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.

Downhill – Marketing Recap

How Searchlight is selling a romantic comedy remake about what happens when disaster strikes.

downhill posterThe 2014 Swedish film Force Majeure was critically acclaimed when it came out, praised for its depiction of how a single event brings into sharp relief what someone’s priorities are.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Will Ferrell star in Downhill, a remake/homage of that film, opening this week. The two play Billie (Louis-Dreyfus) and Pete (Ferrell), a husband and wife who take their two kids on a ski vacation to the Alps. Everything is going fine until an avalanche comes careening toward the resort they’re staying at. In response, Pete runs away, completely abandoning his family. Everyone is fine, but Pete’s actions have repercussions, understandably angering Billie and casting a pall over the rest of the trip.

Like the original, the new version – directed by Nat Faxon and Jim Rash – is a mix of drama and comedy, but Searchlight’s campaign emphasizing the latter, an approach that makes sense given who the leads are.

The Posters

Just one poster (by marketing agency Eclipse) has been released, coming out in January. It communicates the setting and premise pretty well, showing Billie and Pete clad in ski gear at the top of a mountain, pointedly looking away from each other. The pose highlights the tension between the two that will permeate the story, a feeling emphasized by the copy at the top reading “A different kind of disaster movie.” That copy might be a tad cloy, but it attempts to explain that the audience shouldn’t expect a desperate struggle to survive under hundreds of tons of snow but something else tied to their relationship.

The Trailers

Late December brought the first trailer (4.3 million views on YouTube), which starts off by showing an awkward but loving family on vacation as part of an effort to spend more time together. When an avalanche hits the ski resort they’re staying at, Keith clearly abandons the others, which leads to problems between him and Billie, especially since he won’t admit what he’s done. The humor and drama of the movie, then, come from how the two of them deal with the fallout from what he’s done.

Online and Social

Pretty standard stuff on the movie’s official website. The “Cast” and “Filmmakers” sections have those involved offering a brief comment on the story or setting, which is somewhat interesting.

Advertising and Promotions

The first look at the movie was offered at the same time it was announced it would have its premiere at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival.

A clip was released in early February showing Keith and Billie bringing their complaints about how the avalanche was handled to the management of the resort, who insists things went just as they should have.

There was only one promotional partnership, with e-card company Postable offering a number of movie-themed cards with passive aggressive notes you could send to someone you want to send a pointed message to.

Promotional videos like this were used on social media and presumably TV as commercials, all of which highlight the broader comedic elements of the story and show the awkwardness of the vacation.

Media and Press

Ferrell and Dreyfuss debuted the first trailer in late December when they both stopped by “Jimmy Kimmel Live” to have a bit of fun with the host.

Just before the Sundance screening there was a feature on how Dreyfuss worked for years to make an American adaptation of the hit Swedish film happen.

During the festival there were numerous interviews with the cast and filmmakers where they talked about how their movie was an homage to the original, how the two leads bonded during production and more. Dreyfuss also addressed how surprising it was she and Ferrell hadn’t worked together before.

The leads, as well as costar Zach Woods, made the talk show rounds in recent weeks to hype the film and talk about working together.


One question that keeps coming up is this: Why was the campaign so truncated? It’s been less than two months since the first trailer debuted, and while there was some press about the movie prior to that the actual campaign has all been executed within that period. Some of that might be the result of not wanting it to get lost in the Oscar cycle. Or the production schedule combined with the desire to hit the Valentine’s Day release date might have simply been the reality at hand.

Whatever the reason, Searchlight’s marketing has made the understandable decision to focus on the comedic dynamic between Ferrell and Louis-Dreyfus. That might be what was seen as most appealing to U.S. audiences, but it also means the campaign has frequently downplayed the drama and played up the comedy. In doing so it unfortunately makes the movie look like some of the generic comedies Ferrell has starred in recently. Meanwhile, you have Louis-Dreyfus in the press, particularly at Sundance, getting deep about the story and the drama inherent in relationships, especially when they’re being tested.

Picking Up The Spare

Louis-Dreyfuss and Ferrell appeared together on stage as presenters during the Oscars ceremony just before the movie opened.

Searchlight released a clip of the family post-trauma dealing with the repercussions of what happened.

Additional talk show appearances included Louis-Dreyfus and Ferrell on “The Late Show,” Ferrell, Rash and Faxon and Ferrell and Louis-Dreyfus on “Late Night”

There were more interviews with the cast and crew about the experience of filming at an actual ski resort, how the story sought to balance drama and comedy, how filming took each out of their comfort zone. Everyone also spoke glowingly of everyone else on the premiere red carpet.

Holmes and Watson – Marketing Recap

Recapping Sony’s marketing campaign for Holmes & Watson.

holmes and watson posterThe duo of John C. Reilly and Will Ferrell are responsible, as a pair, for some of the most funny bits of cinema in the last 20 years. It’s been 10 years since they last teamed up in Step Brothers and now they’re back together in Holmes & Watson, a comedic take on the famous pair of detectives.

The story involves the two being tasked with unmasking a threat to Queen Victoria. Professor James Moriarty (Ralph Fiennes) has threatened to blow up Buckingham Palace. Based on the campaign, that premise is just a thin line providing support for Ferrell and Reilly to engage in their usual brand of hijinks.

The Posters

The two main characters are shown on the first poster, each making the shape of the letter of their last name with their hands. There’s nothing here about the story, it’s just about telling the audience that Ferrell and Reilly are back together, which is the biggest draw here.

The Trailers

The main message of the first trailer is that the Step Brothers/Talladega Nights team is back together, this time playing the famous pair of detectives. Unfortunately they’re both idiots. That’s going to cause problems with Professor Moriarty kills someone in Buckingham Palace and threatens the Queen will be his next target.

A lot of the humor is derived from jokes about the time period, from Watson asking if someone would like some heroin (a popular cure at the time) to him asking to take “a sort of self photograph” with the Queen. Some land more firmly than others, but not only does Ferrell actually seem to be committed to the role (a stark contrast to some of his recent films) but Reilly is a damn treasure.

Online and Social

The movie’s official website has the trailer and synopsis, the latter of which makes it clear this is a reunion of the Step Brothers duo. Not linked on the site but shared on YouTube are links to its Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Promoted posts like this began running on Twitter a couple weeks prior to release, a shockingly tight advertising window for a movie with these two stars.

There were short form videos shared online and it’s likely TV spots were run to help sell the movie to a larger audience.

Media and Publicity

The movie had kind of been floating around the background for a while until it was included in the studio’s CinemaCon presentation, which featured Ferrell engaging in his usual brand of antics and a sizzle reel of footage. A while after that a first-look photo showed up in EW’s Fall Movie Preview issue.

A profile of Reilly appeared while he was in Toronto with other projects, putting this in the context of his career, including his other collaborations with Ferrell.

holmes and watson gifThe costars appeared in a PSA supporting the Movember Foundation, offering a number of mustache facts that appear to be somewhat suspect, though they’re funny. More information on that campaign was offered on the movie’s official website.

They both appeared on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” to introduce a clip and engage in some random silliness and both showed up either together or on their own on other shows.

The way Reilly bounces between different projects was the subject of another interview with him right before release.


There are two major messages being sent here: First, that everyone should come out and see the new movie featuring the team of Ferrell and Reilly, having enjoyed their previous work together. Second, that while the story may feature old-fashioned characters in a period setting the humor comes from those characters acting in very modern ways.

It’s not a bad campaign, it’s just that it’s not that extensive and only formally ran for three months. That may simply be Sony realized this was a particularly crowded holiday season, or an acknowledgement that broad comedy hasn’t been lighting up the box office recently. Whatever the case, it’s funny enough but it remains to be seen whether it will join the ranks of the stars’ other outings.

Picking Up the Spare

Seems Paramount approached Netflix about taking the movie off their hands but the streaming company wasn’t interested.

Daddy’s Home 2 – Marketing Recap

The first Daddy’s Home a couple years ago was all about two competing views of masculinity. On the one hand, Brad (Will Ferrell) represented a comedically-exaggerated version of the man who was in touch with his feelings. That’s part of what attracted Sara (Linda Cardellini) to him after she divorced the rugged but irresponsible Dusty (Mark Wahlberg). While Dusty and Brad clashed at first, eventually they figured out how to be part of the same family.

With Daddy’s Home 2, they’re doing alright. But the tenuous peace that exists in the extended unit is tested during the holidays with the arrival of Brad’s father (John Lithgow) and Dusty’s (Mel Gibson) as well as the presence of Roger (John Cena), the ex-husband of the woman Dusty has now married. Those new influences are going to reignite old conflicts but probably a lot of learning along the way.

The Posters

The first poster and Dusty and Brad sitting on the couch with their respective dads behind them, Dustry and his dad looking all macho and somewhat amused and dismayed at the obvious display of affection being engaged in by Brad and his father. “More daddies. More problems.” is the copy at the top that’s kind of terrible.

The second poster has both sets of fathers and sons wrapped up together in a string of Christmas lights, the small kids running around them like they’ve done it.

The final theatrical poster uses the same picture of Brad, Dusty and their fathers on and around the couch but pulls the camera back a bit to show the kids arrayed around them as well as Roger and Sara in the background.

The Trailers

We immediately see in the first trailer that Dusty and Brad have worked out their own relationship to keep the kids happy. They’re planning Christmas and it winds up both of their families are coming to visit. We meet Dusty’s dad and see the apple hasn’t fallen far from the tree. That’s true of Brad’s dad as well. The two grandfathers introduce a new dynamic into the family, but we also see that Brad and Dusty still have issues they’re working through.

OK. Sure. Fine. Whatever.

The second trailer is a bit longer and adds a few additional jokes that hint at continued tension between Brad and Rusty but doesn’t make the movie look any funnier and still shows a tragic underuse of Cardellini.

We skip the pickups at the airport and get straight to the awkwardness of the whole family being together in the final official trailer. While everyone is initially playing nice the tensions quickly rise as Brad and Dusty keep trying to make this co-dad thing work amidst so much chaos, the expectations of their own fathers and other problems.

Oh dear.

Online and Social

When the official website loads you get the theatrical poster on one-third of the page while the other two-thirds are dominated by both a list of local theaters where you can buy tickets and a map to those theaters.

In the content menu at the top the next section is “Videos,” which has both trailers as well as one of the TV spots. “Synopsis” is where you’ll find a brief plot overview as well as the cast and crew lists.

Three production stills don’t make much of a “Gallery,” but that’s next. Finally there’s the “Partners” section with links to the companies that signed on for promotional support.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

TV spots like this one started running about a month and a half out from release. That one focuses on the tenuous co-dad relationship Dusty and Brad have worked out, a delicate balance that’s upset when their respective fathers show up for Christmas and bring along their own personalities and issues.

There were also a few promotional partners, including:

  • Alaska Airlines, which ran a sweeps awarding trips to the Paramount Movie Lot for a tour.
  • American Express, though details on what that company did aren’t clear and not easily found.
  • Auntie Anne’s, which ran a sweeps giving away a grand prize of a screening for 50 people at a local theater.
  • Carl’s Jr., which offered movie-branded drink cups in stores. I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s some major product placement in the movie as well.
  • TipsyElves, which created a few movie-themed ugly Christmas sweaters.

Online ads used the key art and video clips. Videos like the trailers and TV commercials were also used on social media in promoted posts.

Media and Publicity

There were various small conversations with members of the cast, but this feature interview of Ferrell seems to be the core component. In it he talks about working with Wahlberg and more, including the addition of Gibson to the cast. Notably, the secondary stories resulting from that interview in the entertainment press focused on his remarks regarding an unmade sequel to Step Brothers, not this movie itself.

Ferrell’s comments about Gibson try to play up how good he is in comedies and how surprised the audience will be. But Gibson’s inclusion in the cast of a generic family comedy was held up by many as problematic given the actor’s anti-semitic rant a decade ago. His being “rehabilitated” by Hollywood is a sign of white male privilege, that going away for a while allows all to be forgiven in the name of star power. That was problematic back when he was first announced as part of the film but is only more so now, in the wake of the sexual harassment, rape and pedophilia scandals sweeping through the entertainment, media and other industries.


The campaign for the 2015 original wasn’t all that interesting, simply selling 90 minutes of watching Ferrell fall down. Even that, in execution, was hugely disappointing and uninspired. The message for the sequel isn’t all that different or more compelling, showing that the audience can expect a lot of pissing contests as the five men who are core to the story seek to one-up each other in “comedic” ways.

There’s not a whole lot here that’s different than that campaign from a couple years ago. It’s clear that the story is essentially the same, just with a couple elements scribbled in the margins to make it seem fresh, like spices added to fish that’s off but still just barely good enough to serve. If you enjoyed the first movie, you’re promised more of the same. It’s as generic and offensive as possible, all hiding under the label of “comedy.”

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