the mother – marketing recap

How Netflix has sold a family-based action drama

The Mother poster with Jennifer Lopez from Netflix
The Mother poster from Netflix

Niki Caro directs this week’s new Netflix release The Mother, written by Misha Green, Peter Craig and Andrea Berloff. The movie stars Jennifer Lopez as a character known simply as The Mother, an assassin who has been hiding out but who is forced to reemerge when the daughter she gave up years ago (played by Lucy Paez) is threatened.

Joseph Fiennes, Gael García Bernal, Omari Hardwick and others also appear in the film, which is part of the post-Wick slate of cinematic stories with big stars playing very dangerous people, usually loners, in action movies.

So with all that in mind let’s look at how Netflix has sold it to the general audience.

announcement and casting

The movie was announced in early 2021 with Lopez attached to star, Caro to direct and Netflix already agreeing to distribute. Most of the rest of the cast was added toward the end of that year as production was getting underway.

Netflix released a behind-the-scenes still of Lopez filming in October 20021.

A small bit of footage was included in Netflix’s 2022 preview of its upcoming feature films.

the marketing campaign

In September 2022 a teaser trailer (2.3m YouTube plays) came out that begins by showing The Mother surviving on her own in a remote wilderness cabin by using the skills she has. It then cuts to her talking with her daughter, who is being hunted by equally dangerous people.

That teaser includes the May 2023 release date in the description but also ends with a more vague “Coming soon” title card.

Fast forward to January 2023 when the movie was once more included in the streamer’s sizzle reel of upcoming original movies.

For as early as that teaser trailer was, the official trailer (8m YouTube plays) wasn’t released until just this past April, only a month before the scheduled release date. This time we start in the past and see how The Mother’s baby was taken from her at birth, told the best way to protect it was to stay away. Years later the girl is targeted by the same bad people The Mother honked off long ago and she has to jump back into action to save the daughter who doesn’t know her at all and teach her to survive.

A poster was released at the same time that shares the title and release date with a photo of The Mother in a hooded parka, a rifle draped on her back and ready for action.

In a short post on Netflix’s Tudum site, Caro shared how Lopez’s dance training helped her dive right into the stunt work needed for the film. That coincided with a behind-the-scenes featurette on the story and how Lopez worked hard to embody the character she plays.

Lopez appeared in a silly video filled with messages from fans via social media about how they want her to be their mom. She also did one of those challenges to see if she could identify which of her earlier movies a quote came from.

She and Paez appeared on “Today” to talk about the movie and the bond they formed while filming and by herself on “The View” to talk about the stunt training and action sequences as well as the story of the film.

While everyone involved turned out for the L.A. red carpet premiere earlier this week the focus of course was on Lopez and husband Ben Affleck.


The campaign is fine, with the scale similar to other marketing pushes from Netflix for their feature films. And the story is communicated effectively if not in an overly-compelling manner. But it also relies *heavily* on simply selling Lopez as the main attraction, sometimes at the expense of that story or other elements more specific to the movie.

old – marketing recap

How Universal has sold the latest twist-heavy film from a singular director

old movie poster

Director M. Night Shyamalan, known for his intricately-structured slow reveals, returns with this week’s new release Old. Gael García Bernal stars as Guy, who’s vacationing with his wife Prisca (Vicky Krieps) and their two children. The family visits a secluded beach but soon discover they, as well as others already there, are mysteriously aging rapidly, with years going by in just minutes. With time running out, they look for ways to escape before it’s too late.

The marketing campaign has focused on explaining that premise, largely because hooking audiences to come see the twists in the last act is the primary value proposition for any film from Shyamalan. With middling reviews giving it a 60% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes and projections for a $12-15 million opening weekend at the box-office, let’s take a look at some of the details.

The Posters

The first poster, released last September, hints at time being a major factor in the story by showing human beings falling through an hourglass like grains of sand. The “It’s only a matter of time” copy unnecessarily underlines that hint.

That theme is made even more explicit on the theatrical poster, released in May. This one shows a woman relaxing on the beach, her face hidden by her hat but her legs and arms visible. One side of her body, we see, is much more gaunt and aged than the other, further indicating to the audience that there’s some unnatural force at work in the story. A motion version came out at the same time.

The Dolby poster shows an aerial view of the beach, with some kind of shape visible in the lines formed by the waves and sand.

The Trailers

When the first trailer (23.2 million views on YouTube), released in May, begins, we see that some vacationing families decide to defy requests to not visit the beach near the resort they’re staying at. That choice has dramatic consequences when after a series of strange events they find they are aging years in just minutes and can’t escape, leading everyone to make some very difficult choices. It’s full of tension but not silly and works to create anticipation and wonder about what power is behind what’s happening.

Online and Social

You’ll find only the basic marketing content on the movie’s official website, including a photo gallery that has a handful of behind-the-scenes shots. There were also social media profiles for the movie.

Advertising and Promotions

Shyamalan announced the movie and debuted the first key art in September, 2020.

Shyamalan briefly spoke about the movie in early 2021 when he appeared on “The Tonight Show.”

The first look at the film came in a Super Bowl spot that aired in early February. Understandably, there’s not a whole lot of the story in that spot but it does have enough elements to hint at the kind of story audiences can expect.

After the first commercial debuted during the 2021 Super Bowl, the director appeared on Entertainment Weekly’s Instagram to discuss the movie.

While the movie didn’t screen there, did sit down for an interview at the 2021 Tribeca Festival.

Clips that hint at the mystery of what’s happening on the beach and the confusion of the characters began hitting in mid-July.

Shyamalan talked about the movie when he appeared on “Late Night” in July.

Clips like this started coming out earlier this month, but none offered much in the way of detail as to what the overall story was.

The second key art was used for outdoor ads like this as well as online ads that drove traffic to the official website where people could buy tickets.

A special movie-themed escape map was added to Fortnite where people had to collect needed resources and put together the clues to get out of that area.

Surprisingly, the cast talked about how this movie doesn’t rely on the typical Shyamalan twist at the film’s premiere earlier this week.

How Shyamalan worked with his daughter on the film was the subject of a short featurette released just before the movie came out. He also discussed how he doesn’t think he makes horror but something more akin to drama in this spot.

Another featurette, this one exclusive to Fandango MovieClips, has the cast and crew discussing the concept of time and how it relates to the movie. The director discussed how sound and other elements help create fear and uncertainty in a Dolby-exclusive video while he and the stars all appeared in a Regal Cinemas video.

Shyamalan discussed how this movie fits into his overall filmography and more in this interview. He also spoke more in this profile about what drives him creatively and what some of his film influences are and have been.


M. Night Shyamalan movies are always sold on the idea that the audience won’t believe what lies just beyond what they see in the trailers and this campaign doesn’t significantly deviate from that formula.

The concern with that approach is that it can hold so much back there’s little for the audience to actually comprehend. Put another way, there’s a minimum level of context needed for the audience to grasp the broad outlines of the story and why they should care about the characters.

Universal’s campaign for Old, in my opinion, *just* crosses that tipping point. That could mean that, whatever the merits of the movie itself, it may simply be too obscure a proposition to motivate people into making this choice. Not that the campaign isn’t well-executed from a technical standpoint – it is – but it’s right at the cusp of holding too much back to maintain the sense of mystery associated with the filmmaker.