A Simple Favor – Marketing Recap

Blake Lively and Anna Kendrick help make the marketing of A SIMPLE FAVOR a glamourous, well-branded affair.

a simple favor poster 7Paul Feig is a director best known for his comedies, specifically his female-starring comedies. After Bridesmaids, The Heat, Spy and others, he’s now taking a turn for the dark in the dramatic thriller A Simple Favor.

Based on the book by Darcey Bell, the movie follows Stephanie (Anna Kendrick), a mom with an online presence and following who one day befriends Emily (Blake Lively), who has kids at the same school Stephanie does. The two become friends, though Emily is strangely aloof and never reveals much about herself. When Emily goes missing, it’s up to Stephanie to piece together what few, confusing clues there are to find Emily and figure out who her friend really was.

The Posters

The martini glass that graces the first poster, in connection with the “It all started with…” that’s completed by the title, hint that there’s something strange happening in the story. Specifically, that we’ll be following along as the consequences of some decision or action play out.

The second poster features a huge, colorful question mark at the bottom of which is the question “What happened to Emily?” Snippets of photos of the characters are shown in the colored segments of the punctuation, giving this a very 60s drama vibe reminiscent of Wait Until Dark and similar films.

A pair of character posters came next, with Emily and Stephanie facing toward each other when you put them together. Each is wearing a lovely dress while lifting a drink, standing in front of a gorgeous deco type design in the background.

The two women come together on the next poster, both posed elegantly against the same colorful triangles seen previously. It’s a bold, deco-inspired design that also kind of comes off like a photo from a 1978 Sears catalog, but that’s a small picking of nits.

What seems to be the theatrical poster came out in mid-August. Using a similar color palette of pastels and whites, the faces of the two lead actors are intermingled on what look like shards of broken glasses, hinting at the kind of identity-based drama the movie has in store for audiences. Another shows the two leads standing next to each other in the same colorful cut out seen elsewhere.

A series of “moving posters” released earlier this week showed Stephanie and Emily in what first appear to be classy, luxurious surroundings and situations, only to have something much darker revealed as the camera pans out.

One last poster came out just after that featuring side-by-side photos of Stephanie and Emily’s faces. Notably, this one includes costar Henry Golding standing between them, like a move by the studio to attempt to capitalize on his popularity in the wake of the hit Crazy Rich Asians.

The Trailers

Stephanie is explaining that Emily is basically her best friend as the first teaser trailer opens. We see hints that something has happened to upset Emily’s stylish, sophisticated world that leads to her going missing. That prompts Stephanie to set out to find her, uncovering things about Emily she had no idea existed along the way.

A second teaser sets up the same dynamic between the two women but makes it a bit more explicit that Emily has enlisted Stephanie’s help in some manner.

It’s all super-stylized, giving the impression of a hip, darkly-funny mystery. While Lively doesn’t get any dialogue, she looks like she breezes through every scene with a feeling of luxury while Kendrick’s Stephanie kinda sorta comes off as a bit of a stalker. At least she seems like someone who has convinced herself of a friendship with someone who’s well above her.

The final trailer provides a better picture of the story, beginning with how Stephanie and Emily first met and became friends. It becomes clear Emily has a penchant for mystery and doesn’t like to divulge anything about herself, which makes her disappearance all the more strange.

Online and Social

The various iterations of the key art cycle through a carousel on the front page of the official website, which asks the audience “Can you keep a secret?” There are links there to the movie’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles.

Most of what’s on the site is video, with all three trailers getting their own callout in the menu on the right side of the page. Also there are links to read the synopsis – including the cast and crew list – and view the posters.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

TV spots like this started running in mid-August, cutting the trailer down significantly but not changing the core message, that Emily is an enigma that has gone missing for some reason, leaving behind some very confused friends and family who realize they never really knew her. That included this commercial making it clear Emily has a dark side and does not want to let people inside her firmly-protected bubble.

Online ads used the key art while social ads used various versions of the trailer and TV spots.

Media and Publicity

One of the first press beats for the movie came when it was presented as part of Lionsgate’s upcoming slate of releases at CinemaCon, including the showing of a brief bit of footage.

Feig offered some management tips to Fast Company, drawing on his experience working with a wide array of some of Hollywood’s most talented actors and comedians over the years.

a simple favor pic2The pair of Lively and Kendrick embarked on a fashionable press tour that included a stop at MTV’s VMA ceremony. Kendrick later shared what it was like when she and Lively engaged in an on-screen kiss.

A fun little video was released showing Feig, Lively and Kendrick taking part in a fictional pitch meeting run by a couple studio heads who refuse to acknowledge women can be funny and who keep saying terribly sexist things to everyone in the room. It’s funny because it’s probably 100% accurate to many people’s experiences.

Fieg later talked more about why he decided to give comedy a break and make a dramatic thriller.

Kendrick and Lively also made various TV appearances on late night and early morning talk shows, including Kendrick talking about “mommy bloggers,” something her character is.

Overall

The combined charm of Kendrick and Lively is enough to get most people interested in the movie in theory. But this is a dark thriller that keeps reminding the audience that it is not what it seems at first to be. That could prove to be a tough message to sell when right now people seem more inclined to see the glitzy rom com stylings of Crazy Rich Asians or other escapist fare.

That being said, this is the most stylistically interesting, consistent and intriguing campaign I’ve seen in a while. From the first mysterious teasers to the wonderful series of colorful posters, it’s just great. The studio has certainly made an impression, and that can’t be easily discounted. It’s just not so clear that it actually drive people to head out to the theaters this weekend.

PICKING UP THE SPARE

Another TV spot that focuses on the positive reviews the movie already received from critics even before it was released.

Lively showed up on “The Tonight Show” to talk about the movie and her fun Twitter back and forth with husband Ryan Reynolds. And Kendrick has done “The Daily Show” and “The Late Show.”  

Costume designer Renee Ehrlich Kalmus talks about the stunning styles sported by Lively’s character in the movie.

Another interview with director Paul Feig about the style and vibe he wanted to bring to the movie, his first outright dramatic effort, followed by another where he talks about getting serious.

Juliet, Naked – Marketing Recap

juliet naked posterWriter Nick Hornby has provided the fodder for a number of charming and enjoyable films, often about the intersection of romance and obsessive music fandom. Along those lines comes this week’s Juliet, Naked. The movie stars Chris O’Dowd as Duncan, a guy who’s the world’s biggest fan of singer Tucker Crowe (Ethan Hawke), much to the chagrin and slight embarrassment of his longtime girlfriend Annie (Rose Byrne)

When Annie writes a scathing review of Crowe’s latest album, the singer contacts her and eventually comes to visit her when he’s nearby. The two strike up a somewhat friendly relationship, though Duncan at first doesn’t believe this is happening. Eventually things get complicated as the attraction between Annie and Duncan grows stronger, fueled by her discontent with the status quo and his desire for something more authentic in his life.

The Posters

Annie, Duncan and Tucker are all shown on the poster, Annie and Tucker touching and flirting while Duncan is left looking confused. All three are positioned behind a wall of record storage shelves to make sure the audience understands the story has to do with music.

The Trailers

As we see when the trailer opens, the relationship between Annie and Duncan is beginning to disintegrate as she finds herself at the end of her rope with his constant inability to commit or grow up as well as his obsession with his favorite singer. When she writes a scathing review of Crowe’s new album he reaches out and the two strike up a friendship before he travels to visit her. That doesn’t sit well with Duncan, who refuses to believe it’s really Crowe, even while the singer and Annie hit it off and the two start up a bit of an affair.

I really like Hawke when he’s loose like this and am always a fan of Byrne, who seems to glide through the movie on charm. Even if I didn’t know this was based on a Hornby story, I’d guess this was based on a Hornsby story.

Online and Social

It’s a pretty bare bones official website from Lionsgate/Roadside. The homepage has a “Save to Calendar” prompt but not an option to actually buy tickets, as well as links to the movie’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles. “Videos” just has the one trailer while “Synopsis” has a story recap and cast/crew lists.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Nothing I’m aware of or have seen in the paid department.

Media and Publicity

The star power of the cast alone explains why critics often included it as one of the films they were most looking forward to screening at the Sundance Film Festival. Lionsgate/Roadside picked it up shortly after the festival finished up.

A short profile of Hawke mentioned this was one of several films he had coming out in the near future while also allow him to openly lobby for the chance to give a “meaningful” performance in a big budget sci-fi/fantasy film. There was also a profile later on of costar Lily Newmark as this was one of several high-profile films the young actress was and is appearing in this year.

GQ ran a more extensive profile of Hawke that allowed the actor to talk about his career to date, what he tries to accomplish with the roles he takes on and more. Those profiles were about it since he’s just come off the publicity cycle for First Reformed and other recent movies. Bryne, though, stopped by “The Tonight Show” to talk about the movie and other topics.

Overall

It’s not a huge campaign, but if you’re a fan of previous Hornby adaptations or just want a movie that looks breezy, charming and entertaining there’s a strong case for this being a good choice. Byrne is her usual wonderful self and Hawke is always at his best when he’s playing it loose. The poster makes it look a little more madcap than the trailer, but that’s a small quibble in what’s otherwise a solid, if small-scale, campaign.

PICKING UP THE SPARE

Star Rose Byrne talks about the shift in focus of the story from book to movie with IndieWire.

 

More on the music created for the soundtrack, this time with a focus on former Lemonheads member Jesse Peretz.

 

A clip showing the interplay between Byrne and Hawke was released to help keep some positive word of mouth going.

 

Chris O’Dowd made an appearance on late night TV while a profile of Rose Byrne calls out how she’s an extremely underrated comedic powerhouse.
The team responsible for creating the music of Ethan Hawke’s musician in the movie talk about that process here.

The Spy Who Dumped Me – Marketing Recap

the spy who dumped me poster 6I’m pretty sure this week’s new action comedy The Spy Who Dumped Me could be sold simply on the fact that it stars Mila Kunis and Kate McKinnon. The two play long-time best friends who get caught up in games of international intrigue when Audrey’s (Kunis) ex-boyfriend reveals he’s a government spy on the run from enemies who want to kill him.

With the help of Morgan (McKinnon), the pair do their best to survive as they’re chased across through cities around the world, the bad guys believing they have secrets and items they’re after. The premise provides plenty of opportunity for Kunis and McKinnon to riff off each other, something we’ll see has been a prominent message of the campaign.

The Posters

A pair of posters lead things off, one with McKinnon and one with Kunis, both looking tough and ready for anything as they stand behind a transparent heart-shaped target. That’s a cool way to show that not only are these women going to stand up for themselves but that the story is what the title would imply.

A couple character posters went a bit further in explaining each character’s basic personality and the split nature of the story. The one with McKinnon labeled her as going “From unemployed to undercover” while the one featuring Kunis said she was going “From damaged to dangerous.” The same purple/blue split was used on a one-sheet that put the pair back-to-back in typical spy movie style, reassuring the audience “They got this.”

The final theatrical poster has the two ladies back-to-back assuming standard spy positions, though the gun McKinnon is holding is just her fingers. They’re looming over Paris, with supporting characters below them as well.

Lionsgate also commissioned and released a whole series of artistic posters were commissioned by Lionsgate that offer fun, colorful takes on the characters and premise. Some were just bright and vibrant, others took a more retro approach, showing the characters in very Bond-like poses and settings. Those are all viewable on the website.

The Trailers

Free of any context or setup, Audrey and Morgan are shown as the trailer opens on the run from an apparently dangerous situation. Their attempts to commandeer a car to escape are less than successful, though. Jumping back a bit, we find out Audrey’s ex-boyfriend, who recently dumped her, is CIA and is being sought by some nasty people. What follows are a lot of spy movie cliches, but with two innocent civilians in place of seasoned professionals, all leading up to the two being tortured by someone who gets more answers than she bargained for.

I’m on board. These two look hilarious together and I’m all for more subverting of the spy genre.

The second trailer is even stronger, showing both more of the story and more of the dynamic between Aubrey and Morgan. There’s an expanded explanation as to why the two find themselves in the situation they do and what sort of trouble they get into, all while relying on each other for mental as well as physical survival. I feel like this is a strong example of how the action comedy genre can be made more for the female audience since it’s about support, not constant little quips and jokes to get through rough situations. Also…Gillian Anderson.

Online and Social

There’s actually a decent amount of good material on the official website. The front page features the theatrical key art along with links to the movie’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles.

Moving along the top content menu, “Videos” has all (or most) the trailers, clips and TV spots. There’s just a simple synopsis in the “Story” section while “Cast” just has photos of the actors, not any additional information. The “Gallery” has a bunch of photos and then there’s sections for “Posters” as well as one for the “Artist Series” posters that adds information, including Twitter handles, for the individuals that created them.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

TV advertising started in mid-July, with spots that focused on the action of the story or the ridiculous nature of that story. Additional commercials kept hitting those and other themes, with some close to release emphasizing its positive early reviews and the “dream team” of Kunis and McKinnon. Online ads used the key art to drive ticket sales.

There was a partnership with dating app Bumble that offered people the chance to win a trip to the movie’s LA premiere and members of the cast sharing their advice on creating dating profiles.

Media and Publicity

Director Susan Fogel talked about tackling the project and how she worked to make it happen when the trailer debuted at EW. The movie was part of Lionsgate’s CinemaCon showcase, designed to get exhibition execs and press excited about it.

A clip that came out a couple weeks prior to release showed Aubrey and Morgan evaluating their options after having been approached by terrorists. It was meant to showcase the dynamic between Kunis and McKinnon, the primary value proposition of the entire campaign.

Kunis got a nice Cosmopolitan profile and a bit later both she and McKinnon talked about how they’d fare as spies at the movie’s premiere. The two did a video for Marie Claire about embarrassing moments from their younger days and a joint USA Today interview had them both talking about motherhood, friendship, the movie and more.

Both stars made the media rounds, with Kunis offering the “Kimmel” audience a good synopsis of the movie’s story and McKinnon generally being herself among other appearances.

Overall

It’s obvious Lionsgate has wisely decided the premise of the movie is secondary to the core selling point: The comedic interplay of McKinnon and Kunis. That’s a strong bet to make.

What’s a bit surprising is that the studio didn’t adopt more tactics similar to what’s been done for movies like Bad Moms and a few others, specifically make a strong appeal to women to see this with a group of friends. There was one promotion in conjunction with Atom Tickets to celebrate National Girlfriends Day recently, but that’s it.

Still, with lots of nods to other spy movies and an emphasis on the way the lead characters adapt and survive whatever is thrown at them, it’s still a strong campaign.

PICKING UP THE SPARE

Lots of new interviews from late last week with director Susanna Fogel, who talked about casting the film and telling a story about a strong female friendship, the (slightly) increased willingness by the studios to tell heretofore underrepresented stories, the sometimes choppy waters of her career to date, how filming action sequences helped her embrace her “inner badass” and more.

 

I missed a couple press hits in my recap.

 

First, an interview with director Susanna Fogel where she talks about trying to craft a story that was funny and feminist but which also an “authentic” spy movie that adheres to that genre’s tropes.
Second, a feature piece that includes Fogel along with Kunis and McKinnon where they talk about bonding on set, how they wanted to sell the comedy, the importance of showing female friendships on-screen and more.

Blindspotting – Marketing Recap

blindspotting posterDaveed Diggs and Rafael Casal both wrote and star in Blindspotting, now in limited release. Set in Oakland, which they’re both from, the movie follows Collin (Diggs) as he tries to make it through his last three days on probation following a stint in prison.

Something happens that opens up a rift between Collin and his life-long friend Miles (Casal), showing how Miles wants to remain somewhat of a thug while Collin wants to move beyond his old life. At the same time, he’s unwilling to simply leave his friend behind, causing tension between the two as well as in other parts of Collin’s life, tension he has to resolve as he tries to decide what kind of person he wants to – and will be allowed to – be.

The Posters

The first poster offers one of those images your fourth grade teacher tricked you with. A winding series of lines appears to show a tree set against the brown background. Look closer and you notice the faces of two people in the negative space around the trunk of the tree. Copy at the top forces you to look twice by asking “What do you see?” while also conveying some idea of mystery about the story.

A second one-sheet uses strips that look like what you’d find in a shredder to intermingle photos of Collin and Miles to highlight how they’re not that different in reality, just taking different paths. This one encourages the audience to “Change the way you see” and shows off the movie’s festival credentials.

 

Both Collin and Miles got character one-sheets that show them hanging out and leaning up against a wall with faded and chipped paint, showing that they don’t live in the fancy part of town. There’s no copy or anything to offer insights or explanations to the audience, just some critics’ quotes praising the film and the actors/creators to let people know this is already a well-reviewed film they should be paying attention to.

 

Two more posters show the conflict and relationship between Colin and Miles, one with a picture of them facing each other while standing on a street lit solely by red traffic lights and the other with them facing opposite directions while Colin sits in a truck and Miles stands outside it. Seen in the rearview mirror is the man who’s shooting Colin witnesses, creating nice visual consistency with the trailer.

 

An incredible series of three posters keeps the focus on Colin and Miles, showing them either standing next to or facing each other. The images, though, take a very artistic approach to showing the difference between the two friends that will drive much of the story.

 

The Trailers

Collin is uncomfortable with his friends’ behavior as the trailer opens, not wanting to be around the guns that they’re so obviously enamored with. He’s on probation and would like to not be sent back to jail because the people around him are idiots. Later on he witnesses a cop shooting an unarmed man. It’s clear Collin is a good guy but he’s stuck in a situation that puts him in terrible situations, having him need to make terrible choices, on a regular basis. He just wants to turn his life around but sees a system around him designed to not let that happen.

It’s pretty powerful and Diggs looks great as a man who wants to be the kind of person he believes himself to be. There’s a lot of harsh reality going on here that is clearly dramatized to make a point. This doesn’t look like an easy film to watch but it does look incredibly timely and important.

Online and Social

The splash page of the movie’s official website offers a version of the key art along with a collection of pull quotes from early reviews, presented here as graffiti along the wall Collin and Miles are standing against. Links to the official Facebook and Twitter profiles are in the upper right.

Scroll down the page and you’ll find a collection of photos and GIFs that, in many cases, add some line of dialogue to the image. There are a few that flip over when you click them, which not only adds a bit more information but also nicely shows the two sides of the neighborhood and lives represented by Miles and Collin.

Back at the top of the page, the content menu offers quick access to materials like the “Trailer,” “Posters” and a “Synopsis,” which also includes a cast and crew list. “Acclaim” has more positive quotes from critics and others while “Coming Soon” allows you to see where and when the movie will be playing in the near future. Finally there’s the “Soundtrack” which takes you to where you can buy or stream the album.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

The conflict Collin feels about Miles and their changed relationship is the focal point of the first TV spot that came out in mid-July, showing how he wants to stay out of trouble but also remain loyal to his friend.

Media and Publicity

Considering Diggs’ involvement and the subject matter, it’s no wonder the film was so anticipated in advance of its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival. Just before that debut, Diggs and Casal got a nice feature interview where they talked about the story and why they wanted to tell it. Lionsgate acquired the film for distribution before the festival was over.

After that it was also screened at the SXSW Film Festival. The studio then presented it at CinemaCon as part of its diverse slate of upcoming film, including a spoken-word performance by Diggs and Casal of a portion of the film to break it down in a very stark, unadorned way.

As release approached there was more publicity, including a joint interview with Diggs and Casal where they talked about the story as well as their connection to Oakland as a unique cultural microcosm. Both also commented on the musical sensibilities and structure they worked to bring to the story.

Overall

Strong festival word of mouth is the movie’s greatest asset as it hits theaters. The movie is one of several coming out this year that deal in some manner with not only movements like Black Lives Matter but how many parts of the system in the U.S. are designed to keep some members of society at the edges.

Diggs has some name recognition based on his run in “Hamilton” on Broadway and a few other small roles in recent years, but here he looks to break out into more substantial and personal storytelling. It’s no surprise, then, that as not only the star and cowriter but the biggest name involved in the movie, the campaign is mostly centered on Miles’ story and his struggle not only to improve his life but figure out what that even means or looks like.

PICKING UP THE SPARE

Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal appeared together on “The Daily Show” to talk about creating the movie and what the story meant to them. They’re also interviewed here about how there’s a slight surge in the number of movies, including their own, set in the Bay Area.
Another TV spot that plays up the critical acclaim the movie has accumulated.

Marketing Recap – Wonder

wonder theatrical posterIf you’ve read the book on which this week’s new movie Wonder is based you’ll know what it means to have a good cry. The story follows Auggie (Jacob Tremblay), a young boy born with facial deformities who, after years of surgeries that have kept him home – and home-schooled – is about to enter fifth grade at his local public school.

Confident in who he is and supported by his mother (Julia Roberts), father (Owen Wilson) and older sister Via (Izabela Vidovic), Auggie is nonetheless self-conscious about how different he is from the other kids. There are ups and downs as he seeks to make friends and be accepted by the kids – and adults – around him.

The Posters

“Are you ready to meet Auggie Pullman?” we’re asked on the first poster, which shows Auggie while he’s wearing his astronaut helmet. Not only does it state clearly that it’s based on a New York Times bestseller but the blue in the background is the same shade that was used on the cover of the source novel. That’s a nice touch.

That same concept was used on a series of character posters. Each features a different actor’s name, a drawing of their head that’s done in the same style as the book cover, and the name of the character they’re playing.

The next poster shows Auggie in profile, this time the visor of his helmet open so we can see part of his face. The same blue background is used along with the same copy, this is just about giving us a slightly better look at the main character.

Another poster has “Choose kind” as its primary message, this one using the same drawing of Auggie that’s featured on the cover of the book. Another once more puts Auggie in the helmet he loves to wear but adds the dog, showing a row of school lockers in the reflection of helmet’s visor. This time we’re promised, “Auggie Pullman will change your world.”

That’s the same message conveyed on the next poster, which drops the blue background that’s been used to date for a white one. Here, Auggie is sitting, still wearing his helmet, in front of a massive globe. A couple more posters featuring either Auggie on his own with his helmet off and in his hands or getting a pep talk from his parents.

The final (?) theatrical poster disposes with the blue theme of the entire rest of the campaign and just uses one of the production stills showing Auggie walking to school with the rest of his family. It also uses a wholly different approach with the copy, asking the audience “Who gives you the courage to face the world?”

The Trailers

The first trailer will hit you right in the feels. We meet Auggie as he’s about to start public school for the first time, something he’s nervous about because of the way his face looks. We hear him narrating what went into the surgeries that have resulted in his situation. His parents try to reassure him and he eventually makes a real friend at school, then another.

Shut up and give me a minute while I finish ugly-crying.

The second trailer once more starts with Auggie heading to his first day at school, where he encounters some bad attitudes from his classmates despite the encouragement of his family. Eventually he makes some friends and finds his groove, getting more involved and helping to inspire other kids. The primary element of the trailer is the inclusion of a new song from singer Bea Miller.

I said give me a damn minute.

One more short trailer hit that emphasized the role of Auggie’s family and how important they are to him.

Online and Social

There’s full-screen video that plays in the background of the splash page of the movie’s official website. Auggie is there in the corner holding his helmet just as in the key art alongside the release date, the movie’s official #ChooseKind hashtag and links to the Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles.

Over in the opposite corner are a few activities and options, starting with the “Daily Dose of Wonder,” which opens up a Facebook Messenger conversation with the movie, though what you’re supposed to do next is unclear. It might be that you’re meant to share something inspiring, but there’s no clear call to action or anything right here. There’s also a “Portrait Creator” that lets you create your own version of a self-portrait in the style of the book’s cover. You can download the finished product as an image to share on social media, a desktop image for your phone, computer or tablet, or an avatar or cover photo for your social media profile. iMessage stickers could be downloaded and you could enter the Omaze-powered Choose Kind campaign.

Moving to the content menu at the top of the page, the first section here is “Story,” which has a brief synopsis to check out. “Videos” has a lot, from the trailers to a number of character introduction videos to some of the “Choose Kind” short films that were created and a couple of featurettes.

There are several production stills in the “Photos” section and the “Posters” section has at least most of the key art that was created. “Cast” just has stills of each of the cast in character. There’s another link to the “Portrait Creator” and then a “Partners” section.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

The first TV spot played much like a shorter version of the trailers, showing not much of the actual story but focusing on how strong Auggie is in the face of such adversity and how supportive his family is. More spots kept hitting the inspirational aspect of the story, showing how tough Auggie is.

For a family drama, there were a number of interesting promotional partnerships:

  • Wattpad, the short/serialized fiction publishing platform, along with Tongal sponsored a short films series featuring stories that were shared there.
  • GapKids launched a back-to-school campaign centered on community heroes and kids with inspiring stories that included at least one TV spot using both Tremblay and R.J. Palacio, the writer of the source book. That was also part of GapKids’ overall “Forward With” campaign of other emotional and uplifting stories and commercials.
  • Roma, which created a special movie-themed rain boot as part of its overall mission to help those in need around the world have proper footwear and access to education.
  • Funoogles, which created special movie-themed eyewear and accessories.
  • HelloFresh, which offered a deal on its meal delivery service tied to the movie and asked recipients to send back a postcard with their stories of moments where they “chose kind.”
  • City of Kindness, which launched its own Choose Kind campaign. Mayors of select cities offered tools to help citizens make good choices and some hosted local screenings, all culminating today, World Kindness Day. Cheerios and Crest offered free product to organizations working with that campaign.

The trailers and other videos were used for social media ads and the key art, along with clips from the trailers and more, were used as online ads. Outdoor advertising used that key art as well.

Media and Publicity

There was certainly coverage of casting and production, but it’s notable that one of the first big pieces of press was from Daveed Diggs (of “Hamilton” fame), who talked about how he got the role. In EW’s fall movie preview Tremblay talked about working with Roberts as well as wanting to be part of such an important emotional story.

Tremblay, Roberts and Wilson all made a variety of media appearances and gave various interviews that talked about how inspiring they found the material and how that motivated them to get involved in the project. Director Stephen Chbosky also spoke about how he wound up making the movie and how he worked with Palacino to bring Auggie’s story to the big screen.

Overall

It’s OK for me to admit that this campaign plays every heartstring that still lies within a grizzled, cynical 40+ year old exterior. That’s partly because I have read the book it’s based on, so I know how the story plays out, and partly because it’s just damn effective. It uses the talents of all involved, from Tremblay to Roberts to Wilson, to great effect to sell the movie as one that’s inspirational and touching. I’m also struck by how it’s sold as both a movie for kids and young adults who will be drawn in by the relatability of how strange and alienating fifth grade can be as well as a movie for full-on adults and parents, who will identify with all the emotions shown by Auggie’s mom and dad.

It also can’t go without stating that there’s a great branding consistency going on in most all of the campaign. The trailers all hit the same beats as the TV spots and of course the posters, for the most part, use the popularity of the book to great effect, grabbing that distinctive robin’s egg blue for much of the campaign. Where many adaptations seek to discard much of the source book’s branding (aside from a title treatment or something) this one knows how often people have seen the cover on their own bookshelves or on the racks of book sections at Target and want to draw a straight line for the audience right to the box office.

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

Stronger – Marketing Recap

The story of what happened in and around the 2013 bombing at the Boston Marathon has already come to the big-screen. Last year’s Patriots Day, named after the Boston holiday it took place, on, turned the events into a police procedural. This week’s new movie Stronger takes a different and more personal approach.

Jake Gyllenhaal plays Jeff Bauman in this true-life tale. Jeff is a somewhat inattentive boyfriend to Erin (Tatiana Maslany), who’s running in the marathon. He makes the effort to go see her, though. Unfortunately he’s in the wrong place when one of the bombs goes off, losing his legs as a result of injuries suffered. The story follows Bauman’s journey through recovery as well as his reluctant acceptance of the role of inspirational role model for the whole city.

The Posters

The poster shows Gyllenhaal as Bauman in the middle of physical therapy, straining on the bars as he learns to walk again using the artificial legs we can just barely see at the bottom of the photo. “Strength defines us” we’re told at the top while below the title we’re reminded this is based on the “inspiring” true story.

The Trailers

The first trailer starts out as Jeff Bauman encourages everyone at a bar to donate and support Erin’s upcoming run in the Boston Marathon. From there we see that their relationship isn’t always rosy before an explosion goes off in the crowd watching the race. We see Jeff wake up to find he’s missing his legs and everyone is trying to support and help him. He’s struggling, though, for obvious reasons. Eventually he begins to accept the new reality, including how everyone wants to view him as some sort of inspirational figure.

Well, it’s better than the trailers for last year’s Patriots Day, that’s for sure. It’s still all about hitting as many easy emotional chords as possible in an attempt to make the audience feel something, but at least it’s telling a personal, and therefore slightly more compelling, story. All the actors, from Gyllenhaal to Maslany, look fine as they’re asked to emote in various ways.

Online and Social

There doesn’t appear to be an official website for the movie, just a Facebook page and Twitter profile where the studio has been sharing updates on the marketing and publicity.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

TV spots like this one show what happened to Bauman as well as the way the public expected something out of him that he struggled to deliver, namely the personification of hope and survival. We also see his rehabilitation and the work he does to eventually make peace with life and get better. Others like this were more concerned with focusing on the relationship between Bauman and Erin and how that changed over time.

The trailer was used later on as an ad not only on social media but on YouTube, where it ran as pre-roll. There were banner and other ads run elsewhere online that used the image of Gyllenhaal in the midst of physical therapy to help sell the movie as an emotional and triumphant story.

Media and Publicity

It was announced the movie would have its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, where it received a good amount of praise for the performances by Gyllenhaal and Maslany.

The real Jeff Bauman was interviewed here about not only the events he lived through but the experience of seeing a version of himself on screen.

Gyllenhaal carried most of the publicity load, though. He was interviewed here about his production company which was created specifically as a place to shepherd smaller films that deserve a bigger audience like this one. While at Toronto he also commented that after years of being asked if he’d play a superhero, this role allowed him to feel as if he’d done so. He made appearances on various morning and late night talk shows as well to talk about the movie and the real-life story that inspired it.

Overall

Usually my tolerance for these kinds of campaigns is pretty low. I don’t handle “inspirational” that well and tend to get tripped up in the attempts to blatantly appeal to my basest emotions.

This one hit me in a different way, though. There’s plenty of sentimentality on display, of course. The sweeping music, the nicely-lit shots showing someone overcoming the odds and enduring despite all the setbacks. But it was presented as much more of an individual than a spiritual story, which is a very different thing. Maybe that’s the influence of director David Gordon Green or someone else who more interested in not underlining the universal truths but keeping the focus on a more relatable subject.

Whatever the case, the campaign comes together very nicely as a cohesive whole. There are strong consistent elements throughout the push that create a single feeling in the audience and which could help the movie when it hits theaters this weekend.

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

The Hitman’s Bodyguard – Marketing Recap

In the new movie The Hitman’s Bodyguard Ryan Reynolds plays Michael Bryce, a high-end bodyguard who’s available for hire by well-off clients seeking protection. One day he’s contracted Darius Kincaid (Samuel L. Jackson), a notorious assassin who’s scheduled to testify against one of his former bosses.

That should be a simple enough assignment but for one thing: Bryce and Kincaid have history that’s included the latter trying to kill the former on multiple occasions. Still, Bryce has a job to do and so the two have to not only get along but work together as the forces of those Kincaid is meant to testify against try to kill both of them.

The Posters

The first poster tells us exactly what we can expect from the tone of the movie. The image of Reynolds carrying Jackson, as well as the color palate of the image, the style used for the title treatment and cast name as well as the copy on the left are all pulled directly from the poster for the 1992 Kevin Costner/Whitney Houston vehicle The Bodyguard. That’s pretty funny and a nice little wink, even if it does come a bit too close to selling this movie as a parody instead of its own thing.

Two character posters followed, one showing The Hitman (Jackson) and one showing The Bodyguard (Reynolds) in a monochromatic design, each with guns drawn and each featuring the “Get triggered” copy that seems a tad insensitive. Those two were brought together into what seems to be a theatrical poster.

Another series of posters took a more old-school approach, with visual styles that harkened back to the era of movies like The French Connection and others. One is a black-and-white image of the two leads, both with guns drawn, seemingly entering a scene, a target taking aim at the pair. Another has the two of them taking aim themselves at something off-screen. A third is similar but has them standing more still in the frame and asks “Who’s protecting who?”

The Trailers

The first trailer, a red-band version, starts off by introducing us to Reynolds’ high-end bodyguard. He’s been hired to protect a hitman (Jackson) but things get violent quickly. Much of the action, of which there is plenty, is presented while Reynolds vents to a newspaper kiosk salesman about what a bad time he’s having on this particular assignment. It’s full of foul-language and ridiculous action.

The trailer is so unconcerned with selling the story it’s crazy. Instead it’s just about seeing the MFs that are dropped by Jackson and the sly subversion of action movie tropes like jumping into the garbage bin from a rooftop. Like the poster the studio is having fun with the title association, playing Whitney Houston’s version of “I Will Always Love You” over much of the footage.

An all-ages, non-restricted trailer was released about a month later that hits many of the same beats, just with half the running time and no curse words. This one’s more about selling the outrageous situations the unlikely pair find themselves in and the strange bond that forms between them.

The official trailer opens with Bryce taking one of his other clients out of a potentially dangerous situation. We see that a dictator is on trial and that his friends are trying to kill a key witness in those proceedings. So Bryce is assigned to protect Kincaid, but we see they have a history that’s not super-pleasant. Still, it’s his job and so despite his reticence he does what he needs to do to keep his charge from being blown up or otherwise killed.

It’s a much better trailer in that it actually lays out the story, not just relying on the charm and chemistry of Reynolds and Jackson. That comedy may still be the biggest selling point, but at least this one explains why they’re stuck with each other and why Reynolds’ character isn’t thrilled with the assignment, something that was lacking from the teaser.

Another short trailer came out that wasn’t new in most regards, just serving to reinforce the interplay between the two leads. One more trailer, just as lighthearted and focused on curse words and over-the-top as the others, was created to mark Romance Awareness Month.

Online and Social

The theatrical key art is displayed on the landing page of the movie’s official website as the content of the site loads. After that you can choose between sides, one for Bryce, one for Kincaid. Doing so just takes you to a short video clip featuring that character that you’re encouraged to share on social networks. There’s a prompt to “Get Tickets” in the upper right and links to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles in the lower right.

There’s also a quiz you’re encouraged to take to see if you have what it takes to join AAA Executive Protection Agency, the group Bryce apparently belongs to. And if you click the icon in the center of the top of the page you get a gallery of GIFs and images that have copy and a silly little animated character, apparently an effort to keep things light.

Moving on to the site’s actual content, the first option in the drop-down menu at the top of the page is “About,” which is where you’ll find a pretty good synopsis of the shenanigans the two characters get into. After that is “Videos” which houses the trailers, a featurette and a clip of the two meeting for the first time under new circumstances. The “Gallery” has a handful of stills and “Posters” has all the one-sheets.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

TV spots like this one started running a few weeks out from release that gave the barest outline of the story in favor of lots of action and a continued emphasis on the bickering relationship between the two violent professionals.

Online and outdoor ads used the various key art and social ads used the trailers as they were released.

Media and Publicity

The two leads were interviewed together, continuing the emphasis the campaign has placed on the dynamic between Jackson and Reynolds. In that interview they talked about bonding during filming, how they got involved in the project and lots more.

Other solo interviews had the pair, as well as costar Salma Hayek, talking about the story and all the usual anecdotes about filming and how much fun it was to be involved in something so silly. They also did the talk show rounds on TV to engage in hijinks with late night hosts and talk about the film.

Overall

As should be overwhelmingly evident from what I’ve laid out above, the main appeal the studio is conveying is the charm of and chemistry between the two leads. That’s why the story is often either missing or pushed way into the background of the trailers and other marketing elements in favor of Reynolds and Jackson getting on each other’s nerves, quipping and otherwise making it clear they’re not getting along as characters but certainly having a great time as actors.

The question then becomes whether that’s enough. The movie certainly looks like fun. Everything about it is the kind of big, silly action comedy that used to be pervasive in the late 80s and early 90s, but it’s unclear if that formula holds the same appeal these days. This looks more and more like a movie that will have an amusing campaign that leans on the likability of the two leads but which fades into obscurity quickly. A year from now someone will post on Twitter saying “Remember when a movie called The Hitman’s Bodyguard actually happened?”j

The Glass Castle – Marketing Recap

Based on Jeanette Walls’ memoir of the same name, The Glass Castle hits theaters this weekend. The movie follows Walls beginning in early childhood as she and her sisters are constantly being moved around from one unusual environment to the next by their unconventional parents Rex (Woody Harrelson) and Rose Mary (Naomi Watts). The two believe they are giving their children something unique, teaching them to be self-reliant and not lead conventional lives.

Adult Jeanette (Brie Larson) doesn’t remember those years quite as fondly. Now settled into a successful career and comfortable life in New York, she once more has to deal with the emotional baggage heaped on her by her parents and the scars they’ve left behind. It’s not all negative, though, as she also realizes they did what they could and if nothing else gave her and her sisters a passion for life.

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