Avengers: Endgame – Marketing Recap

You can read the rest of my recap of the marketing campaign for Avengers: Endgame at The Hollywood Reporter. My coverage of the PSA effort for Stand Up To Cancer also ran on Adweek.

Online and Social

For such a big movie, Marvel’s official website isn’t very informative, perhaps by design. You’ll find both trailers and some basic background on the film, including links to on-site blog posts offering readers a refresher on what’s come before, as well as a list of the promotional partners who helped draft off the movie’s buzz.

Media and Publicity

Of course the movie couldn’t help but come up as the cast was out promoting other projects, as Smulders, Jackson and others were all compelled to comment on it in some manner.

Ruffalo appeared on “The Tonight Show” to help debut the second trailer and answer (or not) questions about the movie. Duke also mentioned the movie while promoting Us last month.

A substantial profile on Evans had the actor talking about not only the future of Captain America and his part in the MCU but also the political stances he’s taken, with him saying staying silent wasn’t an option even if it meant alienating some portion of the audience and potentially costing him work.

The movie’s substantial length became the focus of many conversations in the last month prior to release following the revelation that it was clocking in around three hours, a full 30 minutes longer than Infinity War. The Russos rationalized the expanded time by pointing out the movie wrapped up the story that had been told over 20+ movies and featured dozens and dozens of characters.

A different subset of cast members appeared on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” each night the week of April 8-12, bringing clips and more. That started with Downey, Johannson, Hemsworth and Rudd followed by Renner and Cheadle. Around the same time they showed up on “Good Morning America.”

In the final few weeks of the press cycle, two themes emerged in terms of what the cast and crew were telling interviewers and talk show hosts:

  1. “Let us explain…” That’s what the Russo brothers did to clarify why Captain Marvel is wearing more makeup in this movie than she did in her solo outing (a ridiculous topic).
  2. “We don’t know nothing…” That’s what Hemsworth, Cheadle and others did when asked what they knew about the movie’s story, which isn’t surprising given they’re all just small parts in a very big machine.
  3. “[X] has returned…” That’s what was behind interviews and profiles of Tessa Thompson, who confirmed that she couldn’t confirm anything, and Rudd/Renner, who spoke of how they are finally able to rejoin their comrades.

An EW cover story reunited the original team for a retrospective interview and offered up other photos and details, but not too much.

At the end of the campaign there were profiles of Feige as well as his two long-time aides. The screenwriters were interviewed on how they worked to bring together so many different storylines and characters into something coherent as well as how they reintroduced some of the previously missing heroes. Feige and Downey Jr. reminisced on the beginnings of the MCU, when the idea of a shared cinematic universe was still a “best case scenario” and the bets were much more unsure.

Rudd was announced as the host of an upcoming episode of “Saturday Night Live.”

One final TV spot released the day the movie hit theaters played up the overwhelmingly positive reviews it was getting. A video had a bunch of the stars reminding the audience not to spoil anything for those who haven’t seen it yet.

Adding to the movie’s profile was the news from Fandango it now held the record for the most advance tickets sold.

Larson came on “The Tonight Show” and revealed she shot her first appearance with the rest of the Avengers – which appears at the end of her own movie – on a green screen with no one else around and no idea what her one line meant. Rudd also appeared to have some fun with Fallon.

The media agency Kantar estimated that all in, Disney spent close to $14 million on the marketing and advertising campaign, with TV buys making up a little over half of that and a good chunk of the advertising coming the day tickets went on sale a couple weeks ago.

avengers-endgame-kantor-chart

Another profile of Winston Duke mentioned this movie as well as his appearance in Us.

More details revealed here on the partnership with Fortnite.

Overall

avengers endgame gif

Picking Up the Spare

Wayne Friedman at MediaPost points out how the majority of the movie’s campaign – and ad spending – came in the final month leading up to release. Jeff Beer at Fast Company also has his own recap of some of the movie’s cross-promotional campaign. There was also a look at how altered shots in the trailers kept some of the movie’s secrets hidden. 

Google added a fun little tool for those who searched for “Thanos.” 

Additional TV spots promised a “once in a generation event” and played up all the records the movie was breaking. 

Another short promotional video shows how every movie has lead to this one while also reminding audiences not to spoil the ending for anyone. Some of the cast reminisced about their favorite memories as part of the MCU. 

Brolin appeared on “Kimmel,” as did Sebastian Stan. 

IMAX continued promoting the filmmakers use of its large-format cameras with another video. 

Trolls continued to hound Larson, criticizing her junket appearances to the point where costar Don Cheadle felt the need to smack them down. 

The writers and directors of the movie kept talking about various aspects of the story and characters. 

Once the spoiler lid lifted more details about the story started to official come out, including a profile on the effects of Professor Hulk, who was also featured in a clip. 

Gillan was the subject of two profiles focusing on her role in the movie. 

Ant-Man and the Wasp – Marketing Recap

ant man and the wasp posteI don’t hit this point very hard in my Hollywood Reporter recap of the marketing campaign for Ant-Man and The Wasp, but it’s important to remember that the first Ant-Man in 2015 shouldn’t have been, and wasn’t expected to be, a box-office hit.

While the character has a long and rich history over 50+ years of comics stories, the name is kind of silly, a product of the 1960s when push-button technology was just starting to break out of the realm of science fiction. So trying to make a big-screen action adventure starring him was a gamble, not to mention how the casting of Paul Rudd in the title role very clearly identified the movie as a comedy, something that was still unproven despite the success of Guardians of the Galaxy the year before.

Also working against that first movie was the behind-the-scenes drama, namely the last-minute exit of writer/director Edgar Wright, who’d been involved in developing the movie for years only to leave just before production started citing disagreement with the studio on the tone and vision. That’s the kind of thing that has scuttled other movies, putting a persistent cloud over the release that shades all further coverage and even impacts reviews.

It was successful, though, even if it didn’t hit the heights of other Marvel Studios releases. Rudd reprised his role in Captain America: Civil War and now has costar Evangeline Lilly finally suiting up as his partner in crime-fighting, Michael Douglas returning as Hank Pym and Michelle Pfeiffer joining as his lost wife Janet Van Dyne.

Online and Social

There isn’t much happening on Marvel’s official website for the movie, which just has the usual collection of trailers, posters, stills and links to both promotional partners and the social profiles established for the film. It’s alright, it’s just not going to blow anyone’s doors off.

Media and Publicity

A series of stills, including a photo showing Lilly in full hero costume was released by Disney during D23 last year. Rudd spoke briefly about the film on other occasions while promoting other projects, including while at Sundance for the premiere of The Catcher Was a Spy.

During the Avengers: Infinity War press cycle Lilly also talked about this film, explaining that the story revolved around the search for Janet Van Dyne. After that movie was released Disney/Marvel started shifting the focus and began explaining, to clear up audience confusion, that this one takes place during the events of Infinity War and that’s why neither Scott nor Hope are over there fighting Thanos.

The press tour started a couple weeks prior to release as Lilly showed up on “Kimmel” and then went on to call out male actors for being too used to comfortable fashion. Rudd has shown up on TV several times to talk about the movie specifically as well as his career in general.

The movie’s premiere allowed Reed to talk about the story and what approach he took with gender-swapping Ghost, a topic explored more in-depth in a feature story with comments by everyone from John-Kamen to the movie’s writers to the creators of the character’s comic incarnation. Reed also mentioned how much stronger Lilly’s work ethic was than Rudd’s. A later interview allowed the director to share how he was able to convince Pfieffer to return to comic book movies.

IMAX offered a few more exclusive videos, including a TV spot, a goofy video featuring a tiny Paul Rudd and an interview with Reed in addition to what they’d already released. Marvel also promoted the animated shorts featuring Ant-Man that were produced for Disney XD.

Overall

What struck me from the outset of the campaign is how much the studio has worked hard to position this as a movie starring The Wasp just as much as Ant-Man. She played a big role in the very first trailer and has been a big presence throughout the push, especially on the publicity circuit and in the TV ads. Marvel Studios obviously wants to play up her role, presumably as another example of how it really does want to bring more female heroes to the forefront.

Taken in whole, the movie is being sold more or less in the same way the first one was, which is a good thing since that worked. If there’s anything about it that makes me scratch my head it’s that the attitude taken toward how closely to tie this release to Infinity War seems inconsistent and a bit confusing, moving from “Nope, it’s totally its own thing” to “Oh yeah, there’s lots of connective material.” That likely won’t impact its success to any great extent, but it is a bit questionable.

I also question why there wasn’t more of a focus on the search for Janet in the Quantum Realm. That seems like it would give the story a more personal appeal, making the stakes for everyone more real and concrete than whatever vaguely-defined scheme The Ghost has. Mostly I just wish there were more Michelle Pfeiffer, or that there were more of an effort to tie this into her recent wave of high-profile releases that signal a return to prominence in the movie world.

PICKING UP THE SPARE

There have been a number of additional TV commercials like this one released in the last few days, all of which hope to sell the audience on a funny, light-hearted summer action movie. There are also spots like this that hit just today and which play up the shocking ending of the movie.

Marvel Studios also released a fun “Tiny BBQ” video to mark the Fourth of July.

One narrative that has been picked up in the last few days is that this is the first MCU movie where a female character shares top-billing with the male hero, something addressed here as Evangeline Lilly talks more about crafting a character little girls could relate to and connect with.

Another profile of Hannah John-Kamen, who plays the villain Ghost, where she talks about how a recommendation from Steven Spielberg helped her land this role and Peyton Reed helped her create the new version of the character.

There was a special poster created for Real 3D screenings of the first movie and this new one as a double feature. The poster shows both Ant-Man and Wasp seeking cover behind a coin that has “Opening night fan event on it.”

Peyton Reed covers a whole range of issues here, including his reaction to how offended some idiots were by Wasp receiving equal billing in the movie’s title. And the NYT covers how the filmmakers consulted with scientists to bring at least a bit of believability to the goings-on at the same time it offered a quick interview with Rudd.

The movie’s successful opening weekend let it run a “#1 movie in the world” TV spot to tout how well it was received.

The search for Janet Van Dyne was almost completely missing from the campaign but now that the movie is out, Marvel released this short video emphasizing it and focusing the Quantum Realm where she disappeared years ago.

Marvel released a new video promoting the movie-themed sponsorship of Girls Who Code, the popular tech-based educational program. It shows director Peyton Reed and others speaking to groups about the science of the story and how important a STEM-based education is.

There was also a new interview with Hannah John-Kamen where she talks in particular about working with Michelle Pfeiffer.

The Catcher Was a Spy – Marketing Recap

catcher was a spy posterPaul Rudd looks to continue making his appeal to be seen as a more versatile actor in this week’s new limited release The Catcher Was a Spy. Based on a true story, Rudd plays Moe Berg, a catcher who played much of his career for the Chicago White Sox in the early part of the 20th century. Berg was more than a ballplayer, though, speaking 10 languages and accumulating a number of degrees.

All that made him attractive to the Office of Strategic Services, the U.S. military’s intelligence service during World War II. The OSS recruited Berg, who served in many fields during the war. The movie focuses on one particular assignment: A mission to Europe to determine whether or not German scientists including Werner Heisenberg were close to developing their own atomic bomb.

The Posters

There’s not a whole lot going on with the movie’s one poster. A massive image of Rudd’s head dominates the design, positioned above a dark alley where two men wearing hats and trenchcoats (which work to establish that this is a period piece about spy stuff) are engaged in some shady business. There’s copy explaining this is “The true story of Moe Berg” but what are the odds that’s going to create any sense of recognition in the audience?

The Trailers

Moe, as the trailer starts, is being recruited by the military for a vaguely defined job. Eventually it’s explained that because of his unique mix of physical aptitude, education and language proficiency, they want him to go into Germany and deduce whether the Nazis have developed an atomic bomb. Ultimately he’s asked to kill the scientist he’s sent to spy on if he learns that a bomb either exists or is imminent, a prospect Berg isn’t entirely comfortable with. There are some generic shots of WWII battle and lots of drama around him leaving his girl.

It’s not a bad trailer, but it very much sells the movie as a more or less conventional war spy drama. Berg’s is an intriguing story but the trailer dispenses with what makes it unique pretty quickly to get to fairly standard spy material. None of that is necessarily bad, it’s just what’s being shown here.

Online and Social

There’s not much happening on IFC Films’ page for the movie, where you’ll just find the trailer, poster, cast/crew list and a story synopsis. It’s also received limited support on the studio’s social channels, which have focused on some other buzzier titles to date.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Nothing I’ve come across here.

Media and Publicity

The movie was originally slated to screen at the Toronto Film Festival but was pulled by the filmmakers who didn’t feel it was ready for debut at that time. With an all-star cast and a great premise, it’s unsurprising the movie frequently made the lists of critics’ most-anticipated films of the Sundance Film Festival. Eventual reviews weren’t exactly in-line with those expectations. But while there Rudd talked about how his role in Ant-Man helped open the door to this film by giving him a chance to do something new in his career. It wasn’t until late April that IFC acquired the film

Overall

It’s not that surprising there hasn’t been a bigger push for the movie. Not only is it a niche release but any more substantial press activity would have necessitated Rudd’s involvement and he’s likely committed to promoting the upcoming Ant-Man sequel.

It’s an interesting story being sold, but there’s no real strong hook for the audience to latch onto. It’s not new or revelatory in any way, coming off as just a seemingly solid period drama without whole lot to offer.

PICKING UP THE SPARE

The real-life Moe Berg, played by Paul Rudd in the movie, is getting an exhibit at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.
The New York Times delves into the real history of Moe Berg, played by Paul Rudd in the movie.

Mute – Marketing Recap

mute posterWriter/director Duncan Jones made a big splash back in 2009 with Moon, his debut film starring Sam Rockwell as a solitary astronaut manning a moon base. Source Code was well received but not super-successful but Warcraft, his foray into big-budget fantasy, flopped in the U.S. while still being a massive success overseas.

Now he’s back with, Mute, a movie set in the same universe as Moon but otherwise (seemingly) unconnected from that story. Set 40 years in the future, Alexander Skarsgård plays Leo, a mute bartender working at a Berlin establishment who has a reputation as both a good man and someone not to be trifled with. When his girlfriend goes missing the main purpose of his life is removed and he sets out to find her. That brings him into contact with the city’s underworld elements, including Cactus Bill (Paul Rudd), Duck (Justin Theroux) and others.

Continue reading “Mute – Marketing Recap”