On the Rocks – Marketing Recap

How A24 and Apple TV+ have sold a comedic drama about coming to terms with yourself.

Written and directed by Sofia Coppola, On The Rocks received a limited theatrical release earlier this month and this week comes to Apple TV+.. The movie stars Rashida Jones as Laura, a woman who has begun to question her relationship with her husband Dean (Marlon Wayons), feeling oddly detached from him and beginning to worry he’s having an affair. While Dean is out of town, Laura takes the opportunity to reconnect with her playboy father Felix (Bill Murray) in the hopes that getting to know him a bit better will offer insights into her own issues.

Between Coppola and the cast, the film is one of the first high profile releases from the partnership between A24 and Apple TV+. With that pedigree, it’s been sold as a breezy character piece filled with plenty of walking and talking through the streets and restaurants of New York City. Reviews to date have been largely positive, earning it an 87% “Fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

The Posters

The primary selling point – the pairing of Jones and Murray in a Sofia Coppola joint – is communicated loud and clear on the one poster, released in late August. The two actors are shown in the booth of a nice restaurant. There’s not a whole lot of visual style to the design since it’s just a photo, nor is there a lot of extra information added, so the studio really is counting on the popularity of those two stars to get people’s attention.

The Trailers

It’s clear, from August’s first trailer (1 million views on YouTube), that Felix and Laura have a complicated father/daughter relationship, but that they’re trying to make it work. That’s made slightly more difficult by the fact that her husband is engaging in the same kind of sketchy behavior Felix did when Laura was younger and which led in part to the estrangement. Still, Felix is protective of her and the pair embark on an adventure to not only find out what’s happening but also reconnect with each other.

Online and Social

You’ll only find the very basic information and marketing material on the film’s website.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

News that A24 had partnered with Apple for the production of original films came out in late 2018, but the specifics weren’t revealed until the middle of January, when it was announced the film would reteam the Lost in Translation duo of Sofia Coppola and Bill Murray.

Conversations about the movie potentially debuting at the Venice Film Festival did not prove successful, despite the festival’s desire to serve as the film’s coming out venue. It was, though, included in the New York Film Festival, where it was scheduled to make its premiere.

Heard in the trailer is “Identical,” a new song from Phoenix that the band released a video for at about the same time the trailer came out.

MovieClips received an exclusive clip in late September showing Felix being kind of a bad influence on his granddaughters.

Online ads like the one here were run in the week leading up to release, with both the theatrical and Apple TV+ dates noted there.

On The Rocks online ad

Media and Publicity

Coppola revealed some story and character points in an interview earlier this year. She and Jones were interviewed together about bringing elements of their own lives and more to the story and production as a whole.

Murray talked about the movie a bit but was generally his random self in an appearance on “Kimmel,” with Wayans showing up as well on the same episode. A few days later it was Jones’ turn.

The music of the movie was covered in an interview with Phoenix lead singer Thomas Mars, who talked not only about the band’s contribution to the soundtrack but also his role as music supervisor for the film in general.

Additional interviews with Murray had him talking about how his working relationship with Coppola has grown over the years since Lost In Translation. Meanwhile, Coppola also talked about what events and ideas inspired her to tell this story at this point in her career.

Overall

The bet that’s been placed throughout the marketing campaign – that Murray and Jones are likeable enough to be enticing to the audience in and of themselves – is not a bad one to make. That’s made even more sure when you add in Coppola, especially given her previous collaboration with Murray.

While there’s a lot of good material in the campaign, the entirety of the comes off as somewhat lacking. There just isn’t a lot here, and most of it dates back to August or so. Aside from the online ads that have run, there hasn’t been much new put out to the public since then, which means it may have fallen off the radar of a lot of folks. If there had been a few new clips, spots or other assets released in the immediate lead up to release it may have done a bit better in breaking through the clutter of [waves in the general direction of everything].

Picking Up The Spare

Additional stories about the movie focused on how the crew made Murray feel welcome on set and how Jones feels this project fits in with her career overall

Jones was interviewed on “The Daily Show.” 

Tag – Marketing Recap

tag poster 2Movies based on true events often tell outsized or “important” stories, ones that either tell some essential story people need to know or which are somehow meaningful to the human experience. The new movie Tag is not one that would fall into any of those categories.

Jon Hamm, Hannibal Buress, Jeremy Renner, Ed Helms and Jake Johnson play a group of guys who gained prominence years ago when their decade-spanning game of tag came to the public’s attention. The game has kept them connected to each other even as they’ve gotten married and gone about their lives. One thing has eluded them, though: Jerry (Renner) has never been tagged. Isla Fisher, Leslie Bibb, Rashida Jones and Annabelle Wallis costar.

The Posters

tag posterThe teaser poster really hits the core selling point of the movie – that it’s based on a true story – by stating that outright and even emphasizing it by including “We’re not kidding.” That’s the very definition of “trying too hard.”

A second poster is the same thing, only with the faces of the leading cast at the bottom looking at the camera with various bewildered or amused expressions on their faces.

The Trailers

The first – and only – trailer is preceded by Renner as himself filming a video while in the middle of playing a game of tag with his costars. Once the footage actually starts we get the backstory, that this group of friends has been playing the same game every May for 30 years, with it being the thing that’s kept them connected over all that time. Of course that’s really weird for outsiders, but whatever. Everyone is gunning for Jerry, who’s never been tagged in all that time.

It’s funny enough, certainly appearing better than some of the recent films by the people here. Seeing Renner in a comedy is nice as he’s not usually allowed to be funny, but I’m going to throw flags on the criminal underuse of both Hamm and Isla Fisher. And we’re going to stipulate that the story is only a slightly more socially-acceptable version of hyper-competitive toxic masculinity, no matter how cute it’s dressed up.

Online and Social

The movie’s official website opens with the trailer, also accessible via the “Trailer” button on the splash page and along the top content menu. Also there are sections with a “Synopsis” and a “Gallery” but that’s about it. Strangely, they’re not listed or linked to on the main site but there are Twitter, Facebook and Instagram profiles.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

The movie was one of the first to be advertised via Snapchat’s recently-unveiled unskippable six-second video ad units.

Media and Publicity

AS the filmmakers were more than willing to point out repeatedly, this is based on a true story whose history was revisited in features like this on several occasions. That theme was reinforced with a short promo video featuring the real life members of the gang that has kept the game going and showed them watching footage from the movie where their lives are being depicted.

Hamm hit the publicity circuit to talk about the movie, including commenting on Renner’s broken arms and how production accommodated that. The story of Renner’s injury provided a significant hook for the publicity cycle as stories circulated about how CGI had to be used to bring them back to life and the actor himself shared the details in his appearances. Even Fisher had to comment on it while she was doing press. Thankfully Buress was able to avoid the topic when he showed up on “Kimmel.”

For little apparent reason other than there’s a wedding in the movie, the cast crashed a real-life wedding, causing all sorts of chaos and hilarity. The advice Hamm gave Johnson and the rest of the cast to make that work came up at the movie’s premiere.

Overall

I’m wondering who the studio thought the audience for this movie would be. All the actors here are very funny in their own right, but a story of a bunch of overgrown manboys who can’t let their childhood game go while letting that game bleed over into every other part of their lives seems….out of touch with the current cultural conversation.

It’s not that the movie doesn’t seem funny; it honestly looks like it has more than a few laughs. But when the only two talking points for the press cycle are “It’s based on a real story” and “Here’s how Jeremy Renner broke his arms,” the underlying weakness of the premise is exposed.

Finally, how do you make a movie with Rashida Jones, Leslie Bibb and Isla Fisher and not have them as the focal point of the entire film, much less the marketing? I want to see the movie that has them as the leads.

PICKING UP THE SPARE

Jeez, even Annabelle Wallis has been forced to talk about Jeremy Renner’s broken arms during her portion of the publicity cycle. Hamm and Helms have also done a bit more publicity.

 

A clip from the movie was played in an episode of Machinima’s “Inside Gaming” to try and reach that crowd.

 

Nice profile of co-star Jake Johnson here at GQ. And there’s more from Hannibal Buress as well as an interview with the comedian.
Star Jeremy Renner’s broken arms are part of this interview with director Jeff Tomsic where he talks about all the challenges he had making the movie.