Movie Marketing Madness: Young Adult

Back before the days of channels like Disney XD, Nick Jr. and half a dozen others, when Saturday morning was the primary time to watch cartoons for hours and hours, the slogan “I don’t want to grow up, I’m a Toys’r’us kid” would be heard constantly during commercial breaks, particularly in the lead up to Christmas. The goal was to get kids to identify with that store, not just any department store toy section. But the generation that grew up listening to that has taken it to heart, constantly refusing to grow up and act its age. While we may accept the responsibilities inherent in getting older that doesn’t mean we don’t still long for our toys, with many 40+ adults proudly displaying their action figures and comic books alongside their big screen TV.

Young Adult, the new movie from writer Diablo Cody and director Jason Reitman (who previously paired on Juno), is about just such a grudging adult. Mavis (Charlize Theron) is a moderately successful writer of young adult fiction. But she’s not exactly a responsible adult. When she comes back to her home town she decides she’s going to recapture her glory years of high school, partly by finally trying to snag her old boyfriend Buddy (Patrick Wilson), despite the fact that he is now married with a baby on the way. Her lack of maturity, therefore, isn’t the only stumbling block on the way to her goals.

The Posters

The first poster for the movie made it look like the cover of a cheap book, even including what appears to be a spine groove along the left hand side and a “Bargain Price $4.95″ sticker in the upper right hand corner. The movie’s title and Theron’s name are there along with Cody’s while Reitman’s appears in a gold sticker (again playing to the book cover idea quite nicely) that also includes his previous film credits. The central image is that of Theron, face down in bed and surrounded by vodka bottles and coffee cups. To hammer home the idea that she’s not the most mature person in the world the copy above her reads “Everyone gets old. Not everyone grows up.”

While a lot of people didn’t like the poster, thinking it was too pink and not nearly effective enough, I think it works quite nicely as a teaser. It plays it’s book cover conceit all the way through to the end and, considering the writer and director involved, is self-consciously hip, which is not to be unexpected.

A fun series of posters were created and released for individual cities in a “screening series” that movie would be embarking on

The second poster showed Theron full-on, staring at the camera with some serious disdain and in the same basic outfit and attitude that we see her in the trailer as she’s checking in to the hotel. It features the same copy as the first one and makes a much bigger statement about the creative team that it comes from at the top of the one-sheet. But at the bottom there’s something new with the “A bit of baggage this December” copy point.

The Trailers

The first trailer starts out by showing us just what kind of character Mavis is as she tries to check in to a hotel while not paying for the dog that’s obviously hidden in her purse. We see she’s back visiting her home town, a place she doesn’t exactly love. She’s not exactly loved by the people who remember her from high school either, something that’s not prone to change as she engages in a plan to try and get her now-married high school boyfriend, who’s just exasperated by her antics. All this time she’s confiding in another former classmate who doesn’t actively hate her and might be the only person in town who fits that description.

It’s a fun and funny trailer that shows how funny Theron can actually be. There’s plenty of opportunities to catch Cody’s whiplash dialogue and more and the two of those things together make up the major reasons to see the movie. There’s some mention, of course, of it coming from the director of Up in the Air and other movies but that almost seems cursory here.

An “alternate” trailer was given to Slashfilm that wasn’t substantively different than the primary spot other than the addition of one scene.

A short (44 second) red-band trailer was released (many called it a TV spot but that’s ridiculous) that featured Theron making everyone very uncomfortable with some overly aggressive behavior, an extended version of a scene that we’ve glimpsed in the trailers so far.

Online

The movie’s official website opens with the same image that graces the second one-sheet of Theron standing there looking generally displeased with her situation and surroundings. Again, just below the title is the movie’s artistic pedigree for everyone to see.

The first section of content is “Videos” and it’s there that you’ll find the Trailer as well as a number of short clips that are structured like TV spots. Nothing in this section is actually labeled so I’m not sure exactly what their intent actually is.

There are 10 stills from the movie in the “Photos” section.

“About the Film” is all about the Production Notes, which is then divided into three sections. One talks about Cody’s writing of the movie and how she came up with the story. The next has her discussing that story in depth and then the final section goes into the actual shooting of the movie.

“Cast and Filmmakers” has career overviews of the major players involved here and “Reviews and accolades” compiles some key quotes from early reviews of the film.

The movie’s Facebook page and Twitter feed are filled with links to various promotional pieces and positive reviews, with Facebook also having photos and some video as well.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

As stated above there was some TV advertising done for the movie, with some spots playing like mini trailers and following more or less the same beats and showing off many of the same jokes. I’m inclined to think the clips that are on the official website above are actually other TV commercials just based on what I’ve seen but that’s still just a guess. If they are they’re very effective since they allow the audience, which was attracted to the whipsmart dialogue of Juno when these two filmmakers previously got together, to see that this movie has more of the same.

Media and Publicity

The movie, remarkably, did not play at any of the fall film festivals and so missed out on much of the buzz that could have been generated there. Considering its creators that’s even more surprising and the fact that it remained an unknown quantity was contributing to a case of nerves in Cody (Los Angeles Times, 10/26/11) who said that this and another upcoming project where getting to her.

As release neared features about both Reitman and Cody together (Time, 11/23/11) or Cody on her own (LAT, 12/4/11) would talk about the personal demons that are being exorcised through the film’s story and how it was for the pair to work together again.

Overall

The emphasis in the campaign seems to be squarely on the re-teaming of Cody and Reitman. That’s called out all over the place, both in the marketing and the publicity, in an effort to attract the same word of mouth audience that built Juno into a crossover powerhouse. The trailers, posters and everything else all make sure the audience knows who’s involved in the making of the movie and uses that as one of the primary reasons it should be seen.

Aside from that, though, the campaign works pretty well. The trailers are funny and show Theron delivering the kind of comedic performance that many people have thought she’s been capable of for a while. I’m a bit put off by the inconsistency in the posters, with the attitude there swinging from overly satiric to a focus on Theron, but that’s kind of a minor quibble. I like the campaign and think it does a decent job of selling the film to the audience, though my suspicion is that this will live or die depending on the word-of-mouth that it manages to generate and which will push people to the theaters in the weeks after release in favor of some of the other big late-year releases.

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