I, Tonya – Marketing Recap

i tonya posterIt’s worth noting that when news broke of skater Tonya Harding having had rival skater Nancy Kerrigan attacked after a practice in 1994, America was two years into the nascent reality television phenomenon. It’s by no means a recent development, but the audience was primed for stories of real life drama involving villains we could root against, sweethearts to root for and sympathize with and so on. Coverage of the story extended well beyond the world of sports and became a reality narrative the whole country followed for a while.

Now that story is coming to the big screen over 20 years later in I, Tonya. Margot Robbie stars as Harding in a story that follows her from her earliest days in the world of competitive figure skating, a career that’s driven by her hard-nosed mother (Allison Janney). Sebastian Stan plays Jeff Gillooly, Harding’s ex-husband and co-conspirator, the one who actually makes overtures to shady types who might be able to elongate Kerrigan (Caitlin Carver) from the equation.

The Posters

The first and only poster features Robbie as Harding standing against the cinderblock wall common to arenas as she holds her skates in her hands and sports a defiant scowl. It certainly seems familiar, largely because those of us who lived through these events will kinda sorta recognize the outfit she’s sporting. And it definitely conveys to the audience that we’re not getting a sugar-coated version of events but one that comes loaded with plenty of attitude

The Trailers

A short teaser trailer sets up Tonya as embracing the role of someone willing to be the bad guy as we see a few shots from the movie, including her skating, Harding being clubbed and more. There’s not much there, it’s just a taste to get something out there and get people talking.

The first full trailer is kind of insane. We see Tonya’s story, including how she was pushed by her mother to succeed in every way, mostly through criticisms and violence. All that made her defiant and tough and unwilling to play by the nice rules that are in place. We see her husband begin looking into having someone take out the competition and keep working, all while dealing with the emotional fallout of being raised like she was.

It’s coarse and vulgar and funny and yeah, it looks pretty darn entertaining. Robbie completely owns the role and Janney looks fantastic as the caustic mother who prods her daughter in the only way she knows how. There are a couple moments that seem to indicate the movie breaks the fourth wall regularly, offering commentary on what’s happening and the reality of the situation, pointing out moments of artistic license being taken. That only makes it look more insane.

Online and Social

The main page of the official website opens with full-screen video pulled from the trailer with the title and a “Get Tickets” prompt at the bottom of the page. That tickets call-to-action is also the first element in the menu at the top of the page.

After that is the “Trailer” section, which has both the teaser and the full trailer, the latter in both red-band and all-ages versions. The “Synopsis” after that offers both a story overview and the cast and crew list. There are several stills in the “Gallery.” Other than the “Share” buttons to post the site to social media the last section is the “Press Kit” that offers a PDF to download where you can get all sorts of relevant information.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

If there’s been a ton of advertising for the movie I haven’t seen it. Nothing has been found in terms of TV spots and I haven’t seen any online or social media paid promotion.

Media and Publicity

The movie had its big coming out at the Toronto International Film Festival, where it was pretty well received. A big feature interview with Robbie appeared around that time where she talked about the technical and physical challenges in making the movie and admitted she didn’t realize this wasn’t a fictional story until they were filming. NEON quickly picked up distribution rights after that Toronto screening and it was later scheduled as one of the closing night features at AFI Fest. Robbie continued talking about the research she did into the woman she’s playing.

i tonya harding headlines

Robbie did a few press interviews in the last couple weeks but most of the coverage wound up revolving around questions about her future as Harley Quinn in various DC Cinematic Universe films. Either that or the stories focused on her fashion and glamour, not really talking about the movie itself. Just look at the headlines to the right, a screenshot pulled from Google News.

She also showed up on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” just last night, interviewed by guest host Chris Pratt.

Overall

I think my favorite part of this campaign is that there’s no attempt to make a feel-good Lifetime story out of it. There’s attitude and swagger to spare throughout the marketing, which matches the public persona many of us associate with the real-life Harding. It’s clear the filmmakers aren’t glossing over anything. While they may present a slightly more relatable picture of Harding than was evident 20+ years ago, she’s still not a warm, fuzzy personality. And Robbie sells all that with conviction, a testament to her acting chops.

The marketing probably won’t make that much of a dent in audience desire to see the film, though. This is very much the kind of film that will skate under most people’s radar until it’s available on Amazon Prime or Netflix in eight months, at which point they’ll kind of remember seeing a trailer for it and decide it’s worth checking out. That’s not the fault of the campaign itself, which sizzles and pops and makes a strong impression, just the reality of the current theatrical marketplace.

PICKING UP THE SPARE

The movie has come under an increasing amount of criticism since it was released, both for its depiction of domestic abuse and for how it plays fast and loose with the truth, the latter centered around an account from a sports writer who covered the events of the film in real-time.

 

A bit more advertising has been done in response to the movie’s early awards season wins, including 15-second pre-roll spots on YouTube that call out how insane this true story is.
While it’s not directly tied to this movie, the interest and attention it received presumably lead NEON to acquire the old documentary “Sharp Edges” about Tonya Harding prior to her gaining national notoriety. Still, it’s somewhat surprising given the backlash to the movie centered around the questionable decision to make the villain in the story sympathetic while almost completely ignoring the victim.

Beach Rats – Marketing Recap

In the new movie Beach Rats Harris Dickinson plays Frankie, an aimless teen in Brooklyn with no real goals or ambitions for how he spends his time. He’s got a sort-of-girlfriend in Simone (Madeline Weinstein) but nothing serious. He’s also spending as much time as he can out of the house to escape the intrusions of his family.

His rebellion and questions about his own identity lead him into a lifestyle of visiting websites to arrange hookups with older men. That behavior becomes increasingly dangerous and erratic and winds up having consequences for his relationship with Simone and his life in general.

The Posters

There’s not much to the first and only poster. It just shows Frankie and a group of guys, apparently on the beach because they’re all shirtless and one has a towel across his shoulders. The movie’s festival credentials are above the title and below it are a couple of quotes from critics praising the film. The audience can certainly get the gist of the kind of lifestyle Frankie is leading but there aren’t a lot of details on display here.

The Trailers

There’s not too much going on in the first teaser. It’s mostly just shots of a young shirtless man taking a mirror selfie, which we see only sporadically as text cards come on screen. At the end we see three guys standing on the beach, looking out over the ocean.

So it’s not so much about selling the story as it is making it clear what the subject matter is, which is that it’s about young men. That’s all that’s going on here.

The full trailer starts out by showing us how Frankie is just kind of messing around with life, hanging out with his friends and meeting girls. But there’s a secret he has, namely that he’s attracted to men and engages in all kinds of cruising and other activities that are becoming increasingly dangerous.

That’s about it for the trailer, which is more about setting the tone than fully explaining the story. There’s enough there for the audience to get the general sense of but the focus is on Dickinson’s performance as Frankie.

Online and Social

Full screen video of clips pulled from the trailer greet you as you load the movie’s official website. There’s not a whole lot of material here, though. Outside of the “Get Tickets” prompt and the encouragement to “Share” the site on social networks, there’s just “Videos” with the trailer and a clip and the “Synopsis” with a quick write-up of the story and a cast and crew list. There are also links to the movie’s own Facebook, Instagram and Twitter profiles.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Nothing in this category that I’m aware of. It’s too small to have warranted a big paid advertising spend of any sort or attracted any corporate partners.

Media and Publicity

The movie got pretty good buzz coming out of its premiere at Sundance. A few months after that screenwriter Eliza Hittman talked about the journey she took in creating the story.

Most of the press in the subsequent months has come from the release of marketing assets like trailers and clips, not from any concerted publicity activity.

Overall

Without a lot of activity in the months between Sundance and release, NEON is obviously putting a lot of weight on that festival buzz. It’s even been a while since the most recent trailer or poster were released, so there hasn’t been much of anything recently to keep the movie at the top of the audience’s mind. Without a big competing release this weekend it might be enough to succeed in whatever limited release window the studio has planned, but odds are good the vast majority of filmgoers aren’t aware this is coming out.

That being said, the small-scale campaign that’s been mounted isn’t bad. The focus seems to be on making the audience connect with Frankie and his atmosphere more than anything else. So we’re shown how his behavior changes depending on the situation he’s in and how that impacts some of the people around him. It’s not overt, preferring to establish mood than create strong personal connections, though. That may come off as cold to some, particularly without a familiar face to latch onto.

Ingrid Goes West – Marketing Recap

Aubrey Plaza plays Ingrid in this week’s new release Ingrid Goes West. Ingrid is a slightly-unhinged young woman who has a tendency to mistake social media for the real world and obsess over celebrities and “influencers,” envying their life and engaging in a bit of stalking that goes beyond the mobile world of Instagram.

Upset over a recent situation gone bad, Ingrid latches onto her latest obsession: Taylor Sloane (Elizabeth Olsen), a new influencer in California who’s become famous for her bohemian lifestyle and perfectly-lit and filtered photos and other media. Ingrid ingratiates herself into Taylor’s life and while the two initially become friends things quickly spiral as Ingrid’s true motivations are uncovered and unstable nature comes back out.

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