Extraction – Marketing Recap

How Netflix is selling its new action drama.

extraction poster 2

Chris Hemsworth reunites with his Avengers directors Joe and Anthony Russo, here serving as writer and producer respectively, on the new movie Extraction, coming to Netflix this week. Hemsworth stars as Tyler Rake, a vicious and effective mercenary who is called in to rescue a young boy kidnapped as part of a conflict between warring drug lords. Rake’s ruthless and self-destructive behavior, though, threatens to make an already dangerous mission even more so.

The movie was directed by Sam Hargrave, who previously served as stunt coordinator on a number of Marvel films, including those directed by the Russos, and is based on the graphic novel “Cuidad” cocreated by the Russos along with Ande Parks and others.

Netflix’s campaign hasn’t been huge, but with zero theatrical competition at the moment the field is wide open, and so it has sold the film by using its most recognizable elements.

The Posters

extraction poster

The first poster (by marketing agency BOND) was released at the end of March. It shows Rake kneeling and looking intense, dressed for action while a gunfight goes on behind him.

The second poster, released two weeks ago, still has Rake in the middle of chaos but this time he’s joined by the boy he’s working to rescue and it’s evident the action has passed, though a car is still on fire in the background. Both posters make sure to note just above the title that the movie come “From the visionary directors of Avengers: Endgame” in an attempt to get the audience’s attention.

The Trailers

After an epic dive to show how tough he is, the first trailer (5 million views on YouTube) continues establishing Rake as a dark, single-minded badass. He’s called in when the son of one drug lord is kidnapped by a rival, but the rescue quickly goes sideways when the city is locked down and escape seems impossible. Rake is repeatedly told to leave the kid, that there’s no way both of them make it out, but he sees saving him as a way to earn some redemption for himself. It’s an effective trailer, selling a big, bloody, violent film.

Online and Social

Netflix gave the movie a bit of promotion on social media, but there weren’t any dedicated sites or profiles for it.

Advertising and Promotions

Netflix got the promotional ball rolling in mid-February when it released a handful of first-look stills from the movie.

A making of featurette came out last week focusing on how Hargrave and his team put together one of the film’s key action sequences. That makes a lot of sense given his background.

Media and Press

In February there were more stills released along with an interview with comments from Hemsworth, Hargrave and the Russos.

Further interviews had Hargrave talking about how perfect Hemsworth was for the role and why he was the only real candidate for it and how the two met on the earlier Avengers films, eventually deciding to keep working together on this project.

Overall

As stated earlier, this isn’t a big campaign mounted by Netflix, which is too bad considering they largely have the marketplace to themselves at the moment. There’s no other competition right now, so it could have made a much more substantial deal about a movie like this, especially given the filmmakers involved.

The movie’s nature, which would certainly earn it an R rating were it released theatrically, might be a big reason for it not being given more marketing muscle. That hasn’t stopped Netflix or other streamers before, though, so it’s still a bit perplexing. A more likely answer might simply be that, because so many people are home at the moment and looking for something new to watch, additional paid marketing would be redundant while in-app promotions will suffice to bring viewers.

Picking Up the Spare

Interesting tidbits from Hargrave and others  here  about how they adjusted to the new isolation-centric reality while still actively selling the movie. 

The work Hargrave put into his first directorial effort and how he managed the change have been  covered  in a few  interviews

New featurettes released by Netflix after the movie came out have focused on the  fight sequences , useful  objects to use as weapons  and  car chases  that make up most of the movie’s action. There was also an explainer as to where you might  recognize  costar Golshifteh Farahani. 

The movie has gone on to become one of Netflix’s self-described best debuts of all time, something Hemsworth took a moment to  thank audiences for

Hemsworth made a virtual  appearance  on “Kimmel” to promote the film. 

Men In Black: International – Marketing Recap

You can read my full recap of the marketing campaign for Men In Black: International at The Hollywood Reporter.

Online and Social

The second trailer leads off the content on Sony’s official website for the movie. After you close that the rest of the site’s offerings are lackluster and standard, far below what a movie like this is capable of presenting.

Media and Publicity

An Entertainment Weekly cover story in early January offered the first major publicity push for the movie, including lots of new photos, comments from Thompson, Hemsworth and the rest of the cast and crew and lots more.

Thompson was featured as an up and coming leader in the movie industry. She also appeared just before release on “The Late Show” in an interview that included how young she was when the first movie came out in 1997.

Sony released a video of an informal (but staged) chat with Hemsworth, Thompson and Kumail Nanjiani where they answered random questions sent in by fans. The studio also put out a sizzle reel of footage from the movie’s premiere.

A short promo was released by IMAX to encourage fans to see the movie in that format.

While walking the red carpet Thompson spoke about how she hopes the movie opens up more opportunities for female filmmakers.

Hemsworth’s appearance on “The Tonight Show” was ostensibly about this movie but much of the conversation naturally turned to his role as Thor.

Overall

men in black international gif

Picking Up the Spare

A joint interview with Thompson and Hemsworth focused on the chemistry they’ve built up over the course of a couple movie. 

This is the latest big budget flop to get a postmortem detailing the behind-the-scenes problems, including extensive and unsupervised daily rewrites, that seem to have lead to box office underperformance. 

Thompson was interviewed by Trevor Noah on “The Daily Show.” 

After the movie’s box office fortunes were sealed, the head of Sony came out with comments about weakness in the story that helped seal its fate. 

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. 

Bad Times at the El Royale – Marketing Recap

Bad Time at the El Royale, the new movie from writer/director Drew Goddard, appears to very much be my jam. That’s because, as I state in my Hollywood Reporter-hosted recap of the film’s marketing, it looks like a throwback to the kind of ensemble thrillers that were vervasive in the early and mid-90s, when I was cutting my cinematic teeth.

Online and Social

The movie’s website is primarily interested in selling you tickets, but it also has a collection of trailers and other “Videos” as well as a synopsis and gallery of images. At the bottom of the page are links to the movie’s Twitter, Facebook and Instagram profiles.

Media and Publicity

The movie was one of those Fox showed off to exhibitors and press at the annual CinemaCon conference. Goddard offered a few comments alongside a first look photo.

There was an extensive profile of Hemsworth in mid-August that featured the actor not only talking about this film but also his career to date, which generated quite a number of headlines. Costar Cynthia Erivo also spoke about how this marked one of a couple film projects she had coming out this fall and how she’s making the shift from the theater stage to more film roles.

Bridges hit the talk show circuit in late September, just as Fantastic Fest reviews were hitting. A bit later Fanning followed suit.

It later was scheduled for the Rome Film Festival. There was also a new focus in the publicity on Erivo, who was also being noticed in a couple other current and upcoming movies.

Goddard, as a fairly well-known name in the industry, was the subject of a couple interviews where he talked about making what feels like a throwback to 25 years ago, working with the ensemble cast and more.

Overall

chris hemsworth bad times el royale dancing

Picking Up The Spare

Goddard talks here about the work he put into assembling the film’s era-appropriate soundtrack and here about getting the affably likable Chris Hemsworth to tap into a dark side.

Another profile of breakout star Cynthia Erivo here.

12 Strong – Marketing Recap

12 strong poster 2While the mission has become somewhat fuzzier and more ambiguous over the years, our initial goal in sending military to Afghanistan was to quickly and definitively rain hell down on the Taliban in the wake of the 9/11/01 terrorist attacks. That story, of when everything was righteous and pure, is being told in this week’s new release 12 Strong, based on the book “Horse Soldiers” by Doug Stanton, which tells the non-fiction version of these events.

Chris Hemsworth, Trevante Rhodes, Michael Shannon, Michael Pena and others all star as members of an elite squad who went overseas as the pointy end of the knife, a small force that could be flexible and lethal, acting as America’s strong right hand. Once in-country they find the situation is even more unexpected than planned. Operating without support or infrastructure, the group finds themselves needing to work with a tribal warlord whose allegiance is questionable and facing opposition sporting significantly more firepower than the horses and rifles they’re using.

Continue reading “12 Strong – Marketing Recap”

Thor: Ragnarok – Marketing Recap

2011’s Thor was fun. Less an origin story than a “how he fulfilled his destiny” story, the mix of comic book content and Shakespearean gravitas was pretty enjoyable.

Thor: The Dark World was drastically less fun in 2013, removing the cocky self-confidence that was essential to the character in favor or endless brooding over an incomprehensible story.

And now we have Thor: Ragnarok, the third solo outing for the God of Thunder in addition to his two team appearances in the Avengers films. This time around Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is confronting nothing less than Ragnarok, the death of the gods, at the end of Hela (Cate Blanchett). Finding himself out of commission and largely powerless on a mysterious alien world overseen by the Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum).

While fighting for his survival he encounters his old friend Hulk/Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), his brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and the Asgardian warrior Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson). Together they need to not only get themselves off the planet they’re trapped on but also back to where they can take the fight to Hela and stop her plans. This time around director Taika Waititi is pulling the strings, so let’s see what happens when you let a slightly mad New Zealander control of a superhero film.

The Posters

The first poster is a colorful effort that shows a short-cropped Thor with helmet in hand as he stands in the middle of an arena of onlookers. The swirling debris and bright light at the top are meant to show this is taking place somewhere other than Earth, which is important. A slightly animated motion version of that poster was released later on.

A whole series of character posters put each member of the ensemble on their own, set against a bright and colorful background that’s coming at them like a wave. Everyone from Thor to Odin to Grandmaster to Valkyrie to Hela get their own posters, selling this as a real team movie.

A more comic-book like artistic style was applied to the poster created specifically to promote IMAX screenings. All the characters are here in various action poses, but it’s all run through what appears to be a “comic” effects setting in Photoshop as I’m skeptical this is actual artwork. Another IMAX poster is more traditional, arranging photos of all the major cast around the one-sheet in order of importance. The bright, colorful visuals are all in the background while the major element is the call to action to “Experience it in IMAX.” One more poster singles out the title character, who has lightning shooting from his eyes just like in a scene from the trailer. This one was created specifically for those buying tickets through Fandango.

The Trailers

The first teaser trailer starts off with a “you’re wondering how I got myself in this situation moment” shot of Thor in chains, followed by a quick shot of Hela smashing Thor’s hammer in her hands. That shows the power he’s facing off against and the stakes of the story. She has plans to destroy Asgard and as a result Thor is catapulted through space to a strange alien planet where he’s collected by Valkyrie, who’s working for the Grandmaster. Thor is forced into an arena where he has to fight an opponent that turns out to be the Hulk, who’s decked out in full gladiatorial gear. That leads to the lightest moment of the trailer, where Thor gets all excited that it’s a “friend from work” (a line that was later revealed to be a contribution from a Make-A-Wish recipient on set that day) but it’s clear he’s not going to get off easy.

This is pretty great. It shows the broad strokes of the story, from Thor’s confrontation with Hela to her plans for Ragnarok to the scenes on the alien planet we meet Goldblum’s Grandmaster. As many people pointed out, the shots of Grandmaster and his court contain some of the most blatant Jack Kirby-inspired imagery ever put on film. And that last gag is just great, showing off some of the humor everyone’s been waiting for since it was announced Waititi was going to be in the director’s chair. There’s a great touch to the whole thing, though, that marks it as being more in line with the first Thor movie than the second one.

The second trailer, which debuted at San Diego Comic-Con, doubles down on the idea that this is a buddy comedy featuring Thor and The Hulk. It seems like half the footage in the trailer involves Thor talking to or interacting with either Hulk or Banner. Most of that is to explain they need to stop Hela, the Goddess of Death that is threatening to unleash Ragnorak. So they assemble a team that includes Loki and Valkyrie to take the fight to her. There’s lots of gunplay, sword slinging and more as they seek to save the universe.

It’s fun and funny and got everyone excited, which is exactly what it needed to do. There’s more story shown here, which is nice, but it’s Waititi’s comedic touch that’s really on display. It’s almost as if they’re working extra-hard to move the franchise in a direction 180 degrees the somber, dark dark tone of The Dark World.

Online and Social

It’s not totally surprising that the movie’s official website is somewhat lackluster. Big franchise films like this don’t need to put much effort in on this front. The colorful key art featuring the array of characters graces the front page, which notably includes links to the social profiles for Marvel Studios and not this movie specifically. Despite that, there were Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles that have been in use since the first film was released.

The actual site content menu has prompts to get you to “Watch Trailer,” check out a “Photo Gallery” of stills, read a brief “Synopsis” and find out more information on the movie’s promotional “Partners.” That’s about it.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

The first TV spot, titled “Contender,” aired during the first NFL broadcast of the season. Most of the footage here has already been seen. New, though, is Thor making the pitch to join his team to Valkyrie. When she asks if the team has a name he stammers a bit before saying it’s “The Revengers,” a name Banner doesn’t seem to be totally on board with. So it’s making it clear to the football audience that not only is there a massive Thor/Hulk battle and lots of spaceships and other action but also some offbeat humor.

Further commercials like this one continued using the humor that’s so prevalent in the rest of the campaign, particularly the competition between Hulk and Thor. Some also included Doctor Strange to make it clear the story still connected to the rest of the MCU. Eventually spots like this one took a more traditionally-Marvel approach to sell the action.

The following efforts were undertaken by the movie’s handful of corporate promotional partners:

  • Red Robin offered a free movie ticket when you bought a limited edition movie-branded gift card.
  • Comicave produced high-end collectibles based on the movie and the look of the characters.
  • Synchrony Bank created a movie-themed landing page with “Thor-spiration” videos to help people “save like a hero” and more.
  • Screenvision Media, which made the movie part of its regular pre-show entertainment package.

Media and Publicity

There had obviously been lots of speculation and on-set reports about the movie leading up to this, but San Diego Comic-Con 2016 was the first big splash of official material. That included props on display that hinted at potential ties to the Planet Hulk storyline and was part of Marvel Studios’ Hall H presentation. Those activities also included a fun look at what the cast and characters have been up to in their time off. Marvel later released the short online and on the home video of Captain America: Civil War and it was as great as advertised.

Blanchett spoke briefly from time to time about the role she played as the movie’s villain. After lots of speculation and rumors, Marvel finally confirmed some key plot points, including that Thor would face off against Hulk off-world. Waititi later talked about what attracted him to the project, what he hoped to achieve, the process of working on the movie and more.

The first big official publicity push came with an EW cover story that featured comments from the cast, first-look photos and a glimpse at some of the news characters for the first time. It also notably showed off Thor’s new hairstyle, which got lots of people talking.

This movie was one of those that were highlighted to journalists who attended a behind-the-scenes look and tour at Marvel’s upcoming slate. While promoting other things, Goldblum also talked about his experience shooting Thor, particularly praising Waititi and his approach to getting the most and best out of his actors.

Marvel’s Kevin Feige talked about the movie regularly, including making sure fans knew this one was an essential part of the path toward the coming Infinity War.

There were a few stories about the movie in Entertainment Weekly’s fall movie preview, including first-look stills, comments from Waititi about how he wanted to capture the vibe of old sci-fi movies he loved like Flash Gordon and more.

Just as they’d done with Doctor Strange, Marvel launched a STEM challenge encouraging young girls to create community-improvement projects and submit them, with the five best winning a trip out to the movie’s premiere.

The new characters this movie introduced to the Marvel Cinematic Universe was the focus of this story, which included comments by Thompson about how lazily female heroes are often written and what set this one apart.

Throughout the summer Waititi talked often about the movie and how he approached shooting such a massive story, including commenting on how his experience on Green Lantern years ago influenced him and how often he put on a motion-capture suit himself to fill in for someone who was unavailable at the moment.

This was just one of a few movies with Elba in a starring role, a trend that lead to him gracing the cover of a recent issue of Entertainment Weekly, with a story that had him talking about this and his other recent releases. Hemsworth and the rest of the cast appeared on various late night talk shows and other media to promote the movie and engage in host-driven antics. The star even talked about how he was kind of bored by the character before Waititi shook things up a bit. Ruffalo hinted in an interview that this could be the first chapter in a bigger Hulk story, though he’s also said Marvel has no current plans for more standalone Hulk movies.

Waititi’s unique personality was the focus of this New York Times profile, which positioned the director as someone who can’t believe his luck and being given so much latitude, including looks at his background, how he got the job and how he managed a casual and creative production.

In the final weeks of the campaign Thompson became more of a central figure as she revealed that, while it’s not directly addressed in the story, Valkyrie is indeed bi-sexual. More than that, the presentation of the character was identified as a great one for inclusion on a number of fronts. That increased spotlight included features like this that reviewed her career to date and talked about how she made the leap from smaller films to a big superhero franchise. There was also one more profile of Goldblum just because.

Hemsworth, Ruffalo, Goldblum and Thompson, as well as Waititi, all did the TV and other media rounds in the couple weeks leading up to release.

Overall

It’s hard to overstate just how fun this whole enterprise is. I really feel like Marvel Studios made the conscious decision to let Waititi have more say in the marketing of the movie than it usually hands over to directors, who are often simply workhorses in service of the corporate machine. Instead it let the filmmaker have a bit of fun with the shorts released before the marketing really ramped up and continue to be the public face of the campaign, bringing his fanbase along for the ride as he conveyed his unique sense of humor and assured them it would be intact here.

That bit of originality and levity was desperately needed for the character, who’s been on the cusp of being not just overly-brooding but also one used only to further the overarching story along. Both The Dark World and his role in Age of Ultron were subject to the needs of setting up what’s next, which did no one any favors. That rescue seems to have come in part by realizing Thor needs a supporting cast that operates on his level, something that was present in The Avengers films but lacking from his solo movies. The campaign has made sure everyone knows this is just as much of a team story.

PICKING UP THE SPARE

Director Taika Waititi continues to be an absolute wonder with this introduction to the film that’s part of the push for its home video release.
It’s not *exactly* the version of the character played by Tessa Thompson in the movie, but the take on Valkyrie was popular enough that a new version of the Asgardian warrior who looks a lot like her film incarnation is joining a new “Exiles” series from Marvel.