Molly’s Game – Marketing Recap

mollys game posterAaron Sorkin is a polarizing figure in entertainment. His writing style, full of fast-paced, hyper-literate dialogue that barely fits on the page, has turned some people off. While he’s not everyone’s favorite and has some definite ticks and quirks throughout his work, he has created some of Hollywood’s most memorable TV and movie scripts. With the new release Molly’s Game he not only has written the screenplay but for the first time steps into the role of director.

Jessica Chastain stars as the real-life Molly Bloom in the movie based on Bloom’s memoir of the same name. The story follows her as she moves from a cocktail waitress tasked with hosting a high-stakes poker game at The Viper Club in L.A. attended by actors and other celebrities. Finding she has a knack for this kind of work, she opens her own business to manage the operation herself. Eventually legal troubles come around as she’s charged with money laundering, racketeering and other crimes related to the people attending the games she operates. Idris Elba plays Charlie Jaffey, the lawyer enlisted by Bloom to defend her.

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Bad Moms Christmas – Marketing Recap

Having made a bigger-than-expected splash when they reclaimed the everyday, the three harried women at the heart of last year’s Bad Moms are back with A Bad Moms Christmas. Kiki (Kristen Bell), Amy (Mila Kunis) and Carla (Kathryn Hahn) are throwing off the shackles of society’s expectations around mounting the perfect family holiday and taking it easy, enjoying it themselves for a change.

There’s one big monkey wrench that’s been thrown in these plans: The unexpected arrival of their own mothers. Kiki’s mom (Cheryl Hines), Carla’s mom (Susan Sarandon) and Amy’s mom (Christine Baranski) all show up with their own expectations and complicate things for their daughters in one way or another. Hilarity ensues.

The Posters

The first poster was very similar to one for the first movie, but this one has the three ladies grinding on and dancing all around a department store Santa.

A series of three posters paired each of the moms we already know alongside their own moms, most of the younger ones looking less than thrilled with this arrangement.

That was followed by another version that adds the moms of the moms.

The Trailers

Oy, with this trailer. It seems no one learned any big, long-lasting lessons from the first movie since the moms are back and feeling just as unappreciated as ever as Christmas gets closer. There’s more kvetching about the stress everyone is feeling and how badly they’re treated by their families. So they decide to “take Christmas back” which involves sitting out on a lot of the expected activities and traditions. Things are complicated by the arrival of *their* moms.

Alright, fine. Since the first one seemed to work for so many people it’s safe to assume that wrapping this one in tinsel will achieve roughly the same effect. Why not.

Another trailer shows just how miserable the moms are during Christmas, frustrated by their kids and the hectic schedules. Then things get worse when their mothers show up and begin the judging and the uncomfortable closeness and more. So the three rebel and go off on their own wacky, drunken adventures. There’s an extended scene involving an anal waxing and that’s all she wrote.

Green-band versions of both trailers were also released to appeal to more general audiences.

Online and Social

The first trailer plays when the official website loads up if you’re interested in watching that. The key art of the girls giving Santa a lap dance is featured on the front page. While there’s a traditional “Get Tickets” button on the page there’s also “Plan Your Night” prompt that encourages you to make this a group event. That section includes not just the option to buy tickets but to send themed invitations to all your friends as well as cocktail recipes and event planning guides.

At the top of the page is where most of the site’s content lives. That starts with links to the movie’s Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest profiles, the latter of which features tips on delegating holiday work, taking time for yourself and more that’s in-line with the point of the movie.

“Videos” has all of the trailers. “About” has a quick synopsis and the cast and crew list. “Gallery” has about a half-dozen production stills. Finally, “Partners” has information on the companies who have signed up for promotional support.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

TV advertising kicked off in earnest a couple weeks out from release, with some focusing on outrageousness, some on the family relationships and some just on the cast that’s been brought together. Regardless of the specifics, all make it clear that there’s plenty of bad behavior on display as the moms go all out to enjoy some time to themselves. Digital spots like this one hit the same themes as have been seen before.

Online ads used short video clips to drive ticket sales and the release of each trailer was accompanied by paid promotion on social networks.

Promotional partners for the movie included the following companies:

  • Febreeze, though I couldn’t find any connection or campaign aside from the fact that Kathryn Hahn did an ad for the brand that aired during this past Super Bowl.
  • Yoplait, which ran a sweepstakes on Facebook and Instagram awarding movie tickets.
  • Stroke of Beauty, which created a movie-themed makeup kit that was available through evine (another listed partner) and given away through a sweeps.
  • Old Navy, which ran a sweeps awarding a private group screening of the movie and more.
  • Amazon Alexa, though I can’t find details on that partnership.
  • UrbanSitter, which ran a sweeps awarding not only movie tickets but gift cards for babysitting services.

Media and Publicity

The directors talked about they wanted to create mothers that would clash but still appear appropriate for each of the moms and the drama and humor that results from putting all these characters together.

Around the same time the TV advertising began STX released a few videos like this that had an expert mixologist sharing movie-themed cocktail recipes to make to help you get through the holidays.

Acknowledging that the original shouldn’t have been as much of a hit as it was, an interview with all three leads covered how quickly the sequel came together, how excited they all were to jump back and more.

The actresses playing the moms of the moms all sat down for a group interview where they talked about working with their on-screen daughters, their experience in general and more.


If you found the campaign for the first one funny or charming or relatable, odds are good you’ll be on board for this sequel as well. There’s nothing all that new or innovative going on, all the characters are the same and dealing with the same issues they were in the first movie, only with the additional stress of living up to a mother’s expectations. Not a single one of the actresses here isn’t extremely talented and likable, so it comes down to whether you’re interested in the story and tone, which is more a question of individual taste.

The main call to action is to come out as a group for something holiday-themed. The campaign is using Christmas as a chance to amp-up the emotional stakes for everyone and hopefully create something that’s just as relatable, if not more so, for the audience. There’s a nice effort to create some movie-themed experiences like the cocktail recipes and party tips that may or may not be widely useful but they certainly are appropriate to the story.

Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.

The Foreigner – Marketing Recap

Jackie Chan stars in this week’s new release The Foreigner from director Martin Campbell. In the movie, he plays Quan, a London businessman whose daughter is killed in an act of random political terrorism. He begins to believe one official in particular, Liam Hennessy (Pierce Brosnan), may have answers because of his former ties to terrorist organizations.

Hennessy is less than helpful, though, frustrating Quan’s efforts further. Convinced he’s right, Quan begins following Hennessy and his assistants. When those bodyguards and others turn violent in their efforts to dissuade Quan from further action, they find that he’s far from the aging, grieving father he appears to be and is more than capable of bringing the fight to them.

The Posters

The poster declares at the top that it comes “From the director of Casino Royale” as a way to solidify its action bonafides. Other than that it’s just Chan standing on a city street looking dispassionately at the aftermath of some sort of mayhem, including a sidewalk that’s on fire and rubble that’s strewn about. “Never push a good man too far” is the very vague and generic copy that’s shared.

The Trailers

You can tell from how much the dad loves his daughter as the trailer opens that we’re in for a bit of violence and emotional manipulation. Soon Quan is at the desk of Mr. Hennessy asking for the names of the bombers, mostly because he believes Hennessy at least knows who they might be and at worst thinks he was involved. So begins a quest for revenge that involves going after those suspected of involvement on his own, taking out henchmen left and right with his fists or his improvised gadgets, meant to show how dangerous he really is.

This looks pretty by the numbers, almost like a remake of that Arnold Schwarzenegger movie that had a similar “man seeking revenge for the death of his family” movie that came out last year. The biggest draw for what otherwise seems like staid material is that it comes from director Martin Campbell.

The next trailer again opens with Quan’s little girl dying in a bomb explosion and being frustrated in his attempts to get answers. So he takes matters into his own hands and goes after those he believes responsible. It’s pretty similar to the first one, just with a few tweaks here and there, so the value proposition to the audience remains unchanged.

Online and Social

Full-screen video of clips pulled from the trailer greet you as you load the official site. Not only is it featured on the front page, along with a “Get Tickets” button, a prompt to watch the trailer and links to the Facebook, Twitter and Instagram feeds, but it will be persistent throughout the rest of the site as well.

“Videos” has both trailers, a couple of the TV commercials and a few clips and featurettes that focus on the stunt work, which isn’t surprising. There are about a half-dozen stills in the “Photos” gallery. Finally, “About” has a short Story synopsis and a Cast & Crew list.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

TV spots like this one cut to the chase quickly, showing the bombing that sets the revenge-minded events in action and the threat he poses to those he’s deemed responsible. A lot more TV advertising was done, particularly in the month prior to release, with spots that varied from selling the emotion to selling the all-out action. They were all variations on a theme, though, most hitting the same general beats and story points.

Media and Publicity

Chan did some press for the movie, including appearances on late night talk shows, as did Brosnan. There was also a major feature profile of Chan that focused on his inability to rest, the fact that he’s still doing his own stunts at age 63 and more. That’s about it, with most of the rest of the press coverage coming from the release of clips or other marketing materials.


I’ll be honest, when I saw the first trailer I was inclined to pass on including a recap of this campaign here. It seemed light and inconsequential, the kind of unironic action movie that would have turned heads in 1987 but which now seems out of touch. I wasn’t that interested in watching Chan try to hold on a bit longer to this action credentials while involved in a story we’ve seen a number of times from other aging former action stars.

But then it just kept going and I kept checking it out, more interested in it than I was the last time. Eventually I came around to thinking that yes, this may be a slightly tired plot and no, I don’t really need to see what’s being sold here, but it’s being sold well. I’m sure there’s an audience out there who is going to want to revisit Chan’s stunt abilities, and his performance has scored pretty good reviews for its depth and emotion. So while it may seem like the kind of movie that in eight months we’ll all legitimately forget ever happened, it’s been presented with a workable campaign that has taken a good approach to reaching a target audience.

Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.


Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets – Marketing Recap

Director Luc Besson is back in the world of fantastical science fiction with this week’s new release Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. Based on the popular graphic novel of the same name, the story follows Valerian (Dane DeHaan) and Laureline (Cara Delevingne), two agents of a peacekeeping force tasked with policing the human territories of the galaxy.

The pair are given an assignment that sends them to Alpha, a massive complex incorporating thousands of alien cultures, all living harmoniously with each other. There’s a mysterious threat lurking somewhere within Alpha that threatens to upend the peaceful environment and which could spread to the entire universe. It’s up to Valerian and Laureline to not only find it but stop it before it destroys the denizens of Alpha as well as everyone else.

The Posters

The first poster sells the movie as a space epic, pure and simple. Besson is referenced at the top as the director of The Fifth Element and Lucy, establishing his genre bonafides. But the main image has two characters whose faces we can’t see standing next to a giant ship with its boarding ramp down. So it’s really trying to play up the visuals here.

The next just shows Valerian and Laureline next to each other, each appearing on a different half of the V design that’s featured on the poster. There’s no copy, just the previous directorial credits of Besson as a way to make sure audiences know the movie has some bonafide credentials. It’s a nice use of whitespace though and while it might appear a bit simplistic it also doesn’t go too far in the other direction and try to crowd thousands of tiny alien images into one design.

The theatrical poster uses the “V” format from the previous one but shifts it over to the left a bit. It also adds a lot more of the creatures and characters we’ll meet in the story, from obese slugs to cute little critters to Rihanna. A mysterious alien peers out from the center of the “V”, indicating that they may be more important to the story than everyone else. While I don’t usually put much stock in these things, there *does* seem to be a nod to Besson’s The Fifth Element in upper right, with a sign saying “…orben’s.” While the first letter is cut off, it could be “Korben’s,” which would reference Bruce Willis’ character in that movie.

The Trailers

What the hell is even happening in the first trailer? Honestly, there’s almost nothing about the story here, it’s all about showing off the visuals and insane look of the movie and works incredibly well on that front. It’s great, it’s bonkers and I want to see it immediately.

The second trailer begins as Valerian and his partner are given their latest assignment, which involves big monsters on a shuttle moving across the desert. From there it’s on to Alpha, the giant city of worlds, some place that’s meant to be a neutral paradise in the violent universe. Something is amiss, though, and there are sinister forces that must be stopped. That’s where the story explanation stops and it becomes all about the visuals, showing speeding ships and strange aliens and everything else.

It’s so great looking. It’s being sold as being very much in the vein of The Fifth Element and looks funny, comically violent and mind-bending in the best possible ways. I’m just totally on board here.

The final trailer doubles down on the incredible visuals, focusing on the alien inhabitants of Alpha before explaining the peace there has been threatened and it’s up to Valerian and Laureline to stop it. What that threat is never gets explained as we’re too busy watching ships navigate tight passages, huge monsters lunging after their prey and more.

Online and Social

When you load the official website you’re greeted with a bit of marketing hyperbole about how groundbreaking the movie is and why you need to see it in 3D. On that main page there are prompts to “Watch the Trailer” and “Get Tickets” as well as links to the movie’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles. You can also choose to “Play the Game,” which takes you to page from which you can download a mobile game from Google Play or Apple’s App Store.

Using the menu that opens up when you click the icon in the top right, the first section is “Videos” and is where you can find the trailers and TV spots. Next is “About the Film,” which has a synopsis of the movie’s story.

You can explore “The World of Valerian” and learn more about the characters, aliens and the worlds they all inhabit in the next section. After that there’s a “Gallery” with several stills as well as a few behind the scenes shots. Finally “Social” not only has links to the social profiles but also a page of embedded updates from those pages.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

TV spots started running in late April that were focused on showing the audience the amazing visuals that are to be seen on Alpha and therefore in the movie. There’s some voiceover that hints at the conflict but mostly it’s a “Wow, this looks incredible” strategy being employed here. Future commercials would feature more of the story, or at least the premise, as well as some of the action and humor of the movie. As review embargoes broke, more commercials would incorporate some of the praise the movie was receiving.

The movie had some promotional help from other companies as well, including Lexus, which made a big deal about unveiling the Skyjet, a concept vehicle it designed and created for the movie, at an event with DeHaan.

Outdoor and online ads used the key art in various ways and social ads were run as new trailers were released.

Media and Publicity

While there had been lots of conversations about the movie in advance of this, the big coming-out took place at San Diego Comic-Con 2016, where Besson teased footage and talked about the process the movie has taken on its way to the screen, which included encountering the source comic’s creator while making The Fifth Element years ago. That screening generated tons of positive buzz for the movie, a new photo being released to the general public and the general sense that this was going to save the sci-fi genre when it came out a year later.

Just before the first teaser trailer hit a first look at Rihanna’s flapper character was released that provided some details but which mostly was about setting the stage for more craziness to come.

Around the time of the second trailer an op-ed in Wired pointed out some of the public perception problems the movie is facing as it tries to appeal to a mainstream audience. First, the campaign plays up its origins as a groundbreaking graphic novel. But that GN is from France and isn’t something many American readers are going to be widely aware of. Second, that source story *did* influence lots of what’s been seen over the last 30 years of sci-fi cinema, which means it runs the risk of feeling derivative of the very things that wouldn’t exist without it. Those are both great points that could indeed hamstring how the campaign’s message is received.

As part of the emphasis on the visuals of the movie, a two-hour behind the scenes feature was taken to a special effects industry event in Germany.

STX sought to take advantage of a very large platform and placed the movie’s opening scene in front of Spider-Man: Homecoming at select theaters. That was an effort to reach an apparently relevant audience and get them talking about Valerian, hopefully eager to come back and see the full thing. The movie’s opening scene continued to be the focus of at least a good amount of the press, including this interview with Besson where he talked about how he conceived and shot that sequence.


First let’s address how this campaign ties to the past. Specifically, there are large swaths of the push that are meant to either overtly or more subtly remind the audience how much they enjoyed The Fifth Element, Besson’s last big-scale outer space comedy adventure. The message here is that if you have fond memories of that movie, something reinforced by a recent limited theatrical rerelease to mark its 20th anniversary, you’ll absolutely want to check out this latest effects-driven movie.

Moving beyond that, though, the message of the campaign is that there’s a whole universe of adventure ready to explore. DeHaan and Delevingne may not be huge draws in and of themselves, but the marketing makes the case that they’re suitable bodies to watch running and jumping through the alien worlds that have been created. There are multiple times in the campaign where we’re told this comes from Besson’s unmatched imagination and it’s that which forms the crux of the value proposition to the audience. What remains to be seen is if that’s enough to make moviegoers comfortable enough to choose an original story (albeit one that’s based on existing material) with so many franchises and known quantities currently in theaters.