not okay – marketing recap

How Searchlight Pictures is selling a dark comedy of influencers and influence

Not Okay movie poster from Searchlight Pictures
Not Okay movie poster from Searchlight Pictures

Zoey Deutch plays Danni Sanders in Not Okay, arriving on Hulu this weekend from Searchlight Pictures. Sanders is an aspiring social media influencer on a trip to Paris to break out of her creative rut and attract some new followers with fresh content. Fate helps her out when a terrorist attack in the city results in her being mistaken for one of the attack’s survivors, a status that’s untrue but which helps bring her attention. But the truth is the trip was faked and the truth is hanging out there, waiting to come to light and tear down Sanders’ newfound fame.

Written and directed by Quinn Shephard, the movie costars Dylan O’Brien as Colin, the man Sanders has a crush on and Mia Isaac as Rowan, the actual survivor of a school shooting Sanders encounters in her new role as advocate for peace and love.

With all that in mind, let’s look at the campaign.

announcements and casting

The movie was announced in June, 2021 with Searchlight producing, Shephard writing/directing and Deutch starring. The rest of the cast joined over the next couple months as filming began.

During production there was already a decent marketing effort underway on social media, especially TikTok, where videos were being posted showing Deutch and the rest of the cast engaging in hijinks and having fun behind the scenes. The studio was also posting behind the scenes photos, memes about influencers and more on Twitter and elsewhere.

Not all of that is directly tied to the movie, some of it is just tangentially related to themes of the story or characters. But the goal here was to create share-worthy content that’s in-line with the influencer culture of that story that fans could relate to and begin to build some buzz about.

the marketing campaign

The official campaign finally kicked off in early March with the release of a first look photo along with an interview with Shephard talking about how she worked with the film’s costume designers and stylists to mine TikTok and other social media platforms for the kinds of trendy fashions Sanders and the other characters might wear.

At the end of April the movie’s release date was moved up a week from early August to the end of July.

The teaser trailer (3.5m YouTube views) that came out at the end of June opens with a warning about how it contains an “unlikable female protagonist”, which sounds like a ridiculous thing to say until you realize it really isn’t. From there we see the consequences of Sanders’ actions before we see the actions themselves, all of which are highly questionable but which, she explains, are taken because she’s desperate to be noticed.

More memes and other trendy content was posted on social media following that, with the team jumping on each new format that popped up online.

Isaac was profiled about this and other new movies she’s in that are coming out soon. Another profile came out a little bit later that covered similar ground.

Shephard was also interviewed about casting Deutch, taking on some of the worst aspects of the extremely online culture and more. A similar interview with O’Brien had him talking about how he got involved, the limited research into the social media world he did and working with Deutch again.

The poster was released in mid-July showing Sanders in anguish, the French flag painted on her eyelid and colorful tears coming down her face.

At the same time the full trailer (1.9m YouTube views) came out. We see that Sanders is pursuing online fame in part to make up for the fact her personal and professional lives are somewhat disappointing. So she tells everyone she’s going to Paris to help her writing career and proceeds to Photoshop enough evidence to make it look like that’s what happened. When the places she’s pretending to visit are bombed, pretending to have survived the attacks is easier than telling the truth. Fame follows, but it comes with the promise/threat that things can turn bad at any moment, which they inevitably do.

Both Deutch and Shephard appeared for a Q&A following a screening of the film at the Future of Film is Female.

Two clips came out just before release, one showing Sanders trying to get writing advice from Rowan and another showing Sanders explaining her fake trip to her mother.

A pop-up event in New York City that promised some surprises along with free goodies and treats from a handful of sponsors was announced at this point and said to run throughout the weekend.

The studio put together a bunch of Spotify playlists themed to each of the major characters.

overall

Satires taking aim at social media and the lengths people will go to for online stardom aren’t exactly new, with several coming out in the last few years. But most of those focus on the lengths themselves and how outrageous they are.

The campaign here shows Not Okay may be slightly different in how it deals with the repercussions of those actions. It seems to be more about the price Sanders pays for what turns out to be a fleeting celebrity than just the wacky hijinks involved in pulling off her scam.

Of course we could ask the question of what the difference between “scam” and “hustle” is, but that’s a whole other rabbit hole.

Deutch is a consistently enjoyable actor and the campaign shows the role asks her to pull from her entire range, from energetic and funny to alone and tragic. It seems like she hasn’t quite had a breakout role to date, but this could be that.

the outfit – marketing recap

How Focus Features has sold a drama about when karma unexpectedly comes calling

The Outfit movie poster
The Outfit movie poster

In The Outfit, in theaters this weekend from Focus Features, Mark Rylance plays Leonard, a mild-mannered tailor plying his trade in Chicago after being forced to leave London’s fashionable Savile Row. Specializing in high-end men’s clothing as he does, and the setting being the 1950s, Leonard’s clientele is largely mobsters and others involved in the city’s organized crime operations. That also involves allowing his store to be used as a dropping point for various messages within the organization.

One night the bill for Leonard’s arrangement comes due as he, along with his assistant Mable (Zoey Deutch) finds his store in the middle of a battle between the mob and the police.

Directed by Graham Moore, who also cowrote the screenplay with Johnathan McClain, the movie also stars Dylan O’Brien, Nikki Amuka-Bird and others. So let’s see how the campaign was run.

announcement and casting

Focus Features acquired the project in late February, 2021.

the marketing campaign

The trailer (4m YouTube views) came out in mid-November of last year. As it opens, Mable is wondering whether Leonard is satisfied in his life and questioning why he stays where he is. But there’s something strange happening in the shop, leading to a group of mobsters using it as a safe space to avoid the police. Things get increasingly intense as the night goes on as Leonard simply tries to survive with the help of Mable, who may have some secrets of her own.

At the same time a poster was released that takes a nice noir, Saul Bass-ish approach to design. With two fields of solid color, one orange the other yellow, a lone figure stands in the distance, a gun visible in his hand. His shadow falls behind him taking on the shape of a pair of tailor’s scissors, communicating to the audience that this is a crime drama with a fashionable setting. Adding to that is the copy “Every suspect fits a pattern.”

In January came two announcements: First, that the movie would premiere at the Berlin International Film Festival in February. Second, that the initial February release date was being pushed to mid-March.

The second poster came out in February, just as Berlinale was kicking off. Once again a pair of scissors acts as the central element, but this time the open scissors are used to divide up the various factions, with Leonard and Mable at the bottom and the various others arrayed around them.

Moore was interviewed while at Berlin about this being his first directorial effort, the various sources of inspiration for the story, working with Rylance and lots more. While he wasn’t actually at the festival, Rylance also spoke at that time about what attracted him to the screenplay and what kind of research he did on Savile Row with the tailor making the suits Rylance wears in the film.

A clip was released in early March with an extended look at a scene where Mable and Leonard are discussing the morality of what he does, their opinions of their clientele and how it impacts Mable’s personal life in particular.

AMC’s Artisan Films banner had exclusive interviews with Moore and Deutch and O’Brien.

Richie (O’Brien) has a confrontation with another member of the crime family in the second clip, released a week before the movie was due in theaters. Leonard discusses his history with Richie in the next clip. A bit later Fandango MovieClips got an exclusive clip with Leonard stuck after some of the mobsters make an unusual demand.

The topics of going up against Rylance and tackling a period drama came up in an interview with O’Brien. Additional interviews had him commenting on graduating to more adult dramas and why it is he seems to be having a moment in his career.

There was also an interview with designer Zac Posen, who created the costumes for the movie, including the suit worn by Rylance, and how he got involved.

The making of the movie, including interviews with the primary cast and crew, was covered in a behind-the-scenes featurette released by Focus Features.

overall

There have been lots of movies in the last couple years that have clearly been marketed at a discerning adult audience. This one might be the best of that bunch, in large part because it creates a strong brand identity from the outset and never deviates. It has some of the strongest, most well-designed posters in recent memory and trailers/promos that create a sense of tension without giving away the plot or revealing lots of story points.

O’Brien plays what might seem to be an outsized role in the publicity push, maybe because he’s been positioned as this film’s breakout star. But it’s the combination of Deutch and Rylance that really provide the strongest points of interest, especially in the minds of the intended audience.