Bill & Ted Face the Music – Marketing Recap

How Orion is selling the return of history’s most excellent duo.

There are only a handful of examples of truly iconic pop culture duos. On that list has to be Theodore “Ted” Logan and William S. “Bill” Preston, Esq., better known as Bill (Alex Winter and Ted (Keanu Reeves).

Nearly 30 years after their last adventure, the pair – collectively known as the Wyld Stallions – are back in Bill & Ted Face the Music. Now middle-aged, the two find themselves still not having fulfilled their destiny, writing a song that would unite the world and usher in a utopian era of everyone being excellent to each other. When they’re contacted by Kelly (Kristen Schaal), the granddaughter of Rufus (the late George Carlin), and told the future is in jeopardy, they hop back in the time-traveling phone booth and try to set things back on track.

When problems develop with their own quest, help arrives in the form of Ted’s daughter Wilhelmina (Brigette Lundy-Paine) and Bill’s daughter Theodora (Samara Weaving), who have their own destiny to fulfill. Along the way there’s the return of Death (William Sadler), who has a grudge against the families.

Generally positive reviews have given the movie an 82 percent “Fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and it’s been sold as a rocking good time for audiences who want some pure escapism without the burden of a massive Marvel-esque mythology and franchise history.

The Posters

The first poster (by marketing agency Art Machine) came out this past February and really tells the audience – at least those who are familiar with such things – all they need to know by showing the time machine phone booth lit up as if it’s just landed. It’s simple but effective, using a key bit of iconography from the first movies to promise more is coming in a new installment.

A similar picture of the phone booth is used on the second poster, released in June. This time, though, Bill and Ted are shown from behind walking toward it.

Finally, the theatrical poster from July has the two, along with their daughters, facing the camera. Behind them the supporting characters are packed into the phone booth, promising audiences that a lot of others will be along for the ride.

The Trailers

The first trailer (16 million views on YouTube)came out in early June, introducing us to the fact that Bill and Ted are still rocking after all these years, though their popularity and influence aren’t what they once were. That means they’re failing in their goal to unite the world through music. To fix this, they decide to travel to the future and steal the song they *will* write, encountering various problems – including Death himself – along the way.

A second trailer(26.7 million views on YouTube) came out in late July that offered a much more complete look at the story, including how and why Bill and Ted are recruited to play their one song that will save the world, the problems they get into along the way and how their daughters are absolutely following in their footsteps. There are some great moments here that show the spirit of the originals is still intact, even if the title characters are a bit older, and that there’s a lot of comedy still to be had with them.

Online and Social

The takeover of the official website’s landing page shows a grid filled with options for VOD viewing along with a link to buy tickets to the movie’s limited theatrical bookings.

Close that and you have a fun site, with an interactive pay phone that lets you dial a couple numbers to hear a brief audio clip from either Bill and Ted or Death himself. Also on the page are links to find out more about the movie’s sponsored Snapchat filter, listen to the soundtrack, get a downloadable background and lots more.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

After a long period of rumor and speculation, Reeves and Winter (kind of in character) announced the movie was officially happening in March of last year.

It may not have been part of the formal marketing campaign, but Bill – two versions, actually: one young and one old – appeared in a Walmart commercial that was part of a campaign from the retailer featuring vehicles and characters from many classic and recent sci-fi films.

A site was launched in April that encouraged fans to upload videos of themselves playing or air-playing along with select tracks, with the promise that some of them would wind up in the movie in some fashion.

Winter and Reeves made a video appearance in the graduation video for San Dimas High School.

A virtual panel for Comic-Con@Home, moderated by Kevin Smith and featuring Reeves, Winter and others, was announced in June. That panel wound up including Winter, Reeves and others from the cast and crew, all of whom shared a few details about the film and talked about how much they enjoyed returning to or entering the world of these characters.

The release date was pushed by two weeks so Paramount could avoid going head-to-head with Tenet, which Warner Bros. shifted the release date of in late June. A month later Orion announced the film would be released via premium VOD along with whatever theaters happen to be available instead of sticking to a traditional theatrical release pattern. The final release date came earlier in August.

A short featurette released at the beginning of August had the cast and crew talking about the chemistry between the leads. Another focused on the cast and how much fun they had on set.

Weezer released a video for “Beginning of The End,” that featured footage from the film and more.

TV advertising kicked off with spots that condensed the story down to its core attributes, showing people that Bill and Ted still have some adventure left in them. Those spots debuted at about the same time tickets went on sale, with bonus content available to those who pre-ordered the movie.

There was also a sponsored Snapchat lens.

The only promotional partner that was evident was Bazooka Bubble Gum, which offered a movie shirt and some gum as the prize for a sweepstakes.

Lionsgate put out a call in mid-August for people to join together to set a Guinness World Record for the most people air guitaring simultaneously. A compilation of some of the submissions received was put out earlier this week.

A 360-degree VR experience was released in late August that took people inside Bill and Ted’s world, from their garage rehearsal space to a trip through time in the phone booth.

The first clip came out around that same time showing Bill and Ted once more encountering Death, who is obsessed with simple games.

Reeves and Winter put out a “Thank You” video aimed at the fans who have spent decades longing for more time-traveling adventures.

Media and Publicity

The first still was released in December of last year showing adult Bill and Ted reuniting with an old friend, namely Death himself. A month or so later another photo, this time showing the leads with their daughters, came out.

Winter and Reeves were interviewed here about returning to these characters and their own friendship. That was just one of a series of articles and interviews with the two along with other stories that covered how the project finally turned from a dream into reality.

A series of technical-centric interviews came out in the last couple weeks that covered how the production design team worked to create the film’s look and feel, how the costume designers outfitted all the characters, how Steven Soderbergh played an integral role in making the sequel happen and how creator Ed Solomon approached getting back into the groove with these characters.

There were also additional interviews with Reeves and Winter about their return after so many years, including how music played a key role in creating a vibe on set, the process of getting the project approved and how the filmmakers assembled a band that would be suitably iconic.

That point was also touched on when the pair appeared on “The Late Show” to thank the fans for continuing to plead for a new installment.

Overall

This is just a fun campaign, one that seems like a much-needed antidote to the relatively dark times we seem to be living through at the moment. There are dozens of essays that could be written about the “Be excellent to each other” ethos espoused by the title characters, but it’s a message that comes through loud and clear in this campaign, which shows that two best friends supporting each other through thick and thin and following their passions can truly change the world.

Just a big, fun effort that works far more than it falters, especially in the moments where it lets the younger generation share equal screen time with the older one. Everything fans have loved about Bill & Ted for over 30 years is, based on this campaign, still there, and it’s nice that so much time has been devoted to acknowledging their commitment to making the film happen.

Picking Up The Spare

A couple of additional commercials came out playing up the return of the characters and their adventures. There was also a fun little video fo Death giving people a “Cribs” type look at his humble abode. 

MGM released a new short featurette on Reeves and Winter coming back to these roles after 30 years. 

New profiles appeared of musician Dave Grohl and how he wound up with a cameo in the film as well as of music supervisor Jonathan Leahy and actor Anthony Carrigan

The first few minutes of the movie were released online to help people get excited and decide to see it.

John Wick Chapter 3 – Parabellum – Marketing Recap

You can read my full recap of the marketing for John Wick 3: Parabellum at The Hollywood Reporter.

Online and Social

The movie’s official website features more information than can be found even on the sites of movies with dozens of characters and mythology-steeped histories.

When you open the hamburger menu in the upper left the main page shows navigation to the standard content like “Story,” “Trailers,” “Posters” and a photo “Gallery,” all of which present exactly what you’d expect.

Media and Publicity

The first official still from the movie was released in EW’s 2019 preview issue. A bit later on Stahleski was interviewed about how Berry lobbied for a role in the movie even before a script was finished.

Reeves was the subject of an extensive profile in GQ that covered not only this movie but his whole career and other topics, allowing him to talk about any number of things and providing pop culture site writers lots of items to pick apart for dozens of individual stories. Dillon was interviewed about working with Reeves and becoming part of the John Wick universe.

Reeves did the media rounds talking about the movie, including what it was like to film an action sequence on a horse. Berry also talked more about her prep for the movie and the fun she had. Jason Mantzoukas showed up on TV as well.

Stahleski made it clear in an interview that this may not be the end for Wick as there’s still lots more he wants to do and potential for the character.

Overall

john wick 3 gif

Picking Up the Spare

David Griner at Adweek interviewed the artist who designed one of the movie’s better posters. 

One more featurette continued emphasizing how hard the cast trained for the physical demands of the movie. IMAX also released a Q&A with Stahelski and then a featurette with Reeves. 

Reeves and the rest of the cast offered their comments on the franchise and its unexpected success at the movie’s premiere. The star also explained exactly what the subtitle of the movie meant. 

That promotional deal with Fortnite, rumored about before, is finally official. 

How Berry worked to get to know the dogs she shared scenes with was covered in this interview. The actress also made headlines by going out of her way to engage with black journalists on the movie’s red carpet. 

The future of the character and franchise is covered and hinted at again by Stahelski. 

Lionsgate released footage from “The Continental Experience” setup in New York City. 

A key fight sequence that’s been mentioned as a highlight of the film got some press attention, as did the bit part played by Jason Mantzoukas, who was absent from the marketing save for a single character poster. 

Destination Wedding – Marketing Recap

Winona Ryder and Keanu Reeves exhibit effortless charm in the marketing campaign for the romantic comedy Destination Wedding.

destination wedding posterUsually two people meeting on their way to a mutual event is a great setup for an unexpected romance. If that’s the case with Destination Wedding, the marketing is doing a great job of keeping the happy ending under wraps.

The movie stars Winona Ryder and Keanu Reeves as Lindsay and Frank, respectively. Both are heading out on the same flight to a destination wedding for a mutual acquaintance, who also happens to be her ex. From the moment they meet in the airport and through the multi-day event, the two misanthropes get on each other’s nerves, bond over their shared dislike of staged formality and more.

The Posters

Reeves and Ryder are smiling on the first poster, something they don’t do a whole lot of in the trailer. Behind them is the lush vineyard they’re visiting for the wedding. The “Check your baggage” copy placed between them *might* have a double meaning here.

The Trailers

Frank and Lindsay have a little meet-cute moment at the airport as the trailer opens, but that’s ruined when their misanthropic tendencies come out and things get awkward. The faint hope that they will no longer have to see each other is quashed when they find themselves on the same flight to the same destination wedding for some mutual friends. Once there, though, they bond over their shared dislike of…well…everything as they endure all the activities and events leading up to the ceremony.

You can see how, assuming this follows the usual patterns, the story plays out but that doesn’t matter because it’s clear the journey with these two will be the biggest draw, not the originality of the story.

Online and Social

Not much on the bare-bones official website, just the trailer, a synopsis and plenty of opportunities to buy tickets. The upper right corner has links to the movie’s Instagram, Facebook and Twitter profiles.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Nothing I’ve seen or been made aware of.

Media and Publicity

Reeves spoke occasionally about this movie while on the publicity circuit for other projects, talking about how much fun he and Ryder had reconnecting and working together again.

Of course the conversation wasn’t always just about this movie, as everyone picked up Ryder’s joke about how she and Reeves might have accidentally gotten married on the set of Dracula like it was a real news beat. That was part of a charming press tour where the two displayed their obvious affection for each other, something that’s apparently only deepened on professional and personal levels over the years.

Overall

Can Reeves and Ryder be in all the movies together? Because come on, they have a chemistry that elevates the material well above where it otherwise would be. That’s not surprising given this is their fourth on-screen collaboration and know how to work together to elevate what might otherwise be standard, uninspiring material.

How good the trailer in particular looks (the rest of the campaign is ho-hum) it’s also a testament to how funny these two are. Reeves isn’t – at least not lately – seen as a comedic actor but some of his line readings and movements in the trailer make it clear he has decent chops. Ryder has always been funny and continues to be, so that’s expected. Basically the sales pitch for the movie is to come see these two old friends and professional actors play off one another to the audience’s enjoyment.

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