Movie Marketing Madness: The Lincoln Lawyer

We all have a unique routine to our business days, don’t we? Some of us might be most comfortable if we walk to work along a certain route. Some might have a particular seat on the train that we immediately gravitate to and get out of sorts if someone else beats us to it. It might even be that the clerk at the donut shop knows us so well that they know we’ll arrive at a certain time and have our coffee and cruller all ready for us as soon as we walk in.

Mick Haller (Matthew McConaughey) is the main character in the new movie The Lincoln Lawyer. Haller is a Beverly Hills lawyer who eschews the normal office and instead conducts most of his business from the back of his Lincoln Town Car, which he’s consistently driven around in. One day a case involving Louis Roulet (Ryan Phillippe) the son of a rich and influential family is given to him. Roulet has been accused of assaulting a young woman and he and his family want the charges to go away. But as Haller investigates so that he can mount a vigorous defense he uncovers some dark corners of Roulet’s life that cause him to question his innocence, something that doesn’t square with Roulet’s controlling family, who will go to any length to protect their name.

The Posters

The poster for the film doesn’t exactly make any great imaginative design leaps, featuring simply McConaughey sitting atop his car, the encapsulation of both the “Lincoln” and “Lawyer” portions of the movie’s title. There’s no copy on the one-sheet that hints as to the movie’s story or plot or anything like that, not even the sort of quick synopsis of McConaughey’s character I was half-expecting. Instead the only copy here outside the title and the standard credit block points out the name of the director, screenwriter and the writer of the book on which the movie is based.

The addition of a weather-worn veneer to the image doesn’t do much here, though it’s obviously an aesthetic attempt to make the photo more interesting by playing with the look a bit. If you were to be generous you could say that manipulation gives the image a sense of world-weariness, but that would be a stretch and is something that should be rightly conveyed by the actor, not an image processor.

The Trailers

The first trailer is all about setting up the broad strokes of the movie. McConaughey gets in his car and is pulled over by a motorcycle gang, but it turns out one of them is is client so it starts off by trying to muck with our expectations. We then move in to the main plot of him defending Phillippe’s character from an assault charge, with him protesting his innocence even as we get a handful of shots that show he’s not being fully truthful. There’s a lot of quick cuts after that which show brief glimpses of the rest of the movie but overall this comes off as simply a story of a lawyer who has to outsmart his lying client and decide whether or not to do the right thing.

The second trailer starts out the very same way as the first but then we get a more linear presentation of the story. We see the status of the relationship between her and Tomei, his ex-wife before getting into the details of the case he’s taking on. Phillip’s character comes from a wealthy family that wants this all to go away but McConaughey and his rag-tag team of assistants find he’s just an all around bad dude. So instead of proving his client innocent this trailer makes it appear as if he eventually turns the other way and is working to connect him not only to the crime he’s charged with but others as well. But the rich defendant isn’t going down without a sleazy fight, threatening McConaughey’s family and so on, making this a very personal fight for him.

Online

As is so often (and largely frustratingly) the case, the official website opens with the trailer playing. Closing that though you can get to the site’s main content. At the bottom of the page there’s a scroll of updates displaying Twitter updates that mention the movie.

The first area of content here is “Story,” which just has a paragraph-long synopsis of the movie’s plot. “Photos” has 11 stills from the movie that are displayed as full-screen images you can scroll through. “Videos” has both the Teaser and Theatrical Trailers as well as two TV Spots. Lastly there’s “Cast/Crew” which has exactly what you would expect that section to have.

When you hit the Facebook page you’re actually shown a lot of information, more than what’s on the official site. There’s a feature that asks what you might need a lawyer for, the ability to add this page’s profile picture added to your own Facebook profile, download some wallpapers and Buddy Icons, view photos and more. There’s also both trailers and a TV spot, a photo gallery and links to information on the book as well as information on how to earn GetGlue stickers for watching the movie or its marketing materials.

This is actually one of the better Facebook pages I’ve seen recently in terms of presentation, though once again I’m a little confused at how there’s all sorts of content here but relatively little – certainly not as much as what’s here – on the official site.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

TV spots for the movie like this one didn’t try to get clever and weren’t weighed down by attempts to play up the conceit of the film’s title, instead simply aiming to present the movie as a dramatic confrontation between a couple of strong-willed characters.

There’s probably a higher sense of action in spots like that than is present in the actual film but it’s looking to amp up the adrenaline so the audience doesn’t think it’s just a long-form kind of “Law & Order” episode.

Media and Publicity

McConaughey in particular made the media rounds of TV shows and such talking about the movie but that seems to be about it. There was discussion about the release of marketing materials but not much else, which is a little surprising since we’re moving out of the period where all the movie conversations are about awards, festivals or the movies being dumped to theaters in January. Really don’t know what to make of the lack of publicity here.

Later on there was a story (Los Angeles Times, 3/13/11) right before release about how McConaughey was cast and how Michael Connelly, the author of the source novel, went about creating the character he plays. This was probably the most extensive profile of the movie that I’ve seen.

Overall

I’m getting an odd vibe off this campaign. Things seem alright on the surface but then the lack of publicity or serious press push is more than a little surprising. What I’m thinking here is that audiences have gotten so used to seeing McConaughey in the romantic comedies he’s specialized in for the last decade or so that there’s going to be a disconnect between their expectations and what the movie presents. I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with the marketing here, it just might not be what the audience is looking for at this time.

PICKING UP THE SPARE

  • 03/17/11 – The Onion has it’s own take on the scale of the movie’s marketing campaign.
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