A few weeks ago, the superhero movie Deadpool grossed $132 million at the domestic box office on its opening weekend, setting a record for R-rated premieres--and dousing its $58 million budget in black ink.
How did a film about a minor Marvel character make so much money? Many in the entertainment industry attributed the bountiful returns to the movie's irreverent marketing strategies (not the least of which was a pile of "poo" on a billboard).
This coming weekend, the Batman v Superman movie is set to premiere -- and in the context of Deadpool's staggering success, some are already comparing the two firm's marketing campaigns.
"If Deadpool's campaign was an off-the-wall, over-the-top cross-platform marketing bonanza, Batman v Superman's is a by-the-book, cover-all-bases exercise that feels a little...rote," observes a recent story in Wired.
And yet, as Wired points out, not all of the marketing for Batman v Superman has been rote. While the campaign has, indeed, been conservative, especially when compared to Deadpool's audacious stunts, it has included a few creative, edgy surprises. Here are three of them:
1. Making villain Lex Luthor Jr. seem like a real person. The Luthor character is played by none other than Jesse Eisenberg, famous for playing Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network. As Wired points out, the film is capitalizing on Eisenberg's history playing Zuckerberg by "leaning into the idea that the Internet loves to hate a sinister tech bro....capitalizing on Lex's smug-millennial sneer."
So, like any sinister tech bro, Luthor Jr. has been the subject of media attention: There are fake magazine profiles (paid for by Warner Bros., the film's producer) of Luthor in Wired and Fortune. The latter includes specifics like Luthor eating a pizza with raw almond crust. It calls him a "jeans-wearing genius."
Adding to these real-world effects was Luthor Jr.'s sponsorship of the free WiFi at New York Comic Con and launching a LexCorp website which mentions "the world's first neural network based operating system."
2. Deploying the Amazon Echo. Specifically, Amazon partnered with Warner Bros. to create a murder mystery radio show called "The Wayne Investigation." Using Alexa, the female voice of the Amazon Echo, listeners can navigate Gotham--that fictional comic book city--shortly after the death of Bruce Wayne's parents. (Wayne is the character who eventually assumes the Batman identity, initially in search of his parents' killers.)
"It's basically high-tech storytime," notes Wired, "and has the same kind of wacky charm as Morgan Freeman suddenly being the voice of Waze." (Waze, if you don't know, is a popular traffic app, which Google bought in 2013 for more than $1 billion.)
3. Creating Time Out Guides to Gotham and Metropolis. You can buy them on Amazon. The product description on the Amazon page is hilariously deadpan, an approach that worked in Deadpool's marketing. It reads, in part:
Time Out Shortlist Gotham & Metropolis selects the very best of the cities' sightseeing, restaurants, shopping, nightlife and entertainment, with Time Out's trademark expertise. It also takes you straight to the latest venues, tips you off to the news and fashions and gives the dates that matter. It's the best reference for anyone visiting Gotham & Metropolis in a handy size and easy to use format.
Oh yes. The guides were written by Dan Wallace, author of Man of Steel: Inside the Legendary World of Superman and the The DC Comics Encyclopedia, among other superhero-inspired works. They are a fun nod to fans who dive deeply into the worlds of comic characters. And the decidedly non-digital format is likely to appeal to older fans who have had it up to here with high-tech gadgets.
Will these creative approaches pay off at the box office? Time will tell. Whereas Deadpool had to recoup a $58 million budget--paltry for a major motion picture release--the Batman v Superman budget exceeded $400 million, according to multiple reports. The action begins Friday at a theater near you.