Tag – Marketing Recap

tag poster 2Movies based on true events often tell outsized or “important” stories, ones that either tell some essential story people need to know or which are somehow meaningful to the human experience. The new movie Tag is not one that would fall into any of those categories.

Jon Hamm, Hannibal Buress, Jeremy Renner, Ed Helms and Jake Johnson play a group of guys who gained prominence years ago when their decade-spanning game of tag came to the public’s attention. The game has kept them connected to each other even as they’ve gotten married and gone about their lives. One thing has eluded them, though: Jerry (Renner) has never been tagged. Isla Fisher, Leslie Bibb, Rashida Jones and Annabelle Wallis costar.

The Posters

tag posterThe teaser poster really hits the core selling point of the movie – that it’s based on a true story – by stating that outright and even emphasizing it by including “We’re not kidding.” That’s the very definition of “trying too hard.”

A second poster is the same thing, only with the faces of the leading cast at the bottom looking at the camera with various bewildered or amused expressions on their faces.

The Trailers

The first – and only – trailer is preceded by Renner as himself filming a video while in the middle of playing a game of tag with his costars. Once the footage actually starts we get the backstory, that this group of friends has been playing the same game every May for 30 years, with it being the thing that’s kept them connected over all that time. Of course that’s really weird for outsiders, but whatever. Everyone is gunning for Jerry, who’s never been tagged in all that time.

It’s funny enough, certainly appearing better than some of the recent films by the people here. Seeing Renner in a comedy is nice as he’s not usually allowed to be funny, but I’m going to throw flags on the criminal underuse of both Hamm and Isla Fisher. And we’re going to stipulate that the story is only a slightly more socially-acceptable version of hyper-competitive toxic masculinity, no matter how cute it’s dressed up.

Online and Social

The movie’s official website opens with the trailer, also accessible via the “Trailer” button on the splash page and along the top content menu. Also there are sections with a “Synopsis” and a “Gallery” but that’s about it. Strangely, they’re not listed or linked to on the main site but there are Twitter, Facebook and Instagram profiles.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

The movie was one of the first to be advertised via Snapchat’s recently-unveiled unskippable six-second video ad units.

Media and Publicity

AS the filmmakers were more than willing to point out repeatedly, this is based on a true story whose history was revisited in features like this on several occasions. That theme was reinforced with a short promo video featuring the real life members of the gang that has kept the game going and showed them watching footage from the movie where their lives are being depicted.

Hamm hit the publicity circuit to talk about the movie, including commenting on Renner’s broken arms and how production accommodated that. The story of Renner’s injury provided a significant hook for the publicity cycle as stories circulated about how CGI had to be used to bring them back to life and the actor himself shared the details in his appearances. Even Fisher had to comment on it while she was doing press. Thankfully Buress was able to avoid the topic when he showed up on “Kimmel.”

For little apparent reason other than there’s a wedding in the movie, the cast crashed a real-life wedding, causing all sorts of chaos and hilarity. The advice Hamm gave Johnson and the rest of the cast to make that work came up at the movie’s premiere.

Overall

I’m wondering who the studio thought the audience for this movie would be. All the actors here are very funny in their own right, but a story of a bunch of overgrown manboys who can’t let their childhood game go while letting that game bleed over into every other part of their lives seems….out of touch with the current cultural conversation.

It’s not that the movie doesn’t seem funny; it honestly looks like it has more than a few laughs. But when the only two talking points for the press cycle are “It’s based on a real story” and “Here’s how Jeremy Renner broke his arms,” the underlying weakness of the premise is exposed.

Finally, how do you make a movie with Rashida Jones, Leslie Bibb and Isla Fisher and not have them as the focal point of the entire film, much less the marketing? I want to see the movie that has them as the leads.

PICKING UP THE SPARE

Jeez, even Annabelle Wallis has been forced to talk about Jeremy Renner’s broken arms during her portion of the publicity cycle. Hamm and Helms have also done a bit more publicity.

 

A clip from the movie was played in an episode of Machinima’s “Inside Gaming” to try and reach that crowd.

 

Nice profile of co-star Jake Johnson here at GQ. And there’s more from Hannibal Buress as well as an interview with the comedian.
Star Jeremy Renner’s broken arms are part of this interview with director Jeff Tomsic where he talks about all the challenges he had making the movie.

Drinking Buddies – Flashback Marketing

If you’ve got a taste for a domestic cold one today, don’t be surprised. Today is National American Beer Day. For all the grief given to Hallmark and other companies for their made-up holidays designed to sell chocolates and cards, there doesn’t appear to be any official provenance for this celebration. It’s noted and covered by various press, but it seems to have appeared from nowhere, like Orin on “Parks and Recreation.”

Good enough for me.

To join in the celebration, we’re going to jump not very far back to a movie I would have covered if it hadn’t landed in the years when I put movie marketing coverage to the side.

2013’s Drinking Buddies marked a turning point for writer/director Joe Swanberg. After years of working with almost no budgets and a cast made up largely of unknowns and friends, this time he had some pretty substantial names along for the ride. The story is focused on Luke (Jake Johnson) and Kate (Olivia Wilde), coworkers at a Chicago craft brewery. The two are best friends who hang out all the time and have the sort of easy, flowing relationship that seems like it should be romantic but isn’t. Luke is dating Jill (Anna Kendrick) and Kate is seeing Chris (Ron Livingston). Eventually, the friendship between Kate and Luke causes tensions in the other relationships, leading to lots of conversations and lots of additional drinking.

The movie’s theatrical poster uses that cast as its primary selling point. All four are seated on the floor, their backs up against what’s clearly the wall of a bar or drinking establishment of some sort, all with a glass of something in hand. Above them, their names and the title and credits are shown in a style like it’s all been written in chalk. The alcoholic nature of the story is conveyed not only by the beverages shown but by the copy declaring the movie is “A comedy about knowing when to say when.” Of course that’s not just about the drinking but about the nature of the relationship the story follows.

Oddly missing is Swanberg’s name, aside from its small inclusion in the overall credits. While the cinematic genre he is – or at least was – synonymous with is sometimes derided, his name still carries a fair amount of weight with fans of independent film. Using it would have been an appeal to that group.

Obviously Magnolia Pictures, which picked the movie up after some early screenings, felt it was better to not turn off any mainstream audiences who might not know him or only associate him with weird indie stuff without professional lighting. So he’s excised here, with the appeal to the general audience being made that it’s a pleasant story featuring a bunch of very likable actors obviously having a good time.

We immediately see what Luke and Kate do as the trailer opens. He’s part of the brewery crew and she’s more in the event planning and management part of the business, helping to coordinate receptions hosted there. They eventually introduce their significant others to their coworkers, which is a bit awkward but leads to the foursome heading off to a cabin for a weekend. That’s obviously presented as a turning point because Luke and Jill wind up having more serious conversations about their relationships and Chris breaks up with Kate.

It’s a pretty cut and dried romantic comedy being sold to the audience here. There’s some cool stuff around the edges, but that’s the gist. It’s about friendships and love and heartbreak and the general kind of “finding yourself” moments that everyone at this stage in life goes through. All the actors are charming and funny and breezy.

All that’s pretty accurate to the movie being sold. If anything, Wilde’s significant comedic sensibilities are underplayed in the campaign. Johnson and Kendrick are more of the focus since they were probably the hottest names at the moment, her coming off Pitch Perfect and him on TV’s zeitgeist-heavy “New Girl.”

More than that, it’s a fair representation of the relationships between the characters and the story as a whole. Most of the key beats are shown here as well as the evolving nature of how everyone interacts with each other. While the campaign didn’t result in a massive mainstream success for Swanberg, there were apparently some creative connections made as he would work with Johnson and Kendrick again on future films.

Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.