Movie Marketing Madness: Bad Teacher

Jobs are taken for a variety of reasons. In some cases a given position is selected because of its benefits, because of its proximity to where we live or because of the flexibility of the hours allows us to manage the rest of our lives efficiently. There’s even the remote possibility that what we do for a living is, in fact, our dream job. Sometimes, though, a job is just about making ends meet while we bide our time for something else to come along.

The latter is very much the rationale of the main character in the new movie Bad Teacher. Catherine (Cameron Diaz) is just teaching for the paycheck. She doesn’t care about the kids, she doesn’t care about education and she doesn’t care about the gym teacher (Jason Segal) that’s trying to date her. Her perspective on the job changes when a handsome, wealthy new substitute teacher (Justin Timberlake) shows up and she decides to get his attention any way she can so she can quit the teaching gig and be spoiled the rest of her life. That desire leads her to show some

The Posters

The first poster for the movie is clearly intent on using Diaz’s legs as the primary selling point along with the promise of some foul-mouthed humor. Diaz is shown here in a scene straight out of the trailer that was released prior to this, sleeping behind her desk with her sunglasses over her eyes and hair clearly out of sorts. The two bits of copy – the note on the apple that says “Eat me!” and on the desk saying “She doesn’t give an ‘F'” make it clear that we’re not exactly in family-friendly territory here.

The Trailers

The first trailer, a red-band version, starts off by making it clear that Elizabeth is massively unqualified to be a teacher. She doesn’t seem to like kids, she smokes pot and like most of her students would rather be sleeping through class. While she’s pursued by the school’s gym teacher she’s trying to get in the pants of the new substitute teacher. But then she finds an opportunity to raise money for some…cosmetic surgery…with a state sponsored contest.

The whole thing is just an excuse for Diaz to say some wholly inappropriate things and for the editors to show how she smokes pot in one scene. It’s moderately funny but one has to wonder how long this premise can be drawn out and if the raunchiness can be sustained for an entire feature fill.

Later on the green-band version was released that hit many of the same notes as the first trailer but cut out the more offensive bits, mostly in terms of language. Most of the same scenes are shown but with strategic cut-offs or alternate dialogue. I actually don’t think there’s anything new here, just some rearranging of the deck chairs.  For me at least this comes off as a bit funnier since it doesn’t seem to be trying so deliberately to be going for laughs based solely on dirty words.

Online

There’s not much information on the official website’s splash page, just a couple invitations to view the green-band and restricted trailers as well as links to the social networking profiles and a prompt to buy some older comedies on DVD/Blu-ray.

Once you enter the site the first section of content is “Videos” which just contains the all-access trailer. Next is “Gallery” which has eight still photos from the movie. “About” has a plot synopsis and lists of the Cast and Filmmakers but neither of those sub-sections has anything further, just their names and photos. The last section is “Dodgeball,” which asks a series of trivia questions. If you answer them correctly you get to throw a ball at an avatar of Diaz’s character and if you botch one you get a ball thrown at your face. Let me restate that: The point of this game is to win so you can hit a girl with a ball.

The “Restricted Content” portion of the site that sits behind an age-gate has the red-band trailer as well as a “Boobie Prize” game that asks you to try and catch money in a jar to win some bigger jugs.

The Facebook page leads with a prompt to Like the page in order to view the restricted content as well as photos, videos and of course updates on promotional activities from the cast. Similar updates are found on the Twitter feed that’s specific to the movie.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

There was quite a bit of TV advertising done, with 15- and 30-second spots run that, of course, highlighted how outrageous the movie is and how lazy and unmotivated Diaz’s character is.

There’s little in the vast majority of the spots about her eventually getting into teaching, even if it is for the wrong reasons, instead just focusing on her avoiding responsibility and being mean and uncaring to the kids in her care.

Media and Publicity

Press started to surface in the wake of the release of the first red-band trailer, with some early speculation pegging this as a possible come back role for Diaz (Los Angeles Times, 2/25/11), who has had a string of disappointing films in recent years. Diaz continued to the be focal point of the publicity when it was announced (Hollywood Reporter, 3/21/11) that she was being named the CinemaCon Female Star of the Year. She was also named one of Maxim’s Hot 100 for 2011 and featured in the magazine in a racy school-themed photo shoot.

Perhaps sensing a distinct lack of buzz a relatively non-raunchy (and unfunny, which is more worrisome) “gag reel” was released that showed some outtakes that involve swearing by the actors.

Overall

It’s not necessarily bad, it’s just one of those cases where you can sense a campaign trying so hard to get people all sorts of excited that the seams begin to show. In this case there’s such a strong effort to get people interested in the movie by showing how outrageous the material is that it comes off as sort of desperate. So much so you begin to feel bad for the campaign as it becomes obvious it’s selling an experience that can’t possibly match with reality as it works to win opening weekend against all sorts of other, bigger movies.

I’ll be honest, part of that comes straight from Diaz. Never one of my favorite actresses, here she comes off as sort of delusional herself playing a similarly delusional character. Both she and the marketing are working so hard against the tide to appear hip and edgy and all that that nothing works as well as it otherwise should have.

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