Movie Marketing Madness: Date Night

Many married couples, while completely happy, often find themselves wanting to break out of the perceived rut they’ve found themselves in. The day-to-day routines that never vary can become constricting, especially if the people have been raised to think that life is all about excitement and doing something new all the time to feel like they’ve really “lived.” Not everyone feels like that, but it’s always a good premise to hang stories on since it allows for either comedy or melodrama to spring forth.

Hanging its hat on the former is Date Night. The movie stars Steve Carell and Tina Fey, stars of NBC sitcoms “The Office” and “30 Rock” respectively and who have also carved out halfway decent film careers. The two play a married couple who, on an expensive night out in New York City to do something special for a change, get mistaken for a couple of crooks by a pair of corrupt cops. This case of mistaken identity then leads the husband and wife on a wacky romp around New York to stay alive and clear up the mistakes as well as make it back home to their nice, boring and safe life.

The Posters

The first poster is really just a glorified title treatment, with the name of the movie superimposed over a photo of the two leads in nice clothing that’s been torn and tattered and whose faces are dirty after what we’re assuming is a long night of trying to stay alive.

And that’s it.

The Trailers

The trailer is fast-paced and relies heavily on the notion that we already like Carell and Fey. If you do you’re likely to enjoy this but if not there’s a decent chance you’ll just be kind of annoyed.

We’re introduced to the Fosters, a married couple who aren’t all that exciting, with a variation on the gag about the husband wanting to have sex but the wife needing to “wrap her head around it” after she’s already put in her mouthguard. (This would probably be funnier if we hadn’t seen the same sort of thing in the trailer for Extract earlier this year.) But then the two go out on a date in the big city, encounter a snooty maitre’d and decide to use someone else’s reservation at the fancy restaurant. That leads to a case of mistaken identity as a pair of tough guys who are looking for the people whose name the couple is using appear at the restaurant looking to kill them. That leads to a chase across the city as Carell and Fey try to stay alive and clear up the confusion, including finding the real people whose name they’re using. That second couple is played by James Franco and Mila Kunis in what I’m guessing is one of the funniest sequences of the film.

There are a few funny gags in the trailer and it’s clear that both of the leads are playing it completely straight, utilizing all their deadpan skills to make this couple as ridiculous as possible. The only time one of them cracks a smile is at the end when Carell is laughing at Fey’s worry that they’re going to get “whacked off” by the hit men, which is kind of a funny line.

Online

The official website opens with the trailer playing and after it’s finished you’re presented with the option to share it on Facebook, Twitter and other social networks as well as the code to embed it. There are also buttons to share the whole site on social networks and social news/bookmarking sites such as StumbleUpon and Delicious as well.

The first section “About the Film” gives a decent three-paragraph overview of the movie’s plot.

Five cast members and nine of the crew are profiled under “Cast & Crew,” where you can read about their careers to date.

“Videos” should just be “Video” since all that’s there is the one trailer. A series of photos scrolls along the bottom of the page and you can click on one to expand it but there’s not a stand-alone section for them.

Off-domain, the movie’s Facebook Fan Page appears to have been given a lot more attention. There are plenty of photos, about nine extended clips from the movie in addition to the trailer and even a “Break Your Night Out Routine” app you can add to send messages to your friends encouraging them to do something unusual. There’s also a YouTube channel with those same clips from the movie.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Some online advertising has been run that’s used the same single image from the poster key art, which was also repurposed for outdoor advertising. There was also a fair amount of TV spots run that cut down the trailer into 30-second versions.

Media and Publicity

For a movie with a decent star list there was surprisingly little media coverage, likely because the industry press was busy falling over themselves to cover the 3D phenomenon and all the implications thereof. So a story like this one (New York Times, 4/4/10) that talked about the origins of the movie’s story was at least a little unusual.

Overall

One poster? One trailer? A completely lackluster website? A perfunctory ad campaign and mostly silent publicity push?

Wow, hard to view this as being an awfully muted effort for a movie that stars two of the most popular stars on TV right now. Carell, even more than Fey right now, is even a bona-fide movie star. Maybe it’s that the studio thinks the movie is going to have limited appeal outside of married couples who are, themselves, out on a date night and so didn’t put much effort into reaching anyone outside that demographic. Regardless this is a pretty skimpy campaign.