Bad Hair – Marketing Recap

How Hulu is selling a unique take on the body horror genre.

Set in the innocent era that was the late 1980s, Bad Hair is a story of how far someone will go in order to achieve their goals. In the movie, directed and written by Justin Simien, Anna (Elle Lorraine) aspires to become a DJ at the height of the popularity of music videos as cultural touchstones.

Told she doesn’t have the right look for the job, Anna decides to get a weave, but doing so has a terrible cost when it turns out the hair is, for lack of a better term, haunted. In fact, it seems to have a mind and desires of its own, and is using Anna to act in the world.

The movie, which has a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 63% “Fresh,” costars everyone from Vanessa Williams to Jay Pharoah to Blair Underwood to Lena Waithe and a host of others. Its campaign has been chilling and atmospheric.

The Posters

It’s hard to not thoroughly enjoy the fun being had on the poster (by marketing agency Gravillas), released at the beginning of October. A head of hair, turned upside down, has a hand reaching out of it as if someone is trying to escape. Meanwhile the copy “Terror takes root.” is just spot-on perfect. The message here isn’t that it’s a satire or horror comedy, but that the story will have a wicked sense of humor that shouldn’t be missed.

The Trailers

The first teaser (89,000 views on YouTube) finally arrived in mid-August, opens with Anna entering a hair salon for a new style that we see quickly becomes more than she bargained for and much more dangerous than she anticipated. Her new extensions, we see, are not just a betrayal of who she really is but also have an agenda of their own and begin to exact a terrible price, throwing her life into chaos and endangering both Anna and those around her.

A full trailer (5.5 million views on YouTube) came out from Hulu in early October, offering a more complete look at just what motivates Anna to seek out a change in hairstyle while showing roughly the same look at what happens when that cursed hair starts trying to take over and cause all sorts of mayhem.

Online and Social

Nothing, but Hulu did promote it on social media channels.

Advertising and Promotions

The movie was among those premiering at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival, where it received pretty good reviews and buzz. Hulu acquired distribution rights toward the end of the event and finally gave it a release date in mid-August, but that date was shifted to October. Neon, which partners with Hulu, announced a limited drive-in theater release for just prior to its streaming debut.

A handful of creepy spots were shared on social media that showed the extent of the closeups on Anna’s hair will be.

The cast and crew participated in a virtual New York Comic-Con panel earlier this month along with others talking about Black horror as a unique genre.

There were also promotions for Hulu’s larger “Huluween” campaign that included this title along with the other scary films and shows it was debuting or showcasing.

Media and Press

While at Sundance Simien was interviewed quite a bit about how he developed the idea for the story, how the marketplace has changed since his last festival feature, how the movie is a tribute to the women in his life and more. He was joined by the cast to talk about the realities of showing off natural black hair.

Lorraine was interviewed about this film and its story, Hulu’s release and more, including broader topics like diversity and inclusivity in Hollywood.

Overall

As with most horror films, your receptivity to the campaign for this movie will vary based on your fandom for the genre as a whole. But – and this was the point of the NYCC panel earlier this month – Black horror is having a moment over the last few years, and seems uniquely suited to serve as a metaphor for the lengths Black individuals are expected to go to in order to fit in or succeed in White-dominated society.

This campaign hits that on the head. While that’s not an experience I can speak to in any way, I’m aware enough to know when a story is being told that is outside my worldview or unusual in the kind of project being made.

Picking Up The Spare

Pharaoh appeared virtually on “Kimmel” to talk about the movie and more. 

Hulu has released a number of music videos for songs featured in the movie. 

The movie’s producers talked more about the movie after it was released. 

Coverage here of the hair brands that got a promotional boost from the film. 

Queen & Slim – Marketing Recap

What consequences come from criminalizing black bodies is examined in a road trip story filled with meaning.

queen and slim posterIn the new movie Queen & Slim – written by Lena Waithe and directed by Melina Matsoukas – the story focuses on a first date that has a terrible ending. Queen (Jodie Turner-Smith) and Slim (Daniel Kaluuya) have had a decent time getting to know each other. When the night is drawing to a close and they’re leaving the date, the pair are pulled over for a minor problem, but the attitude of the police officer escalates the situation to the point Slim, in self-defense, seizes the officer’s gun and shoots him.

Fearful of the repercussions of that act, the two go on the run. While the media labels them cop killers and unrepentant criminals, a video of the incident shows the truth of what happens and they take on the aura of folk heroes, even while they’re still being chased by the authorities.

The movie’s campaign has drawn comparisons to another famous “outlaws on the run” story, but that does a disservice to the injustice at the heart of the inciting incident.

The Posters

In July the first poster (by marketing agency Gravillis Inc.) was released showing Queen and Slim posing for the camera in a garage, seemingly to create the impression this is the kind of photo taken while they’re on the run.

The Trailers

What seems to be an app-based first date starts out awkwardly in the first trailer (6.3 million views on YouTube) and gets more intense from there, as a questionable traffic stop results in Slim shooting the police officer that pulled them over and quickly became aggressive. He and Queen stay together and go on the run, their reputation often preceding them wherever they wind up. The stakes of their journey only get higher as they get deeper and deeper into the criminal life they’ve inadvertently chosen.

After getting the same first date setup as before, the second trailer (5 million views on YouTube) from early August spends more time showing how Queen and Slim’s actions have created a movement, offering violent inspiration to people who were feeling beaten down and hopeless against the powers that be. Life on the run isn’t easy, though, but they keep coming back to one another as they seek to evade the police at every turn.

Another trailer (8.5 million views on YouTube) in September starts off in the same manner as the others, showing how a normal first date winds up leading to an incredible journey of criminal glorification and adulation.

Online and Social

In addition to the usual marketing content, the official website for the movie has a “Reactions” section that curates some of the social media posts praising or talking about someone’s anticipation for the film.

Advertising and Promotions

One of the first big promotional boosts for the movie came back in March when Universal generated some positive buzz by including it as part of its CinemaCon presentation, with Waithe appearing on stage to get people talking.

It was announced in August the film would screen at this year’s AFI Fest in November. The two stars appeared at the Vanity Fair Summit in October to talk about and promote the film and its story.

A featurette released in late October featured Matsoukas and Waithe talking about the story and how they came to work together along with what they sought to accomplish with this movie.

Fandango MovieClips debuted a clip from the film showing Queen and Slim seeking help in the form of shelter and transportation while on the run. Another clip catches up with the two on the run, with Queen enjoying a moment of freedom.

A featurette came out just before release that showed the first table read by the cast and more behind the scenes action.

Online and outdoor ads used reconfictured key art to make the same bold statement as the poster.

queen and slim banner

Media and Press

Matsoukas spoke about the movie’s story here, part of a Q&A accompanying a screening of the film.

An interview with Matsoukas and screenwriter Lena Waithe had them dismissing comparisons to Bonnie & Clyde while emphasizing the uniquely black experience and attitudes they sought to portray and convey to the audience.

Kaluuya appeared on “The Late Show” and then “The Daily Show” to talk about the movie and more.

How Matsoukas got involved with the film and what kind of story she wanted to tell was covered by the director at the movie’s premiere, with others from the cast and crew covering similar ground. Another interview with her around that time had her talking more directly about how tackling the repercussions of police brutality was important for her.

The two stars were interviewed together about how they bonded prior to and during filming in an effort to best portray their on-screen relationship and dynamic.

Another interview with Matsoukas had her talking about the story and how important it was to her to show people like herself and others on screen.

Waithe made an appearance on “The Late Show” to share her experience writing and working on the film.

There were a number of other interviews with the cast and crew, many of which focused on the notion of “black love” being an act of resistance and defiance against a system that would otherwise keep them down. Many of those can be found on the movie’s Twitter feed.

Overall

The biggest surprise of the campaign is that I haven’t encountered much pushback to the themes of the story from the media’s more conservative wing. Where, I wonder, is the intense hatred lobbed at a story about a black man killing a white police officer? Perhaps everyone’s attention is too focused on the current impeachment process to notice this and get their viewers stirred into an outrage.

That’s not me saying there *should* be such pushback. Far from it, I think more stories like this that reflect the modern reality of different members of society are essential. I’m just shocked that Fox News etc haven’t gone wall-to-wall in lambasting the filmmakers and declaring them to be traitors who hate all laws.

Putting that aside, the campaign is powerful in its starkness. From the black and white photo on the poster to the vast silences of the trailers, the intensity of the story comes through in the pauses, the moments where things slow down or speed up. That’s what makes the marketing so intense, accompanied by the passion of Waithe and Matsoukas in particular in how they’ve advocated for the movie during the press cycle.

Picking Up the Spare

Waithe appeared on “The Daily Show” and was the subject of a profile in The New York Times. She was also put in the spotlight at Adweek for her marketing prowess. She and Matsoukas talked about their mission to honor those who have been victimized by police and were jointly profiled in a story about making a uniquely black story.

Matsoukas’ career was highlighted as well while Kaluuya was interviewed about his approach to picking projects.

Waithe was interviewed again about how she found the truth in her lead characters.