Ford v Ferrari – Marketing Recap

With a predicted $23-30 million opening weekend, the true story of a race car rivalry is expected to win the weekend.

ford v ferrari poster 2Car rivalries are probably old hat in the modern world when there are so many other things going on, but back in the day Ford aficionados did not associate with Chevy owners. You lived and died with such things and preferences were passed on through generations like eye color.

The new movie from director James Mangold uses just that kind of high-stakes rivalry as its premise. Ford v Ferrari is set in 1966 and is about just what the title implies. The Ford Motor Company – particularly owner Henry Ford II (Tracy Letts) and president Lee Iacocca (Jon Bernthal) – want to bolster their reputation by building a car that can win the 24 Hours of Le Mans. That race has traditionally been dominated by cars built by international rival Ferrari.

To help coordinate the effort, Ford enlists designer Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon), who insists their best chance lies in recruiting famed driver Ken Miles (Christian Bale). The two set out to build and race a car that is light years beyond what Ford currently has in production in a matter of months. Their efforts are not without incident or pushback from others who feel what they’re doing doesn’t make much, if any, sense.

Fox’s campaign has emphasized the true story of the events depicted in the film, selling it as a movie made by and for adults, a message Disney hopes will resonate with both audiences and awards voters.

The Posters

ford v ferrari posterThere’s lots of white space on the first poster (by marketing agency LA)from late May, with Ken and Carol shown at the bottom alongside the car they collaborated on. The pair, copy on the poster explains, “took the American Dream for a ride.”

Ken and Carol are walking through the pits of a race track on the second poster (by marketing agency Legion Creative Group) released in September. It’s a similarly minimalist design here, the focus remaining on the two men and the car they’re alongside.

An IMAX poster shows the two main characters in action in a different way, the pair talking around a car that’s sitting in the middle of the desert where they are presumably testing it. It’s a much different visual tone than the other two one-sheets, but it works to get the audience’s attention. Copy at the top encourages people to “Experience the ride” as an obvious play on the story. For the Dolby Cinemas poster there’s more of the cast shown in a painting that also includes two cars going against each other.

The Trailers

After first briefly meeting Ken in the opening of the first trailer (6.6 million views on YouTube) we transition to Shelby being recruited by Lee Ioacocca to come design and build a car for Ford that can be raced at Le Mans. Shelby says they need Ken, but he’s going to be hard to recruit and is skeptical the American company can beat Ferrari, especially in such a short period of time. There’s lots of racing and lots of bluster and bravado in the rest of the trailer as we see the efforts of Ken and Carol’s work be put to the test time and again.

The contentious history Shelby and Ken have for each other is featured at the beginning of the second trailer (9.2 million views on YouTube) released in September. After that we see Ioacocca is driven to beat Ferrari at Le Mans because the Italian carmaker insulted him, so it’s a matter of pride and ego for him. From there it’s shown to be Ken and Shelby against everyone, including those at Ford who feel they’re the wrong people for the job, but the pair are determined to develop the fastest car around and do it on their own terms and in their own way.

Online and Social

Fox’s website for the movie is nice enough, using its standard content format, but there’s nothing particularly notable about what’s there. Sadly lacking, as usual, is any context or additional information about the actual events depicted in the film.

Advertising and Publicity

Aside from general comments about the movie and updates made during production, the first real publicity effort came in April when it was included by Disney in its CinemaCon presentation, including a bit of footage. That inclusion marked one of the first times Disney was selling a title it had acquired from Fox’s list of active projects.

In July the movie was listed among those screening at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival and was later included in the lineup of both the Telluride Film Festival and the Hamptons International Film Festival. Those festival screenings, Toronto in particular, generated a good amount of positive buzz for what many called the kind of solid, professional, well-made studio film that is getting sidelined these days in favor of franchise spectacle.

TV advertising began in early October with a “Special Look” that included most of the basic story points shared in the trailers. Additional spots singled elements of the story like the clarity that comes in racing or the determination of Ken and Shelby to overcome long odds.

An AMC Theaters exclusive featurette had Damon and Mangold talking about the real life events that inspired the film. The two also appeared in a National CineMedia-exclusive promotional video. Another featurette adds Bale to the conversation as they talk about the nature of race car driving.

News broke in mid-October that, defying some tradition, both Bale and Damon would be put forward for consideration as Best Actor in this year’s Academy Awards voting.

The first clip came out in late October showing Ken confronting Shelby about some problems with the car and the work being done. Ken flirts with his wife in a later clip while another has Ken talking to his son about “the perfect lap,” a scene glimpsed in the trailers.

Last week a new round of TV advertising kicked off with a spot that started the 10 day countdown to the film hitting theaters. Online ads used the same design elements found on the posters to drive traffic to the ticket-buying website.

ford v ferrarri online ad.png

IMAX released an exclusive spot that emphasized the speed of the race cars in the story.

Last week Fox held the movie’s red carpet premiere in Los Angeles, with two cars on hand for the talent to sit in for photo ops.

Media and Press

Comments from Mangold about how mid-level dramas like this were an “endangered species” accompanied a first look photo released in late May. Months later, between Toronto and Telluride, the director was interviewed about making high-level dramas and much more.

While in Toronto, Bale and Damon were interviewed about what they took away from the production Bale also talked separately about losing weight for the role, working with Damon and the state of the market for original films. The latter was also the topic of a joint interview with the stars while Damon spoke about his interactions with Bale.

Damon talked cars with Jay Leno on an episode of the host’s web series. He also showed up on “Conan.” Costar Josh Lucas promoted the movie when he appeared on “Kimmel” in early November. Bale and Damon were interviewed on “CBS Sunday Morning” while Damon appeared on “Ellen” on his own.

The cast and crew spoke about production, including Bale’s weight loss following a much heftier (physically) role at the premiere. An interview with Mangold allowed him to praise the technical teams on the film and explain how they contributed to the story.

How the production team recreated classic cars no longer widely available was the subject of a feature in mid-November. The movie’s director of photography spoke about the look of the movie and framing the racing while the effort involved in recreating a historically accurate Le Mans race was covered here.

Overall

At the risk of indulging in a bit of lazy writing, Fox’s campaign for Ford v Ferrari hums along like a well-tuned engine. It never stalls or stops and it keeps you engaged and active for every turn. There’s nothing here that’s going to blow anyone’s doors off, but it is completely and utterly dependable.

Throughout the campaign, across any and all media that it could have been encountered on, there’s a clear and consistent brand identity that’s used. You see that same red, white and blue design scheme – one intended to reinforce the American v Italy nature of the story – on the posters, online ads and even in the trailers. That means audiences are reliably getting the message that this is a simple but powerful story featuring two popular actors. It conveys the setting and more time and again, just as any effective marketing effort should.

Picking Up the Spare

IMAX released an exclusive interview with the cast and crew while Fandango offered an exclusive featurette about the making of the film.

Additional interviews have run with Letts, Damon and Bale and the team that recreated the famous Le Mans race course.

Vice – Marketing Recap

vice posterOne of the most divisive and controversial personalities in modern American politics gets the satirical treatment in Vice, the new movie from writer/director Adam McKay. The film reunites McKay with star Christian Bale, who this time disappears beneath the weight he put on to play former Vice President Dick Cheney.

The story follows Cheney as he’s tapped by Presidential candidate George W. Bush (Sam Rockwell) to bring the years of experience he’s accumulated as Secretary of Defense as well as a major business owner to help the relatively green Bush govern. But Cheney has other ideas, seeing the weak President as a chance to fully get his hands on the levers of power without having a fraction of scrutiny the higher office would bring.

The Posters

A silhouette of Bale as Cheney is featured on the poster making this seem like an artistic magazine cover. The cast names are featured above the title while McKay’s credits are shared at the very top. It’s a nice bit of pop art helping sell the attitude and approach of the movie.

The Trailers

Bush is recruiting Cheney to be his VP as the trailer opens, though Cheney is somewhat reluctant to take on what’s mostly a “symbolic” position. So he proposes an alternative arrangement where he takes on the management of most everything that’s vital to the presidency, with Bush being left as mostly a figurehead. The montage that follows shows just how extensive Cheney’s role became and how that impacted the country and the world.

The performances by Bale, Rockwell, Carell and others are a highlight here, but what’s also on display is the visual style of the movie, which seems just as fast and tight as what McKay brought to The Big Short. That’s the real sales pitch here, a fast-paced trip behind the curtains of power.

Online and Social

There’s only the usual batch of information and content on the movie’s official website, not much else.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

TV advertising began in mid-October with a spot showing the same kind of manic energy as the trailer, including Cheney bargaining for the kind of power a VP doesn’t usually enjoy. The movie’s SAG Awards were touted in a promoted Tweet.

Media and Publicity

Some of the first publicity for the movie came during the 2017 Toronto Film Festival. While there promoting Hostiles, Bale was obviously much doughier than he usually is, a change that was often commented on and which he said was part of his preparing for the role.

About a year later not much had happened on the publicity or marketing front, but McKay finally confirmed the movie’s title on Twitter.

A while after the trailer was released McKay started doing interviews, including one where he said Cheney is more dangerous than Trump because he’s smarter and more calculating.

He reiterated those comments in a substantial THR cover story on the movie that had the director talking about the process behind making the movie, Bale gaining the weight for the role and lots more.

An interview with McKay featured him revealing he had a heart attack on set that Bale helped him, thanks in part to the research the actor had done on symptoms and treatment. McKay was also the subject of a feature profile that allowed him to talk about his recent shift into more dramatic – albeit stylized – films, what kind of research he did while preparing for the film and more.

In early December it was announced the movie would open the Capri, Hollywood Film Festival. Shortly after that a first look at Tyler Perry as Colin Powell was released, garnering the same kind of bewildered reactions that greeted pics of Bale as Cheney much earlier.

Adams appeared on “Kimmel” and then on “Late Night” to talk about this and other recent projects of hers. Bale and Rockwell appeared together on a Variety podcast to talk about weight gains, how to not do bad impressions and more.

The movie’s red carpet premiere allowed the cast and McKay to talk about various things, including how a musical number was cut.

Bale’s transformation into Cheney was the subject of man stories, including a feature profile on the actor’s process. How he and McKay went about working to craft the story and how that story fits into the context of today’s political environment was covered in a number of joint interviews with the pair.

Overall

The campaign works hard to capture the same tone as The Big Short to try and get the same sort of critical and commercial success that movie saw. So it keeps going for clever and hip in the tone and presentation of the movie to help establish it as the emotional sequel to that earlier effort from McKay.

It never quite reaches that level, mostly because it’s working so hard to do so. That doesn’t mean the campaign doesn’t make the movie look interesting and intriguing. There’s been a lot of talk about how it might be an attempt to “humanize” Cheney, someone who not only engaged in bad behavior of his own but also poisoned the well of American society. That’s not the reading I get from the marketing, though, as it seems to be selling someone it knows is a terrible person and wants to make that point to the audience.

Picking Up the Spare

Carell was interviewed about how he approached the role of one of the most reviled political figures in modern American history.

Bale, Adams and others spoke about creating the movie’s unique visual style and format. McKay also revealed how a surprise cameo came about and why he decided to tell Cheney’s story.

Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle – Marketing Recap

mowgli poster 2Well, here we are again, preparing for the release of a movie inspired by Rudyard Kipling’s “The Jungle Book.” This time around it’s Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle and the man behind the camera is renowned actor/director Andy Serkis, most well-known as performance capture artist.

As with other adaptations, the story follows Mowgli (Rohan Chand), a boy lost in the jungle and raised as a “man cub” by the panther Bagheera (Christian Bale) and other animals. With the boy getting older the dangers he faces are more severe, including from other creatures including Kaa (Cate Blanchett) and Shere Khan (Benedict Cumberbatch). This version, though, focuses more on the identity crisis faced by Mowgli as he discovers there are others like him in the jungle, humans he’s not sure he fits in with.

The Posters

mowgli posterThe title character stands defiantly on the first poster, covered in red mud and scars but looking fierce and ready for action, Bagheera off to his side as if he’s preparing to defend his young charge. Mowgli is labeled “Outcast. Survivor. Legend.” to make it clear to the audience that they’ll be following a story of determination.

After Netflix picked up the movie a second poster, now featuring the full title, was released. This one sells a more epic adventure, with Mowgli and Bagheera standing on a cliff and looking out over both the jungle and the human camp. This one positions it as a story of identity with the tagline “The greatest journey is finding where you belong.”

The Trailers

The first trailer, released this past June, offered a pretty dark take on the story, showing Mowgli caged and reluctantly entering the world of man after years of being among the animals. Bagheera encourages him to gain the others’ trust as we flashback to scenes of the panther teaching the boy how to survive. We hear about how he’s grown to be a man now but is fully part of neither world, “something we’ve never seen before.”

That trailer was taken down after the movie was sold by WB to Netflix, which released a new spot in early November, just about a month before it was scheduled to become available for streaming.

It’s less esoteric and difficult than the trailer, showing more of the familiar Jungle Book beats about Mowgli’s friends and rivals in the jungle as well as his curiosity about the world of man. It’s not as funny and bright as last year’s Disney movie and ends with the pitch that it will be both on Netflix and in select theaters.

Online and Social

No online or social presence for the movie, which isn’t wholly unusual though Netflix has done more on this front for other releases lately.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Pre-roll ads appeared on YouTube in the last week or so that used shorter versions of the trailer and the key art has been used for online ads across the web.

Media and Publicity

Of course with Disney putting out their own live-action Jungle Book last year the comparisons were inevitable. Serkis made comments to the press about how his version was going to be darker and for a more mature audience than Disney’s, an effort to clear some space between the two movies. Much later he kept making the case for his version, saying unlike Disney’s effort his was going to use more real locations and effects. Serkis talked about his directorial approach, which has been heavily influenced by his performing career, here while promoting a few other projects.

Eventually the movie’s name was changed from Jungle Book: Origins to the current title, in no small part because of the previous movie’s proximity. A bit after that Serkis and some of the cast showed up at CinemaCon as part of WB’s presentation there to talk about the film and help exhibitors get over any worries they might have over too many Jungle Book projects. The movie was also part of the later CineEurope presentation from the studio.

A behind-the-scenes featurette included comments from Serkis about what kind of tone he wanted to strike with his adaptation, how lucky he was to get the cast he did and what each actor brought to their character.

Out of nowhere, late-July 2018 brought the news that Warner Bros. had sold worldwide rights to the movie to Netflix, which still included a theatrical release for 3D screenings. Serkis noted that the deal takes some of the pressure of competing against Disney’s recent film off while exposing it to much broader audience. WB meanwhile gets to not worry about trying to market a movie everyone involved has said is darker and more complex than Disney’s.

Things went dark for a little while but in the weeks leading up to release Serkis made a few media appearances to talk up the movie. Also popping around that time was an interview with composer Nitin Sawhney and a first listen at a couple of new songs from the soundtrack.

Bale later spoke about how he got involved in the movie and what he thought was new and interesting in the story.

A feature interview with Serkis had him talking about the previous Jungle Book adaptation and the years he’s spent trying to get this film, with his vision, made. He and others also went into some detail about the behind-the-scenes machinations that resulted in the movie being delayed and eventually sent to Netflix. Serkis also spoke about the process of filming the actors and creating the animals.

Overall

You definitely get the message that this is *not* a version of the story that’s going to feature lovable animals carousing around the jungle singing jaunty tunes. Indeed the campaign most clearly sets itself apart from other adaptations by showing only the bare necessities (sorry) of those animals, instead selling this as Mowgli’s story first and foremost.

It is definitely a dark story on display here, so it’s understandable why WB took a pass on the movie after years of dithering uncertainty and scheduling shifts. Throughout all that, the message has been most strongly conveyed by Serkis himself, who’s a big personality and is best positioned to tell audiences what’s going on and why they should take a chance on seeing it.

Picking Up The Spare

A featurette from Netflix had Serkis talking about the development of the movie, his process directing and performing motion capture and more.

Another featurette, this time introducing us to Serkis’ son Louis, who performed as Bhoot in the movie.

Hostiles – Marketing Recap

hostiles posterThe new movie Hostiles takes the audience back to 1892 for a story about learning compassion for your fellow human being, no matter who they are or what your view of them might be. Christian Bale stars as Capt. Joseph J. Blocker, a soldier on the frontier of New Mexico who’s given an assignment he doesn’t want: Transport Chief Yellow Hawk (Wes Studi) back to his tribal land in Montana before he dies.

Blocker has a long-standing hatred of Yellow Hawk and other Native Americans but reluctantly does his duty. As they travel they encounter Rosalie Quaid (Rosamund Pike), a widow who they offer to help and who joins their party. Through the trials and hardships they encounter along the way they all gain a respect and understanding for each other that challenges their previous beliefs. It’s a lesson we could all stand to hear again.

Continue reading “Hostiles – Marketing Recap”