The Way Back – Marketing Recap

How Warner Bros. is selling a tale of struggle and redemption.

the way back poster 2With tracking reports estimating an opening weekend of $12-17 million, The Way Back doesn’t seem poised to break any box office records. Early reviews have been largely positive, though, especially for star Ben Affleck.

Affleck plays Jack Cunningham, a former high school basketball star who walked away from the game years ago and has since led a life of divorce, alcoholism and other destructive behavior. One day he’s approached by the head of his old school with an offer to come back and coach the current team. Reluctant to go back down that road, he eventually relents. After a rough start he finds the kids have as much to offer him as he does them, especially finally giving him a purpose outside himself.

The campaign has sold the movie for what it is – Hoosiers, but with the focus entirely on Dennis Hopper’s Shooter – but with odd turns into Affleck’s personal life.

The Posters

the way back posterCopy on the first poster (by marketing agency Gravillas) reading “Every loss is another fight” makes it seem as if the movie will be one with an uplifting and inspiring message. John’s head is in the middle of a basketball scoreboard, helping to establish the story’s setting. Next to the title, the audience is reminded of the previous films from the director, including an earlier collaboration with Affleck.

Earlier this month a second poster was released that changes the copy to read “One shot for a second chance,” which is more specific to the story of this film. The same shot of John is used, but this time the image behind him is a more full look at a basketball stadium, not floating parts of the scoreboard.

The Trailers

Jack is working construction and drinking steadily as the first trailer (2 million views on YouTube), released in November, begins. He’s approached by an old friend to take on the role of high school basketball coach when the old one passes away, a role he’s a good fit for having been a star player in his youth. His team isn’t great, but the job keeps him occupied, except for the times when his depression and regrets lead him back to a drunken state. As he turns the kids around he continues to struggle with his own sobriety, showing that this isn’t a simple redemption tale being told but one that might be a bit more complex.

One of Jack’s players is asking him why he quit basketball all those years ago as the second trailer (9.2 million views on YouTube), released in early February, opens. Turns out he was trying to please his disapproving father. Despite that, he’s asked to come back and coach at his old high school. His work with the team coincides with his work on improving himself and pulling out of harmful behavior. This trailer presents a much more inspiring and emotional message, less dramatic and more about second chances and making amends for the past.

Online and Social

There’s almost no information on the movie’s official website, showing just how deprioritized that platform has become by studios.

Advertising and Promotions

Affleck and others from the cast introduced an exclusive AMC clip showing the first time Jack meets the team, both sides working to establish dominance. Regal Cinemas got another clip showing Jack giving the team an inspirational speech in the middle of a game.

Shorter versions of the trailers were used as TV spots and pre-roll ads as well as promoted posts on social networks. All focused on the inspirational nature of the story and not so much the troubles Jack has to go through to get to that point.

The movie’s premiere was held in L.A. earlier this week, with the cast and crew all in attendance.

Media and Press

An extensive profile of Affleck touched on the parallels between this story and the actor’s real like struggles with alcohol and relationship issues along with much more. Similar topics were covered in another interview with the actor.

Affleck appeared on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” to promote the film and talk about his other interests. He also showed up on “Kelly Clarkson” and other shows to do likewise. Some of the actors who play the team being coached stopped by “GMA.”

Overall

As I stated in the opening, the campaign bears more than a passing similarity to elements of a previous basketball film. That’s giving this movie short shrift to an extent, but it’s also a handy way to understand what’s going on.

Throughout the marketing there’s a consistent effort to portray the glass half full elements of the story, sometimes artificially downplaying the rougher parts of Jack’s story. That’s a shame since it’s that part which gives the uplifting half its emotional heft.

What’s disappointing is how the press has latched on to the similarities between Affleck and the character he plays. That’s low-hanging fruit and kind of disrespectful to Affleck, his ex-wife Jennifer Garner and other real people and doesn’t even sell the movie well since it becomes a sideshow to what’s happening in the campaign proper. The whole effort would be stronger with less of a tabloid sheen.

Picking Up The Spare

AMC shared an exclusive interview with Affleck where he talked about the movie and its story.

The Last Thing He Wanted – Marketing Recap

How Netflix is selling a movie that mixes political and family drama.

the last thing he wanted poster

The Last Thing He Wanted, coming to Netflix Friday, is based on the Joan Didion novel of the same name. Directed by Dee Rees, the movie stars Anne Hathaway as Elena McMahon, a journalist who goes off-script when she gets involved in the government-sanctioned gun-running activities of her estranged father Richard (Willem Dafoe).

That puts her on the radar of Treat Morrison (Ben Affleck), a government agent involved in those activities. Elena must navigate the turmoil of mid-80s Central American politics to have any chance of making it out alive, all while the dangers around her increase the deeper she gets into a world her father long wanted her to stay away from.

Netflix’s campaign for the movie hasn’t reached the level of pushes for its high-profile releases at the end of 2019 but still sells an entertaining feature from a talented filmmaker with a high-profile cast.

The Posters

All the main characters, including local aide Alma (Rosie Perez), are shown on the movie’s one poster (by marketing agency Mocean). McMahon, her father, Morrison and Alma are placed around the poster, all looking off into the vague middle distance as they clearly are pondering serious matters. The colors and way the white stripes are arranged give the design the feeling of a business lounge at an airport-adjacent hotel, but it’s close enough to “serious geopolitical drama” to convey that basic message.

The Trailers

The first trailer (1.2 million views on YouTube) was released by Netflix at the end of January. It opens with McMahon and other journalists on the run as soldiers in a South American country break into their office and seize their operations. Her reputation precedes her in U.S. government circles, but when an investigation into arms sales reveals the involvement of her estranged father things get complicated. Undeterred, she embarks on a mission to find out what he’s gotten himself in to, at which point she crosses paths with Morrison, sent there to put an end to the operation. It’s a tight thriller being sold here, one with lots of tense situations and dramatic expressions on the faces of the main characters.

Online and Social

There not being a stand-alone website for the movie isn’t surprising given Netflix rarely creates such sites for all but a few select titles. What is unusual is that it didn’t even give the movie any great volume of promotion on brand social channels, focusing instead on recent romantic comedies and continuing to highlight its association with other high profile filmmakers.

Advertising and Promotions

The first real news about the movie was big as it was announced in 2018 that Netflix would finance and distribute it, obviously loving is previous experience with Rees. That preceded the film’s screening at the Sundance Film Festival last month.

Media and Press

Rees shared her process during Sundance, talking about how she worked to highlight what she felt was a key element of the source book, the kinds of influences she pulled from for the story and more. The cast also talked about working with Rees and getting in the heads of the characters they were playing.

An interview with Rees had the writer/director talk about working with Netflix again on this project as well as how it represents the next step in the progression her career has been on for years.

This movie barely got an off-hand mention in a profile of Affleck that instead focused on the other projects he has in the works.

Overall

As I mentioned in the opening, it’s clear Netflix hasn’t put the same kind of muscle behind this campaign it did for The Irishman and other releases at the end of last year. It’s not even as robust a push as it game the To All The Boys… sequel that came out last week. It’s an indicator that even Netflix, that great disruptor of the exhibition industry and champion of the mid-tier “I mean it’s alright” drama knows where to invest resources and when to just get the movie out and let it be what it will.

It’s just kind of hard to tell what the movie is about or what the focus of the story is in the context of the limited marketing on display here. The relationship between the characters isn’t unclear, the story a bit convoluted and the dynamics in play muddled. So even those who are big fans of solid geopolitical dramas aren’t going to get much to sink their teeth into here. Whatever brand recognition Didion’s original novel, combined with a bit of interest generated by the well-known cast, then becomes the biggest selling point, albeit one that isn’t featured prominently in the campaign.

Picking Up The Spare

Rees was the subject of a new featurette talking about her inspirations for the movie and more.

Joint interviews with Rees and Hathaway had them talking about the movie’s twist ending and how they were able to adapt the source novel while also exercising their own creative freedom.

Well after the film was released, Rees commented on some of the road bumps she encountered and the lessons she learned from the audience’s mixed reactions. 

Jay and Silent Bob Reboot – Marketing Recap

Kevin Smith brings cinema’s favorite stoners/slackers back to have some fun with franchise reboots.

jay and silent bob reboot poster 4It’s been 13 years since writer/director Kevin Smith last visited one of the first major shared cinematic universes of the internet era, The Askewniverse. In that time he’s taken a few side jaunts into crazy horror comedies as well as directing a handful of superhero TV show episodes.

Now he’s back to the characters he introduced in 1994’s Clerks. This week’s new movie Jay and Silent Bob Reboot brings back the popular Jay (Jason Mewes) and Silent Bob (Smith) in more or less a direct sequel to 2001’s Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. Where that movie had the pair heading to Hollywood to try and stop a movie based on a comic inspired by them from being made, this one has them heading to Hollywood to stop a reboot of the movie based on a comic inspired by them from being made.

The first film poked a bit of fun at the super hero movie genre that was barely learning to walk at that point, certainly nowhere near the heights it would reach several years later. Now he wants to tweak the tendency of studios to reboot franchises ad infinitum. To help with that, Saban Films has run a campaign that’s heavy on humor familiar to Smith’s fans as well as those who have enjoyed all the comic book adventures on the screen in the last dozen years.

The Posters

jay and silent bob reboot posterJay and Silent Bob are shown in a very familiar setting on the first poster (from marketing agency BOND), released in July. The two are propped up against a gray concrete wall, indicating they’re still very much committed to their personal brand. Copy tells us “Weed love to tell you a story.”

Two more posters came out in September. The first uses the same “arrange all the main characters around a few key elements from the story” design approach found on many action and sci-fi movies. The second has Jay and Silent Bob back to back like super heroes in a design reminiscent of that used on the character posters from the Avengers: Endgame campaign. That latter one was created as a special giveaway for fans attending select screenings of the film.

A final poster puts drawings of all the characters from the movie – a whole universe of major and supporting players – in the image, all in front of hand-drawn blueprints like Jay uses when planning pranks in Mallrats.

The Trailers

The first trailer (696,000 views on YouTube) – released in July during San Diego Comic-Con – is full of so much meta humor it’s almost overwhelming. We get the message that this is the same general idea as Strike Back and is filled with many of the same jokes, just slightly updated for the nearly two decades since then. Only now everything has an even more meta twist and a whole new series of stars doing cameos in some form or another. A green-band version came out in October.

Online and Social

The official website has lots of information on the roadshow Smith is taking the film on, with screenings at individual theaters across the country, many of which include appearances by Smith and others.

Advertising and Publicity

Smith first teased the project in mid-2017 but it wasn’t until over a year later at the start of 2019 that he announced pre-production had officially begun. Just a short while after that Saban Films announced it had acquired it for distribution.

Beginning in late February Smith launched a series of behind-the-scenes videos tracking production. That’s similar to what he did during the filming of Clerks II, but something filmmakers have gotten away from in recent years after being a popular tactic in the mid-2000s.

A panel for the film was announced for San Diego Comic-Con, a natural setting given Smith’s love of all things pop culture. That panel included the debut of the first trailer.

Fathom Events put out a promotion in September for the roadshow screenings at Regal Cinemas locations.

EW shared a clip in early October offering an extended look at the scene where Jay is introduced to the daughter he never knew he had.

Media and Press

Smith was interviewed at the same time as Comic-Con about the geek-friendly cast he assembled to do cameos and how making the movie lead to him rekindling a friendship with Affleck.

In the last couple weeks both Smith and Mewes appeared on “The Late Show” to talk about returning to the roles and more. The two also made a number of other stops at various media outlets to talk up the movie and generally chat with hosts and sell the return of the Kevin Smith brand.

Overall

So…this is what a Kevin Smith campaign looks like without the help of long-time patron Harvey Weinstein backing him.

I’m a little surprised a movie like this isn’t going straight to streaming. The roadshow release Saban is giving it plays to Smith’s strength as an in-person storyteller and helps generate word of mouth to hopefully warrant a more traditional release.

The movie being sold in the campaign *looks* like a Kevin Smith movie, warts and all. Smith has always been a stronger writer than director, and you see that here. Adding a few actors known well for their super hero work is a nice bit of stunt-casting, but nothing Smith hasn’t done to various degrees in the past.

It’s not going to light the world on fire, and it’s certainly not going to compete against major releases coming out this week. But it does look like a return to form for Smith, and it’s nice to see him back to having fun after his recent health scares.

Picking Up the Spare

Smith spoke about how making the sequel allowed him to update and “correct” a plot point in Chasing Amy that hasn’t aged well but which was well-intentioned at the time. A profile of the writer/director also (rightly) categorized his entire career as an act of sheer will.

Saban Films released another short trailer as the movie was beginning its screening tour. It’s not drastically different than the primary trailer, just shorter. That tour was the subject of another interview with Smith where he admitted a massive marketing campaign would have wasted a lot of money chasing a very niche audience.

Triple Frontier – Marketing Recap

triple frontier poster7The former Special Forces operatives at the heart of Triple Frontier have had enough of being underappreciated by the country they defended. Directed by J.C. Chandor, the story follows five disgruntled specialists who, tired of having to scrape by after dedicating their lives to public service, decide to to use some of the intel they’ve gathered for their own benefit.

To that end they set out to rob the estate of a notorious South American drug lord. Determined to get what they can so they can retire in some comfort, they face the reality that they are out on their own for the first time without a sanctioning country and military at their back. That means when the mission goes south they have no one to rely on but themselves. The movie features an all-star cast including Oscar Isaac, Ben Affleck, Pedro Pascal, Garrett Hedlund and…not…Garrett Hedlund.

The Posters

The primary poster sets up the story pretty effectively, showing all five of the specialists who are engaging in the heist walking toward the camera in full gear and with bags – presumably full of money – in their hands. The green foliage shown in that photo as well as in the title treatment establish the setting while the movie’s creative bonafides are communicated by name-dropping Chandor’s previous well-known films.

Character one-sheets showed all five ex-soldiers who embark on the mission along with Adria Arjona, who plays a character who’s ill-defined by the marketing.

The Trailers

The beginning of the first trailer from last December is much like many others, focusing on a core team of special operators who are about to embark on a mission so dangerous they’re being given an out. Text shown over the footage, combined with the briefing being given by Davis, explains that they’re about to try and steal a massive amount of money from a drug cartel and that this operation is a robbery, not a sanctioned mission. After this they’ll be on their own. But they’re willing to take that risk because they feel they’ve been left on the side by the military they swore allegiance to.

The second trailer, which debuted on “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” shows how it’s Garcia that recruits the team, playing on the money problems and overall dissatisfaction the rest of the team are experiencing. There’s more of the same setup from the first trailer, but we see that the mission goes south unexpectedly, leading the team to have to improvise and make harder choices than they expected to just to survive.

Online and Social

While there wasn’t an official website, Netflix did create at least a Twitter account for the movie which it used to share the same sort of videos, links and other information other movie profiles offer.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Online ads used shots and video elements of the main actors, all in full combat gear, to sell the movie as a star-studded action film.

The movie sponsored a special basketball draft event from online betting site DraftKings

Media and Publicity

The movie was originally set up at Paramount, which dropped the project in 2017, at which point Netflix picked it up and moved forward with a different cast and crew.

Isaac, Affleck and others were all featured in a story including a first look still from the movie. Affleck showed up on “Kimmel” to talk about the movie and, as mentioned before, debut the second trailer. The actor also spoke about Netflix and how he saw it as the future of film distribution and viewing while he and Hunnam appeared on “The Today Show” to talk about the story.

The Playlist hosted an exclusive piece from the movie’s soundtrack composed by Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich. Chandor revealed in an interview just before release that he found a rescue dog while filming, as did other members of the crew.

An exclusive clip hosted by IGN showed a pivotal moment from the story as the characters make an important decision about the mission. That site also interviewed the whole cast and crew, while Hedlund went solo to try and distill the movie’s story for audiences.

Overall

Honestly the most exciting part of the campaign is that the movie comes from director J.C. Chandor, who has a track record of crafting tight, emotional stories around a simple premise. He’s not a big part of the marketing push, which isn’t surprising given the star power on display here, but he’s still noticeable as the latest in a strong of high-profile directors working with Netflix on original features.

Outside of that, the campaign sells an emotionally conflicted action drama that has the potential to not only tell a harrowing story but also one the focuses on how treats its veterans and how they feel neglected (at best) following their years of service. There are some good visual elements to the marketing that are a mark above what Netflix usually offers in terms of effort, another sign they see treating talent well (including a limited theatrical release) as a key tactic in their long-term strategy.

Picking Up the Spare

Netflix released a featurette on the music from a key sequence in the movie and one that focused on the work out costar Adria Arjona did to get in shape for the production.

Isaac showed up on “The Tonight Show” to talk about the movie but of course the conversation turned to Star Wars. He and Pascal also did one of those Wired features about frequent web searches about them.

Chandor was interviewed about the lessons the movie offered to himself and the audience. He also offered his thoughts on working with Netflix and how he got involved with the project.

There was also renewed discussion of the long road the project took before finally being filmed.

Affleck spoke about the movie and other aspects of his career.

Justice League – Marketing Recap

justice league poster sdccJustice League hits theaters this weekend, the seeming crowning moment of the DC Cinematic Universe, or whatever we’re calling it. It comes four years after Man of Steel launched the new continuity, though that debut wasn’t without its critics. Shockingly, it was a full three years before the story continued in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, which made it clear that someone didn’t know what to do with Superman on his own and needed to get Batman into the story as soon as possible. The mediocre reception continued in Suicide Squad but then things turned around when Wonder Woman finally got a solo film, showing offering audiences a bright attitude and an alternative to the brooding male stereotype could turn things around on a number of fronts.

Now there’s a whole team of heroes that have been assembled by Wonder Woman/Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) and Batman/Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) to fight a growing menace to our planet. With Superman (Henry Cavill) out of the picture (sure), they recruit the Atlantean Aquaman (Jason Momoa), the speedster The Flash (Ezra Miller) and the high school student/machine Cyborg (Ray Fisher). These cast of disparate characters will need to learn to work together if they’re going to stop the forces of Steppenwolf (Ciarán Hinds) from laying waste to the earth.

The Posters

The first teaser tells us to “Unite” as it shows the logo with a bright beam of light bursting out of the middle of it. There’s not much that’s being conveyed here, it’s just about building or reinforcing awareness.

After that there was a series of character posters that featured each of the five heroes standing on a rocky outcropping and posing for the camera. The same JL logo appears in the background of each and it all culminated in a single poster that brought all five of them together and includes the “Unite” call to action as well. Still missing is Superman, which is notable.

All five of the heroes came together on a poster that shows them all in profile, facing some unseen, off-camera threat. “Unite the league” is the copy that’s laid over the image in big, bold type.

A poster was given away to attendees at San Diego Comic-Con and released online that assembled the team (still sans Superman) around the copy “You can’t save the world alone.” That copy featured the icons and symbols of each character, including Superman. It’s lit and arranged to give the impression, at least among comics fans, that it’s the artwork of Alex Ross with his hyper-realistic style. Upon closer impression, though, it seems just to be photographs of the cast. Either way, it’s a striking image.

Another series of character posters put each hero in profile against a solid background, their unique symbol interlaced with the team logo at the bottom.

More featured the character in action. All the symbols for each hero appeared in a row at the top, with the relevant one highlighted. Notably, Superman’s symbol *is* shown here but he didn’t get a poster of his own. Some of these better than others and a couple are just ridiculous. Each featured the copy “All in,” presumably conveying their commitment to the team and its cause.

Another series had each character’s face half-covered by the mask they wear.

I’m not sure what the art department was thinking with the next poster, which brings all five heroes together in action poses centered around the title treatment. The photos used show no sense of motion or energy. This looks more like the kind of awkward imagery that would be used for licensed product signage than a one-sheet for a tentpole release from a major studio.

A couple posters were created specifically to be given away to customers buying tickets through Fandango, select IMAX screenings and so on.

The Trailers

The first look at the movie came at San Diego Comic-Con 2016, when WB released a pseudo-trailer that centered around Bruce Wayne’s quest to assemble a team to fight the coming evil. The biggest part of that is recruiting Arthur Curry/Aquaman, for which purpose he travels to a small fishing village where he frequently pops up. Curry’s not hugely on board, but the same can’t be said for Barry Allen, who accepts Wayne’s invitation almost before he actually makes it. Wayne is working with Diana to build the team and we see some of the interplay between the two of them. Also coming along is Vic Stone, who we see both before and after his transformation into Cyborg.

It’s actually a pretty great trailer and seems to address one of the big complaints about Batman v Superman, which is that it was so super-serious. This one, in contrast, is full of humor and little jokes and funny moments. It doesn’t seem WB and Snyder are going full-on Joss Whedon’s Avengers here but it does play much more light-hearted than what has come before, showing the team dynamic may be a little more spirited than in BvS.

The first “official” trailer starts off with Wayne wandering through the frozen tundra on his trip to recruit Aquaman. After that we meet Cyborg and Flash as they’re pulled into the team alongside Batman and Wonder Woman. Aside from the team building shots, there are quite a few scenes of them fighting parademons in various ways, either hand-to-hand or, if you’re Batman, in the Batmobile or other machines. Along the way we get glimpses at Barry Allen’s imprisoned father, Mera swimming through the sea and, at the end, Commissioner Gordon giving Batman some encouragement.

This one is alright but it looks sooooo dark. There’s no light in the trailer, either from an actual lighting or from a tonality point of view. Sure, there are a couple jokes or funny lines here and there but overall this looks just as humorless and slightly depressing as Batman v Superman, where the tone was one of the major points of pushback from critics and audiences alike. But when you have Zack Snyder at the helm, you’re going to get a Zack Snyder movie.

A year after the first footage WB once again released a new “sneak peek” trailer at Comic-Con that opens with a scene of Wonder Woman handling a terrorist incident easily. That’s not surprising given this is the first big asset following her solo movie’s massive success. Diana and Bruce discuss the need for heroes to rise once again before we see Steppenwolf arrive on Themysciria. He narrates that there are no protectors on Earth, specifically no Kryptonians and “No Lanterns,” a nice nod to the existence of that intergalactic police force. The heroes do join forces, though, to take on the bad guy and his army and we’re shown lots of cool shots of Cyborg taking over the Batmobile, Aquaman knocking a parademon out of the sky and lots of things exploding. It all ends with Alfred meeting someone he’d been told to expect while all we see is the red shoulder of the visitor, a heavy hint that it’s Superman finally showing up.

I like this trailer a lot as it shows more of the team dynamic than earlier spots have. It’s still all very attitude-heavy, with lots of glowering and brooding, but let’s also note that it’s Wonder Woman who’s providing a lot of the inspirational uplift for the other heroes. And, again, the Amazons get quite a bit of screen time to take advantage of their popularity with audiences. Basically, the character types each hero will play to are shown clearly here, as well as how they integrate together.

The final “Heroes” trailer lives up to its name by including a slowed down version of David Bowie’s song of the same name. It opens with a scene of Lois greeting Clark in the cornfield, but we see that’s likely just a dream. Superman is dead, we hear via a news broadcast, and the world is having problems. Bruce talks about the threats that are coming, which Diana identifies as an invasion. They enlist the help of the other heroes, with Bruce convincing them they’re stronger together. That all is followed by lots of fighting between the Justice League and parademons who are looking to unleash hell on Earth.

Online and Social

The movie’s official website opens with the final trailer and once that’s over or you close it you’re greeted with a version of the painting-like key art of the team. In the upper left are links to the movie’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles. You can also see it’s “wrapped” in the branding and navigation of DC Comics, bestowing the traffic to the home of the IP and encouraging any casual visitors interested in the movie to check out more of the comics and characters offered. Along the bottom are prompts to get tickets or watch the recent red carpet premiere event.

Moving to the top of the page, the content menu there starts with “Video” which surprisingly just has the same trailer that opened the site. After that, “Unite the League” gives you a couple options to either create your own superhero symbol or create a 360-degree image that you could add your friends to. The results of the first option could be downloaded either as a JPG or an MP4 video but not as a GIF, which seems like an oversight.

“First Look” just has the team image that has been used sporadically throughout the campaign, including on licensed products, and which notably includes Superman among the heroes. That’s followed by a link to “Join the League” to access exclusive material and get early updates on new merchandise.

You can find out more about the “VR Game” that lets you play as Batman as he tests his own abilities as well as those of his new teammates but you’ll need the required equipment to play. After links to get tickets and find release dates, “Partners” finishes off the site with links to the companies helping to promote the film.

A virtual reality experience came in four flavors. The first, accessible via mobile devices, allowed just small snippets of gameplay for each of the main characters. An HTV Vive version at New York Comic-Con provided for enhanced gameplay. Next, a couple IMAX locations in the country had an exclusive version that let you test your superhero abilities and learn to use your powers. Finally, a fully-featured version was available for commercial VR platforms that took players inside the actual superhero experience.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

TV commercials started running after the release of the final trailer, about a month prior to the movie hitting theaters. Most all took slightly different approaches to selling the same concept, which is that the team has to come together to be more than a team to defend the world. A better look at Mera was offered in another spot that was also used as a promoted post on Twitter.

Promotional partners for the movie included:

  • AT&T, which created a portal for all its Justice League-themed material, including character profiles featuring cast interviews and explanations of his or her powers and role on the team. Clips and excerpts from those videos were also used in paid ads on Twitter leading the audience back to that portal.
  • Mercedes, which launched a campaign involving TV, outdoor, online and print advertising to promote the movie as well as its new AMG Vision Gran Turismo, which is featured in the movie. The TV spots positioned the car as the perfect mode of transportation, even for heroes who can fly, run and more. There was also a co-branded digital comic that was created and promoted across social channels by the car company.
  • Hot Topic, which created a line of clothing and apparel based on the characters and heroes of the movie.
  • Google, which added “bots” based on the five heroes in the movie to Android Pay, allowing users to unlock and collect them.
  • Gillette, which sponsored the above-mentioned VR game and created movie-branded packaging (conspicuously omitting Wonder Woman) that was supported by a TV campaign. It also ran something called the “League of Influencers” involving social media celebrities, but there was no information that could be found about that campaign.
  • Dave & Buster’s, which offered a special Justice League Platter along with an exclusive Injustice arcade game, supporting those efforts with a TV advertising campaign and presumably in-store signage.
  • Kendrick Motorsports, which, in conjunction with Great Clips, had Kasey Kahne and Dale Earnhardt Jr. driving movie-themed cars at the Texas Motor Speedway. This is just the latest partnership between WB/DC and Hendrick.
  • Orville Redenbacher’s, which offered a variety of actives and promotions, including an AR selfie tool and more.

Warner Bros. worked with IMAX on a virtual reality experience that would be available at theaters around the country. An augmented reality game was launched wherein Walmart shoppers could take pictures of themselves alongside characters from the movie when they found in-store displays and also play a game involving the Flying Fox, the team’s transport.

Both WB and DC ran social media ads on Twitter and Facebook that either included the trailers as they were released or encouraged people to visit the movie’s official website and “Join the League” for access to exclusive content and merchandise. Licensed product partner Mattel created a nifty version of the trailer involving stop-motion animation featuring action figures.

DC Comics took two additional moves to promote the movie, declaring November 18th to be “Justice League Day,” coordinating local events and giveaways and putting movie-themed variant covers on its November comics releases.

Media and Publicity

Outside of casting and other production news, the first big news cycle came as the result of a set visit by various members of the press. That brought lots of cast and crew interviews as well as details about who some actors were playing, who the villain of the story was going to be and the first official logo. It also brought with it plenty of confusion as there seemed to be conflicting stories as to whether there was going to be just one or, as originally announced, two Justice League movies.

Later on there was a new photo featuring Flash, Batman and Wonder Woman released along with some brief comments from Miller who talked about Flash’s role in the group dynamic. Another new photo came in an interview with Snyder about the story and characters. A small feature on Momoa called out his role as Aquaman as being part of the actor’s big breakout push.

Unfortunately some bad news came up back in May, when Snyder announced he was stepping away from the movie due to a family tragedy a couple months prior. WB kept things on track for the release date, though, by bringing in Joss Whedon to handle the rest of the additional filming that was planned as well as post-production. Helping make that a seamless transition was the fact that, as the story reveals, Snyder had already reached out to Whedon to help write additional scenes deemed to be missing from the initial production, so he was already in the Justice League mindset. Eventually that situation led to this movie being the latest to have its reshoot budget and schedule picked apart by the press for signs of trouble and other issues, including how much time and money was being spent digitally removing Cavill’s facial hair. No, I’m not kidding.

Costume displays, as well as consumer products, were shown at the annual Licensing Expo show. Another new still, this one featuring Flash, Batman and Wonder Woman, appeared in EW’s San Diego Comic-Con preview issue. Comic-Con also provided a venue for the studio to show off costumes from the movie as well as a full-size Batmobile.

The future of the movie was thrown into doubt with a story that appeared just the day before Warner Bros.’ big Hall H panel at San Diego Comic-Con. That story reported Affleck’s future as Batman was up in the air for various reasons relating to both the age of the actor, the physical demands of the role and more. It’s something Affleck had to spend no small amount of time rebutting, or at least addressing, saying he was happy to play Batman for as long as WB would let him.

In addition to their presence as part of Warner Bros. Hall H presentation, where the official trailer was shown, the cast showed up to sign autographs at the DC Comics booth on the show floor. It wasn’t all sunshine and roses, though, as the movie’s big San Diego stage was preceded by a story that cast Affleck’s future as Batman in doubt for various reasons. It’s something he wound up addressing and which took up some of the space that would ideally have been used on more positive angles.

EW’s fall movie preview issue showed off the first look at Batman’s big team transport The Flying Fox, which was also the subject of a later LA Times feature. It also had Affleck talking about how the film reflected the work of both directors and that the movie would show DC’s universe was really hitting its stride and more, as well as promising a more traditionally heroic version of The Dark Knight, not the rage-fueled character of BvS.

Later on an Empire Magazine cover story contained more first looks and other stories. More new photos and comments from the actors like this one focusing on Momoa continued to trickle out. There was also the fact that the movie introduced so many characters the general audience may not be completely familiar with.

In the last week or so before release, Affleck made the media rounds to talk about what both Snyder and Whedon brought to the project, his early near-brush with the world of Batman and more. Gadot also did her share, though in light of the conversations currently dominating Hollywood many of those appearances turned to her thoughts on sexual harassment. The rest of the cast put in the miles and time as well.

The theme of sexism, in general, came back up in a big way when Melissa Silverstein, among others, noticed the drastic difference in the warrior garb donned by the Amazons in this movie compared to what they wore in Wonder Woman. The addition of more bare mid-riffs and other exposed skin was quickly called out as being indicative of how women view women and how men view women.

More late-breaking controversy when, despite the fact that reviews had been posted already, it was announced the movie’s Rotten Tomatoes score would not be revealed until the day before it hit theaters. While that news was couched as being an incentive for people to tune into the first episode of the site’s new Facebook Live show, it raised the spectre of corporate control over information. That wasn’t a huge leap given how studios have stepped up their fight against Rotten Tomatoes, saying it’s poisoning fans against certain movies. Oh, and it’s owned by Warner Bros. So…yeah.

Overall

I’m hard-pressed to think of a campaign in recent memory that’s had so many unexpected twists and turns to it. To name a few:

  • Snyder’s replacement by Whedon for the final phases of production. While it’s understandable, it’s also very odd and unusual.
  • The continuing will he/won’t he conversations about Affleck’s future as Batman, a situation that’s changed with each new publicity cycle.
  • The impact Wonder Woman’s success had, which likely resulted in her becoming a much bigger part of a campaign that started well before that movie was released.

All that has made is kind of hard for the campaign, particularly the publicity element, to remain focused and on track. While Fisher, Miller and Momoa have kept up the theme of just having a good time and living the dream playing superheroes for a living, Affleck’s attempts at that same tone have come off as stilted and been undermined by the ever-changing narrative about his future. And let’s be honest, there hasn’t been a whole lot of Gadot here, which is surprising. So it’s been hard, at least from an outside observer’s point of view, for the publicity to get its footing for any length of time.

In the marketing components things have been a bit more consistent, but whether or not that’s a good thing is going to be in the eye of the beholder. All the trailers, while they sell different plot points, have been very similar in terms of tone and style, presenting a dark and violent action movie. Yes, there are certainly more laughs on display than in the marketing of BvS, but that’s not a high bar to clear. It seems as if no matter how much the studio may have wanted to change perceptions in the wake of Wonder Woman it was limited by the material available to work with.

In short it looks like another Zack Snyder movie, for good or ill. Lots of heavily-stylized characters and a story that’s only hinted at from time to time lest it take the focus off the special effects and action sequences.

It also can’t go without saying that the inconsistent approach to Superman’s presence in the story is somewhat laughable and almost amateurish. 95% of the official marketing materials keep him off-camera, but then he’s just standing there like it’s no big deal in the other 5%, as well as in all the imagery for the licensed products on store shelves. Adding to the disconnect is that the character’s absence is only mentioned once or twice in the campaign, so it’s not as if him being gone is clearly what’s motivated Batman and the others to rise up and join together. If you’re going to hide a character from the marketing, do so for a reason.

I can’t say I don’t like the campaign. I’m still a comics nerd, after all. But there are some real issues that weren’t addressed at all or, if they were, only made the message to the audience that much more muddled and somewhat confusing.

PICKING UP THE SPARE

Henry Cavill says what everyone else was thinking last year, that it was a ridiculous conceit to hide Superman in the movie’s marketing since not only was he on the publicity tour but *of course* the character was going to come back. Plus, he was on like 22% of the marketing materials anyway, especially the cross-promotional stuff.