News of the World – Marketing Recap

How Universal has sold a period drama about the power of news.

Tom Hanks stars in News of the World, the latest film from writer/director Paul Greengrass. Hanks plays Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd, a retired soldier who now travels across America’s 19th century western frontier telling settlers and others stories from the rest of the country and the world. While in Texas, Kidd encounters Johanna (Helena Zengel), a young white girl who has been raised by a Kiowa tribe and is now being returned to her remaining family. The two encounter all the dangers the rural west has to offer as they try together to make it to their destination.

First reactions started coming out a few weeks ago, mostly positive, and the movie currently sits at a very good 86% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. Universal’s campaign for the film has been as serious and dramatic as you would imagine given both the subject matter and those behind and in front of the camera. Let’s take a look.

The Posters

Capt. Kidd and Johanna both stare off into the middle distance with the cloudy frontier sky behind them on the poster (by marketing agency BOND), released in October. It’s a simple but effective image that shows off the main selling points of the film, particularly Hanks in a dramatic role. The “Find where you belong” copy is a little vague but is likely intended to communicate the journeying elements of the story.

The Trailers

The first full trailer (9.4 million views on YouTube) was released in late October, introducing us to Capt. Kidd as someone who visits remote towns to share news from elsewhere in the country. In that capacity he meets a young woman who has been raised by Native Americans after her white family was killed. But keeping her safe will be difficult given not only his own unfamiliarity with children but also the robbers and other bad people who were plentiful in the American West at the time.

Online and Social

You’ll find the basic marketing content on the movie’s official website, including the trailer, synopsis and more.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

The first footage from the film came in a TV spot released in early October. That footage shows Kidd and Jane setting out on their journey, including some of the dangers and problems they’ll face along the way.

A short featurette with Hanks talking about the story of the film and the arc of his character was released later that month, just after the first trailer came out. AMC Theaters had another exclusive featurette that touched on the political and social climate the movie’s story takes place in.

An exclusive clip was given to MovieClips.

Short videos like this were used as pre-roll and on social media.

Media and Publicity

While it wasn’t the first press for the movie, the news that it was among the first titles to be set loose by Fox in the wake of its acquisition by Disney was noted by many. Universal was the savior who likely rescued it from oblivion, eventually setting a Christmas 2020 release date.

Vanity Fair debuted the first stills from the movie in October along with some quotes from Hanks and Greengrass.

A profile of Zengel included comments from Greengrass along with her talking about getting the role and working on set with Hanks, who appeared on “The Late Show” last week.

Overall

I want to feel like this campaign was effective, mostly because I’m intrigued by the story and a fan of all involved in making the film. But the marketing seems like it could have happened in any year – particularly during awards season – and there’s little here that offers a sense of urgency or immediacy to what’s being presented.

What I mean is that here at the end of The Year of Our Lord 2020, we’ve all been through some stuff. So the story of the film, that Capt. Kidd is hoping to make something of himself and create an informed and entertained citizenry in the wake of a divisive and deadly conflict is more than a little timely. Hitting that element of the story could have made a stronger impact instead of seeming like a potential awards contender from any year.

That’s not to say it’s a bad marketing push, just that it could have been recalibrated to be a bit more relevant to the moment it’s being released in.

22 July – Marketing Recap

22 july posterDirector Paul Greengrass takes a turn into the dramatic retelling of historic events in this week’s 22 July, available now on Netflix. The movie focuses on the events leading up to, during and following a terrorist attack in Oslo, Norway.

Specifically it covers what happens after one of the perpetrators of the attack makes his way to a youth camp on a nearby island and continues his killing spree. The story is broken up into three parts to see how three different groups and individuals are impacted by and react to those attacks.

The Posters

The main one-sheet for the movie shows a photo of the youth camp from across the water. Greengrass’s name and credentials are shown while the copy sells the movie as telling “The true story of a day that started like any other.” It’s simple, but effective.

The Trailers

The first trailer, released at the same time the movie was screening at Venice, opens by establishing the story’s setting at the summer camp. It’s not long before we see the violence that rocks Oslo and which then spills over into the camp as the terrorists journey there. The second half of the trailer is all about the aftermath of that violence, as Sveinn tries to come to terms with what happened and build up his emotional and physical strength before the trial of the perpetrator.

Online and Social

Nothing here.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Or here, at least as far as I’ve seen.

Media and Publicity

The movie was announced as one of those screening at the Venice Film Festival. It was also among those receiving the rare theatrical release from Netflix, something that had to be coordinated carefully to reach a sizable audience while also not offending theater chain operators.

Greengrass was interviewed about why he chose to tell this story as well as how he shot some of the more logistically difficult sequences and recreated the time period and setting the movie takes place in.

Overall

This is a tough sell for a U.S. audience, telling the story of an incident that most Americans likely don’t remember hearing about in the first place and which has no personal connection to them. Not only that, but it’s essentially in a foreign language with an entirely unknown cast. Still, it’s a powerful story being told here and Greengrass is one of the most reliable filmmakers around, so there is some appeal here.

Picking Up The Spare

Netflix has released a featurette about the story that has director Paul Greengrass as well as members of the cast talking about its emotional impact and the universal nature of what it’s trying to tell. That was also the subject of this interview with Greengrass, who also spoke about how he got involved with Netflix as a distributor.

The cast also chimed in on the responsibility they felt to tell the story accurately and sensitively.

More from Greengrass here, specifically about how the movie encapsulates the right wing terror running through western societies at the moment.