making a number of other changes.

Directed by David Fincher, the movie – which has a solid 89% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes – is the latest contender for the title of Netflix’s first Best Picture Oscar winner. And it’s received a campaign from Netflix that not only evokes the age in which the story takes place but even seems at times pulled straight from it.

The Posters

On the movie’s single poster, released in October, Mankiewicz is shown mid-revelry, holding a glass in the air as he stands on a dinner table obviously having a good time. The other guests seated around the table are having a far less enjoyable experience, as evident from their facial expressions.

While the design doesn’t mirror one of Kane’s actual posters, the aesthetic here certainly is meant to be reminiscent of one-sheets from the 30s and 40s. The font, the use of “Netflix International Pictures,” the paint-brush look of the title treatment are all elements seen frequently on posters from those decades and so helps to establish the tone and setting while the juxtaposition of Mankiewicz’s mood and that of the others hints at how he finds himself ostracized from those around him.

The Trailers

The first trailer (625,000 views on YouTube) came out in early October, starting out with Welles getting Mankiewicz and showing how the pair team up to take on Hearst, something that comes with its own set of risks even if it is morally righteous.

There was also a slightly longer version of the trailer released exclusively to Reddit (76,000 views on YouTube), one that showed the same basic story but presented the film as looking and feeling very much like one from the 1930s.

An “audio trailer” came out a bit later, exclusively on Karina Longworth’s excellent You Must Remember This podcast.

In mid-October the final official trailer (710,000 views on YouTube) was released. Over the course of its two-and-a-half-minutes it shows how Mank’s relationship with Hearst goes from cordial to confrontational because of his involvement in the project, which also strains his marriage and other friendships. Writing the movie is shown to be a kind of descent into madness for the man, whose existing self-destructive habits and tendencies are only exaggerated by the stress of what he’s set out to do.

Online and Social

As usual, Netflix doesn’t seem to have set up a website of its own for the movie, though it did create social profiles like a Twitter and Instagram account. There was, though, a “secret” website revealed in late October that had a couple hundred stills from the film as well as audio from Trent Reznor’s score.

Advertising and Promotions

Netflix released some first look images in early September. In late October Fincher announced the film would get a theatrical release in early November, about a month prior to it becoming available for streaming.

Media and Press

Collins discussed how she got involved in the project while promoting other things late last year.

That profile of Fincher had lots of comments from him and others about the film, including how the director has been pitching the project for over a decade. Another interview had Oldman and others in the cast talking about working with Fincher and accommodating the director’s precise vision.

There were profiles in the final weeks before release of the movie’s director of photography and costume designer, both touching on how they worked to recreate the look and feel of the story’s era. Additionally, the cast talked more about tackling the making of one of Hollywood’s greatest films and another profile of Fincher had him explaining just how long he’s been obsessed with telling this story while his tendency to expect perfection from all involved was the focus here.

Just before streaming release, Seyfried finally got a profile of her own that focused on her career to date and how she’s spent the last couple years trying to redefine herself in Hollywood, with this movie being a big part of that. She also made an appearance on “Kimmel” just before release.

Overall

There are elements of the campaign that can be questioned or that one could take issue with. In particular, the trailers aren’t enormously helpful in explaining who the characters are or what the story is, though the details are there if you’re patient enough and look for them.

But what the marketing gets right is creating a solid, easily identifiable and consistent brand message – including tone and other intangibles – across each and every element. Your mileage may vary depending on how much you like classic movies and how familiar you are with the marketing tactics from the early 20th century, but you can’t say you don’t get the vibe and feel of the film in each and every touchpoint.

On top of that, this isn’t being sold as a “making of” dramatization, unlike some past and upcoming films. This is a personal story of an artist and the frustrations behind one of Hollywood’s greatest movies, offering a small scale story against a large-scale canvas. That’s intriguing and unique in and of itself.

Scoob! – Marketing Recap

Grab some snacks and see how Warner Bros. is selling the animated reboot of the classic characters.

scoob poster 2

In this, the most fraught movie year in a century, comes Scoob!, complete with “!” as an official part of the title, the most notable release to do so since 2017’s Mother!.

At its core, the movie follows the basic Scooby Doo plot, one that sees Velma (voiced by Gina Rodriguez), Fred (Zac Efron), Daphne (Amanda Seyfried), Shaggy (Will Forte) and Scooby (Frank Welker) investigating a plot to set the ghost dog Cerebus free upon the world. That investigation sees them teaming up with fellow Hannah-Barbara creations Blue Falcon (Mark Wahlberg) and his faithful companion Dynomutt (Ken Jeong).

Amidst all that, the story also flashes back to the childhood first meeting of Scooby and Shaggy, one that was to set the stage for an endless stream of snacks to be consumed while the two try to stay out of danger while sticking with their friends as part of Mystery Incorporated.

While there have been two live-action theatrical films and plenty of animated straight-to-home movies, Scocb! marks the first full-length animated feature starring the characters. While certain adjustments have been made because of the current pandemic, WB’s campaign still retains many of the elements that have made the franchise so popular over the years.

The Posters

A young Scoob is shown on the first poster (by marketing agency Cold Open), released in November of last year. That immediately explains to the audience that the story will head back in time in some way, offering them something new they may not have seen before. Adding to that is the fact that his shadow is of a grown up Scoob, hinting that as an adult he goes on to become a Sith Lord.

The second poster (by marketing agency Works Adv) came out in March and has Scooby standing in a line up with the rest of the gang, including Dee Dee Skyes (Kiersey Clemons), Blue Falcon and Dynomutt. That same collection of characters, along with the same “Mystery loves company” tagline, are used on the next one-sheet (by Cold Open) which also came out in March. Notably, though, the first two posters include the release date along with the promise it will hit theaters on that day. The last one ditches it for the more generic “Coming Soon,” likely an adjustment for the VOD release that was decided upon.

The Trailers

After a brief setup, the first trailer (33.6 million views on YouTube) from November presents the origin of Shaggy and Scooby, showing how they met by accident as a young boy and puppy and became best friends. Back in the modern day, the pair are abducted by aliens tied to whatever they’re investigating at the moment. A scene of Velma doing her science thing and Daphne being over it ends it all without explaining what the story here is almost at all.

That trailer was the first to use YouTube’s new embedded AR features, allowing those viewing it on the YouTube app to take AR selfies with a young Scooby Doo.

The final trailer (1.3 million views on YouTube), released in early March, establishes that Shaggy and Scooby have been taken by some mysterious blue light from the sky. The rest of the team are out to find them as we flashback to the time the friends first met. Back in the present, we’re shown Blue Falcon and his sidekick Dynomutt are involved in their abduction, but what that means isn’t clear as the rest of the trailer is just about sight gags and other jokes.

Online and Social

There’s actually quite a bit of good content on the movie’s official website, including standard marketing fare like trailers and character overviews as well as a handful of casual online games, some Zoom backgrounds and more.

scoob party pack

The site also has a link to WatchScoob.com, a separate site that has lots of information on engaging with the movie from home. There you’ll find links to various VOD platforms to buy the movie and encouragement to join in the increasingly-popular “watch party” trend to experience the film as an online community on the 15th. To help increase that engagement and strengthen the connection in the audience, a PDF is offered that has more details on the virtual premiere event, movie-themed snack recipes, arts and crafts to have fun with and more.

Advertising and Promotions

The movie was among those promoted by WB at CCXP in December of last year.

In March Warner Bros. pulled the movie from its original June release, one of several such changes in the midst of the Covid-19 outbreak. It announced in April the movie would go straight to premium VOD and skip a theatrical release.

Cartoon Network was given an exclusive clip showing Scooby and Shaggy meeting with Blue Falcon, Dee Dee and Dynomutt. Earlier the channel had offered a new preview to audiences of its Saturday programming block.

The new song “Summer Feelings” from Charlie Puth and Lennon Stella was promoted to try and catch the attention of the tweens.

Also on that front was Tik Tok Challenge that had people sharing videos of them doing the “#ScoobDance” with a handful of prominent influencers on that platform leading the way and driving awareness.

Promotional partners for the movie included:

Bark Box, which created a special movie-themed box for subscribers filled with stuffed animals, snacks and more.

scoob bark box

Save Them All, a pet adoption foundation that created a new PSA with the movie’s characters to encourage people to find their new furry friend.

Blue Buffalo, which created a special line of Scooby Snacks dog treats.

scoob blue buffalo

Carl’s Jr., which put movie toys in their Star Pals kids meals.

scoob star pack

Color Me Mine, which offered a couple activity sheets in lieu of the kind of in-store events that are usually run.

Valpak, which promoted the early access digital premiere in its residential mailers.

Walmart also gets its own link on the official site as the “Shop” where you can find exclusive merchandise.

Updates made to social media profiles show the movie offering a keen awareness of the unusual circumstances society finds itself in. So there are lots of posts about hugging your pets, even if it is for the hundredth time that day, staying safe and protecting friends, eating your feelings and so on. It’s a nice touch that shows the movie isn’t trying to gloss over anything, just help people through a tough time.

A new video came out earlier this week offering professional tips on how to draw Scooby-Doo.

There were a handful of short promo videos, visible on social media primarily, that acted like online or TV ads but it’s not clear if they were used there at all. Some online banner ads used elements of the key art as well.

Media and Press

As the movie got close to release, Forte, Jeong and a few others engaged in a handful of interviews to talk about the movie, how they were passing the time during social isolation and other related topics.

Overall

It’s…not a terrible campaign. Certainly better than it could have been. But the best parts of the studio’s effort seems to be everything but the trailers, which isn’t a great sign. Those trailers don’t make the movie seem attractive to anyone above the age of 8 and offers little to nothing about the story, meaning the value proposition being offered is even weaker.

The rest of the campaign is quite a bit better. In particular, the way WB pivoted and offered the home viewing party pack for people to use during the virtual premiere is a great way to make the most of a bad situation. It’s a fun, inventive way to create a new touchpoint for the audience to latch on to and could do a lot to foster additional excitement, creating a moment for the movie that may not be quite as powerful as opening weekend but serves a similar purpose.

Picking Up the Spare

Just as the movie was hitting VOD a five minute preview was released to offer a taste of what to expect. 

WB live-streamed the premiere event, all of which was remote over video conferencing of course. 

Details on the movie’s soundtrack were offered here. There were also interviews like this with the film’s production team about creating the look of the characters. Forte also ‘ more about getting into the character of Shaggy. 

A number of exhibitors and other partners signed up for virtual sponsorships of the movie. 

DC offered 250 of the “Scooby Doo” comics it’s published for free digitally as part of the overall brand revitalization campaign. 

Early animation efforts of deleted scenes were shared to show audiences how the story evolved. There were also some bloopers released. 

Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again – Marketing Recap

The only thing that’s surprising about Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again coming out 10 years after the first one is that it took this long. My full recap of the movie’s marketing is up at The Hollywood Reporter now and you can read a few additional points here.

Media and Publicity

The cast and crew talked about the film on various occasions, usually while promoting other projects. It really started to get its own focus in interviews like this with Seyfried where she promised things were definitely being kicked up a notch across the board for the sequel.

Around the time of the CinemaCon presentation there was a feature LAT story about how a movie featuring characters like this – older women – is fairly unusual in the middle of the summer.

Overall

First off, 50 points taken from whatever screenwriter shameless cribbed the “I told many, many people” line seen in the trailer from “Sports Night.” I know it’s not a hugely original gag even there, but still…come one.

Considering the campaign is so unconcerned with selling anything resembling a story, I can’t imagine it was anything along those lines that held up production. More likely, in my mind, it was concern over how to make the use of the same handful of ABBA songs from the original movie (and stage production) without giving off the obvious impression of not caring at all.

Universal clearly believes the audience for this sequel will turn out for the spectacle of it all, much like people do for super hero movies. Instead of punching and flying and wisecracks, though, the pitch is costumes, musical sequences and drinking wine while lounging in exotic locations.

PICKING UP THE SPARE

Lily James talks here about how she got an American accent down and how she studied Meryl Streep’s line readings from the first movie to mimic her speaking patterns as much as possible.

 

Cher announced she has recorded and will release a whole album of ABBA covers to capitalize on her involvement with the movie and her time once more in the spotlight.

 

Christine Baranski, Amanda Seyfried and Dominic Cooper both hit late-night talk shows to talk about working with Cher and even kind of the rest of the movie.

 

The producer of the original stage show had a chance to weigh in on the musical’s legacy, and the movie’s director talked about the cameos by two of ABBA’s original members.  
Universal worked with an influencer marketing agency to coordinate a shot-for-shot remake of the original video for “Mamma Mia!” the song featuring a bunch of YouTube personalities.

First Reformed – Marketing Recap

first reformed posterEthan Hawke plays Toller, a priest having a crisis of conscience in the new movie from writer/director Paul Schrader, First Reformed. Toller is a former military chaplain who now serves in a small town while still dealing with the death of his own son, though not always in healthy ways.

The priest becomes entwined in the life of Mary (Amanda Seyfried), a member of his congregation after her activist husband commits suicide. That leads him down a rabbit hole exposing the utter depravity of humanity in the modern world, something that shakes his faith even more than it has been.

The Posters

Hawke is shown as a priest of some sort in closeup, looking slightly off-camera as if he’s contemplating some point. The appearance of a fiery blaze cutting horizontally across the middle of his face seems to hint that there’s some conflict or potential division happening within him in the story, but there’s no copy to extrapolate on that idea, just a couple quotes from critics praising the film.

The Trailers

Toller explains his plan to keep, and then destroy, a journal as the trailer opens. We see him explaining to someone that he’s racked with guilt over the death of his son, who he encouraged to enlist in the military only to die in Iraq. That’s causing problems for him in his role as a priest and many people around him are trying to get him the help he clearly needs. When a parishioner calls him and shows him that someone in her house has been building bombs he dives deep – too deep – into the darkest corners of the internet and begins to question what is or isn’t a sin and whether God has a plan for any of us.

Hawke looks like he delivers a tight, coiled, powerful performance here as the priest with too much on his conscience and no outlet for his doubts. It’s all repression and inner turmoil that manifests as a quiver in his voice in public and a penchant for scotch in private. The story isn’t super-clear here but that’s alright, what we’re being sold is the performance and the atmosphere created by Schrader.

Online and Social

There’s just the trailer, synopsis and a few other details on the single page A24 created for the movie. While the movie did get some support on the studio’s social profiles, it was primarily busy promoting its horror release Hereditary so didn’t give this one a whole lot of attention.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Nothing I’ve seen to date, but I’d be willing to bet I’ll be seeing a few retargeted online ads now that I’ve visited the website.

Media and Publicity

The movie was one of those announced to be screened at the SXSW Film Festival, where it was very well received.

A short profile of Hawke mentioned this was one of several films he had coming out in the near future while also allow him to openly lobby for the chance to give a “meaningful” performance in a big budget sci-fi/fantasy film. He also talked here about what it like working with Schrader and what got him involved in the project. When he showed up on late night he joked about the different kinds of roles he’s taken over the years and how the big-scale films that feature lots of guns generally pay better than the small indie projects.

Overall

I really wish there had been more of a focus presented in the campaign, specifically around how this is a story about media overload and the kind of trauma that can cause and contribute to. That topic is hinted at in some of the interviews Hawke did and in the trailer, though even less so. It’s certainly being sold as a dark drama of the crisis faced by one man, I just think there could have been a slightly tighter picture painted.

Aside from that, the main attraction is that this is a new Paul Schrader film, something buoyed by the buzz that’s come out of the festival screenings. That probably won’t be enough to propel the movie to any great heights in terms of crossover success in the mainstream audience, but for those who come across the campaign there’s some good stuff offered here.

PICKING UP THE SPARE

A solid feature profile of writer director Paul Schrader at GQ in which he talks about not just this movie but his extensive and noteworthy career as a whole.

Ethan Hawke continues to make the press rounds to talk about the movie, which keeps getting positive reviews and buzz.

More from director Paul Schrader on the film’s disturbing characters and situations as well as his feelings and thoughts on God.

Hawke hit the publicity circuit again for interviews like this as we entered awards season.