Just Mercy – Marketing Recap

How Warner Bros. is selling a true story of justice delayed.

just mercy poster 2Michael B. Jordan stars as lawyer Bryan Stevenson in the new movie Just Mercy, out this week. Stevenson is a recent Harvard grad who, instead of taking a high-paying job at a fancy firm opts to seek real justice. To that end he takes on the case of Walter McMillian (Jamie Foxx), a man sentenced to death for a murder of a teenage girl despie the almost complete lack of evidence or motive.

In his quest to help McMillian and those like him who have been denied a fair hearing he has the help of Eva Ansley (Brie Larson), the two of them working to overcome the concerns the locals who know all too well that the system isn’t meant for them.

The marketing for the film has leaned heavily on the public’s associations between Jordan and Larson and the heroic roles they’ve taken on in previous films.

The Posters

just mercy poster“Every generation has its hero. Meet ours.” That copy may seem cloy given it appears in front of a photo of Jordan, but given that it’s Jordan as Stevenson and that he’s wearing a sensible suit the message is that ordinary people doing their jobs are sometimes the heroes we need. The poster (by marketing agency BOND) came out in December and features images of the other main characters in the tiled background behind Stevenson.

A second poster released later that months features Stevenson in profile, this time reminding us “Heroes exist.”

The Trailers

An announcement teaser preceded the release of the first trailer (6.6 million views on YouTube) in early September during the height of festival season. That trailer stars by introducing us to Stevenson and the surprises and challenges he faces working with prisoners on Death Row. McMillian is reluctant to work with him, but comes around when Stevenson enlists the help of the prisoner’s family and friends in his fight. With Ansley joining the team as well, Stevenson continues pushing his belief that each person has value beyond their crimes, even if that entails upsetting powerful people and institutions determined to maintain the status quo.

The second trailer (3 million views on YouTube) came out in early December and begins with McMillan’s conviction and Stevenson’s resolve to help him and people like him who are being railroaded by a prejudiced justice system. With Ansley’s help and the support of others around them, he takes on that system so that innocent men are not punished simply because of their skin color.

Online and Social

While the official website has plenty of decent marketing materials, there’s nothing here that adds any emphasis to the actual social justice causes espoused in the story. So there are no links or contact information for organizations that may offer legal defense for those who can’t afford it themselves. It seems like such information would be useful and in keeping with the movie’s message.

Advertising and Publicity

Before any other marketing for the movie really started it was announced among the lineup of films screening at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival, an appearance that included a conversation with Jordan and Foxx. It was also slated for the Hamptons International Film Festival and then scheduled as the closing night feature at the Austin Film Festival. In mid-October it was announced it would open the Napa Film Festival.

A few online ads were run that used the key art and brief video snippets.

There were a few screenings held in the last few weeks in New York City and elsewhere, often involving appearances by the cast and crew, who participated in Q&As.

Media and Press

Both Foxx and Jordan spoke while in Toronto about the responsibility they felt to tell a story like this and raise awareness of the injustice they see around them. Jordan praised the people whose stories are portrayed in the movie during a Q&A following the screening. The two appeared on “The Tonight Show” right after that Toronto screening.

Cretton was interviewed about the need for diversity in the filmmaking ranks and how this story spoke to him. As part of a feature package on women in the entertainment industry, Larson talked about how inspired she was when taking on the role.

An interview with Jordan had him talking about the responsibility he felt in taking a part in a real life story like this, as well as how encouraged he felt that a major studio had agreed to take on such serious subject matter. The real Stevenson spoke about what it was like seeing his own story on screen. He was later profiled again about his work seeking justice for those who would otherwise be denied it.

The idea that it’s perseverance that pays off was covered in another interview with Cretton that once more uses the “this is another kind of super hero” narrative hook. He spoke later about the pressure he felt in telling a real life story and how invaluable it was to find the right cast.

The team behind the costumes and wardrobe were profiled on their work creating a realistic look for the story.

Jordan appeared on “The Tonight Show” to talk about the movie and more.

Foxx became more of a central figure in the publicity later in the cycle, starting with an interview where he talked about the universal elements of the story and an appearance on “The Late Show.” He also conveniently stopped by “Kimmel” when costar Larson was guest-hosting the show, creating a nice two-for-one promotional moment.

Overall

While there’s lots of good stuff going on here, there are two major issues that are apparent in the campaign.

First, the way it embraces the super hero terminology seems to betray a lack of confidence in the movie itself. That seemed to start out as a media hook, which made sense given the cast. Eventually it became part of the formal marketing and become the actual tagline used to help sell it to the public.

Second, it still seems like a mistake not to use the campaign to promote organizations that help those less fortunate. That’s the kind of move that’s been made in the campaigns for movies about sexual conversion therapy, teen drug abuse and other issues, so not seeing it here is notable by its omission.

That being said, it’s hard to take too much issue with a movie that touches on a topic like this, so whatever benefit comes from it is a plus.

Picking Up the Spare

The hair and makeup team was profiled and spoke about how they worked to accentuate the story and characters.

Additional interviews with Foxx as well as him and Jordan allowed both of them to talk about their characters and the change they want the movie to have.

How the editor created a sense of tension in a key scene was the subject of this feature interview.

A number of high-profile celebrities including Kobe Bryant, Common and others bought out theaters in neighborhoods across the country to let those who might not otherwise be able to afford it see the film.

Jordan made another appearance on “Kimmel.”

Avengers: Endgame – Marketing Recap

You can read the rest of my recap of the marketing campaign for Avengers: Endgame at The Hollywood Reporter. My coverage of the PSA effort for Stand Up To Cancer also ran on Adweek.

Online and Social

For such a big movie, Marvel’s official website isn’t very informative, perhaps by design. You’ll find both trailers and some basic background on the film, including links to on-site blog posts offering readers a refresher on what’s come before, as well as a list of the promotional partners who helped draft off the movie’s buzz.

Media and Publicity

Of course the movie couldn’t help but come up as the cast was out promoting other projects, as Smulders, Jackson and others were all compelled to comment on it in some manner.

Ruffalo appeared on “The Tonight Show” to help debut the second trailer and answer (or not) questions about the movie. Duke also mentioned the movie while promoting Us last month.

A substantial profile on Evans had the actor talking about not only the future of Captain America and his part in the MCU but also the political stances he’s taken, with him saying staying silent wasn’t an option even if it meant alienating some portion of the audience and potentially costing him work.

The movie’s substantial length became the focus of many conversations in the last month prior to release following the revelation that it was clocking in around three hours, a full 30 minutes longer than Infinity War. The Russos rationalized the expanded time by pointing out the movie wrapped up the story that had been told over 20+ movies and featured dozens and dozens of characters.

A different subset of cast members appeared on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” each night the week of April 8-12, bringing clips and more. That started with Downey, Johannson, Hemsworth and Rudd followed by Renner and Cheadle. Around the same time they showed up on “Good Morning America.”

In the final few weeks of the press cycle, two themes emerged in terms of what the cast and crew were telling interviewers and talk show hosts:

  1. “Let us explain…” That’s what the Russo brothers did to clarify why Captain Marvel is wearing more makeup in this movie than she did in her solo outing (a ridiculous topic).
  2. “We don’t know nothing…” That’s what Hemsworth, Cheadle and others did when asked what they knew about the movie’s story, which isn’t surprising given they’re all just small parts in a very big machine.
  3. “[X] has returned…” That’s what was behind interviews and profiles of Tessa Thompson, who confirmed that she couldn’t confirm anything, and Rudd/Renner, who spoke of how they are finally able to rejoin their comrades.

An EW cover story reunited the original team for a retrospective interview and offered up other photos and details, but not too much.

At the end of the campaign there were profiles of Feige as well as his two long-time aides. The screenwriters were interviewed on how they worked to bring together so many different storylines and characters into something coherent as well as how they reintroduced some of the previously missing heroes. Feige and Downey Jr. reminisced on the beginnings of the MCU, when the idea of a shared cinematic universe was still a “best case scenario” and the bets were much more unsure.

Rudd was announced as the host of an upcoming episode of “Saturday Night Live.”

One final TV spot released the day the movie hit theaters played up the overwhelmingly positive reviews it was getting. A video had a bunch of the stars reminding the audience not to spoil anything for those who haven’t seen it yet.

Adding to the movie’s profile was the news from Fandango it now held the record for the most advance tickets sold.

Larson came on “The Tonight Show” and revealed she shot her first appearance with the rest of the Avengers – which appears at the end of her own movie – on a green screen with no one else around and no idea what her one line meant. Rudd also appeared to have some fun with Fallon.

The media agency Kantar estimated that all in, Disney spent close to $14 million on the marketing and advertising campaign, with TV buys making up a little over half of that and a good chunk of the advertising coming the day tickets went on sale a couple weeks ago.

avengers-endgame-kantor-chart

Another profile of Winston Duke mentioned this movie as well as his appearance in Us.

More details revealed here on the partnership with Fortnite.

Overall

avengers endgame gif

Picking Up the Spare

Wayne Friedman at MediaPost points out how the majority of the movie’s campaign – and ad spending – came in the final month leading up to release. Jeff Beer at Fast Company also has his own recap of some of the movie’s cross-promotional campaign. There was also a look at how altered shots in the trailers kept some of the movie’s secrets hidden. 

Google added a fun little tool for those who searched for “Thanos.” 

Additional TV spots promised a “once in a generation event” and played up all the records the movie was breaking. 

Another short promotional video shows how every movie has lead to this one while also reminding audiences not to spoil the ending for anyone. Some of the cast reminisced about their favorite memories as part of the MCU. 

Brolin appeared on “Kimmel,” as did Sebastian Stan. 

IMAX continued promoting the filmmakers use of its large-format cameras with another video. 

Trolls continued to hound Larson, criticizing her junket appearances to the point where costar Don Cheadle felt the need to smack them down. 

The writers and directors of the movie kept talking about various aspects of the story and characters. 

Once the spoiler lid lifted more details about the story started to official come out, including a profile on the effects of Professor Hulk, who was also featured in a clip. 

Gillan was the subject of two profiles focusing on her role in the movie. 

Unicorn Store – Marketing Recap

unicorn store posterUnicorn Store is one of those movies that’s been hanging around in limbo for a couple years but is now being released by Netflix. Brie Larson – who makes her directorial debut with the film – stars as Kit, a young woman who has always had trouble fitting in, driven more by her unique perspective on the world than those around her and unable to let go of the dreams that inspired her as a small child.

Struggling as an artist, Kit is one day presented with an invitation to the vaguely-named The Store, where she meets The Salesman (Samuel L. Jackson). He offers her the chance to finally achieve to achieve the fame she’s longed for, but only if she proves she’s capable of taking care of an actual unicorn, the dream she’s had since childhood.

The Posters

Kit is shown in full childlike artist mode on the one sheet, her face and clothes covered in colorful paint as she leans back on a grassy lawn. “Everyone needs a little magic. Even if they’re a grown up” is the copy at the top. All the elements combine to send a strong whimsical message, presenting Kit as someone who refuses to fully adult because she sees the world a bit differently and is driven by her own muse, not anyone else’s expectations.

The Trailers

The kind of conformist environment Kit is operating in is presented in the first seconds of the trailer, showing her competing in an artistic competition where everyone else has produced serious, stark works while she has painted a whole rainbow of abstract colors. That unconventional approach is marked poorly, showing us how no one else understands her vision. Kicked out of art school, she moves back with her parents and takes a bland office job until she receives an invitation to visit The Store. That leads her down a path that promises to make all her dreams come true, getting her parents off her back and finally letting her be what she wants in her heart to be.

Online and Social

Nothing official here.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

No ads have crossed my radar, but it’s likely there will be some in the weeks following release.

Media and Publicity

One of the first bits of press for the movie was a huge profile of Larson where she talked about the responsibility of taking on her first directing gig, the evolution her career and much more. Notably, the movie was taken on as the first project from a new production company founded with the goal of increasing inclusion in films.

At the same time it was announced the movie would debut at the Toronto International Film Festival Larson talked about just how nerve-wracking that was, how she got involved in the story and more. She was also interviewed about how she used short films to fill in the gaps and take control over her career, how she cast the various parts and the creativity she hoped it would inspire in others.

Things went quiet for a long time – nearly two years – until just this past February when it was announced Netflix had picked up this movie as well as a future project for Larson to star in and likely direct. It was quickly given an April release date.

The movie was mentioned briefly in a profile of Larson that was part of the press push for Captain Marvel.

That was about it, though, as the actor/director just recently came off the tour for that much bigger movie and there wasn’t a whole lot of room for another major publicity effort.

Overall

It’s a bit surprising there wasn’t more of an effort made in the publicity department, despite it being just weeks since Larson was everyone promoting Captain Marvel. This is her directorial debut, after all. Perhaps it’s the trade off necessary for striking while the iron is hot, accepting the limited press coverage in exchange for being able to tout the actress having a new film available on Netflix within weeks of that bigger movie hitting theaters.

Whatever the reason, Netflix’s limited campaign is filled with colorful whimsy, selling the film as a story of wish fulfillment and the rewards of being true to yourself, not fitting in the box society would like you to. That’s not a bad message to send, it just remains to be seen if it’s the kind of thing that can be sustained through an entire movie. Larson, who has charm to spare, though, may just be the one to pull it off.

Picking Up the Spare

Larson shared her magical thinking in a video from Netflix.

Captain Marvel – Marketing Recap

You can read my full recap of the marketing campaign for Captain Marvel at The Hollywood Reporter.

Media and Publicity

Larson talked briefly while promoting another movie about the pressure she felt to get the character right. An interview with Gregg let him tease that we’re going to meet a younger, greener Coulson in the movie, someone who’s still pretty new to SHIELD.

In early September we were finally given our first good look at Larson in character and in costume thanks to an Entertainment Weekly cover story package. That included her talking about what drives and motivates Carol and what kind of tone the movie was taking, a first look at an actual Skrull on-screen, a first look at a digitally de-aged Jackson as Nick Fury and a photo of Law as Mar-Vell along with comments from him. Unexpectedly there was also a pic of Lashana Lynch as Maria Rambeau, mother to Monica, a name that has lots of future implications.

Additional stories explained the movie’s mid-90s setting, how Mendelsohn got involved and what he thinks about the Skrulls and some hints about what role Carol is going to have in future of the MCU. Feige also promised there were more female-led movies coming, though we’ve been hearing that for years.

Mendelssohn was interviewed about his role and how he got involved.

While Law’s role had been referred to in a cagey way throughout production, it was officially confirmed in late December of last year. How Larson trained and otherwise prepared for the role was the subject of an interview with the actress that also included comments from others about her dedication and work ethic. The filmmakers also spoke about what kinds of films they were pulling influences from in order to make this one.

As with a number of other big releases featuring diverse casts, a number of fundraisers were instituted to make sure girls who otherwise couldn’t afford to could see the movie.

Benning appeared on “Late Night” to talk about the movie and share a clip that revealed who exactly she was playing in the film. It was also nice to see Kelly Sue DeConnick, who revitalized the character and gave her the costume and look she sports in the movie, be profiled.

With some helpful promotion by celebrities like Ellen DeGeneres and others a crowdfunding campaign to help underprivileged girls see the movie for free raised over $60,000 as of late February, well over its initial goal.

Nerdist took things a step further with a retro trailer that uses footage from a bunch of 90s movies – including Jackson’s own Die Hard With a Vengeance – and cuts with scenes from this film. EW also dug into the past with another cover story about the movie that reused the cover layout, fonts and logos. That package included a profile of Goose.

Directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck were interviewed about bringing the first solo female hero to the MCU and all the topics and themes they wanted to explore. They, along with comics writer Kelly Thompson and others, also addressed how the film helps bring some much-needed female representation into the franchise.

Larson and the rest of the crew made appearances on various talk shows to hype the film just a little bit more. The directors and writer also commented on the trope that female characters like Captain Marvel need to “smile more” in order to be likable, particularly among men.

Overall

captain marvel gif

Picking Up the Spare

IMAX put out a new featurette with the cast of the movie talking about how great it looks in the large-screen format. Another had the crew talking about creating the world of the story while a third had Larson and Jackson making an overt appeal for the audience to see it in that large format.

Jackson made a couple more appearances on TV like this, as did Chan.

Costar Lashana Lynch got a profiles just before the and immediately after the movie’s release, which was cool to see. Similarly, Gemma Chan’s role in the film received more attention.

An official featurette had the stars trying to spill secrets about the movie while additional TV spots focused on the movie’s box-office win.

The U.S. Air Force’s involvement in the movie and its use of Carol Danvers as a recruitment tool for women has come under some scrutiny given the service’s problems protecting pilots from sexual assault and prosecuting offenders.

Goose continued to be a part of the campaign even after release, with a TV spot focusing on the positive reviews the cat received and a video asking if you can find the real Goose.

The women who brought the character and movie to life have no plans to slow down their quest for domination.

Marvel Studios put out a featurette about the firsts the movie represented for the cast and crew. 

The Glass Castle – Marketing Recap

Based on Jeanette Walls’ memoir of the same name, The Glass Castle hits theaters this weekend. The movie follows Walls beginning in early childhood as she and her sisters are constantly being moved around from one unusual environment to the next by their unconventional parents Rex (Woody Harrelson) and Rose Mary (Naomi Watts). The two believe they are giving their children something unique, teaching them to be self-reliant and not lead conventional lives.

Adult Jeanette (Brie Larson) doesn’t remember those years quite as fondly. Now settled into a successful career and comfortable life in New York, she once more has to deal with the emotional baggage heaped on her by her parents and the scars they’ve left behind. It’s not all negative, though, as she also realizes they did what they could and if nothing else gave her and her sisters a passion for life.

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