If you’re like me, you have a love/hate relationship with movie marketing. Sometimes, you love seeing a new trailer or TV ad because it reveals a tantalizing tidbit of the film you are going to see. Other times, you just want to say enough, as you keep getting inundated with all forms of marketing about a film. So it seems like how well a film is marketed comes down to a matter of opinion. Does the same apply to how poorly a film is marketed? Because certain people are having an issue with how the upcoming Wonder Woman film is being marketed.
Two articles arrived last week pointing out the weak promotion of the Wonder Woman film. On Tuesday, Shana O’Neil of SyFyWire asked, “Where is the Wonder Woman movie advertising?”, querying why the film hasn’t had more TV ads and trailers. O’Neil’s argument was expanded by UPROXX/HitFix’s Deputy Entertainment Editor Donna Dickens telling us, “You Aren’t Imagining It, ‘Wonder Woman’ Really Isn’t Being Well Promoted,” stating that not only is the run up to Wonder Woman weaker than the promotional run up for Suicide Squad and Justice League, but also the marketing tie-ins are weaker as well.
The point these articles are trying to make is that either on purpose or by neglect, either because the film isn’t good enough or because they want female driven films to fail, Warner Brothers is burying Wonder Woman. Strong argument, and one that needs to be made. That is, if the two articles in question don’t present their case with only misleading information that supports their argument and ignoring anything that doesn’t.
Case in point, this is what O’Neil reported about Wonder Woman‘s market in comparison to November’s Justice League:
We’re less than six weeks out. There’s been more advertising for Justice League than the movie that’s supposed to kick off the whole JLU film arc. On Warner Bros.’ YouTube Channel, Wonder Woman has only three trailers to Justice League‘s six.
Let’s take a look at the Justice League You Tube page:
What you see here is not six trailers. What you see here is one trailer and…five ads for the trailer. Yes, the first Justice League trailer got five ads. The ads range for 16 seconds to 22 seconds, feature no dialogue, just action scenes from the trailer set to a hard rock sound track. (To her credit, Dickens doesn’t call the five clips trailers, unfortunately she calls the “meet the team” clips “biographies”, which isn’t accurate either.)
If you are starting to get up in arms, asking why the first Wonder Woman trailer didn’t get five ads trumpeting its arrival, you have to look at it in perspective. The first Wonder Woman trailer was released at the 2016 San Diego Comic Con, just two months after the production wrapped its filming. It was a surprise treat for the crowd at the con’s Warner Brothers panel. Advertising it was coming would spoil the surprise. Not only that, it just doesn’t make sense to advertise a trailer is coming to the world when only a couple thousand people would be able to see it in person. Also, the Justice League trailer was released on a Saturday. The ads were needed to inform people that the clip would be released in that promotional dead zone.
Dickens expands on this line of criticism by comparing the Wonder Woman promotional blitz to the one that Suicide Squad received:
When Suicide Squad came out, you couldn’t escape the world’s worst heroes. They were everywhere, despite the average audience-goer knowing only who Harley Quinn and the Joker were due to pop culture osmosis. Everyone knows who Wonder Woman is. Yet a quick look at the playlist for Suicide Squad vs. Wonder Woman on the official Warner Bros. YouTube page is as different as night and day.
She then provided the following graphic comparing the two (the editorializing face is part of the original image):
She then follows up with this:
Approximately a month before Warner Bros. releases one of their biggest films of the year, one that will go down in entertainment history one way or another simply for being the first film starring Princess Diana, the company has released three trailers and two “Tilt Brush” videos explaining the concept art. At the same point in the marketing cycle for Suicide Squad, the villainous flick already had three trailers, four TV spots, a “Buy Advanced Tickets” promotional video, and fun little biographies for each member of the team. That’s a hell of a lot more promotion for a B-string list of heroes (at best) than for WONDER WOMAN.
I’m going to try and constrain my sarcasm in responding to this. There is a very simple reason why a movie featuring little-known, B-string characters would get more promotion than the much better known Wonder Woman has received at this point–it’s because it was a movie featuring little-known, B-string characters. Warners wanted to introduce these characters to mainstream audiences who had no idea who they were.
And it is misleading to say about the “Buy Advanced Tickets” video and “fun little biographies” coming along at the same point in Suicide Squad‘s promotion cycle that we are in with Wonder Woman‘s promotion cycle. We are currently either 32 or 33 days away from Wonder Woman’s release (depending on whether or not you count June 2, the day the film will be released, in the calculations or not). Suicide Squad‘s “Buy Advanced Tickets” video hit on July 11, 2016–26 days before that film’s August 5th release. The “fun little biographies” hit on July 16, 2016 (21 days). Both hit well within the 30 day window before Suicide Squad and we have at least two days before we hit that marker with Wonder Woman. Also, is it logical to put out a “Buy Advanced Tickets” video before advanced tickets for Wonder Woman go on sale?
Of course, videos posted on You Tube playlists could never tell the whole story. Luckily, Rebecca Keegan at Vanity Fair provides a little more perspective on the whole Suicide Squad/Wonder Woman comparison:
Let’s look at some data: according to iSpot, which tracks TV advertising, W.B. has spent $3,043,212 so far on ads for Wonder Woman. At five weeks out, the studio had spent $2,645,643 on ads for Suicide Squad. Wonder Woman ads aired during the Kids Choice Awards and the N.C.A.A. finals, and there were promotions for the film at South by Southwest and Wondercon.
So, perhaps Suicide Squad might have the advantage in quantity of ads, but it appears Warners is looking for quality in its ad buys for Wonder Woman.
Books, Toys and other Merchandising Tie-ins
Dickens also takes issue with the amount of merchandising tie-in, or lack thereof:
The merchandise is out there. But while pop-culture bellwether Hot Topic may have a handful of items from the film on hand — mostly Funko Pops — the rest of their Wonder Woman gear is based on the comic, not the movie. Compare that to the hundreds of results that pull back on Hot Topic’s site for Suicide Squad and the difference is quantity is stark. Remember, merchandisers get official imagery to work from to create their products months in advance of the general audience. They then use those images as the baseline for what their products will look like. From all appearances, Warner Bros. didn’t give their officially licensed merchandise promoters a lot to work with for Wonder Woman. Odd.
Well, I guess I should stop writing now. It would be silly to look at other retailers, right? Because, as the saying goes, ” As goes Hot Topic, so goes the world.”
Of course, I’m going to look at other retailers. Let’s start with Barnes & Noble:
If you are looking for Wonder Woman movie tie-in merchandise on Barnes & Noble, you’ll find wall calendars, mini-wall calendars, weekly planners, an official movie novelization, a junior novel novelization of the film, an art book on the making of the film, and not one, but two early reader books based on the film. In addition, there will be books examining the character roots in bondage and feminism, her relationship with psychology and philosophy, an “ultimate guide” and a plethora of graphic novels, many with an emphasis on entry level tales of the character or storylines with historical importance. These last few are not direct movie tie-ins, but they obviously are being released to capitalize on the film. Oh, and they also are getting those Funko Pops.
Now, let’s move on to Toys R Us:
Do you like action figures? You’ll have four to choose from: Diana as Wonder Woman and as Princess Diana, Queen Hippolyta and Steve Trevor. Are you more a fan of dolls? Well, you can get five of Wonder Woman: Shield Block, Bow-Wielding, Battle Ready, Hidden Sword, and with a horse. Queen Hippolyta gets a doll with a horse as well. If your kid would rather pretend to be Wonder Woman, well, they have that covered too with a headdress and arm band set, a play sword and a play bow & arrow. They also offer the Funko Pops.
How about one more? Say, Target:
Target offers a lot of items that Barnes & Noble and Toys R Us offer, but does carry some unique items. They offer three Barbie Collector dolls based on the film–at a whopping $44.95 each– of Wonder Woman, Queen Hippolyta, and General Antiope. They also sell bedding based on the film, including a sheet set, a branded pillow “buddy,” a comforter, and not one, but two blankets. You can also pick up a copy of the soundtrack here, which will be also release on June 2, same day as the film. No Funko Pops from the film listed, so that’s a win for Hot Topic.
Did listing all these items seem like overkill? A bit redundant? Good. It was supposed to be. I wanted to show the volume of licensed merchandise available from the film. And it wasn’t hard to find. All I had to do was search places other than Hot Topic.
Hot Topic is not a Pop-Culture bellwether. It’s a counterculture bellwether. Its demographic is 18-24 year old outsiders who like their music loud and objectionable. The demographic embraces outsider culture, not a mainstream one. So, Hot Topic’s target demographic is the kind that would love anything with Joker and Harley Quinn on it and would prefer its Wonder Woman branding to be more iconic in nature. It’s a narrow window into pop culture, and you’d only use it as an example if limited was what you were looking for so you can pass it off as wide ranging. The fact that there was more Suicide Squad merchandise sold there than Wonder Woman doesn’t mean the latter is poorly merchandised. It means that Warners isn’t selling the film and its wares exclusively to that demographic. Its reach extends wider–and younger.
Does this mean that you can walk into a Barnes & Noble, Target or Toys R Us and find all the above items on the shelves? No. I went to the local branches of all these stores and found none of those items readily available. I was informed that while licensed material sometimes arrives months in advance, companies are moving towards releasing their tie-in material closer to when the film of TV show comes out. That Guardians of the Galaxy display only went up a week or two ago. There is no guarantee any of the Wonder Woman ephemera will get the same treatment, but that decision will be made by the store’s corporate offices, not Warners or its licensees.
And if we look outside the world of trailers, commercials and merchandise, we can see that Warners has already been active in marketing the film. The movie will appear on Dr. Pepper cans this summer and on Danica Patrick’s racecar for two races in May. The media blitz for the film has already started. Gal Gadot has started popping up on magazine covers like W, FilmFax and Empire. Patty Jenkins was interviewed by the AP about being a female director helming a summer blockbuster. And Regal Cinemas is offering an unprecedented promotion for the film, selling a Wonder Woman branded card for $100 that allows the purchaser to see one showing of the film every business day for the length of the film’s theatrical run. So, a lot more promotion is either in the works or being put into effect for the film than either Shana O’Neil or Donna Dickens has told us. And there will be much more to follow.
If we want to give O’Neil or Dickens the benefit of the doubt, we can say that both are truly concerned with Wonder Woman being damaged by Warners dropping the ball in promoting it. But their warning is backed up with misconceptions and cherry-picked evidence. Instead of being brave protestors alerting us to something we need to take action on, they essentially become Chicken Littles squawking about a sky that really isn’t falling.
UPDATE, May 2, 2017: WBShop
If you want a better idea of how Warner Brothers intends to market Wonder Woman, then the latest e-mail sent out by WBShop to the store’s mailing list tells us a lot about what we need to know. On May 2nd at 12:31pm, WBShop send an e-mail with above header to its customers, alerting us to Wonder Woman‘s opening in one month and advising fans to “Get Ready For Opening Day.”
The e-mail links to their site’s Wonder Woman page. They are currently offering 121 items tying into to the movie, ranging from a FUNKO Rock Candy figure that costs $12.95 to a Deluxe Statue that will set you back $349.95. In between, you find products ranging from jackets to hats, cell phone cases to purses, and plenty of T-shirts that will turn you into a walking billboard for the film. It looks like Warner Brothers gave a whole lot more to their licensed merchandise producers than Dickens wants you to believe–and are taking extra steps to get us to buy the stuff.