Movie Marketing Madness: The Iron Lady

I was only tangentially aware of politics for much of the 1980s. I was six when the decade started and 16 when it ended so of course I knew what was going on but didn’t really have a big stake in the comings and goings of various politicians. My most stark memories of that decade’s politics are a mix of the serious (Ronald Reagan being shot) and the comedic (Dana Carvey and Jon Lovitz doing George Bush and Michael Dukakis on “Saturday Night Live”) with a few other things mixed in here and there. In terms of international politics my awareness was even fuzzier. I knew Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister of Great Britain and knew what a big deal that was in terms of both gender and friendliness with the U.S. but that’s about it.

Thatcher is the focus of one of this week’s new movies, The Iron Lady. With Meryll Streep playing Thatcher the movie is about her rise in the political theater to the role of being the first – and to date only – woman to hold the PM position in Great Britain. The movie is told in a similar style to other biopics, with the framing device of an aged Thatcher looking back at the key moments that shaped her life. Plot descriptions make it clear that some liberties have been taken with the story, though much of it is based on fact.

The Posters

The first poster for the film puts Streep at the forefront along with the story’s setting. So the photo of her as Thatcher bleeds into an image of Buckingham Palace. Above that is the copy “Never compromise,” which nicely spells out the character and mindset of the woman Streep is portraying.

The Trailers

The first teaser trailer is primarily focused on introducing us to Streep’s incarnation of Thatcher. We see two consultants staring past the camera telling someone sitting in the camera’s POV that there things that need to be changed: Her hat, her pearls and so on. There’s also the matter of her voice, which they say lacks authority. Cut to her saying she may be willing to let go of the hat but, defiantly, says the pearls aren’t an option. And she does so in the tone of voice that she says is what’s necessary for a leader.

I’m not sure how much this teaser is representative of what’s in the film. And the cheeky little smile on Streep’s face at the end tells me the marketers are being intentionally overly clever here and, at least in my own mind, that raises questions as to the tone of the movie itself. I had thought this was a drama and not Julie & Julia & Margaret.

The second trailer starts by introducing us to a young Thatcher who is unwilling to fit into traditional roles in British society. We then follow her ascent into politics, from someone who operated on the outskirts of the government to the leader of the party. But we see that rise was not without speed bumps both personal and professional as she’s faced with various crises, putting her determination and will at the forefront to get through the various trials she faces.

This is a very good trailer that shows exactly what the audience can expect from the film. Whether or not that is something that’s interesting enough to get them to come out to the theater is a separate question (as it always is) but by highlighting Streep’s performance in this way it’s obviously hoped that the same folks who make Julie and Julia a hit will turn out for this one.

Online

The movie’s official website is a little barebones. At the top the second trailer begins playing automatically, though you can close that if you don’t want to watch it again.

Once you do so the content sections are revealed, the first of which is “About.” There you’ll find a decent description of the film and the various plot devices and storytelling liberties that you can expect when going in to the theater.

“Video” has both trailers while “Photos” has nine, by my count, stills from the film. “Cast & Crew” then has bios on the major players involved in the film and “Press” has excerpts from and links to some of the reviews of the movie.

Many of those sections are repurposed at the bottom of the page along with widgets that pull in the studio’s Twitter and Facebook feeds.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

I don’t think I’ve seen any TV or other advertising done, certainly nothing that’s made any sort of strong impression on me.

Media and Publicity

The main source of publicity for the movie seemed to be in the form of either the release of marketing materials or speculation about Streep’s award season chances, which were deemed to be plentiful. I’m a bit surprised there wasn’t more press done in the big outlets but that’s all that I’ve seen for the film. Again, very surprising and something that leads me to believe TWC is putting its money somewhere else this fall/winter.

Overall

I’m going to fall back on to one of my usual cliches here and say that I’m a bit surprised at the apparent lack of a full-throated effort in support of this movie. It’s great that Streep is being positioned as an awards contender but what by my accounting seems to be a not much, if any, press support is a big missing component here.

Other than that the posters and trailers are good enough and, as I said above, the target audience seems to be at least in part the folks who enjoyed Streep’s other recent travels into celebrity impersonation territory (though I still think Dan Ackroyd did a better Julia Childs) along with those who enjoy a bit of historical fiction.