the bubble – marketing recap

How Netflix is selling a meta comedy about Hollywood in times of pandemic.

The Bubble movie poster
The Bubble movie poster

There have been a handful of movies over the last year or so that have, in one way or another, been about or at least set in the world of a pandemic. But The Bubble, new this week on Netflix, offers a new take on the idea, one that mixes quarantine reality with Hollywood’s love affair with making movies about itself.

Directed by Judd Apatow, who cowrote the script with Pam Brady, the movie follows the cast of the fictional Cliff Beasts 6 as they shoot the franchise sequel during the Covid-19 pandemic. Karen Gillan, David Duchovny, Leslie Mann, Keegan-Michael Key and others star as Cliff Beasts series veteran actors. They’re joined by newcomers played by Iris Apatow and Pedro Pascal, with Fred Armisen as the film’s director and Kate McKinnon as the studio head overseeing a logistically difficult production.

With that premise, let’s take a look at the very meta campaign Netflix has rolled out over the last month or so.

announcements and casting

Netflix announced the film in November, 2020, as the real-life pandemic was still sweeping through the country and world. Apatow was set to direct as well as write with Brady.

Most of the primary cast, including Gillan, Key, Mann, Pascal and others was announced in February, 2021.

the marketing campaign for CLIFF BEA6TS

Things kicked off in early March with an appropriately meta touch, one that left more than a few people scratching their heads as we tried to figure out what was going on. Causing the confusion was the teaser trailer for Cliff Beasts 6: The Battle For Everest. What’s most impressive about this teaser is that it 100% looks like something that would actually be made for a long-in-the-tooth action franchise, with pulse-pounding music, a few flashy graphics and, most impressively, the fact that the title is actually represented as “CLIFF BEA6TS”, with that “6” making no sense whatsoever.

That was followed by a completely serious featurette explaining the story to date in the Cliff Beasts franchise, including interviews with the cast, posters for the earlier movies and the usual kind of self-congratulatory comments about how everyone worked together mixed with promises of even more action and adventure to come.

Along those same lines came a retrospective that included comments from the cast about returning to the series, who their characters are and other very familiar material.

All of that took place in just a couple days, all leading up to the launch of the campaign for the *actual* movie, not the movie-within-a-movie.

Later on there was a behind-the-scenes video released that shows the director of Cliff Beasts trying to coax performances from the actors with sometimes confusing, sometimes contradictory and always insane suggestions. Another similar video shows just what you get when you hire a Sundance-winning director to helm a big-budget special effects blockbuster.

the marketing campaign for THE BUBBLE

The first trailer (500,000 YouTube views) for The Bubble starts out with footage from Cliff Beasts, only to then transition to show the ridiculous green screen nature of shooting movies like that, including extras in foam outfits as placeholders for the digital monsters added later. We see that the cast and crew have been sequestered for the duration of the production, with PPE and Covid tests and everything we’ve come to expect over the last two years. Even with that aside the set is filled with insanity, whether it’s people coming down with the flu, doing too much cocaine, hooking up with each other or rolling their eyes at some of their costars.

The disconnect between reality and fantasy is also highlighted on the poster, which has the cast arrayed in the usual heroic V formation, but with the green screen not filled in, so we see the wires and backdrops and all the other stuff we’re not supposed to.

A clip shows an extended look at one sequence from the production, with a dramatic moment in Cliff Beasts giving way to the green screen reality of filming.

Netflix offered everyone an explanation of what was going on in a video that also had recommendations on what else members of the movie’s cast have been in that people could watch.

overall

What’s most amazing about this campaign is that, with the exception of one or two videos, it encompasses a total of under 72 hours. Most all of those initial videos for the Cliff Beasts movie came out over a single two-day period, while the trailer and poster for the actual movie came out in a single day.

That aside, there’s a lot of fun in what’s presented here, especially when you consider it’s inspired by the real life situation encountered by the Jurassic World: Dominion filmmakers. But it’s also more of a broad comedy than what we’re used to seeing from Apatow, who usually deals in headier, or at least more subtle, fare.

gunpowder milkshake – marketing recap

How Netflix has sold a female-led action thriller.

Karen Gillan plays Sam in Gunpowder Milkshake, this week’s new release from Netflix. Sam is an assassin who finds herself on the run following a job gone wrong. That winds up bringing her back in contact with Scarlet (Lena Headey), Sam’s mother who also happens to be an assassin. Scarlet herself had to disappear years ago, leaving a young Sam alone, and so the two have some issues to work through. Helping them both are former associates of Scarlet’s; Madeline, Florence and Anna May (Carla Gugino, Michelle Yeoh and Angela Bassett, respectively).

The movie, which has a middling 69% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, has been sold by Netflix as a bright, female-driven take on the action/revenge genre, with Gillan at the forefront, though the rest of the cast isn’t far behind. Let’s take a look.

The Posters

The first poster (by marketing agency BOND), released in May, offers a very literal visual interpretation of the movie’s title, with a bullet taking off the top of a diner milkshake. It’s the title treatment at the top that stands out, though, immediately establishing an identity for the movie with its bright neon lights.

Another poster released at the same time has a similar approach, but this time the bullet is breaking the glass, smeared red lipstick visible at the point of entry.

The main poster came out in mid-June, showing most all of the lead cast as they stand in front of a diner with the title as its brightly-lit sign. All five characters are armed in some manner, the variety of their weapons hinting at how many ways they collectively know to kill someone.

Sam got a poster of her own a bit later.

The Trailers

The trailer (317,000 views on YouTube) came out in mid-June and opens with Sam seeking out the help of the librarians who are actually assassins. She needs that help because an assignment has gone sideways and she’s now responsible for protecting eight-year old Emily (Chloe Coleman). That’s just the setup, as the rest of the trailer is solely concerned with selling the over-the-top action of the movie, showing just the kind of butt-kicking audiences can expect.

Online and Social

No website, as is standard for Netflix releases, but StudioCanal, which produced the film, did run some social media accounts like this Twitter profile that helped with promotion, including sharing some promo spots. Netflix did give it some support on its own brand channels, but the focus there has been on its recent Fear Street anthology.

Advertising and Promotions

Distribution rights were picked up by STXFilms in February, 2020, about two years after it was announced during the American Film Market in 2018. A batch of first-look stills came out in mid-November.

Things were quiet until April 2021 when STX sold the movie to Netflix, one of many such sales as studios cleared out some titles as the coronavirus pandemic wound down.

The cast and director assembled via video chat to talk about how they got involved in the project and what the story entails. That video, released as part of Netflix’s “Geeked Week” campaign, also included the first publicly-released footage from the film.

Gillan and writer/director Navot Papushado attended a screening/Q&A at the New Beverly Cinema earlier this week.

A video with Bassett sharing some of her favorite lines from throughout her career, up to and including this movie, was released just the other day.

Another video has Papushado sharing some of the influences he pulled from when making the movie.

Gillan, who had shared a handful of videos from the set, put out what she called the first episode of her new talk show with Headey – kind of – as her guest.

Papushado talked about how and why he cast Gillan, who herself commented on what attracted her to the movie (including the title itself) and more.

Overall

Unlike some other recent releases this campaign has done a solid job of establishing a visual identity for itself, thanks in large part to not only the bright title treatment but also the enthusiasm of Gillan and the rest of the cast.

That’s not to say the movie looks great in and of itself, but it sure is sold to the public as being a lot of fun, and that’s really just fine. The same can be said of many similar movies like John Wick or Nobody, so clearing that bar is really all the campaign needs to do.

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle – Marketing Recap

jumanji poster 20The premise of the first Jumanji was pretty simple: A man who’s been trapped in a board game for 26 years finally breaks loose and the kids who freed him have to stop the animals and other dangers that came out with him. 27 years later the movie is finally getting a sequel in Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle.

The film follows four disparate teenagers who are all sentenced to detention one afternoon. Forced to clean out the high school storage room the discover an old video game system that still works and decide to play “Jumanji” to pass the time. They wind up being sucked into the game, taking on the physical forms of different characters. Now appearing as grown adults (played by Dwayne Johnson, Karen Gillan, Kevin Hart and Jack Black), they have to find their way out while also saving Alex, a man who was trapped in the game back in 1996.

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