doctor strange in the multiverse of madness – marketing recap

How Marvel Studios has sold a supernatural trip into alternate realities.

It’s been about six years since the concept of a multiverse was introduced in super hero mass media, meaning outside of the source comics. That introduction came in a 2016 episode of “Supergirl” that featured Barry Allen from “The Flash” accidentally vibrating from his universe into hers.

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness movie poster
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness movie poster

But in the Marvel Cinematic Universe the idea was introduced just last year in Spider-Man: No Way Home and is now being expanded upon in this week’s Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.

A sequel to the first Doctor Strange movie in 2016 (though the idea of a sequel is kind of outdated since the character has appeared in major roles in four subsequent MCU releases), Benedict Cumberbatch returns as Dr. Stephen Strange, the now-former Sorcerer Supreme of Earth. After the events of Spider-Man: No Way Home, the multiverse is now cracking and becoming a danger to our reality. To help him fight back – and fix the mistake he made by opening the door to alternate universes to begin with – Strange will need the help of Wong (Benedict Wong) and Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) as well as new ally America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez).

Rachel McAdams also returns as Christine Palmer, who will perhaps have something tangible to do in this movie, along with Chiwetel Ejiofor as mentor-turned-rival Karl Mordo. And there are some surprise (or not so surprise) appearances as well.

So with all that as prelude, let’s take a look at how the movie has been sold.

announcements and casting

Marvel Studios’ presentation at San Diego Comic-Con 2019 served as the platform to announce a release date as well as the movie’s full title. As the Covid-19 pandemic ravaged the country, though, that release date was pushed back a few times.

The movie, along with other upcoming MCU entries, was name-checked in the “Marvel Studios Celebrates The Movies” video from early May 2021. That came after significant discussion and speculation of how the hit “WandaVision” series on Disney+ may be impacting this movie.

In early 2020 the news came that Scott Derrickson, who directed the first movie and was announced as the helmer of the sequel, was stepping down from that role but would stay on as a producer. A short while later reports came that Sam Raimi was in discussions to take over, reports that were confirmed in April of 2020. And Marvel imported a new writer from its “Loki” series on Disney+ to take over script work.

Raimi’s role as director was confirmed at Disney’s investors presentation in December of last year, as was the fact that the film would feature America Chavez and that McAdams would return to her thankless role from the first movie.

An interview with Raimi from October 2021 had the director admitting he was hesitant to come back to the Marvel world.

Reshoots/additional filming that started in mid-November raised some eyebrows but didn’t seem like a major deviation from the norm for MCU productions.

the marketing campaign

The formal marketing of the movie finally got underway in late December, mostly because it needed to wait for Spider-Man: No Way Home to be released since that film leads directly into this one.

Along those lines, Wong’s warnings for Strange to not cast the spell open the first teaser trailer (40.2m YouTube views) after first being seen in the Spider-Man trailers. After some trippy visuals of cities forming at odd angles we see Strange seek out the help of Wanda, who’s chilling after the events of “WandaVision”. From there we’re shown that Mordo and others are going to confront Strange about his breaking of reality and more.

The way Strange and Wanda’s faces are interchanged on the poster released at the same time continues to show her importance to the story and the fact that we’re dealing with shards or remnants of different versions of these characters.

Raimi commented on the state of filming, including those reports of reshoots, in a brief interview a bit later.

In early January 2022, Marvel announced a new Doctor Strange series it billed as being a good entry point for those who aren’t already fully-immersed in the character’s history and backstory.

The first full trailer (50.3m YouTube views), released in mid-February, opens with Strange still haunted by the fallout from cracking open the barriers between universes. While he enlists Wanda’s help to put things back in order, Mordo brings him before a group of people to answer for his actions.

There’s a lot that’s teased in that trailer, including:

  • Patrick Stewart’s voice hints at him appearing as Charles Xavier for the first time in the MCU proper
  • And the tribunal Strange is brought to is most likely The Illuminati, of which Xavier is a member
  • Wanda’s line about Strange being a hero after breaking reality while she’s been shunned is [fire emoji]
  • There are clearly multiple versions of many of the same characters on display here, including Strange, Wanda and others
  • America Chavez, ladies and gentlemen

Various characters and settings appear in the shards of reality surrounding Strange on the next poster, released at the same time as the trailer. Notable that for as much as Raimi is highlighted in that trailer, his name doesn’t appear here.

Cumberbatch was given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in late February, with Feige introducing him and commenting on how Strange is now, with Tony Stark no longer available, the core character of the MCU.

Empire Magazine had two movie-themed covers for an issue that included interviews and photos.

The first TV spot came out in early April and hits many of the same beats as the trailers, focusing on Strange convincing Wanda to help him fix the multiverse and the problems they’re all going to face in trying to do so.

Dolby Cinema’s exclusive poster has Strange looking out the shattered remains of the window of his home, an image that follows the earlier poster that has the same window breaking around him as a metaphor for the various realities that have splintered. RealD 3D’s poster has the main characters all spinning out of themselves, reinforcing there are multiple versions of each that will play into the story. A different take on the same idea is used on the Screen X poster, which also makes Wanda’s role appear much more significant, as well as on the IMAX one-sheet.

For the official theatrical poster, many of those ideas are brought together, with Strange in the background (a position that seems more like how villains are usually placed on these posters, which is interesting), Wanda up front and the rest of the characters placed around them.

Doctor Strange In the Multiverse of Madness online ad

An extended TV spot came out in early April when tickets went on sale that also expands on some of the themes we’ve seen previously. Especially prevalent here is how much more Wanda’s journey seems to parallel Strange’s as we see some of her alternate realities, including one where she has her two children.

At this point, in what has become an unfortunately common occurrence, comics writer Joe Casey, who created the character America Chavez for Marvel Comics in 2011, spoke out about the “pittance” he was offered by the company for her use in other media. Casey rightfully notes that while Marvel owns the character outright, it’s become standard for the freelance writers and artists to receive little more than a hearty handshake and tickets to the premiere when the movies and shows those characters appear in make hundreds of millions of dollars. The point, he said, was not even for him to get a big check from Marvel but to affect change in the industry as a whole so those who come along later can benefit more substantially from the success of their creations.

Back to the campaign, another TV spot emphasizes how the movie is meant to be seen on the big screen, which is why it’s coming exclusively to theaters. It’s somewhat of an odd message considering Disney has sent a number of movies, either from Marvel or Pixar, straight (or very quickly) to Disney+ streaming recently. So it’s almost reinforcing the notion that streaming is a second-class distribution platform that degrades the “event” nature of content.

Character posters for Strange, Mordo and Christine Palmer came out next, followed by the first featurette that has Cumberbatch, Olsen, Wong and Raimi talking about the dark, dangerous nature of the story.

More TV spots continued to come out, including a cross-promotional commercial from Tide that has Wong using the laundry detergent to get Strange’s cloak clean before the doctor gets back.

Another beat that has become common recently came next when the movie was banned in Saudi Arabia for mentions of America Chavez being gay.

The next featurette from later in April focuses on Raimi’s involvement, from how he got the gig in the first place to the unique vision he brought to the production and story.

The Illuminati will see you now

That it’s The Illuminati sitting in judgment of Doctor Strange was confirmed in a TV spot that marked 10 days before the movie’s release.

Disney used its CinemaCon 2022 presentation in late April to tease this movie, among others, and affirm its commitment to theatrical releases. Part of that presentation included the news that the first trailer for the much-anticipated Avatar 2 would play in front of this movie in theaters.

The Illuminati are teased once again in another TV spot that also features what seems to be an appearance by Captain Carter, an alternate universe Peggy Carter (played by Hayley Atwell in previous movies) who was given the Super Soldier serum instead of Steve Rogers that first appeared in the “What If…?” Disney+ series last August.

It’s the same themes explored on the final poster that we’ve seen before, just with a slightly different spin.

Cumberbatch, Olsen and Raimi appeared at the Berlin stop of the movie’s global press tour. They were joined by Wong in London.

Another featurette that came out in late April focuses on Wanda and how this movie is a continuation of her story from “WandaVision” along with offering multiple versions of the character.

An interview with Raimi had him talking more about how he approached his return to the world of super hero movies, what regrets he has over how the last sojourn ended and more. Unfortunately much of the attention paid to the interview focused on scrapped plans for a fourth Spider-Man installment instead of on the film he’s currently promoting.

Marvel held the movie’s red carpet world premiere this past Monday with the cast and crew along with others involved in other aspects of the MCU in attendance.

The Contest of Champions mobile game announced the addition of Wong and Rintrah, a character glimpsed in the trailers, as champions in a coming movie-themed event.

Cumberbatch appeared on “The Tonight Show” to talk about this movie and more.


Let’s go back to Feige’s comments in February about Doctor Strange now being the “anchor” of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

That makes a lot of sense considering the supernatural direction Marvel Studios has been going in over the last couple years since Avengers: Endgame concluded the first phase of the series. “WandaVision” is a big part of that shift, as is the just-finished “Moon Knight” series along with the introduction of Black Knight and Blade at the end of The Eternals.

That aside, the campaign here is an interesting mix of picking up where “WandaVision” left off and exploring the many opportunities available by embracing the multiverse. We see the latter in how the second half of the marketing, especially in the TV spots, gave more screen time to the alternate versions of Strange and Wanda while also spending a lot of energy setting up The Illuminati and teasing Captain Carter and other new characters.

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Tracking projections estimate a $175m opening weekend for the film, which has an 80% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The tracking in particular represents not the power as much as the size of this marketing push, which has been pervasive. When the campaign works, though, it’s pretty strong, especially in how it seeks to put Olsen’s Wanda Maximoff at the center of the story as much as Strange is.

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Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga – Marketing Recap

How Netflix is selling its new music competition comedy.

First off: The Eurovision Song Contest is a real thing, an international song competition drawing aspiring singers and performers from across Europe for a chance at stardom.

Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga, on the other hand, is not real, but is a new comedy starring Will Ferrell and Rachel McAdams debuting on Netflix this week.

Ferrell and McAdams play, respectively, Lars Erickssong and Sigrit Ericksdottir, two singers given the opportunity to represent Iceland in the annual competition. They’re not anyone’s first choice, in part because they’re older than the usual contestants, but are determined to make the most of the opportunity they’ve been presented with, even if they can’t quite get their own act together.

Netflix’s campaign for the film, which was originally meant to come out earlier this year in connection with the actual show broadcast, is instantly familiar to anyone who’s a fan of Ferrell’s work and a big win for anyone who believes McAdams doesn’t get nearly enough comedic work.

The Posters

“Nobody wins solo” we’re told at the top of the movie’s one poster (by marketing agency Concept Arts), which came out in early June. Lars and Sigrit are both shown in full performance costume, the bright lights of the stage behind them. That’s about all the appeal offered to the audience, as the promise of these two stars in some sort of over-the-top story is meant to be enough to get people interested.

The Trailers

The trailer (1.2 million views on YouTube) was released earlier this month and shows just how clueless and ridiculous Lars and Sigrit – especially Lars – are. They kind of fall into the position of being Iceland’s choice to compete on the show and frequently trip over their own mix of questionable talent, insecurities and other issues as they prepare for the broadcast. Despite intimidation from other competitors and more, they go on to successfully make it to the competition as they never give up on their dreams and are determined to prove everyone wrong.

Online and Social

Nothing here. There wasn’t even much in the way of support given on Netflix’s brand social channels.

Advertising and Promotions

In May a video was released for the song “Volcano Man” by the fictional Fire Saga duo. The song itself was also made available on streaming services.

Media and Press

Ferrell has apparently had this movie, or something like it, in mind for decades. He said as much in an interview a few months ago, and back in 2016 he appeared in character (though not the same character he plays in the film, on “Late Night.” He’s also jumped in on other Eurovision-related events over the years.

The history of Ferrell’s development of the film was also covered in a brief interview that also offered a first-look still.


It’s kind of surprising there hasn’t been more activity around the film of late, especially given it reunites Ferrell with his Wedding Crashers director. It seems like the kind of crazy-concept comedy he’s known for, one that lets him play some bumbling but well-meaning character with delusions of grandeur who succeeds despite himself as well as the odds against him.

What sticks out for me is the lack of mention of the movie on Netflix’s social media profiles, usually a reliable outlet for at least a few promos. Those have been almost exclusively dedicated to highlighting movies, documentaries and shows from Black filmmakers, starring Black actors and addressing uniquely Black issues. In that way, the campaign for Eurovision suffers because it’s the opposite of timely, seeming at odds with what’s hyper-relevant right now.

So it almost feels like Netflix is simply burning off the movie. It will likely receive some on-site promotion via recommendations, and those are probably going to be powerful enough to get many people to watch the film while doing something else, chuckling along occasionally. But while that might be enough to make it into a decent hit, it’s not what you’d expect given the talent involved.

Picking Up The Spare

Netflix ran some shorter spots as promoted posts on Twitter. 

A clip also came out showing some of the other performers. 

A number of interviews came out after the movie had already hit Netflix. In one, Ferrell and McAdams talked about how they developed their outrageous accents. Others covered the music, including why the songs sound so believable, and how they were written

In an appearance on “Late Night,” McAdams talked about how big the real show is outside the U.S. Similar ground was covered by Dobkin in talking about how he was introduced to the competition. 

Dan Stevens was interviewed about the songs he sings in the film. 
A new billboard shows the two main characters in the midst of their elaborate routine.

Disobedience – Marketing Recap

disobedience posterSet in a strict Orthodox Jewish community outside London, the new movie Disobedience is about forbidden love and yearning passion. Rachel Weisz plays Ronit, a woman who was sent away from the community when she was just a teenager because of a romantic relationship with her friend Esti, played as an adult by Rachel McAdams. When Ronit’s father, a respected rabbi, passes away she returns for the funeral for the first time in decades.

Esti is now married to Dovid (Alessandro Nivola), himself a rabbi, but Ronit’s return reawakens the passion she felt all those years ago, a passion that’s never been matched since. The two rekindle their illicit affair, causing upset in the marriage of Esti and Dovid as well as the community as a whole. Both women, though, are tired of living the lie and suppressing the feelings they had so long ago, challenging the norms they’ve been expected to either conform to or live outside of.

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Game Night – Marketing Recap

game night poster 3Game night in the suburbs, particularly amongst adults, is usually a pretty boring affair unless someone has a bit too much wine. In the new movie Game Night that’s usually the case as a group of friends regularly gets together to have a bit of fun. One night Brooks (Kyle Chandler) says he’s put together a whole mystery for people to solve that will seem super-real. So when he’s actually abducted, is it part of the game or something more sinister?

That’s what the rest of the crew has to figure out. Annie (Rachel McAdams) and her husband Max (Jason Bateman) along with Kevin (Lamorne Morris), Michelle (Kylie Bunbury) and others find themselves pulled increasingly out of their depth as they wind up having to navigate the criminal underworld to get their friend back and avoid getting into trouble themselves.

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