Irresistible – Marketing Recap

How Focus is selling a political satire with big names and big expectations.

In any other year, the timing of Irresistible hitting theaters (or some other platform) would be immaculate. It is, of course, a presidential campaign year and, given the hyper-politicized world of the last 30 year, a biting satire of those behind the scenes seems like a great idea. That only increases when you consider the names of those involved both in front of and behind the camera.

Unfortunately, even aside from the Covid-19 pandemic that led Focus Features to shift release from theaters to premium VOD, this is not any other year. With trust in government continuing to fall among Americans, and a current situation where the realities of inequality are being laid bare in a way even the most stubborn idealogues have to work to ignore them, the timing of a comedic take on the problems inherent in the system is…sketchy.

The movie, written and directed by Jon Stewart, stars Steve Carell and Rose Byrne as competing political strategists who see a mayoral campaign in rural Wisconsin as key to nationwide success. So Democratic operative Gary Zimmer (Carell) and Republican operative Faith Brewster (Byrne) take over the town, with Zimmer trying to boost the chances of local “everyman” Jack Hastings (Chris Cooper).

Focus’ campaign has emphasized the talent, especially Stewart, as well as the subject matter. But the 44 percent the movie currently has on Rotten Tomatoes speak to reviews that frequently have been more critical of the tone and the timing than of the movie’s actual quality.

The Posters

Zimmer’s forehead is seen at the bottom of the first poster (by marketing agency Arsenal), released in March. The black and white photo of him contrasts with the bright red, white and blue of the “Uncle Sam” hat he’s wearing. Amidst what’s most white blank space, Stewart’s name is prominently displayed at the top, as is the fact that the movie will be available in homes everywhere upon release. The comedic tone is communicated through the tagline “Send in the clowns.”

Most of those elements are removed on the second poster (by marketing agency Cold Open), which came out just last week. Instead it features color photos of both Zimmer and Brewster, but Stewart’s name is still a major value proposition shared with the audience.

The Trailers

Democrats are getting their “asses kicked” Zimmer explains as the first trailer (5.4 million views on YouTube), released in January, opens. They need to add more rural appeal, he says, and shows his team a clip of a farmer and retired veteran making an impassioned speech at a local meeting in Wisconsin. Zimmer convinces Hastings to run for mayor of his town, but he himself has trouble fitting in with the locals. Still, his efforts attract the attention of the Republican party, turning the small town into an ideological battlefield between the two parties, who each see it as key to victory in the state.

The timing of the trailer’s release seems designed for maximum relevance and timeliness. Late January was both right before the Iowa Caucus (which wound up featuring the Democratic party tripping over its own feet repeatedly amidst technical problems) and in the middle of the Senate impeachment hearings, which wound up in the acquittal of President Trump as Democrats couldn’t find enough Republicans to vote for conviction.

Online and Social

An “About” synopsis along with the trailer and a featurette are all that’s on the movie’s official website, which seems paltry. There’s no photo gallery or other information to be found. Surprising there wasn’t something like an essay from Stewart on why he made the film or other additional context. VOD information is available on that site as well as a separate page setup specifically for that.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

In late May, shortly after the change in release was announced, a short promotional featurette came out includes a few comments from Stewart – who’s his usual dry self – along with clips from the movie. It plays half like an informational piece and half like a TV spot, leading me to believe it was used in some sort of paid slot.

A couple of TV spots ran that boiled down the story to a showdown between the warring political consultants. Some split their time between that story and comments from Stewart as well.

Zimmer’s awkwardness in a small town setting was conveyed in a clip given exclusively to The Playlist. Another clip has Zimmer strategizing with Hastings and his daughter. ET shared another clip as well.

An installment of Focus’ “You Know That Scene” YouTube series featured a discussion of a few key moments from the film.

A Twitter Watch Party was scheduled for this Friday with Stewart participating.

Online ads like the one below featured elements of the key art, with the primary call-to-action being to find information on how to watch the film this weekend, especially at home.

Media and Publicity

Focus Features acquired the movie while it was still in pre-production. A release date in late-May was finally announced in January.

Stewart pulled one of his “pop out from under Stephen Colbert’s desk” gags to debut the trailer on “The Late Show.”

In mid-May Focus announced the movie, like many others, was going to skip theaters since they were closed because of Covid-19 outbreaks anyway. Instead a new plan involving a late June premium VOD release was planned.

A substantial profile of Stewart came out last week, but his comments about the movie were overshadowed by his reaction to the current situation involving the police and their disproportionate response to black citizens.

Unsurprisingly, Stewart stopped by (virtually) “The Late Show” to talk about the movie and more with his good friend Stephen Colbert.

Overall

Let’s address a few standout ideas that are evident in how Focus Features has conducted this campaign, as well as a few issues that are influencing how it’s being received.

First, neither the studio nor Stewart had much influence on the world the movie is being released out into. Sure, they could have delayed it a year because a satire about largely-white politics in the middle of protests for racial equality and justice seems out of touch. But doing so would have meant losing the timeliness of coming out during the campaign cycle. It was a no-win situation here.

Second, reviews seem to be focusing on how the satire of the story isn’t sharp enough, as if everything needs to be merciless in its takedowns. That’s a false measurement, especially since nothing in the campaign here promises anything more than a few laughs at the machinations of sociopathic political strategists.

Third, it seems Focus recognized early on that the story itself was only one part of the potential appeal of the film and that Stewart’s involvement was at least as big a draw given his continued popularity post-”The Daily Show.” And it aligns well with the role he’s played over the years as an outspoken voice for various political causes important to him. Unfortunately, his advocacy in those areas has meant that most all of the interviews he did as the movie’s primary public face were more about the politics of today than the film he made.

All of that being said, it’s a strong campaign that stands up with some of the other major political satires of the modern era. It makes the case that the movie is a pleasant good time with a few laughs from some very funny people. It may not be life-changing, and it’s unlikely to result in the dissembling of major societal systems, but it looks here like a decent way to spend a couple hours.

Picking Up The Spare

Byrne was interviewed about how she created the character she plays and what inspiration she drew from. 

Stewart stopped by “The Daily Show” to talk about the movie as well as society in general. 

Focus offered clips of Stewart behind the camera as part of its “60 Second Film School” series. Another came as part of the “Stories From The Set” series.

Like A Boss – Marketing Recap

How Paramount is selling a comedy about corporate greed and the problem of going into business with your friends.

like a boss poster 2Like A Boss stars Tiffany Haddish and Rose Byrne as Mia and Mel, respectively. The two women are long-time friends who have gone into business together, running a beauty company. The two partners compliment each other nicely, one more impulsive and creative the other more business-like and serious.

When their company falls on hard times an angel seems to appear in the form of high-profile CEO Claire Luna (Salma Hayek). She offers to throw the two the financial lifeline they desperately need. It quickly becomes clear that lifeline is more like a noose and Mia and Mel have to figure out how to get control back and save their livelihood.

Even if it’s not enough to win the weekend, the $15-20 million the movie is estimated to bring in over its opening weekend could make it the top grossing of this week’s new releases. That’s a testament to the campaign Paramount has run highlighting the comedic skills of the leads.

The Posters

like a boss poster“The world of beauty is about to get ugly” we’re told on the first poster (by marketing agency BLT Communications), released in September. That copy, combined with the big perfume bottle that acts as the focal point of the design, establishes what world the story takes place in and what kind of hijinks are in store. It’s a tagline that could work equally well for either a comedy or drama, though, so it remains a bit vague on the movie’s tone.

The second poster, released in December, features the same tagline but this time has all three of the main characters on it, with Mel and Mia flanking Claire, who is clearly the mature one in charge of the situation.

The Trailers

As the first trailer from September starts we’re immediately shown how close Mel and Mia are, discussing all sorts of topics and deep in each other’s lives. The independent beauty retail shop they own together, we learn, is deeply in debt. To the rescue (it appears) comes Claire, but her business-saving investment comes with strings attached and some heavy involvement from her, none of which goes over well with the longtime friends. They set out to get control of their business back, with hilarious results.

A second “NSFW” trailer debuted in early December that presents the same basic story and character attributes, just with more swearing, sexual humor and drug use.

Online and Social

There’s not a lot of material on the film’s official website, which is focused on selling tickets, including for a “Girls Night Out” early screening event being held at select theaters tonight, a few days before the official opening.

Advertising and Promotions

The stars appeared in a short “Friendsgiving” themed TV spot that debuted toward the end of November.

Fandango debuted an exclusive clip showing the scene where Mel and Mia have to fire their assistant to comedic effect.

Online ads like the one here used elements of the key art showing the three leads to drive traffic to the ticket-selling website.

Like a boss online ad

TV spots like this began running in the last couple weeks, with some short versions being used as pre-roll on YouTube and in other social ad units. They highlight the key comedic sequences from the movie, using footage from the trailers.

The stars showed up for a “pink carpet” premiere screening in New York City earlier this week.

Media and Press

There wasn’t a whole lot of pre-release press activity. Haddish and Byrne did make a handful of talk show appearances, though, with Haddish hitting “Good Morning America,” Byrne stopping by “The Late Show,” Hayek on “The Tonight Show” and more.

Overall

On its own merits, as presented here, the movie looks like a funny enough diversion at the theater. Haddish’s comedic brand of being loud and proud is fully on display throughout the campaign, as are the chops of Byrne (always underrated for her comedy roles) and Hayek.

The tracking estimates may indicate that, despite all the recent evidence to the contrary, there may still be some life left in theatrical comedies. At least that’s if they feature the right cast, and this one might fit that bill.

Picking Up the Spare

Haddish appeared on “Kimmel” and “Late Night” just as the movie was hitting theaters.

How Haddish and Byrne bonded on the set was covered here.

Instant Family – Marketing Recap

instant family poster 2Pete (Mark Wahlberg) and Ellie (Rose Byrne) are a happily married couple who decide they want to have kids but don’t really want to deal with all the messiness of the first few years. So they decide to become foster parents, eventually choosing three siblings, including a teenage girl and her younger brother and sister.

Things don’t go smoothly, of course. Lizzy (Isabela Moner), the oldest girl, is stubborn and writes off the couple’s intentions as just being a case of some white liberal guilt being assuaged. That goes hand in hand with Ellie and Pete’s inexperience with parenting and, put together, you have the recipe for some awkward but charmingly humorous moments.

The Posters

instant family posterThe adults are on one side and the kids on the other on the first poster, each looking somewhat skeptical at the other party. A second poster shows the whole crew all together, the adults looking either naively happy or very worried while the kids look like they’re having zero fun.

The Trailers

Ellie and Pete are not joiners in the first trailer, the kind of couple who haven’t had kids yet but who decide to investigate fostering because it skips some of the early problems. They’re super awkward about the process but eventually wind up with not just one but three kids, a sibling set. It takes a while and there are some hard, uphill moments, but eventually everyone figures each other out.

Online and Social

In keeping with the theme of some of the featurettes and other material released, the movie’s official website – which has a .org address – has less about the film itself and more about adoption and foster care. The Facebook page for the movie links to a Group where people are discussing issues related to adoption and family support. There was also a Twitter profile.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Some online advertising was done, particularly on YouTube and other social networks and there seem to have been some TV spots created, but nothing under Paramount’s official banner so I’m unclear as to what is or isn’t real. There are certainly some videos shared online that look and feel like commercials, they’re just not labeled as such. The movie also promoted Tweets from Wahlberg.

Unlike most movies, the promotional partners here are all cause-based, from the Dave Thomas Foundation to AdoptUSKids and Jockey USA. The goal of these partnerships seems to be to get people involved and educated, which is great.

Media and Publicity

The movie was part of the studio’s presentation to exhibition executives at CineEurope in mid-July 2018.

At the same time the first trailer came out in early September, just after a first still hit, a featurette was released that had writer/director Sean Anders and his wife Beth talking about their own real life experiences that inspired the movie.

An interview with Spencer had her talking about the movie and how it’s among the more lighthearted projects she still chooses.

Byrne and Wahlberg did the media rounds on TV while Byrne and other members of the cast volunteered at local California charities to help during the current wildfire crisis in and around L.A.

Overall

There really are two aspects to the campaign that in some ways appear to be working toward opposite goals.

First, there’s the forgettable family comedy that’s being sold via the posters and trailer. We’ve seen variations on this movie before, including previous films starring Byrne (who really deserves better) and Wahlberg (who, not to put too fine a point on it, doesn’t). We get it, the would-be parents are flustered and out of their element and the wife looks so understanding and loving.

Second, there’s the advocacy campaign that the movie seems to be one factor of. This goes much further into selling the issue that lies at the heart of the film’s story than most campaigns for cause-based movies do. That’s really strong, making this seem like an extended PSA for adoption and foster-parenting.

For as much as the website and featurettes hit that point, I kind of wish it can gone even farther. It’s great that Paramount allowed even this much latitude, though, and good on the filmmakers for telling a very personal story that they’re trying to get in front of a mass audience.

Picking Up The Spare

I missed this featurette where adopted children answered interesting questions, unaware their parents were listening in.

Wahlberg appeared on “The Tonight Show” to give everyone in the audience a special screening while Byrne was interviewed about getting the comedy/drama ratio just right.

The filmmakers were interviewed again about how and why they decided to tell this story.

Juliet, Naked – Marketing Recap

juliet naked posterWriter Nick Hornby has provided the fodder for a number of charming and enjoyable films, often about the intersection of romance and obsessive music fandom. Along those lines comes this week’s Juliet, Naked. The movie stars Chris O’Dowd as Duncan, a guy who’s the world’s biggest fan of singer Tucker Crowe (Ethan Hawke), much to the chagrin and slight embarrassment of his longtime girlfriend Annie (Rose Byrne)

When Annie writes a scathing review of Crowe’s latest album, the singer contacts her and eventually comes to visit her when he’s nearby. The two strike up a somewhat friendly relationship, though Duncan at first doesn’t believe this is happening. Eventually things get complicated as the attraction between Annie and Duncan grows stronger, fueled by her discontent with the status quo and his desire for something more authentic in his life.

The Posters

Annie, Duncan and Tucker are all shown on the poster, Annie and Tucker touching and flirting while Duncan is left looking confused. All three are positioned behind a wall of record storage shelves to make sure the audience understands the story has to do with music.

The Trailers

As we see when the trailer opens, the relationship between Annie and Duncan is beginning to disintegrate as she finds herself at the end of her rope with his constant inability to commit or grow up as well as his obsession with his favorite singer. When she writes a scathing review of Crowe’s new album he reaches out and the two strike up a friendship before he travels to visit her. That doesn’t sit well with Duncan, who refuses to believe it’s really Crowe, even while the singer and Annie hit it off and the two start up a bit of an affair.

I really like Hawke when he’s loose like this and am always a fan of Byrne, who seems to glide through the movie on charm. Even if I didn’t know this was based on a Hornby story, I’d guess this was based on a Hornsby story.

Online and Social

It’s a pretty bare bones official website from Lionsgate/Roadside. The homepage has a “Save to Calendar” prompt but not an option to actually buy tickets, as well as links to the movie’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles. “Videos” just has the one trailer while “Synopsis” has a story recap and cast/crew lists.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Nothing I’m aware of or have seen in the paid department.

Media and Publicity

The star power of the cast alone explains why critics often included it as one of the films they were most looking forward to screening at the Sundance Film Festival. Lionsgate/Roadside picked it up shortly after the festival finished up.

A short profile of Hawke mentioned this was one of several films he had coming out in the near future while also allow him to openly lobby for the chance to give a “meaningful” performance in a big budget sci-fi/fantasy film. There was also a profile later on of costar Lily Newmark as this was one of several high-profile films the young actress was and is appearing in this year.

GQ ran a more extensive profile of Hawke that allowed the actor to talk about his career to date, what he tries to accomplish with the roles he takes on and more. Those profiles were about it since he’s just come off the publicity cycle for First Reformed and other recent movies. Bryne, though, stopped by “The Tonight Show” to talk about the movie and other topics.

Overall

It’s not a huge campaign, but if you’re a fan of previous Hornby adaptations or just want a movie that looks breezy, charming and entertaining there’s a strong case for this being a good choice. Byrne is her usual wonderful self and Hawke is always at his best when he’s playing it loose. The poster makes it look a little more madcap than the trailer, but that’s a small quibble in what’s otherwise a solid, if small-scale, campaign.

PICKING UP THE SPARE

Star Rose Byrne talks about the shift in focus of the story from book to movie with IndieWire.

 

More on the music created for the soundtrack, this time with a focus on former Lemonheads member Jesse Peretz.

 

A clip showing the interplay between Byrne and Hawke was released to help keep some positive word of mouth going.

 

Chris O’Dowd made an appearance on late night TV while a profile of Rose Byrne calls out how she’s an extremely underrated comedic powerhouse.
The team responsible for creating the music of Ethan Hawke’s musician in the movie talk about that process here.