Unpregnant – Marketing Recap

How HBO Max is selling a story of two girls trying to help each other out.

The new film Unpregnant, hitting HBO Max this week, is the second film of 2020 to focus on a character who’s required to go to extreme measures in order to obtain an abortion. Where Never Rarely Sometimes Always took a dramatic and serious approach to the topic, this one is more of a teen road trip comedy.

High school student Veronica (Haley Lu Richardson) finds out she’s pregnant and decides she can’t go through with it. Because she lives in Missouri there are no legal abortion providers around her and so realizes she needs to cross state lines. Lacking her own transportation, she reaches out to Bailey (Barbie Ferreira) an estranged friend and convinces her to help, specifically by driving the two of them to the nearest clinic they can find.

Written by Ted Caplan and Jenni Hendriks, who also wrote the book the movie is based on, and directed by Rachel Lee Goldenberg, HBO Max’s campaign hasn’t shied away from the sensitive nature of the story while also selling it as a comedy that’s less imposing than the earlier film.

The Posters

Veronica and Bailey sit on the hood of the latter’s car on the poster (by BLT Communications), released in mid-August. That photo sells it as a teen comedy in the vein of something like Booksmart. The story itself is communicated, albeit in a subtle kind of way, through the copy “She’s a Type A without a Plan B.” With that copy, the audience gets that one of the characters – presumably the less goth-looking one – is a high achiever who needs to deal with an unplanned pregnancy.

The Trailers

The first trailer (128,000 views on YouTube) came out in mid-August, starting off with Veronica finding out she’s pregnant and then discovering the nearest abortion provider is a couple states away. Without a way to get there, she turns to Bailey and the two embark on an epic road trip involving chases, unexpected help, a minor run in with the police and an unsuccessful attempt to jump on a moving train. It looks funny and kind of sweet in its own way, taking a serious subject and making it about friendship and being true to who you are and the choices you make.

Online and Social

No website for the film, but there were social media accounts on Twitter and elsewhere that were less focused on the story than they were on positioning Veronica and Bailey as #friendshipgoals and their fashion.

Advertising and Promotions

Not much on this front, though it’s likely there were at least some online ads run along with other promotions.

Media and Press

Some first look stills along with comments from those involved were released in early August.

The cast and filmmakers all spoke about how they connected to the material and more.

Overall

There’s some good stuff in this campaign, particularly in how it presents the characters as largely independent and able to make their own choices. And it does a good job of keeping the central theme of the story – Veronica’s desire for an abortion and the lengths she has to go to in order to get one – front and center, even as it has some fun with the friendship between the characters.

That tone has come under some criticism by those who don’t feel abortion should be treated so lightly. But there’s nothing in the marketing, at least, that plays down the serious nature of the topic or treats it with any disrespect. Instead it just offers a more comedic take that shows there’s room enough for different takes on a theme when one movie doesn’t have to represent everything because it’s the only one that’s been made.

Picking Up The Spare

A couple new interviews with director Rachel Lee Goldberg where she talks about wanting to remove the stigma from abortion and why she choose to tell the story in a comedic manner. That last point was also covered by Richardson in this interview

The movie’s drive-thru premiere event was covered here

Sony sponsored a Spotify playlist of driving tunes to promote the film. 

Substantial profile of Ferreira here, including how she feels about body-shaming and other issues in the industry and culture as a whole. There was also a new interview with Richardson where she talked about some of the influences she pulled from for her performance. Producer Erik Feig was also profiled.

Five Feet Apart – Marketing Recap

five feet apart poster 2Haley Lu Richardson plays Stella and Cole Sprouse plays Will in the new medical-themed romantic melodrama Five Feet Apart. The two play cystic fibrosis patients in the same hospital who take very different approaches to their treatment. She’s fastidious about planning her life and following the rules she needs to live under while he chafes under those guidelines and is constantly pushing back against those around him.

The two meet and form a connection, but are bound by the rule they must remain six feet apart, the minimum distance to make sure they don’t transmit infection to the other person. That means they have to find new and innovative ways to be together.

The Posters

five feet apart posterStella and Will are looking at each other while sitting on the floor of a hospital hallway, the oxygen tubes that help them breathe wrapped around their faces. They’re clearly closer than the title would imply they should be, but the designers were obviously going for intimacy over reality. There’s no tagline or anything, but you get that this is a romantic drama involving illness.

The second poster also doesn’t feature any copy that explains or expands on the story hints offered by the photo of the two characters standing at a distance from each other on a city street. It’s still obvious there are medical elements to the story since he’s wearing an oxygen circulator, but the setting tones that down in favor of something brighter and more upbeat.

The Trailers

The trailer introduces us to Stella, who has cystic fibrosis and whose life is dictated by the rules of managing her condition. When she meets Will she immediately senses he’s trouble, but they develop crushes on each other regardless. Through all this Stella finds that she still needs to have a life despite the realities of her world and gets him on board with the plan as well.

Another trailer a couple months later lightens up a bit on the medical aspects of the story in favor of focusing more on the romance between Stella and Will, one that’s problematic given their condition. Both angles on the story come together in the final trailer, selling it as a teen romance between two very sick kids who find that connection to be a big reason to keep on living.

Online and Social

Most of the movie’s official website is just the standard marketing fare, but in addition to that there’s a link to learn more about cystic fibrosis.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

There have been a few promoted social media posts around the release of the trailers and a few other online ads, but that’s about all I’ve come across.

Media and Publicity

The movie’s director and cast engaged in a surprise fan event tour, showing up at advance screenings to make them a special event and keep getting audiences excited.

Sprouse was the subject of a profile that talked about his career resurgence and the choices he’s made over the many years he’s been in the industry.

In early March, EW debuted an exclusive clip from the film. Another clip that played up the romantic elements of the story hit just before release.

As release neared there were further profiles of Sprouse where he talked about about becoming a romantic leading man and what prompted him to take the role, including how there was a CF nurse on-set to make sure things were as medically accurate as possible. Richardson was also interviewed about how they strove to tell the story of the CF community and how she got involved with the project.

Overall

There’s been a lot of commentary about the movie and how it depicts people living with the illness. What’s on display in the marketing campaign isn’t that different from how other movies about romance in a time of chronic illness have been sold, though Sprouse and Richardson bring more charm than what’s on display in other films.

The campaign stands out for that link to find out more information about CF. Notably, that site calls out the fact that the story of the movie is just one depiction of the life of someone with the disease, not one that’s representative of the community as a whole. The background and education contained there is unfortunately unique on movie websites, but with something like this it’s essential and very useful.