Movie Marketing Madness: Fish Tank

Just last week I reviewed the campaign for Youth in Revolt, a coming of age movie that was filled – at least this is how the marketing sold it – with hyper-aware characters who had deep knowledge of culture, an expansive vocabulary and the kind of angst that only really comes when you know your life is more or less alright but for the fact that you haven’t gotten laid yet. This is the classic Catcher in the Rye type of tale, one in which a life of relative comfort and security breeds discontent because the protagonist doesn’t feel he or she has “truly lived” or some such problem.

Fish Tank seems to be the polar opposite of that. A British film, the movie tells the story o Mia (played by Katie Jarvis), a 15 year old girl who grows up in a poor neighborhood and finds solace only in her secret love of dancing. When her mother brings home the latest in a series of boyfriends (played by Michael Fassbender) she connects with him and she begins to see him as someone who can help her make sense of it all.

The Posters

The movie’s one poster achieves pretty well a number of objectives.

First is the presentation of Jarvis and the attitude her character carries with her. Shown with big hoop earrings but sporting a plain gray hoodie that still exposes her midriff, it’s clear that this is someone who is feeling her sexuality emerge but has the attitude of just wanting to be anonymous and left alone. “Don’t notice me, but if you think about how hot I am.” seems to be the message she’s sending off. Behind her is a block of apartments that could be any lower middle-class neighborhood, effectively establishing the setting as well. Here attitude is also conveyed through the copy at the bottom, which reads, “Live, love and give as good as you get.”

Next is the fact that the title treatment, which is rendered in orange block letters against the gray and blue of the photo, really pops off the page, effectively catching the eye of the audience. Around that title treatment are both credits and the awards the movie racked up at last year’s Cannes Film Festival and elsewhere.

So it not only leaves a visual impact but also introduces effectively the main character whose story we’re going to be told. Done and done.

The Trailers

There’s a lot packed in to this trailer. It starts off with images similar to what are found on the poster as we get shots of the visually boring apartment complexes that Mia lives in and looks out on the world from. We’re shown early on that there are conflicts with her irresponsible mother, even though she’s eventually brings her into contact with Fassbender’s character, who encourages her to get outside her own head for a change.

About half way through, though, the tone takes a darker turn as Mia starts to push the boundaries of the relationship with Fassbender’s character. We then see shots of her trying to impress a boy her own age and then getting in to trouble with a group of hooligans.

It’s that shift in tone that takes an already interesting trailer and makes it clear the movie is much more than a coming of age story, that there are raw, real emotions going on in the main character’s life and that this film will confront the ramifications of her attitude, which is where most movies usually stop short.

Online

The official website is pretty sparse, but that’s to be expected from IFC, which puts more thought into making sure the movies they distribute *are seen* than they do into making flashy (or Flashy) promotional sites. It’s all information here, beginning at the top, where we’re told that the movie will be in theaters this weekend and then available on-demand in two weeks.

Other than that the site is pretty “just the facts” oriented. There’s the Trailer, some Photos, Cast and Crew credits, Links to some of the press coverage, an About story synopis and the Poster, as well as some key pull quotes from critics and a list at the bottom of the film festival awards Fish Tank has accumulated.

I know it seems like a double standard, but I’m a lot more forgiving of the bare-bones sites from someone like IFC than I am when they come from other studios such as The Weinstein Co. That’s largely because, as I said, a distributor like IFC wants to make sure to movie is seen and so the site is geared toward accomplishing that goal. TWC just wants to dump some of the movies it still has lying around and so the sites reflect that “let’s just forget this ever happened” attitude.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

None.

Media and Publicity

IFC has done what it could to hype the Cannes and other festival credentials the film has racked up and the cast and crew have done some rounds in the press, especially the British press. Fassbender, a rising star here in the states, seems to be leading the charge in the U.S. press. Even so, what I’ve found is minimal and indicative of the fact that it’s January and no one is paying much attention to smaller movies like this. Which is kind of a shame.

Overall

The campaign, as you would expect from a smallish release such as this, is pretty simple. But the elements that are there are powerful and sell the movie as an emotional experience that follows conflicted and conflicting characters. So it succeeds on that level. Here in the U.S. it’s probably going to be among the releases that a few people latch on to – a subset of those who are aware of the film, which is already a small number.

So the movie’s success is largely going to hinge on word of mouth recommendations from those who did like it. Fortunately the strong formal campaign elements make it easy to do just that.