Kajillionaire – Marketing Recap

How Focus Features is selling the latest from an acclaimed writer/director.

(Note: Yes, this came out last week. Let’s move on.)

The release of a new movie from Miranda July is cause for a fair amount of celebration, and something that hasn’t happened in almost a decade. Thankfully she’s back with Kajillionaire. Evan Rachel Wood stars as Old Dolio, a young woman whose parents Robert (Richard Jenkins) and Theresa (Debra Winger) have long made her a part of their petty scams and cons.

There’s a change in the family dynamic when, out of the blue, Robert and Theresa invite an outsider into their activities. Adding Melanie (Gina Rodriguez), something done while trying to get out of a tense situation, changes things substantially, including making Old Dolio begin to question what else might be out there for her.

Focus Features has given what seems to be quirky character drama an appropriately quirky campaign, one that relies heavily on the indie cache of July. The film currently has an 87 percent Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with reviews praising Wood’s performance as well as July’s handling of the story.

The Posters

Old Dolio is literally surrounded by the detritus of her makeshift life on the poster, released at the end of July. There are pancakes, cash, watches and other items are all around her while she, in the center, looks disinterested and somewhat distracted but it’s clear her life revolves around all of this. The tagline “Know your worth” is at the bottom, indicating that Old Dolio is struggling with who she is and what her role in the world is, especially as it relates to the other characters who appear at the bottom of the swirl.

The Trailers

The first trailer (5.3 million views on YouTube) was released in early August and starts by showing how Old Dolio participates in the petty crimes, hustles and schemes of her parents. Everything is fine in their world until those parents introduce an outsider, Melanie, into the dynamic. That creates new feelings in Dolio, who has to finally grapple with the kind of life she is leading versus the one she wants to be leading, and she finds she has to make some big decisions in order to bridge the gap between the two.

Online and Social

Focus’ website for the film has the standard material, including that trailer, a synopsis and a handful of photos. There’s also, notably, a survey for those who have already seen the movie to take. That’s interesting since it seems, based on the questions, designed to help the studio gauge reception in a way that may guide its thinking going forward.

Advertising and Promotions

At Sundance 2020 the movie received its debut screening in the Premieres portion of the festival. After initial reports A24 was about to close a deal, it was picked up by Focus Features after the festival ended. A release date4 was announced in March, but it was pushed because of the Covid-19 pandemic to September.

Singer Angel Olsen recently released the song “Mr. Lonely,” one that’s labeled as being inspired by the film.

Focus Features worked with the Brooklyn Academy of Music and American Cinematheque on a virtual retrospective of July’s previous work.

MovieClips was given an exclusive clip showing the family dynamic at the heart of the story.

Media and Press

At the festival, Rodriguez talked about the easy time she had working with Wood and the rest of the cast.

July was interviewed about the making of the movie and her career in general. There were a number of similar interviews where she talked about creativity, making a family drama crossed with a heist film,

A brief interview with Angel Olsen let her talk about collaborating with July on the cover of “Mr. Lonely.”

Rodriguez spoke about how she stepped into a role July had written specifically with her in mind. Similar ground was covered in an interview with Wood, which also included her comments on other projects she’s involved in.


If July’s previous films are any indication, there’s lots waiting for the audience that’s not contained in this campaign. The story is pretty well laid out, as are the relationships between the major characters, offering something intriguing if a bit unconventional for the general audience. Those more familiar with the writer/director’s earlier work will find more nuance in what’s shown here, especially since July’s name is generously attached to all aspects of the marketing, making it clear this is her latest effort.

Picking Up The Spare

A feature profile of the movie’s production team had them talking about creating the look and feel of the film in L.A.

July appeared on “Late Night” to talk about the movie and what inspires her. 

Scoob! – Marketing Recap

Grab some snacks and see how Warner Bros. is selling the animated reboot of the classic characters.

scoob poster 2

In this, the most fraught movie year in a century, comes Scoob!, complete with “!” as an official part of the title, the most notable release to do so since 2017’s Mother!.

At its core, the movie follows the basic Scooby Doo plot, one that sees Velma (voiced by Gina Rodriguez), Fred (Zac Efron), Daphne (Amanda Seyfried), Shaggy (Will Forte) and Scooby (Frank Welker) investigating a plot to set the ghost dog Cerebus free upon the world. That investigation sees them teaming up with fellow Hannah-Barbara creations Blue Falcon (Mark Wahlberg) and his faithful companion Dynomutt (Ken Jeong).

Amidst all that, the story also flashes back to the childhood first meeting of Scooby and Shaggy, one that was to set the stage for an endless stream of snacks to be consumed while the two try to stay out of danger while sticking with their friends as part of Mystery Incorporated.

While there have been two live-action theatrical films and plenty of animated straight-to-home movies, Scocb! marks the first full-length animated feature starring the characters. While certain adjustments have been made because of the current pandemic, WB’s campaign still retains many of the elements that have made the franchise so popular over the years.

The Posters

A young Scoob is shown on the first poster (by marketing agency Cold Open), released in November of last year. That immediately explains to the audience that the story will head back in time in some way, offering them something new they may not have seen before. Adding to that is the fact that his shadow is of a grown up Scoob, hinting that as an adult he goes on to become a Sith Lord.

The second poster (by marketing agency Works Adv) came out in March and has Scooby standing in a line up with the rest of the gang, including Dee Dee Skyes (Kiersey Clemons), Blue Falcon and Dynomutt. That same collection of characters, along with the same “Mystery loves company” tagline, are used on the next one-sheet (by Cold Open) which also came out in March. Notably, though, the first two posters include the release date along with the promise it will hit theaters on that day. The last one ditches it for the more generic “Coming Soon,” likely an adjustment for the VOD release that was decided upon.

The Trailers

After a brief setup, the first trailer (33.6 million views on YouTube) from November presents the origin of Shaggy and Scooby, showing how they met by accident as a young boy and puppy and became best friends. Back in the modern day, the pair are abducted by aliens tied to whatever they’re investigating at the moment. A scene of Velma doing her science thing and Daphne being over it ends it all without explaining what the story here is almost at all.

That trailer was the first to use YouTube’s new embedded AR features, allowing those viewing it on the YouTube app to take AR selfies with a young Scooby Doo.

The final trailer (1.3 million views on YouTube), released in early March, establishes that Shaggy and Scooby have been taken by some mysterious blue light from the sky. The rest of the team are out to find them as we flashback to the time the friends first met. Back in the present, we’re shown Blue Falcon and his sidekick Dynomutt are involved in their abduction, but what that means isn’t clear as the rest of the trailer is just about sight gags and other jokes.

Online and Social

There’s actually quite a bit of good content on the movie’s official website, including standard marketing fare like trailers and character overviews as well as a handful of casual online games, some Zoom backgrounds and more.

scoob party pack

The site also has a link to WatchScoob.com, a separate site that has lots of information on engaging with the movie from home. There you’ll find links to various VOD platforms to buy the movie and encouragement to join in the increasingly-popular “watch party” trend to experience the film as an online community on the 15th. To help increase that engagement and strengthen the connection in the audience, a PDF is offered that has more details on the virtual premiere event, movie-themed snack recipes, arts and crafts to have fun with and more.

Advertising and Promotions

The movie was among those promoted by WB at CCXP in December of last year.

In March Warner Bros. pulled the movie from its original June release, one of several such changes in the midst of the Covid-19 outbreak. It announced in April the movie would go straight to premium VOD and skip a theatrical release.

Cartoon Network was given an exclusive clip showing Scooby and Shaggy meeting with Blue Falcon, Dee Dee and Dynomutt. Earlier the channel had offered a new preview to audiences of its Saturday programming block.

The new song “Summer Feelings” from Charlie Puth and Lennon Stella was promoted to try and catch the attention of the tweens.

Also on that front was Tik Tok Challenge that had people sharing videos of them doing the “#ScoobDance” with a handful of prominent influencers on that platform leading the way and driving awareness.

Promotional partners for the movie included:

Bark Box, which created a special movie-themed box for subscribers filled with stuffed animals, snacks and more.

scoob bark box

Save Them All, a pet adoption foundation that created a new PSA with the movie’s characters to encourage people to find their new furry friend.

Blue Buffalo, which created a special line of Scooby Snacks dog treats.

scoob blue buffalo

Carl’s Jr., which put movie toys in their Star Pals kids meals.

scoob star pack

Color Me Mine, which offered a couple activity sheets in lieu of the kind of in-store events that are usually run.

Valpak, which promoted the early access digital premiere in its residential mailers.

Walmart also gets its own link on the official site as the “Shop” where you can find exclusive merchandise.

Updates made to social media profiles show the movie offering a keen awareness of the unusual circumstances society finds itself in. So there are lots of posts about hugging your pets, even if it is for the hundredth time that day, staying safe and protecting friends, eating your feelings and so on. It’s a nice touch that shows the movie isn’t trying to gloss over anything, just help people through a tough time.

A new video came out earlier this week offering professional tips on how to draw Scooby-Doo.

There were a handful of short promo videos, visible on social media primarily, that acted like online or TV ads but it’s not clear if they were used there at all. Some online banner ads used elements of the key art as well.

Media and Press

As the movie got close to release, Forte, Jeong and a few others engaged in a handful of interviews to talk about the movie, how they were passing the time during social isolation and other related topics.


It’s…not a terrible campaign. Certainly better than it could have been. But the best parts of the studio’s effort seems to be everything but the trailers, which isn’t a great sign. Those trailers don’t make the movie seem attractive to anyone above the age of 8 and offers little to nothing about the story, meaning the value proposition being offered is even weaker.

The rest of the campaign is quite a bit better. In particular, the way WB pivoted and offered the home viewing party pack for people to use during the virtual premiere is a great way to make the most of a bad situation. It’s a fun, inventive way to create a new touchpoint for the audience to latch on to and could do a lot to foster additional excitement, creating a moment for the movie that may not be quite as powerful as opening weekend but serves a similar purpose.

Picking Up the Spare

Just as the movie was hitting VOD a five minute preview was released to offer a taste of what to expect. 

WB live-streamed the premiere event, all of which was remote over video conferencing of course. 

Details on the movie’s soundtrack were offered here. There were also interviews like this with the film’s production team about creating the look of the characters. Forte also ‘ more about getting into the character of Shaggy. 

A number of exhibitors and other partners signed up for virtual sponsorships of the movie. 

DC offered 250 of the “Scooby Doo” comics it’s published for free digitally as part of the overall brand revitalization campaign. 

Early animation efforts of deleted scenes were shared to show audiences how the story evolved. There were also some bloopers released. 

Miss Bala – Marketing Recap

miss bala posterGina Rodriguez plays Gloria in the new movie Miss Bala, opening this week. Gloria is an unassuming young woman visiting Tijuana with a friend. When a gang of violent criminals shoots up the club the two are at Gloria is taken hostage, seen as valuable because she’s an American.

That gang enlists her in their operations, promising to help her find her friend and let her go safely, but her actions under duress catch the eye of U.S. law enforcement, who want her to inform on the gang. She’s pulled in every direction and played by all sides, leading her to discover she’s stronger and more capable of doing what’s needed to survive than she had suspected.

The Posters

The audience is asked “Who would you become to save your family.” on the poster, which shows Gloria looking defiantly out at the camera while wearing a gown and sporting a gun. So she’s clearly going to exact a pound of flesh from someone.

The Trailers

Gloria is on a trip to Mexico to visit friends as the trailer opens. That quickly goes south as she’s kidnapped by a criminal gang who tells her the only way to survive is to help them in their terrorist operations. Eventually she’s taken into custody by American law enforcement and forced to act as an informant to take the gang down, something she takes to surprisingly well. As the trailer ends it’s unclear where Gloria’s true allegiances lie.

What starts out as a story of victimhood quickly becomes one of a woman claiming the power that’s all around her as her own. And that last shot of Rodriguez in an evening gown sporting a high caliber rifle may be a bit cliched, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t work.

Online and Social

Not much beyond the usual content on the movie’s official website, along with links to Twitter, Facebook and Instagram profiles. The one unique section is “Dress From the Heart,” which asks aspiring designers to create their perfect red dress for the opportunity to have it made by an actual designer. The winner of that contest was announced a couple weeks ago.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

A Promoted Tweet from mid-November was the first widespread paid element, using a 30-second video that distilled the message of the trailer. Further promoted Tweets were running in early January.

Other online ads used short video snippets embedded into banner units that also included elements pulled from the key art.

A first look clip was aired during a recent episode of Freeform TV’s “Good Trouble.”

Media and Publicity

A clip released just a couple weeks ago focused on a pivotal scene where Gloria is given a choice by the criminals she’s held by.

Rodriguez showed up on various late night and early morning talk shows to promote the film and talk about the story and her character. She also appeared, along with director Catherine Hardwicke and others, at a special screening hosted by the Austin Film Society that included a Q&A session.

In various profiles, Rodriguez talked about how the film fits into her other roles and choices, the story of a woman taking her fate into her own hands, how this is one of a few high-profile projects she has right now, her relentless energy and the inclusive nature of the movie’s cast and crew. The movie also came up while she was doing publicity for those other projects.

A featurette allowed Rodriguez to talk about her transformation from her “Jane the Virgin” character into an action hero.


Rodriguez uses all her star power to sell the movie, positioned here as a story of female empowerment and actualization, of finding who you are only after you’ve gone through the crucible. That’s a good angle and she is potentially bringing her sizable fan base to the movie.

There are more than a few action movie cliches on display in the campaign, but that can be forgiven largely because we don’t often get to see women in this kind of role or story. In whole this is a solid campaign but the movie’s fate may be decided not only by its status as a non-franchise release but also by the chilling weather gripping much of the country.

Picking Up the Spare

Rodriguez continued to talk about the movie and her hope it results in even more stories starring Latino talent.

Hardwicke rightly points out that movies directed by women start off in a hole that needs to be overcome before they can even be created or sold to audiences. The topic of women owning their agency was also covered in this interview with her.

Annihilation – Marketing Recap

annihilation posterAfter making quite a splash in the science-fiction world with Ex Machina, writer/director Alex Garland is back with Annihilation. Based on the novel of the same name by Jeff VanderMeer (the first in a trilogy of books), the story follows Lena (Natalie Portman), a biologist married to Kane (Oscar Isaac). He’s sent on a mission to investigate “The Shimmer,” a massive mysterious zone that’s claiming more and more territory and from which nothing returns.

Or almost nothing. When Kane comes back as the only survivor from his team, Lena is sent in to find out what happened within The Shimmer. Joining her are Josie (Tessa Thompson), Anya (Gina Rodriguez), Cass (Tuva Novotny) and Dr. Ventress (Jennifer Jason Leigh). Once inside the perimeter, they’re quickly surrounded by a world where the standard laws of nature no longer apply and which is filled with unexpected dangers.


The Posters

That there was just one poster created for the movie doesn’t do much to counter the arguments of those who felt Paramount didn’t put its full weight into marketing the release. Natalie Portman’s name appears at the top and she’s the primary figure in the image, more visible through the distortion of The Shimmer than the rest of her team, who are obscured in the background. Copy above the title tells us to “Fear what’s inside” while below the audience is reminded this is coming from the director of Ex Machina.

The Trailers

The first trailer appeared right after an early still was released. We see The Biologist and her team walking across a strange-looking landscape and entering an equally strange forest of some sort. Cut to later on when she’s being debriefed as to what they saw while they were in there. We get some hints that her husband went into the same forest and never came back out, driving her to investigate.

Well that looks awesome. Incredible visuals, great performances. Yeah, it’s a solid first pitch to the audience, with a tone that seems similar to the one used to sell Arrival last year.

As the second trailer opens The Biologist is being questioned by hazmat-suited officials who hope she can describe what she encountered before we flashback to see her saying goodbye to her husband, who’s leaving on some kind of mission. Later on he’s been found but is in bad shape after entering “The Shimmer.” The Biologist decides to lead another team into the phenomenon to find out what’s inside its ever-expanding borders, a mission that’s needed because no drones or other probes are returning any data and The Biologist’s Husband is the only human to return. The encounter all sorts of strange and dangerous creatures and while some see The Shimmer as destruction, others see it as a new form of creation.

There’s a lot more of the story and the character motivations on display here in a trailer that’s just as effective as the first. It retains much of the mystery and doesn’t give too much away, only showing events that cause more questions both for the team in the movie and the audience. Clearly there’s a philosophical lesson being shared here, but it’s wrapped in a mind-bending sci-fi story.

Online and Social

Unfortunately the movie only received the lackluster tickets-centric treatment for an official website. There’s the second “Trailer” and a “Synopsis” where you can get an overview of the story. Neither are linked to from the site but there’s also a Facebook and Twitter account.

On that Twitter account the studio left a series of cryptic clues that, when put together, unlocked a bit of exclusive new footage on ForThoseThatFollow. After viewing that it gave you the option to create your own message that could be shared and decoded by others.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

A short TV commercial introduces us to The Shimmer and the danger it poses. This one’s less about exploration and discovery than it is about danger and thrills, which is understandable. A longer spot lets the story breathe a bit more and hits more of the same mysterious beats as the trailers by focusing on the mutations and creations happening within The Shimmer while also clearly showing that danger lurks around most every corner.

The second trailer was used for paid posts on Twitter after it was released. And in the immediate lead up to release pre-roll and sidebar ads were run on YouTube.

Media and Publicity

Isaac spoke briefly about the movie and how weird he assumed it was going to be during a break in his stage performance schedule. A bit later the first still from the movie showing Portman was released. Portman was later announced as a host for “Saturday Night Live” right around the time of the film’s release, an episode that saw her do a bunch of skits based on the films she’s done over the years.

In early December the movie got a bit of a bloody nose with a story on how a clash between two of its producers stemming from a poor test screening lead to the unusual situation where Paramount is releasing the film in the U.S., Canada and China while Netflix gets it for the rest of the world about two weeks later. The disagreement centers around whether the movie is too “intellectual” to score with mainstream audiences looking for a little more action and zest in their sci-fi. The unique distribution deal, which included Netflix covering a percentage of the production budget, is a hedge by the new regime at Paramount against a flop

A much-discussed featurette offered a bit more information on “The Shimmer” that is so integral to the plot, which is what got people talking. If you look again, though, you’ll also notice that it’s focused solely on the female characters and talks only with the ladies of the cast. So there’s an attempt being made to pivot the publicity for the film to meet the cultural conversation about gender and racial diversity, with much of the cast also being pleasantly inclusive on the latter front.

Just a week before release a mini-scandal emerged when someone called out how both Portman and Leigh are white actors while their characters are both of mixed-ethnicities. Responses from both of them made it clear they weren’t aware of that disconnect and even Garland made comments along those lines, explaining that the race of those characters isn’t addressed in the first book on which the movie is based and that he didn’t know mixed-race descriptions are offered in the second book, which no one has apparently read.

Both Portman and Isaac made the media rounds in the last week prior to release to engage in late-night hijinks, share stories of sexual harassment in Hollywood, offer amusing personal anecdotes and more. There was also a feature interview with three of the main leads – Portman, Thompson and Rodriguez – where they talked about sci-fi that’s female-centric and the bond they formed while filming.

As the clock ran down there were also profiles of Isaac and Rodriguez about how they got involved in the movie and prepared for it, including that Isaac was filming this and the latest Star Wars at the same time, sometimes on the same day. There also an interview with VanderMeer where he talked about the long strange trip his book has taken to the screen.


Yeah, I kind of see the point people were making that there’s a less than full-throated effort being made by Paramount here. There’s nothing specifically that can be identified as necessarily lacking, but it all seems to add up to less than the sum of its parts. You can see the lack of effort in a website that’s not exactly robust and offers little in the way of entry points into the story as well as the surprisingly low number of trailers and just one poster that doesn’t take the same ensemble approach as much of the rest of the campaign.

If there’s one positive thing to call out it is that the studio made no effort to hide the fact that this is a female-driven story and that the character’s gender isn’t a big focus, like it’s something they have to overcome. Instead it just…is. That’s going to rankle some ignorant sci-fi fans who still believe the genre should be a boys-only club, but that’s reality, idiots. I just wish that had been extended even further into other elements of the campaign.


This is just one of several similar stories in the last week or so that have asked why the movie received a vote of no confidence from Paramount, which did handle domestic release but gave Netflix international distribution rights. It all seems to boil down to the idea that a non-franchise sci-fi film featuring a largely female cast that made people think was just too much for the studio.

Great points here at Indiewire that if Paramount found the movie was going to be too tough a sell, that’s partly because of a system that emphasizes IP-based movies and other blockbusters. And if audiences are upset by the movie heading (in international markets) quickly to Netflix, it’s partly because they’ve failed to turn out for difficult, complex movies and made studios question their commercial viability.

Her comments about working with Roman Polanski have gotten the most press, but Natalie Portman talks about her current film quite a bit in this Buzzfeed interview as well.

Two new interviews with director Alex Garland where he talks about the movie and its story, one at The Verge and one at Entertainment Weekly.