trollhunters: rise of the titans – marketing recap

How Netflix has sold its animated feature based on a hit series.

The three seasons of “Trollhunters” have been popular on Netflix. Created by Guillermo del Toro and produced by DreamWorks Animation, the series follows a group of teenage friends who find they must protect the world from all manner of mystical monsters and other threats.

Now the story concludes in the feature-length Trollhunters: Rise of the Titans. In the movie, the group of teenage protectors, led by James “Jim” Lake Jr., (voiced by Emile Hirsch) and Aja (voiced by Tatiana Maslany) must stop the threat posed by the Arcane Order and their massive Titans and keep the world safe.

Netflix’s campaign has relied heavily on the popularity of the three previous series, selling the film as a culmination of everything that’s come before.

The Posters

The first poster, released in mid-June, shows the assembled team of heroes – human or otherwise – as they are prepared to face some unseen threat. There’s not a whole lot of information about the story, but those familiar with the series will be able to identify who’s who and make some conclusions about what to expect.

The same characters are shown on the second poster, released earlier this week. This time they’re posed on a building rooftop, the massive Titans they are facing off against looming in the background.

The Trailers

Finally the first trailer (800,000 views on YouTube) came out in mid-June. A war between mankind and magic is coming, we’re told, as we see the teen heroes told about the emergence of ancient titans determined to destroy civilization. There’s a lot of humor and a lot of action, both of which are familiar to anyone who’s seen the series, and overall it looks like a lot of fun.

Online and Social

Advertising, Publicity and Promotions

Netflix announced in August, 2020 that the movie would be coming some time in 2021, acting as a conclusion to the popular series.

A short teaser from late April finally made the movie’s release date official.

This was one of a few features Dreamworks promoted at the 2021 Annecy Animation Festival in June.

The cast appeared in a video released at the beginning of July warning people of the dangers of cyberbullying and telling anyone who’s been the victim of it to not fight back but to report the harassment.

Netflix put out the first few minutes of the video to help get people excited and show what they could look forward to.

Overall

Netflix hasn’t made as big a deal about this movie as it has for other recent releases, particularly the Fear Street trilogy, but the smaller campaign has played well to the elements that have made the original series successful. There’s a good deal of humor as well as the promise of plenty of supernatural action and adventure, which is exactly what fans are likely to expect. There could have been more done to pull in some new fans and explain how it concludes the three series already available, but that’s a relatively minor quibble in an otherwise solid push.

gunpowder milkshake – marketing recap

How Netflix has sold a female-led action thriller.

Karen Gillan plays Sam in Gunpowder Milkshake, this week’s new release from Netflix. Sam is an assassin who finds herself on the run following a job gone wrong. That winds up bringing her back in contact with Scarlet (Lena Headey), Sam’s mother who also happens to be an assassin. Scarlet herself had to disappear years ago, leaving a young Sam alone, and so the two have some issues to work through. Helping them both are former associates of Scarlet’s; Madeline, Florence and Anna May (Carla Gugino, Michelle Yeoh and Angela Bassett, respectively).

The movie, which has a middling 69% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, has been sold by Netflix as a bright, female-driven take on the action/revenge genre, with Gillan at the forefront, though the rest of the cast isn’t far behind. Let’s take a look.

The Posters

The first poster (by marketing agency BOND), released in May, offers a very literal visual interpretation of the movie’s title, with a bullet taking off the top of a diner milkshake. It’s the title treatment at the top that stands out, though, immediately establishing an identity for the movie with its bright neon lights.

Another poster released at the same time has a similar approach, but this time the bullet is breaking the glass, smeared red lipstick visible at the point of entry.

The main poster came out in mid-June, showing most all of the lead cast as they stand in front of a diner with the title as its brightly-lit sign. All five characters are armed in some manner, the variety of their weapons hinting at how many ways they collectively know to kill someone.

Sam got a poster of her own a bit later.

The Trailers

The trailer (317,000 views on YouTube) came out in mid-June and opens with Sam seeking out the help of the librarians who are actually assassins. She needs that help because an assignment has gone sideways and she’s now responsible for protecting eight-year old Emily (Chloe Coleman). That’s just the setup, as the rest of the trailer is solely concerned with selling the over-the-top action of the movie, showing just the kind of butt-kicking audiences can expect.

Online and Social

No website, as is standard for Netflix releases, but StudioCanal, which produced the film, did run some social media accounts like this Twitter profile that helped with promotion, including sharing some promo spots. Netflix did give it some support on its own brand channels, but the focus there has been on its recent Fear Street anthology.

Advertising and Promotions

Distribution rights were picked up by STXFilms in February, 2020, about two years after it was announced during the American Film Market in 2018. A batch of first-look stills came out in mid-November.

Things were quiet until April 2021 when STX sold the movie to Netflix, one of many such sales as studios cleared out some titles as the coronavirus pandemic wound down.

The cast and director assembled via video chat to talk about how they got involved in the project and what the story entails. That video, released as part of Netflix’s “Geeked Week” campaign, also included the first publicly-released footage from the film.

Gillan and writer/director Navot Papushado attended a screening/Q&A at the New Beverly Cinema earlier this week.

A video with Bassett sharing some of her favorite lines from throughout her career, up to and including this movie, was released just the other day.

Another video has Papushado sharing some of the influences he pulled from when making the movie.

Gillan, who had shared a handful of videos from the set, put out what she called the first episode of her new talk show with Headey – kind of – as her guest.

Papushado talked about how and why he cast Gillan, who herself commented on what attracted her to the movie (including the title itself) and more.

Overall

Unlike some other recent releases this campaign has done a solid job of establishing a visual identity for itself, thanks in large part to not only the bright title treatment but also the enthusiasm of Gillan and the rest of the cast.

That’s not to say the movie looks great in and of itself, but it sure is sold to the public as being a lot of fun, and that’s really just fine. The same can be said of many similar movies like John Wick or Nobody, so clearing that bar is really all the campaign needs to do.

Fatherhood – Marketing Recap

How Netflix has sold a drama of single parenting.

Based on the book Two Kisses for Maddy: A Memoir of Loss & Love by Matthew Logelin, Fatherhood stars Kevin Hart as Logelin himself, a recently-widowed man whose wife dies and leaves him to raise their infant daughter Maddy (played as a slightly older child by Melody Hurd). Matthew struggles being the only one responsible for his daughter’s emotional, physical and mental well-being, seeking advice and help when it’s needed but determined to be the primary caregiver in her life.

The movie, hitting Netflix this week in time for Father’s Day, has been sold with a campaign emphasizing how unusual it is for a story to focus on a man being a single parent. As we’ll see, that resonates to varying degrees.

The Posters

Designed by marketing agency P+A, the poster from May shows Matthew asleep with Maddy snuggled beside him, the two fitting in the crib in which she still sleeps. The image is clearly meant to be a mix of sweet, showing how close the two are, and a little funny, playing off how Hart can fit in the crib by only bending his knees slightly.

How the copy “In it, together” uses the comma is also very specific. Without the comma the phrase reads as if the two are partners through life’s journey. With the comma, though, it separates the clauses more definitely, so it reads “They are in it. And they are together.” So you lose the “partners” meaning a bit. Interesting choice.

The Trailers

Matt is overwhelmed and looking for help as the first trailer (1 million views on YouTube), released in May, opens. He’s struggling to raise his newborn baby daughter following the death of his wife shortly after the baby was born. Friends and family offer various levels of support and advice, but Matt is determined to do it himself and while there are plenty of mistakes it’s clear he and his daughter are each other’s support system through the ups and downs.

Online and Social

Nope, but Netflix gave the movie some support on its brand social media profiles.

Advertising, Press and Publicity

Sony sold the movie to Netflix in conjunction with Barack and Michelle Obama’s Higher Ground Productions in March, with the streamer setting a June release date.

A set of stills was released by Netflix in late April.

When Hart appeared on “The Tonight Show” in May he talked about the movie and how he wanted to depict a positive representation of black parenting.

A behind-the-scenes featurette from early June had the cast and crew talking about the story, the importance of seeing family movies centered around the emotional journey of fathers and more.

Matthew is dropping Maddy off at daycare in a short promo/TV spot released last week.

Earlier this week a faux focus group video with Hart trying to get feedback from a bunch of preschoolers was released, the primary goal of which being to show how out of control Hart is.

Overall

What we’re sold here is a Kevin Hart movie we’ve seen variations of before — albeit more on the emotional side and not so much on the overt comedy end of the spectrum — wrapped in a parenting drama. If the movie is truly more dramatic than other entries in Hart’s career, it might have been a better choice to not include so much of his usual self-deprecating mugging. I enjoy the schtick, but it’s out of place here if the message is intended to be different than his other movies.

Also, given there are plenty of movies about how single fatherhood is distinct from single motherhood (Sleepless in Seattle, Pursuit of Happyness, Gifted, The Descendants, Jersey Girl and others all come to mind), the message that this is a unicorn of a film that audiences may not have seen or considered before doesn’t ring entirely accurate. It’s still a nice little campaign, but the two core messages don’t land as solidly as they need to.

Army of the Dead – Marketing Recap

How Netflix is selling a zombie-tastic romp through Sin City.

Imagine Ocean’s 11 but instead of Andy Garcia’s security apparatus, the thieves had to get through a horde of zombies to get to the casino safe full of cash.

That’s the basic premise of Army of the Dead from director Zack Snyder, taking a break from encouraging his most toxic fans to attack Warner Bros. for..reasons. In the movie’s story, a zombie outbreak has overtaken Las Vegas, leading casino owner Bly Tanaka (Hiroyuki Sanada) to hire a group of mercenaries lead by Scott Ward (Dave Bautista) to battle their way through the undead and retrieve $200 million from vault of the casino. Time is tight on the mission because the U.S. government, fearful the quarantine of Vegas won’t hold, plans on nuking the city to wipe out the threat. But everyone has their own hidden agendas.

The movie, which also stars Garret Dillahunt, Ella Purnell, Omari Hardwick, Tig Notaro and others, has a solid 72% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with early reviews calling it a fun, action-filled caper film.

The Posters

The first poster (by marketing agency P+A) came out in February, showing a massive bank vault with various playing cards and currency flying around in front of it to help establish the Las Vegas setting of the story. To convey the presence of the zombies, a number of hands can be seen reaching out from the closed door, obviously not human and obviously not doing well.

Ward and his team stand atop a bright neon-lit slots bar on the second poster (by marketing agency BOND), released in April. With more neon in the background, there are a couple of skulls, a handful of poker chips and lots of weaponry on display to help sell the elements of the story. Two additional posters came out a bit later, one showing a zombie hand holding up a playing card and one showing a human hand holding a pike with a zombie head mounted on it. The bright pop-art colors keep the visual identity of the campaign going.

A series of brightly colored posters featuring each individual character were released in late April, each featuring a different tagline along with lots of neon decorations in the background in an attempt to convey the story’s Las Vegas setting.

Three more posters came out in the weeks leading up to release. One on, the focus is back on Ward’s team as they stand in the middle of the bright lights of Vegas, a group of undead hands reaching from the bottom. The other two look like comic book covers, with Ward on one walking through the flotsam of a ruined Vegas while carrying his packs. The other looks more like some kind of Mexican or similar artwork, with The Bride — a more intelligent, advanced zombie the team encounters — standing amid a collection of flowers and skulls.

The Trailers

The first trailer (3.7 million views on YouTube) came out at the end of February, immediately establishing a harsh post-apocalyptic landscape before flashing back to Vegas prior to the outbreak. Without offering much in the way of details, we get that a small armed unit is trying to break into a casino vault, fighting their way through the zombie hordes to do so.

We get a little more context for the story in the second trailer (11.1 million views on YouTube) from early April. Ward is approached by Tanaka to see if he’s interested in breaking into Tanaka’s old casino, now surrounded by zombies, before Las Vegas is nuked by the government. But things get complicated when they realize the zombies now roaming the streets have evolved and are smarter than the ones they faced in the war years ago.

Online and Social

As is common, Netflix supported the movie on brand social channels — including creating a bunch of GIFs on Giphy — but didn’t launch any new profiles or sites for the campaign. But it *did* create a publicly-accessible Dropbox where, in a feature it called #DeadDrop, the company put new posters, GIFs, videos and other assets.

Advertising, Press and Publicity

In August of last year news broke that, despite the movie being fully shot and in post-production, Netflix announced original star Chris D’Elia was being replaced and Notaro brought in. Those reshoots were said to be scheduled for as soon as pandemic conditions would allow, and have Notaro acting largely against a green screen and stand-ins.

Netflix was apparently so entranced by the project it announced a prequel film and anime series later in August.

The first footage came in January, part of Netflix’s announcement of its ambitious 2021 feature film slate. An official release date was set in February.

Snyder was interviewed about the film as part of EW’s 2021 Movie Preview, with some first-look stills also provided. He also spoke about the more in a Vanity Fair piece that was focused on his new version of Justice League, putting the development of this film in the context of his return to directing after taking a couple years off in the wake of his daughter’s death.

A few weeks after the second trailer came out Netflix shared a video of Snyder watching and reacting to a low-budget fan remake of that spot. Maybe this is meant to humanize the director or show how in-tune with his fans he is.

How the VFX team created the zombies – including the tiger – and more topics were covered in an interview with producer Deborah Snyder.

Zack Snyder Zombie GIF by NETFLIX - Find & Share on GIPHY

In a surprise move, news broke at the beginning of May that Cinemark planned to screen the movie at many of its locations nationwide ahead of its debut on Netflix. That’s a major concession by a large chain and one that shows how the calculus may have changed over the last year and a half.

Why Bautista chose this project instead of joining the cast of The Suicide Squad was the subject of this interview, with the star saying he couldn’t pass up an opportunity to work with Snyder.

The process of replacing D’Elia with Notaro was covered in-depth in an interview with her and Snyder, including how they had to make a number of adjustments simply because of the difference in size between her and the other actor.

Tig Notaro Army Of The Dead GIF by NETFLIX - Find & Share on GIPHY

Additional interviews with Deborah Snyder and others included how production had a smaller scope than the DC Films movies, more on how they created that CGI zombie tiger, how working with Netflix differs from working with Warner Bros., the respect Bautista gained for Snyder’s work ethic as director and cinematographer, how Snyder got all the extras thinking and walking like zombies and lots more. Zack Snyder offered an overview of the story and characters as well.

Netflix released the first 15 minutes of the movie online to give audiences a taste of what they could expect when they watched the whole thing.

Cut down versions of the trailer along with other promos offered additional glimpses at the movie, mostly focusing on the mix of humor and violence it’s presumed will be most attractive to the audience.

A number of banners, some used as ads, some used just as organic promos, were created. Most simply repurposed some of the key art, but others like the one below attempt to recreate the look of classic zombie movie title treatments.

Overall

One review of Army of the Dead simply said something along the lines of “Well, it definitely is a movie” and that sums things up nicely.

With a bunch of solid actors in the lineup, there’s so little emphasis in the campaign on the human characters the message becomes they really don’t matter. Instead the primary selling point of the marketing here is the work put in by the VFX team to create a CGI tiger.

At least it hasn’t been preceded by months and months of kowtowing to online trolls, making them feel as if they have power they don’t. But, that being said, Snyder has spent a decent chunk of this movie’s publicity cycle litigating his past super hero work, which shows he’s not as interested in selling this movie as maintaining his status as Hollywood’s most persecuted director.

Woman in the Window – Marketing Recap

How Netflix is selling a claustrophobic, paranoid drama.

The Woman In The Window poster

After a number of delays, reschedulings and other issues The Woman In The Window, directed by Joe Wright and starring Amy Adams, Gary Oldman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Anthony Mackie and others, finally comes to audiences on Netflix this week. Based on the book of the same name (but not related to the 1944 Fritz Lang movie), the story focuses on Dr. Anna Fox (Adams), a psychologist whose agoraphobia keeps her largely confined to her New York City condo. Fox befriends the woman who lives next door, but when that woman disappears Fox finds herself increasingly disoriented as the reality of what she did or didn’t see is called into question.

The movie was originally scheduled for release in late 2019. First delayed when Disney acquired Fox, which originally produced it, and requested reshoots, it then was bounced around during the Covid-19 pandemic. As it finally sees the light of day this week it’s been preceded by a campaign that has played up the psychological thriller elements of the story. Let’s take a look.

The Posters

Original poster for The Woman In The Window

Fox is looking out the window of her condo on the first poster (by marketing agency BLT Communications), released all the way back in December 2019. A bloody hand reaching up across the street can be seen in the reflection, giving audiences the message that there will be some sort of Rear Window-esque story.

Netflix released its own poster this past April. We still get the basic idea of Fox looking out a window, but this time the photo of her is less obscured and the presence of a window is hinted at through some artfully-arranged black and white shapes. It’s not bad, but feels less like the poster for a high-profile release than the low-rent DVD cover a high-profile release would receive after a successful theatrical run.

The Trailers

The first trailer (4.1 million views on YouTube), finally released in December of 2019, starts out by showing Emma is an agoraphobe, scared of leaving her apartment to the point of not being able to do so. That perimeter starts to crack when she befriends Jane, the woman who lives across the hall. When it looks like Jane has mysteriously disappeared, Emma has her sanity questioned as reality becomes a bit blurry, with Jane’s husband seeming to lie about what happened and who Emma actually met. Things get stranger and stranger and the danger greater as Emma insists on her version of events despite the prostrations of seemingly powerful people with no qualms about using her condition against her.

Netflix released another trailer (1 million views on YouTube) in April that sells the same basic story but positions it more strongly as a psychological thriller filled with twists and turns. It’s focused less on Emma’s insistence that she’s right in what she saw and more on how she navigates the situations that develop because of those events.

Online and Social

Not surprising to find there’s no official website for this Netflix exclusive, but the company did give the movie some support on its brand social channels.

Advertising, Press and Publicity

Unfortunately some of the first news about the movie came in mid-July of last year when it was announced it was being pulled from the release schedule. Reports were Disney – which acquired it in the Fox deal – was unhappy with the results of initial test screenings and had ordered extensive reshoots and other changes.

Disney pulled the movie from its release schedule again in mid-March in response to the Covid-19 outbreak that was closing theaters and more. News came in early August that Netflix was considering buying the movie. Those reports were eventually confirmed, with a release date finally announced in March.

While she was promoting other things last year Adams spoke briefly about the movie.

Wright was interviewed as part of EW’s 2021 Movie Preview, speaking about the unusual production, the reshoots that were done and the fact that the film has shifted from a theatrical to streaming release.

Netflix announced a Q&A with the cast for early April that would include exclusive footage.

In the last week or so Adams has made a handful of press appearances, including on “Late Night.”

A short video with Adams explaining the plot came out just before the movie’s release.

There was also a featurette with Adams and Wright talking about the long process the movie has taken from when it was developed and originally shot to when it’s finally being sent out into the world.

Overall

It has to be hard for Adams, Wright and others to go out there and make the pitch for the movie at this moment given they’re two years removed from it in most senses. That has an impact in creating – or not creating – a sense of urgency that’s conveyed to the audience as they’re out there making the pitch.

While Netflix’s campaign for the movie has been alright, making the movie seem a bit broader than it originally did, it also hasn’t done much to capitalize on the anticipation that seemed to be felt back in late-2019 and early-2020. As the marketing wraps up, then, it looks like a decent movie to watch on a Saturday afternoon when it’s recommended on the Netflix landing page.

The Mitchells vs. the Machines – Marketing Recap

How Netflix has sold The Mitchells vs. the Machines

Produced by Phil Lord and Chris Miller, the currently reigning champions of animated storytelling outside the Pixar banner, The Mitchells vs. the Machines has a great premise. In the story, Katie Mitchell (voiced by Abbi Jacobson) is an oddball teen that frequently clashes with the family she’s never quite fit in with. When she’s accepted into film school her dad Rick (Danny McBride) and mom (Maya Rudolph) insist on driving her to college. What starts out as your average awkward family road trip gets intense quickly when the family finds itself in the middle of the robot uprising, with every machine both large and small coming to life and looking to destroy humanity.

The movie, which has an impressive 97% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, is out this week on Netflix, more than a year after it was originally scheduled to be released from Sony, which sold this past January. Netflix’s marketing has played up the fun, colorful aspects of the story while also reminding people how much they liked previous Lord & Miller productions, especially Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse.

The Posters

Just one poster (by marketing agency BLT Communications), which was released at the end of March. It’s a bright and zany poster, showing the Mitchells driving through what is clearly a robot apocalypse of some kind, with lots of little machines chasing after them. Lord & Miller’s previous productions are named at the top, but it’s the little drawings that come in from the edges of the poster that really make this charming and interesting.

The Trailers

It’s telling that the opening sales pitch made in last March’s first trailer (6.8 million views on YouTube) from Sony is that the movie comes from the filmmakers behind Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, the studio obviously wanting to draft off that movie’s popularity. Once the story kicks in we see Rick is having a hard time as his daughter Katie is about to leave for college. He’s frustrated by everyone’s obsession with screens and technology, and cancels her flight to school so they can spend more time together on a road trip. Rick’s technophobia proves prescient when a new robot released to the public immediately turns evil, so it’s up to the family to stop the takeover and save the world.

A slightly different message is conveyed in the second trailer (25 million views on YouTube), released in late March after Netflix announced a new release date. After setting up the robot apocalypse setting, Katie introduces us to her family and explains they’ve never all been on the same page for one reason or another. But when the end of the world is nigh they come together in ways they haven’t before to save humanity.

Online and Social

Netflix inherited Twitter and other social profiles from Sony when it acquired the movie and has kept them going over the last few months while also giving it substantial support – which seems to have grown in proportion to the positivity of early reviews – on its brand channels.

Advertising, Press and Publicity

A video presentation involving Rianda, Lord and Miller was announced for the virtual version of the annual Annecy International Animation Festival in 2019. It was there that the filmmakers revealed some of the first details of the movie, still titled Connected at that time.

During the virtual Annecy festival, Rianda was interviewed about the making of the film and working with the Lord/Miller team. He also mentioned how the technical tools used by that pair in making Into The Spider-Verse were utilized on this film.

Stills were shared via Entertainment Weekly along with comments from director Mike Rianda in early 2020 about the origins of the story and characters.

The movie was part of the virtual Light Box Expo in September of last year. It was around that event that Sony launched a website for Pal Labs, the company that creates many of the machines that go haywire in the story. Later on there was a faux commercial for the Pal Max, one of those devices.

The movie, like many others, was moved off of the release schedule in September. Originally slated for mid-October, Sony gave it a vague “early 2021” date at that point. In January Netflix announced it had acquired the film, now renamed from Connected back to what had actually been its original name.

Rianda and Head of Story Guillermo Martinez were in attendance at New York International Children’s Film Festival in March, where they participated in a Q&A while offering a first look at footage from the movie.

A final release date was revealed toward the end of March.

Netflix promoted the BTS song that’s heard in the trailer, though it isn’t in the film itself.

Rianda and others, including co-director Jeff Rowe were interviewed about the making of the movie, the origins of the characters and more.

A handful of activity sheets were created that people could download and enjoy while anticipating the movie’s eventual release.

Rudolph appeared on “Today” to discuss her role in the movie.

In a pretty cool move, Netflix took over a Santa Monica gas station just prior to release and turned it into a PAL location with lots of movie branding and photo opportunities.

It’s also worth mentioning that internet-famous dog Doug The Pug became an integral part of the publicity campaign by virtue of his being chosen to “voice” Monchi, the Mitchells’ family dog. Doug gave the movie lots of shout outs and mentions on his social media profiles, tapping into that audience to get them excited for the film.

Overall

I think Monchi says it best.

Stowaway – Marketing Recap

How Netflix is selling a movie about a space mission gone unexpectedly wrong.

Stowaway, out this week on Netflix, tells a different type of story about a potential way a mission to Mars can go sideways quickly. Shamier Anderson plays Michael Adams, an engineer that’s part of the team preparing to launch three astronauts (played by Anna Kendrick, Daniel Dae Kim and Toni Collette) on a trip to Mars. After an accident, Adams goes missing from his crew, eventually turning up on the spacecraft after it’s already irrevocably hurtling toward its destination. That creates a major problem in that the ship is only stocked for a three-person crew, meaning they have to decide whether to adjust for the stowaway or make a dark and terrible decision to survive.

Directed by Joe Penna, who also cowrote it with Ryan Morrison, Netflix has given the movie a short campaign that emphasizes the drama of the situation the astronauts find themselves in.

The Posters

It’s important that the poster, released in March, shows Levenson (Kendrick) talking with Adams is important, in that she’s the only member of the crew who feels they shouldn’t kill their unexpected passenger in the name of saving the mission as a whole. The two are seen having a conversation in front of a window showing how far away they are from the world while the tagline explains the story, saying “Millions of miles from home, survival comes with sacrifice.”

A set of posters, each featuring one of the four main characters, came out just days before the film was released.

The Trailers

The first trailer (1.8 million views on YouTube), released toward the end of March, opens by showing how the crew of the ship initially reacts to the discovery Adams is on board and work to assess the situation. They do their best to make him part of the mission to help ease his (understandable) anxiety and fear, but an unexpected problem puts everyone in danger, leading them to take big risks just to survive.

Online and Social

Advertising and Promotions

Netflix announced it had acquired the film in early December.

An exclusive clip was shared with Yahoo showing the moment Adams’ presence on the ship is discovered.

Scott Manley, a physicist and astronomer who consulted on the film, released a video explaining the design of the ship in the movie and more.

Media and Press

A batch of stills that came with comments from most of the primary cast as well as Penna were released last month.

Kendrick and Kim were interviewed about the logistics of filming while wearing bulky spacesuits in confined quarters.

Overall

Movies that ask interesting moral questions of its characters – and by extension its audience – are inherently more interesting to me than ones that just present a dramatic story of some sort. So this campaign has my attention on that front.

But as with many recent Netflix marketing pushes, there’s just not a lot going on here. It would have been great to see another featurette or two in advance of release or more of a presence by the actors on the publicity circuit. But those are missing, so here we are.

Thunder Force – Marketing Recap

How Netflix has sold a new super-powered comedy.

The world of Thunder Force, out this week on Netflix, is one that is already filled with super-powered bad guys the police force is unqualified to fight. That’s why Emily Stanton (Octavia Spencer) uses the resources of the biotech company she owns to develop a serum that gives people powers to take on the villains. When her estranged best friend Lydia (Melissa McCarthy) accidentally takes that serum, the pair decide to team up to fight crime, becoming Thunder Force.

Netflix has been selling the movie in exactly the way you’d expect, highlighting the comedic pairing of Spencer and McCarthy and the outrageous super-powered situations they find themselves in.

The Posters

Lydia and Emily strike heroic poses on the poster (by marketing agency The Refinery), which came out in early March. But the two are seen to have slightly different attitudes, exemplified by how Lydia’s wearing a few sponsor buttons on her uniform. The “New super. Nearly heroes.” copy makes it clear that while they might have powers they still have some work to do on using them.

The Trailers

Lydia and Emily are, we see in the first trailer (2.6 million views on YouTube) from early March, friends that have drifted apart, with Emily becoming super-successful and Lydia less so. When Lydia takes the super power-granting formula Emily’s been working on she gets powers, only to find Emily has already done so. The two decide to go become a pair of crime fighters, but the bad guys up their game as well, with hilarity ensuing.

Online and Social

No website and only a little bit of support, it seems, from Netflix on its brand social media channels.

Advertising and Promotions

The first footage came in January, part of Netflix’s announcement of its ambitious 2021 feature film slate. A pair of first look stills came out in early March, just ahead of the first trailer.

Thunder Force GIF by NETFLIX - Find & Share on GIPHY

Two clips came out late last month, one showing Lydia foiling a robbery and the other showing her throwing a bus, both extended looks at scenes glimpsed in the trailer.

Media and Press

Most of the press included interviews with both Spencer and McCarthy together, including an appearance on “Kimmel” where they talked about being super heroes and how the genesis of the movie is wanting to mess with costar Jason Bateman.

Writer/director Ben Falcone also made the rounds a bit, talking about using the tropes of super hero movies to comedic effect and working with McCarthy and Spencer on the film.

Overall

This is the same campaign that’s been run for a number of McCarthy’s other movies, but that’s alright since it seems to work just about every time. That is to say, each works on an equal level and makes roughly the same pitch to the audience and has about the same result. McCarthy is a known quantity and this campaign, like those before it, reinforces that message.

The major difference here is the addition of Spencer, who’s a great partner for the comedy. Whether or not all of that makes this a funny sendup of the ubiquitous super hero movie remains to be seen, but if you enjoy McCarthy and her frequent collaborations with husband Falcone, this should be in your interest area.

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Concrete Cowboy – Marketing Recap

How Netflix has sold Idris Elba on a horse.

Based on the novel “Ghetto Cowboy,” the new movie Concrete Cowboy stars Idris Elba as Harp, one of a number of individuals in Philadelphia who patrol the streets of the neighborhood on horseback. They do so in an attempt to maintain a connection to a simpler time and culture, knowing full well they are out of step with other parts of society. Harp’s estranged teenage son Cole (Caleb McLaughlin) comes to live with him, opening up tensions both old and new as the father tries to teach his son a few things while the son holds on to old problems and baggage.

Directed by Ricky Staub, the movie arrives on Netflix this week after a small-scale campaign from the streamer. It currently has a decent 78% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, so let’s see how it’s been sold to the public.

The Posters

Just one poster, released in early March, but it’s a pretty good one. Harp looms in the background of the collage-esque design, with other elements conveying Cole’s role in the story as well as the urban setting and more. It’s not the flashiest design, but it communicates a solid sense of what audiences can expect.

The Trailers

The first trailer (638k views on YouTube) finally came out in mid-March, opening with Cole clearly not on the same page as Harp. We see Cole exposed to the world Harp lives in and the rules and legends that go with it, a process that isn’t always easy or comfortable. The two eventually come to an understanding, but only just as the way of life Harp and others have long embraced becomes threatened with extinction.

Online and Social

Nothing here, but the movie did get some support from Netflix on its brand social channels.

Advertising and Promotions

A short clip was released around the time the movie was debuting at the Toronto International Film Festival. It was also slated for screening at the Telluride Film Festival. Netflix acquired the film in October.

In early March Netflix finally gave it an April release date.

Media and Press

Staub and Elba were both interviewed during TIFF about the road the project has taken to date and what they hope for in the future. Another conversation with the cast and crew included comments on the story, working together and more.

Overall

The movie came out of Toronto early last year with some very strong word of mouth, especially for Elba’s performance. But that was a year ago, and a lot has happened since then.

So it’s a little surprising to see that while the trailer and poster are both pretty strong, they add up to the majority of the film’s campaign. Very little seems to have been done to build on that festival buzz, and Elba’s press activity has been minimal. It would have been nice to see some more promo spots or other elements that allow Elba to be his charming self as well as allow McLaughlin to come to the spotlight.

Moxie – Marketing Recap

How Netflix has sold a story of multi-generational efforts to upend the patriarchy.

For her second feature directing gig, Amy Poehler this week brings us Moxie. Not only does she helm the film but stars as Lisa Carter, mother to Vivian (Hadley Robinson). Vivian is tired of the overtly sexist attitude among many of the boys in her high school and frustrated with the girls who go along with it. Determined to make her mark and change the status quo, Vivian is inspired by her mother’s past activism and creates a print zine calling out the school’s toxicity. Her crusade makes her new friends, a few enemies and some unexpected notoriety.

Netflix’s campaign hasn’t been huge, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been interesting. Let’s take a look.

The Posters

“Find your voice” the poster, released in February, tells the audience. The title treatment is plastered over a black and white photo of Vivian and her friends, all shouting at the camera. If the goal was to recreate the look and feel of a late-90s alt-rock record cover, they succeeded, but it’s too bad there isn’t more information about the movie’s story and cast.

The Trailers

As the trailer (840k views on YouTube), released in early February, begins, Vivian is asking for guidance, through which we get a hint of her mom’s former activist self. Then we see what might be fueling Vivian’s search for some sort of mission, the fact that the girls in her high school are ranked by the boys based on attributes having nothing to do with academics or intellect. When she starts a zine that questions the status quo it starts an uproar in the school that leads to lots of changes, both in the school and among the students.

Online and Social

Some support on Netflix’s brand social channels, but that’s about it. Nothing unique to the movie itself.

Advertising and Promotions

The main characters got a yearbook-esque promo clip a little while ago that doesn’t name them but does offer overall personality type.

When Poehler and her BFF/frequent collaborator Tina Fey cohosted the Golden Globes last weekend they not only gave the movie a shout-out but also had stars and hearts on their hands, a plot detail seen in the trailer.

Media and Press

Nothing here that I could find.

Overall

I just wish there were more here and I have to wonder what prompted Netflix to treat this as a lower-tier release instead of something that should be given a greater level of support. Sure, it’s not The Irishman, but I’d argue that this is the kind of movie that will have a longer shelf-life on the service than a prestige title.

At the very least I would have expected press interviews and stories about any of the following topics:

  • Poehler’s second time behind the camera for a feature film
  • The role of everyday students (and others) in changing the toxic environments they find themselves in
  • How the younger members of the cast connected with the riot grrl movement of the 90s and what kind of music from that era Poehler played to get them in the mood
  • Why print is superior to online media for this kind of movement

Sadly I haven’t found any of the above.