Trolls World Tour – Marketing Recap

How Universal is upending the distribution game while selling its animated sequel.

trolls poster 4

In any other year, the release of Trolls World Tour would be (let’s be honest) only somewhat notable. The first movie was a solid hit, grossing $153 domestically and $346 million worldwide, and that insufferable song was everywhere, but if we were still living in the normal world it would largely be drowned out by Black Widow, Mulan and a few other releases.

This is not, of course, the normal world. Instead of releasing the movie in theaters among a host of others, Universal is sending the movie straight to video on demand while most all other releases have been pushed later in the year because all the theaters are closed.

That being said, the story of the movie is pretty standard fare for a sequel, seeking to create familiarity while at the same time expanding the world significantly. Anna Kendrick and Justin Timberlake return to voice Poppy and Branch, respectively, two music-loving trolls. They discover theirs is just one of many troll tribes, each one centered around a different style of music. Their world is threatened when Queen Barb (Rachel Bloom) seeks to assemble an instrument that would wipe out all other kinds of music, and it’s up to Poppy and Branch to stop her.

With such an unusual – and slightly controversial – release plan in place, you might think the marketing from Universal would have undergone a big shift. Quite the contrary, the campaign has remained largely the same, still selling a bright musical adventure with tunes meant to get stuck in your head for months.

The Posters

The initial poster (by marketing agency BLT Communications) is very much a branded announcement one-sheet, showing Poppy wearing a tie dye shirt and sporting a concert badge showing the movie’s title treatment on a lanyard around her neck. It’s bright and colorful, meant to reestablish the brand for the audience.

A series of 21 posters showing hands of various colors raised in a familiar rock-centric configuration was released at about the same time the movie was announced on Universal’s schedule in June of last year.

In November what was more or less the theatrical poster (by marketing agency Leroy and Rose) came out, with many of the primary characters from the various tribes clutching a single guitar.

Another poster series were released in December (by Empire Design) showing the characters dancing and jumping in front of bright and sparkly backgrounds.

In January another singular one-sheet came out pitching this as “The happiest movie ever!” which is quite a claim to make.

A few other small sets of posters featuring some of the minor characters came out over the course of this year as well.

The Trailers

Poppy’s gentle rendition of “Sounds of Silence” is interrupted by blaring guitars as the first trailer (23 million views on YouTube) opens. It turns out there are other trolls, each with their own type of music. Uniting all six strings will destroy all except rock (of course) so it’s up to Poppy and the others to travel around and stop those who are trying to do just that.

In November the second trailer (11.7 million views on YouTube) came out, opening with a DJ dance party being rudely interrupted by the Hard Rock Trolls. Finding the queen of that clan is out to remove the music from all the other trolls, Poppy and Branch set out to stop her, discovering what makes all the other kinds of music the various troll factions represent special.

The third trailer (41 million views on YouTube) from March sells the same basic idea, showing off a few more of the musical sequences and other gags, most of which are based around songs.

Online and Social

The official website for the movie is fairly standard, with basic information and content available. Notable, though, is that instead of a prompt to buy tickets as would be found on most sites this one features a “Where To Watch” button offering the various VOD stores it’s available on.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Early footage from the movie was included in Universal’s CineEurope pitch to exhibitors in mid-June of last year, acting as the official announcement the movie was in production.

Just like with the original, music once again played a major role in the marketing of the movie. Timberlake released “The Other Side” with SZA in late February, with a lyric video for the song showing footage from the film coming out shortly after that. In early March a lyric video for “Don’t Slack,” Timberlake’s collaboration with Anderson.Paak, was released. An official video for the song starring Kendrick along with Paak and Timberlake came out in early April, just before the movie was released.

A Giphy-powered sticker pack was available for Instagram users to add to their Stories.

When the Covic-19 pandemic caused most every theater to close, Universal pivoted by announcing it would release the new movie directly to VOD on the day it was scheduled to hit theaters. That caused a number of tidal waves to emerge in the industry, with exhibitors – through NATO – essentially saying this is a grudge they intend to hold on to tightly, especially since every other movie from Universal and other studios had simply been delayed, not pulled from theaters completely.

For some reason, a 10-hour looping video of Smooth Jazz Chazz (Kenny G) was released, maybe to calm everyone’s nerves. That was followed by a video of the cast performing “Just Sing” from the soundtrack.

Because everyone who was newly working from home was using Zoom to participate in video meetings, Universal put out some movie-themed backgrounds that could be uploaded as custom backgrounds for those Zoom calls.

The K-Pop and Reggaeton clans engaged in a dance battle in a clip given exclusively to Fandango’s MovieClips.

Last week a new clip of the Trolls singing a medley of pop hits from the last ~20 years came out, with the stars talking about their characters and the story at the end. Kendrick and Bloom were also joined by a couple young fans to engage in a whisper challenge.

Sponsorships on Pandora and Spotify gave users access to character-themed channels and playlists, each with appropriate musical genre for that character.

Promotional partners for the movie included:

China Glaze, which introduced a line of movie-themed nail polish that were available on their own or in various packages.

trolls world tour china glaze

General Mills, which put movie-branding on a selection of of cereals, yogurts and more, prompting consumers to scan a QR code on those packages to unlock an exclusive movie clip.

trolls world tour general mills

Oreo, which put characters from the movie on packages and gave people early access to the “Just Sing” video. There was also an AR experience that could be unlocked.

Lays, which put out movie-branded bags of Poppables and also ran a sweepstakes whose prize is unclear.

trolls world tour lays

Punky Color, which put out a line of movie-inspired hair color products.

McDonald’s, which is putting movie toys in Happy Meal boxes this week.

trolls world tour mcdonalds

Media and Publicity

There has been, oddly, no discernable press activity for the film, save for one video interview of Timberlake by “SNL” buddy Jimmy Fallon. That may be from some combination of the following real or hypothetical factors:

  • Concern that active promotion by talent would further irritate NATO and its members, souring relations between them and the studios even further.
  • The almost complete stoppage of the late night talk shows in recent weeks, though other celebrities have been able to make it work.
  • No ability to run large-scale events like premieres and other parties.

My guess is it’s a little bit of everything. There’s nothing substantive stopping stars from doing phone or video interviews with the media, so between logistics and business considerations the reality is there’s been almost nothing on this front.

Overall

What I can’t really get over is how NATO’s full-on meltdown over Universal’s plans for the movie are so out of proportion for what it is. There wasn’t time to get tracking information on the movie before society crumbled, but it would have been unlikely given the competition it was meant to face that it would have been a massive box office smash.

So I’m left believing that NATO et al simply wanted to use this release as an opportunity to place a stake in the ground, registering their opinion on a VOD strategy they’ve been trying to fend off for a decade. Universal moving first in this direction allowed the group to take a hard stance on the matter without honking off a more powerful studio, a theory bolstered by the stunning absence of confrontational “we won’t forget this!” statement directed at Disney following the news it will bring Artemis Fowl direct to Disney+ later this year.

All of that aside, the campaign here is alright. It’s a big, bright, annoying movie being sold in exactly that manner. The most interesting part of the push is the release strategy, but with no apparent pivot because of that change, it’s not even something that changes the way it’s received or who it’s targeted at.

Picking Up the Spare

Via Adweek, Universal  offered  a Snapchat AR lens that let people turn themselves into one of the movie’s characters. 

Kendrick and Timberlake  participated  in a video chat with hospital patients, an event coordinated by “Today.” 

A number of new featurettes, all of which are of course  very   music centric , have been released in the last few weeks. 
Kendrick made a virtual  appearance  on “The Tonight Show” to chat with host Jimmy Fallon.

Noelle – Marketing Recap

Originally meant for theaters, Disney’s holiday feature becomes the latest release to get shunted to streaming.

noelle posterThe idea of Santa Claus being a title passed through a family isn’t exactly new. Fred Claus, Arthur Christmas and other movies have used variations on the conceit to various degrees of success.

Now Disney revisits the premise with Noelle. Anna Kendrick stars as the titular Noelle, Santa’s daughter. With the title of Santa about to be bequeathed to her brother Nick (Bill Hader), she’s in full support mode, ready to help Nick get ready for his big debut. The problem is that Nick doesn’t seem very enthusiastic about the position and Noelle has to do a lot of propping up.

When Nick disappears just days before Christmas things get even more complicated. With the success of the holiday on the line, Noelle has to head down south to find her wayward brother.

Despite the top-line cast – which includes Julie Haggerty, Billy Eichner and others – the movie is coming not to theaters but as one of the launch titles for Disney+, the company’s subscription streaming service launching tomorrow. That lack of confidence in the prospects of the film may be behind some of the choices made in the campaign that’s been run.

The Posters

“Saving Christmas together? Oh joy.”

That’s the tagline used on the only one-sheet (by marketing agency LA) for the film, which shows Noelle and Nick looking at the camera slightly befuddled and less than enthusiastic about where they are. While the sentiment may be one familiar to anyone who’s not thrilled about the social requirements of the holiday season, it’s not one that’s supported by the rest of the campaign. Not only that, it seems directly counter to the story shown in the trailer. There seems to be little thought given to the design, which includes the promotional graphic for Disney+ showing all the brand logos under the company’s umbrella.

The Trailers

We meet Noelle Kringle in the first trailer (3.6 million views on YouTube), released in August at the same time as D23. Her brother Nick is about to assume the mantle of Santa Claus, despite being not that enthused for the job. She tries to help him and encourages him to get away, which he does just before Christmas. It’s her job to find him, then, and sets out to save Christmas but has some very “fish out of water” moments while venturing outside the North Pole. It’s the charm of Kendrick and Hader that make what looks like a cheesy story appear to be somewhat intriguing.

Online and Social

There doesn’t seem to be any official web presence for the film, not even a social profile of its own. Disney+ has given it support on its social channels, but that’s it.

Advertising and Publicity

The start of production, along with an apparent name change, was announced by Kendrick in 2017 on, of course, her Instagram feed. While it was originally meant for theatrical release the movie was pulled by Disney from its schedule and shifted over to what at the time was its unlaunched OTT streaming service, the first feature film to be designated for that platform. It’s inclusion in the catalog of what was eventually known as Disney+ was later confirmed.

Costumes from the movie were on display at D23 in August, where the trailer debuted.

Yahoo! debuted the first clip from the film in early November, showing Noelle trying to get the new Santa ready for his first night out.

An early screening for readers of the Disney Parks Blog was held last week.

Media and Press

There were a few interviews with Kendrick, including an appearance on “Good Morning America” but there doesn’t seem to have been a great deal of effort put into a press push.

Overall

Based on what’s shown of the movie, it absolutely seems like the kind of film that would have received a significant theatrical release 20 years ago. It has a well-liked cast with plenty of name recognition, a charming concept and a sense of familiarity that would have helped attract a decent audience. It would have made $90 million dollars at the box office and been considered a success.

While being part of launch day is a big deal, that the title finds itself on Disney+ is telling not just of how the theatrical marketplace has changed but how much confidence Disney has in anything that’s not part of a franchise brand. The marketing has a distinct lack of enthusiasm feel about it, like the company knew it had to do something with it but didn’t want to divert resources from the meta take on “High School Musical” or the big-budget “The Mandalorian.”

Picking Up the Spare

Kendrick was interviewed by Trevor Noah when she appeared on “The Daily Show” just as the movie was becoming available.

I’ve noticed a handful of online ads like this that lead back to the Disney+ site.

noelle online ad.png

The Day Shall Come – Marketing Recap

Law enforcement does not come off well in a satire about the age of terrorism.

the day shall come posterAnna Kendrick is FBI Agent Kendra Glack in the new film The Day Shall Come. Glack is relatively junior in the bureau, and doesn’t have the kind of experience or personal weight to throw around her superiors do. So she doesn’t have much ability to push back when those superiors put her in the middle of a crazy scheme.

Specifically, the FBI gets involved in the case of a Miami preacher named Moses (Marchánt Davis), a loner with a bunch of off-the-wall ideas and who’s only dangerous to the people he’s blocking on the sidewalk. When the FBI is in need of someone to prop up as a dangerous would-be terrorist, they start financing Moses’ activities and spreading manufactured stories about the threat he poses. Those efforts go well enough that Moses begins being seen by others as a serious case, but the bureau just can’t stop tripping over its own feet as they continually need to change reality to meet their narrative.

The movie, from Four Lions director Christopher Morris, has been well received to date with an 81% on Rotten Tomatoes, but hasn’t received an extensive campaign.

The Posters

The poster, released in August, touts Morris’ past as the director of Four Lions while showing Moses standing in front of a city skyline looking like the slightly ridiculous person he is while the FBI logo looms in the background and helicopters circle around him. It’s presented as “A comedy based on a hundred true stories.”

The Trailers

In August the first trailer (27,000 views on YouTube) was finally released, showing Moses as a small-time preacher with delusions of grandeur regarding his importance or influence. Those at the FBI may not see him as an actual threat but they do see him as an opportunity to tout his arrest as a victory in the War on Terror. To do that they have to make some of his dreams come true, so they have to help him, but everyone’s ineptitude gets all scrambled up to the point of actually becoming dangerous.

Online and Social

IFC Films put the marketing materials up on its page for the movie, but that’s about it.

Advertising and Publicity

The movie’s SXSW 2019 debut was relatively well-received, but it was June before IFC Films acquired distribution rights.

Two clips came out earlier in the week of release, one showing the FBI twisting itself into rhetorical pretzels around the fake nuclear emergency it needs to declare, and one with Moses telling Nazis that ISIS gave him nuclear devices.

Media and Publicity

Kendrick appeared on “Late Night” earlier this week to talk about the movie and be charming. That appears to be the extent of the pre-release publicity, though, as there don’t seem to be any other major interviews or profiles.

Overall

The movie might be able to ride that positive festival buzz to a decent opening weekend and eventual total box office take, but the campaign put together by IFC hasn’t been designed to help it very much. With little to no press at the moment and not much other activity to help keep it at the top of anyone’s mind, there’s a risk it simply falls below the radar as people choose something on streaming or just wait for the bigger releases coming in the next few weeks.

It’s a shame, because we could use a little more satire like this in the world.

Picking Up the Spare

Morris spoke more here about the various sources of inspiration he drew from to create the story.

A Simple Favor – Marketing Recap

Blake Lively and Anna Kendrick help make the marketing of A SIMPLE FAVOR a glamourous, well-branded affair.

a simple favor poster 7Paul Feig is a director best known for his comedies, specifically his female-starring comedies. After Bridesmaids, The Heat, Spy and others, he’s now taking a turn for the dark in the dramatic thriller A Simple Favor.

Based on the book by Darcey Bell, the movie follows Stephanie (Anna Kendrick), a mom with an online presence and following who one day befriends Emily (Blake Lively), who has kids at the same school Stephanie does. The two become friends, though Emily is strangely aloof and never reveals much about herself. When Emily goes missing, it’s up to Stephanie to piece together what few, confusing clues there are to find Emily and figure out who her friend really was.

The Posters

The martini glass that graces the first poster, in connection with the “It all started with…” that’s completed by the title, hint that there’s something strange happening in the story. Specifically, that we’ll be following along as the consequences of some decision or action play out.

The second poster features a huge, colorful question mark at the bottom of which is the question “What happened to Emily?” Snippets of photos of the characters are shown in the colored segments of the punctuation, giving this a very 60s drama vibe reminiscent of Wait Until Dark and similar films.

A pair of character posters came next, with Emily and Stephanie facing toward each other when you put them together. Each is wearing a lovely dress while lifting a drink, standing in front of a gorgeous deco type design in the background.

The two women come together on the next poster, both posed elegantly against the same colorful triangles seen previously. It’s a bold, deco-inspired design that also kind of comes off like a photo from a 1978 Sears catalog, but that’s a small picking of nits.

What seems to be the theatrical poster came out in mid-August. Using a similar color palette of pastels and whites, the faces of the two lead actors are intermingled on what look like shards of broken glasses, hinting at the kind of identity-based drama the movie has in store for audiences. Another shows the two leads standing next to each other in the same colorful cut out seen elsewhere.

A series of “moving posters” released earlier this week showed Stephanie and Emily in what first appear to be classy, luxurious surroundings and situations, only to have something much darker revealed as the camera pans out.

One last poster came out just after that featuring side-by-side photos of Stephanie and Emily’s faces. Notably, this one includes costar Henry Golding standing between them, like a move by the studio to attempt to capitalize on his popularity in the wake of the hit Crazy Rich Asians.

The Trailers

Stephanie is explaining that Emily is basically her best friend as the first teaser trailer opens. We see hints that something has happened to upset Emily’s stylish, sophisticated world that leads to her going missing. That prompts Stephanie to set out to find her, uncovering things about Emily she had no idea existed along the way.

A second teaser sets up the same dynamic between the two women but makes it a bit more explicit that Emily has enlisted Stephanie’s help in some manner.

It’s all super-stylized, giving the impression of a hip, darkly-funny mystery. While Lively doesn’t get any dialogue, she looks like she breezes through every scene with a feeling of luxury while Kendrick’s Stephanie kinda sorta comes off as a bit of a stalker. At least she seems like someone who has convinced herself of a friendship with someone who’s well above her.

The final trailer provides a better picture of the story, beginning with how Stephanie and Emily first met and became friends. It becomes clear Emily has a penchant for mystery and doesn’t like to divulge anything about herself, which makes her disappearance all the more strange.

Online and Social

The various iterations of the key art cycle through a carousel on the front page of the official website, which asks the audience “Can you keep a secret?” There are links there to the movie’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles.

Most of what’s on the site is video, with all three trailers getting their own callout in the menu on the right side of the page. Also there are links to read the synopsis – including the cast and crew list – and view the posters.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

TV spots like this started running in mid-August, cutting the trailer down significantly but not changing the core message, that Emily is an enigma that has gone missing for some reason, leaving behind some very confused friends and family who realize they never really knew her. That included this commercial making it clear Emily has a dark side and does not want to let people inside her firmly-protected bubble.

Online ads used the key art while social ads used various versions of the trailer and TV spots.

Media and Publicity

One of the first press beats for the movie came when it was presented as part of Lionsgate’s upcoming slate of releases at CinemaCon, including the showing of a brief bit of footage.

Feig offered some management tips to Fast Company, drawing on his experience working with a wide array of some of Hollywood’s most talented actors and comedians over the years.

a simple favor pic2The pair of Lively and Kendrick embarked on a fashionable press tour that included a stop at MTV’s VMA ceremony. Kendrick later shared what it was like when she and Lively engaged in an on-screen kiss.

A fun little video was released showing Feig, Lively and Kendrick taking part in a fictional pitch meeting run by a couple studio heads who refuse to acknowledge women can be funny and who keep saying terribly sexist things to everyone in the room. It’s funny because it’s probably 100% accurate to many people’s experiences.

Fieg later talked more about why he decided to give comedy a break and make a dramatic thriller.

Kendrick and Lively also made various TV appearances on late night and early morning talk shows, including Kendrick talking about “mommy bloggers,” something her character is.

Overall

The combined charm of Kendrick and Lively is enough to get most people interested in the movie in theory. But this is a dark thriller that keeps reminding the audience that it is not what it seems at first to be. That could prove to be a tough message to sell when right now people seem more inclined to see the glitzy rom com stylings of Crazy Rich Asians or other escapist fare.

That being said, this is the most stylistically interesting, consistent and intriguing campaign I’ve seen in a while. From the first mysterious teasers to the wonderful series of colorful posters, it’s just great. The studio has certainly made an impression, and that can’t be easily discounted. It’s just not so clear that it actually drive people to head out to the theaters this weekend.

PICKING UP THE SPARE

Another TV spot that focuses on the positive reviews the movie already received from critics even before it was released.

Lively showed up on “The Tonight Show” to talk about the movie and her fun Twitter back and forth with husband Ryan Reynolds. And Kendrick has done “The Daily Show” and “The Late Show.”  

Costume designer Renee Ehrlich Kalmus talks about the stunning styles sported by Lively’s character in the movie.

Another interview with director Paul Feig about the style and vibe he wanted to bring to the movie, his first outright dramatic effort, followed by another where he talks about getting serious.

Pitch Perfect 3 – Marketing Recap

pitch perfect 3 poster“We’re getting the band back together” seems to be the main focus of Pitch Perfect 3. After going their separate ways, the members of the Barden Bellas find that adulting is hard and nothing makes them feel as good as singing in a college a cappella group did. Not only that, but a new generation has come along and taken the group’s title, reminding them of how old they’re getting and how their lives aren’t turning out as expected.

At a get together with Beca (Anna Kendrick), Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson), Aubrey (Anna Camp) and the others, Chloe (Brittany Snow) suggests they try to get aboard a USO tour of Europe, bringing their vocal stylings to the troops. Heading overseas presents an opportunity to not only recapture former glory but also get into a whole new set of hijinks and outrageous situations.

Continue reading “Pitch Perfect 3 – Marketing Recap”

Drinking Buddies – Flashback Marketing

If you’ve got a taste for a domestic cold one today, don’t be surprised. Today is National American Beer Day. For all the grief given to Hallmark and other companies for their made-up holidays designed to sell chocolates and cards, there doesn’t appear to be any official provenance for this celebration. It’s noted and covered by various press, but it seems to have appeared from nowhere, like Orin on “Parks and Recreation.”

Good enough for me.

To join in the celebration, we’re going to jump not very far back to a movie I would have covered if it hadn’t landed in the years when I put movie marketing coverage to the side.

2013’s Drinking Buddies marked a turning point for writer/director Joe Swanberg. After years of working with almost no budgets and a cast made up largely of unknowns and friends, this time he had some pretty substantial names along for the ride. The story is focused on Luke (Jake Johnson) and Kate (Olivia Wilde), coworkers at a Chicago craft brewery. The two are best friends who hang out all the time and have the sort of easy, flowing relationship that seems like it should be romantic but isn’t. Luke is dating Jill (Anna Kendrick) and Kate is seeing Chris (Ron Livingston). Eventually, the friendship between Kate and Luke causes tensions in the other relationships, leading to lots of conversations and lots of additional drinking.

The movie’s theatrical poster uses that cast as its primary selling point. All four are seated on the floor, their backs up against what’s clearly the wall of a bar or drinking establishment of some sort, all with a glass of something in hand. Above them, their names and the title and credits are shown in a style like it’s all been written in chalk. The alcoholic nature of the story is conveyed not only by the beverages shown but by the copy declaring the movie is “A comedy about knowing when to say when.” Of course that’s not just about the drinking but about the nature of the relationship the story follows.

Oddly missing is Swanberg’s name, aside from its small inclusion in the overall credits. While the cinematic genre he is – or at least was – synonymous with is sometimes derided, his name still carries a fair amount of weight with fans of independent film. Using it would have been an appeal to that group.

Obviously Magnolia Pictures, which picked the movie up after some early screenings, felt it was better to not turn off any mainstream audiences who might not know him or only associate him with weird indie stuff without professional lighting. So he’s excised here, with the appeal to the general audience being made that it’s a pleasant story featuring a bunch of very likable actors obviously having a good time.

We immediately see what Luke and Kate do as the trailer opens. He’s part of the brewery crew and she’s more in the event planning and management part of the business, helping to coordinate receptions hosted there. They eventually introduce their significant others to their coworkers, which is a bit awkward but leads to the foursome heading off to a cabin for a weekend. That’s obviously presented as a turning point because Luke and Jill wind up having more serious conversations about their relationships and Chris breaks up with Kate.

It’s a pretty cut and dried romantic comedy being sold to the audience here. There’s some cool stuff around the edges, but that’s the gist. It’s about friendships and love and heartbreak and the general kind of “finding yourself” moments that everyone at this stage in life goes through. All the actors are charming and funny and breezy.

All that’s pretty accurate to the movie being sold. If anything, Wilde’s significant comedic sensibilities are underplayed in the campaign. Johnson and Kendrick are more of the focus since they were probably the hottest names at the moment, her coming off Pitch Perfect and him on TV’s zeitgeist-heavy “New Girl.”

More than that, it’s a fair representation of the relationships between the characters and the story as a whole. Most of the key beats are shown here as well as the evolving nature of how everyone interacts with each other. While the campaign didn’t result in a massive mainstream success for Swanberg, there were apparently some creative connections made as he would work with Johnson and Kendrick again on future films.

Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.