house of gucci – marketing recap

How MGM has sold a high-fashion drama

house of Gucci movie poster
House of Gucci poster

The House of Gucci, out in theaters this week, has a lot of talent behind it as well as a story made for late primetime in the early 1980s.

Directed by Ridley Scott (his second film in just a few months after The Last Duel), the movie stars Lady Gaga as Patrizia Reggiani, an ambitious woman who sets out to marry Maurizio Gucci (Adam Driver), heir to the fashion empire that bears his family’s name. She wants control though he doesn’t, setting up a power struggle between the couple and others in the family as well as between Patrizia and Maruizio themselves.

Jared Leto, Salma Hayek, Jeremy Irons, Al Pacino and others also star as members of the Gucci family or those in their orbit and influence.

MGM’s campaign has been heavy on the drama, positioning it as a feature length episode of “Dallas” or “Knots Landing” with all the intrigue and drama you’d expect from that.

announcement and casting

Though there had been ups and downs in Scott’s development of the the project since 2006 it wasn’t until November 2019 that things officially began moving forward, helped by Gaga’s casting in the lead role.

The film, developed by Scott, was reportedly picked up by MGM after that studio outbid Netflix in early 2020. Cast members were announced over the course of the year, including Pacino, Driver and others.

In March Lady Gaga posted a first look photo of herself and Driver as the married couple of the title.

Costume designer Janty Yates was interviewed about creating the period-appropriate looks for the characters and what it was like to dress fictionalized real people.

In a Variety cover story in May Hayek talked about this being the first role she took post-Covid and how the low stress shoot helped her get back in the groove given her lack of energy. Hayek also praised Lady Gaga’s work ethic on set.

the marketing campaign

Promotional artwork featuring Gaga, Irons and Pacino came out at the end of July showing them looking dapper and stylish against a stylish blue background.

The first trailer (13m YouTube views) was released at that time as well. As it opens, Patrizia is discussing the allure of the Gucci name and is clearly targeting Maurizio as a way to gain access to the power the family holds. We meet that family and see some of their dynamics before Patrizia reveals she wants to move the old guard out so she they can seize control by whatever means necessary.

MGM gave CinemaCon attendees in August a first look at the movie.

It wasn’t until late September that the first poster came out using the same blue background as the earlier images but this time with all five of the main characters arranged in the photo. The deadly plot is communicated through the copy “A legacy worth killing for.”

Exclusive footage was provided to Vogue as part of another interview with costume designer Yates.

In late October the second trailer (7m YouTube views) was released. This time we meet the Gucci family via Maurizio introducing Patrizia to them all. The majority of this trailer’s running time is devoted to the intrigue around Patrizia’s plans to inject herself into the decision-making part of the business through manipulation, law enforcement and ultimately murder.

Another set of three posters came out shortly after that, this round using different color backgrounds for each of the characters. Another one with Hayek was added a short while later.

Leto was interviewed about how the role of Paulo Gucci fits into his career habit of completely transforming his physical appearance for each character he plays. How Gaga went full method after doing extensive research into her character was covered in an interview with her.

Tanqueray introduced a gin that was labeled as “inspired by” the movie.

Again, the next poster shows all five main characters but this time they’re shown against a gold background.

Spots like this began running in early November, running not only as TV commercials but also as pre-roll ads, social media promos and even as audio ads.

Leto and Hayek appeared at the LACMA ART+FILM GALA, an event presented by Gucci in Los Angeles.

A red carpet premiere was held in London with the cast and crew in attendance.

Regal Cinemas shared an exclusive video interview with the cast.

Gaga, Driver, Leto and others were all part of a featurette that not only offered a brief preview of the story but extolled the benefit of seeing it in theaters.

The first official clip has Maurizio and Patrizia inspecting a pile of knock-offs, with her taking it a *lot* more seriously than he is.

Gaga talked more about her character research and other aspects of the film during a Q&A following a screening in Hollywood earlier this month. She and Scott were also interviewed together about the story, working with Gucci and more.

Gaga later walked the red carpet at the movie’s Milan premiere.

The next clip shows Patrizia beginning to plant the seeds of a coup in Maurizio’s mind. Another has her buttering up Paulo.

Gaga introduces Patrizia and explains who she is in the story of the movie in another featurette. A similar video featuring Driver and others talking about Maurizio came out a bit later.

When he appeared on “the Tonight Show” Leto talked more about his physical transformation. Driver later talked about the movie on “The Late Show” and the whole cast did likewise on “GMA.”

New York City was the next stop for a red carpet premiere, with the cast and crew once again there. That was followed by a Los Angeles event a few days later.

Cinemark offered an exclusive behind-the-scenes featurette.

MGM announced an experiential event in New York and L.A. that included exclusive photos as well as costumes, props and more from the film’s production.

An extensive personal profile of Gaga had her sharing how she tapped into painful moments from her past to capture some of the key character moments. How she and Driver staged some of the more intimate scenes was covered in a joint interview with the pair.

Another featurette focuses more on the family behind the fashion brand and how it’s populated by some very interesting characters. The family’s history and legacy was covered in a featurette just days later.

Patrizia asks for insights into her future in the next clip while another features the moment seen in many trailers and commercials with Patrizia talking about not being ethical but being fair.


At the outset I said the movie seemed to be big-screen drama that seemed to channel the aesthetics and style of an early-80s prime time soap opera and I stand by that. Perhaps it’s helped by the era the story is set in, but everything about the entire campaign makes me think we should be watching this on TV in the hour before the local news comes on.

Lady Gaga Reaction GIF by House of Gucci - Find & Share on GIPHY

Reviews have been mixed, with some critics calling it glorious and others saying it’s an inconceivable mess. That’s why it has a middling 67% on Rotten Tomatoes. But there’s a lot to like in the marketing, including it’s strong sense of brand identity, helped by the official involvement of Gucci itself in production.

But there are still two questions that don’t seem to have answers:

  • Why is Adam Driver not featured in any of the sets of character posters? He’s a major star but only appears on the group one-sheets. It’s incredibly odd.
  • Who made the decision that Lady Gaga should be the central focus of the publicity and press campaign? I get that she’s the star at the center of the action, but it still appears there were only three messages she had to share in each interview, so it’s thin soil to plant in.

These are the things that will continue to haunt me.

respect – marketing recap

MGM brings the life and career of a musical icon to the big screen.

respect poster

Jennifer Hudson takes on the imposing real life role of the legendary Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin in this week’s new release Respect. The movie, directed by Liesl Tommy and written by Tracey Scott Wilson, follows Franklin from her childhood singing in a church choir through the early days of her career. It also covers the personal upheavals that were part of her life in that period, including what turned out to be an abusive marriage as well as her involvement in the civil rights movement in the second half of the last century.

casting and development

Hudson has been attempting to bring Franklin’s story to life for a number of years and the project even had the approval of the singer, who was involved in making it happen until she passed away a few years ago. That puts this film in stark contrast to the latest season of “Genius”, the anthology series on National Geographic, which has been denounced by Franklin’s family because they weren’t involved in that production. Cynthia Erivo portrayed Franklin in that series.

Over the course of 2019 Forest Whitaker and Audra McDonald were cast as Franklin’s parents while Marlon Wayans was brought on to play her first husband and Mary J. Blige as Dinah Washington, a pioneer in the genres Franklin would later dominate.

first marketing steps

A brief teaser – no footage, just Franklin singing the title song on stage – was released in late December 2019 to get things started.

The first poster (by marketing agency Concept Arts) came out at the same time and shows a long view of Franklin on a brightly lit stage. It’s the same basic visual aesthetic as the teaser, creating some nice consistency as the campaign kicks off.

It was June 2020 before the first full trailer came out. It’s fairly short but offers glimpses at the big beats of the story, from Franklin’s early struggles to her rise as an outspoken and unapologetic superstar. It’s surprising, though, how glitzed up the title song is here, as if the original isn’t powerful enough to stand on its own without a ton of additional production and layering.

Another poster came out then showing a closer look at Hudson as Franklin sporting her finest hairstyle and in her most luxurious coat. The light mint green of both the coat and the background set a 50s/60s vibe while the “The Queen arrives” copy makes it clear this is a story that doesn’t lack in ambition or self-confidence.

Late in the month Hudson appeared virtually at the BET Awards, performing an incredible rendition of Franklin’s “Young Black and Gifted.” The trailer was also aired as an extended ad during that broadcast.

A handful of new images from the movie debuted in Essence around that time as well.

Hudson discussed the movie as well as the imposing situation of portraying such a well-known singer on “Good Morning America” in September of that year. She was also named to Time’s 100 Most Influential People of 2020.

In a move that’s very much in-line with Franklin’s work for civil rights decades ago, Hudson and Wayans posted videos encouraging people to register to vote in what at the time were the upcoming elections. Future efforts in this portion of the campaign continued to come out through October and November, including contributions from Tommy and others.

Tommy discussed the movie in a virtual panel during 2020’s Mill Valley Film Festival in Octoer of that year.

EW featured a cover story package on the film in October that featured photos and interviews with most of the cast and crew.

pandemic delays

Originally scheduled for release in December of 2020, the coronavirus pandemic wound up delaying the movie, first just to January 2021 and then all the way to its current Augus release date. That final announcement was made in October of last year.

With that in place the marketing took a couple months off. Still, Hudson appeared on “Today” in February to talk about the movie and a Black History Month initiative she was undertaking with Mastercard – one of the movie’s promotional partner brands – focused on supporting Black small business owners. And musician Kris Bowers was interviewed about composing the film’s score.

let’s try this again

The campaign began ramping back up in May when Hudson stopped by “GMA” again to celebrate Franklin’s legacy and debut the final trailer.

That trailer starts off with a young Franklin getting a lesson both in singing and in life from her mother. When she’s older she’s seen by others as a genius but it’s not until she finds the songs she can truly connect to that her career takes off. But her personal life is less than perfect, even as she attains the kind of fame and notoriety she’s worked hard for.

The next poster shows Franklin performing with the copy “Find out what it means to me” overlaid on the photo. It’s not bad and continues the theme of focusing on Hudson as Franklin in mid-performance.

Tommy was interviewed about casting Hudson, respecting Franklin’s legacy and maintaining a cooperative atmosphere on set.

A video of Hudson reacting to comments and songs from The Queens was released in early June.

Later in the month a featurette came out that focused on Hudson’s transformation into the character of the real-life Franklin.

News came in late June that the movie would screen at the Locarno International Film Festival in August.

now with more songs

“Here I Am”, the original song from Hudson and cowriter Carole King that plays over the movie’s end credits, was released in mid-July. The two would later be interviewed together about the process of writing that song as well as Franklin’s enduring legacy and influence.

Hudson’s performances of “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” came out in this period as well.

Around the same time commercials started coming out that recapped the story in 30 seconds, focusing on Hudson’s performance and her singing, of course.

Fandango MovieClips released an exclusive featurette with Hudson and others talking about Franklin’s impact on the world and the people around her came out in mid-July. Fandango also announced early screenings scheduled for the second week of August, an attempt to get word of mouth started before the release date. Fandango also had a brief teaser from Hudson sharing her approach to staying true to Franklin’s legacy.

Franklin performs “Respect” in front of a concert crowd in the first clip that came out in late July. Another clip shows Franklin and others noodling around with the rough version of what would later become that signature tune.

In late July the Wright Museum in Detroit hosted a massive mural of Hudson Franklin to celebrate the singer and promote the upcoming movie. That mural was created by students from the Detroit Academy of Arts and Sciences, with the process of making it captured in a short video.

Hudson and Wayans appear in a short video explaining how to demand respect from those around you as well as in awkward social situations.

More interviews with Hudson continued to come out over the last few weeks covering how she dove into playing Franklin, working with the singer on developing this movie for years and more. She was even interviewed by Oprah.

Wayans also got the occasional profile and interview about taking on a dramatic role and working with Hudson. Similarly there were also interviews with McDonald about the music and life of Franklin. Tommy and others spoke about staying true to both the singer’s life and her music. Wayans also appeared on “The Tonight Show” and “GMA” to talk about the movie.

Regal Cinemas, AMC Theaters

The premiere was held in Los Angeles last week with the cast and crew in attendance.

More clips offered glimpses at a performance of “Think” (though not the filming of The Blues Brothers) and other scenes.

Hudson performed with Jon Baptiste on “The Late Show”.

Steinway & Sons, the movie’s other major brand partner, announced just recently that it was auctioning off a specially-designed piano, with the proceeds designated for Hudson’s charitable foundation.


You have to admire how, from the very beginning, the campaign went all-in on Hudson’s connection with Franklin and her commitment to honoring the late singer’s life and legacy. That’s been the central message of the entire marketing push from the moment production began back in mid-2019 right up through the conclusion.

Unfortunately initial reviews haven’t been overly positive, leading to a 64% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Most don’t fault Hudson’s performance as the Queen of Soul, though, instead focusing on the movie failing to break out of the biopic routines. But the messaging has been so earnest and the targeting of key moments in the campaign has been so finely-tuned that those lackluster reviews may not mean much.

While the story focused on Franklin’s early years, it’s worth noting here that she lost nary a step later in life. As proof of that, we’ll finish off with her 2015 Kennedy Center Honors performance of Carole King’s “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” including her shedding her coat like warrior shedding bulky armor before entering the field of battle.

Breaking News In Yuba County – Marketing Recap

How MGM has sold a dark comedy.

From writer Amanda Idoko and director Tate Taylor comes this week’s comedy Breaking News In Yuba County. Allison Janney stars as Sue Buttons, a suburban housewife who becomes something of a local celebrity after her husband Karl (Matthew Modine) goes “missing” and she embarks on a search to find him. Entranced by her newfound fame, Buttons keeps the charade going through a series of increasingly desperate actions that bring her into contact with local crime figures, persistent police officers and other colorful characters.

The movie also stars Mila Kunis, Wanda Sykes, Awkwafina, Regina Hall and others.

The Posters

You definitely get a sense of the movie’s sense of humor on the poster (by marketing agency Art Machine), released just a couple weeks ago. That comes through not only in the wild artistic design of the primary images, which place the supporting cast around a wide-eyed Sue while offering glimpses of the locations of the story’s action, but also in the copy reading “Sue Buttons has one killer story.”

The Trailers

The trailer (1.2 million views on YouTube), also released in mid-January, follows the rough flow of the story itself, from Sue’s panic over what to do about her dead husband through the notoriety she gains when it seems like he’s been kidnapped and into how it all starts to fall apart when it becomes clear she made much of it up. Along the way we meet some of the unusual local personalities that get involved in some manner and really see the dark sense of humor the film is selling, one conveyed well by the cast, especially Janney.

Online and Social

There is a website listed at the end of the trailer, but repeated attempts to load it were unsuccessful, so it’s not clear what’s on the site. MGM did give the movie some support on its social channels, including running regular little “daily affirmations” featuring brief clips from the film.

Advertising and Promotions

MGM, through its relaunched American International Pictures, acquired the project in October of last year, announcing a January release date at that time.

Some shorter versions of the trailer were run as pre-roll on YouTube, but that’s all the paid advertising I’m aware of.

Media and Press

Janney stopped by “Kimmel” recently to talk about the movie and lots more.

That is, surprisingly, about the end of the press efforts.


A good poster and strong trailer make me want to like this campaign a lot more than I actually do. The disconnect is caused in large part by the lackluster effort elsewhere, including the site that won’t load, the mostly non-existent press push and so on. Such a showcase for Janney in particular needs more support, not provided here.

It’s such a small campaign, it actually makes me wonder if the theatrical-only release plan for the film caused MGM to scale back the marketing because what’s the point of going big when your maximum box-office take is around $5 million?

Picking Up The Spare

Bridget Everett appeared on “The Tonight Show” to promote the film.