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Best Picture Marketing

29 Feb, 2016 McKell Naegle

It’s the Oscars, either you care or you don’t. However, there is one thing you can’t deny, some of the Best Picture nominees just didn’t ring the bell.

While some of the films nominated have been highly anticipated for months, there are always a few that are largely unknown. This of course doesn’t mean that the movies aren’t as good as the other nominees, in fact, many of the previous Best Picture winners have been blockbuster flops that can now be found in the $5.00 bin at Wal-Mart. So who is to blame?

Marketing, that’s who. Take a look at the marketing campaigns for each of the eight films nominated this year for Best Picture, and decide for yourself who marketed their movie the best.

The Big Short

The Big Short

Adam Mckay’s dramedy, The Big Short has been running a very simple marketing campaign since last October. The studio has been running ads all over TV and online for the past few months. The ads have focused very heavily on the star studded cast, relying partially on star power to fill theater seats. Was it successful? The Big Short made $10 million its opening weekend. Not a blockbuster, but for a movie about the housing market it’s not half bad.


Bridge of Spies

It will never hurt your marketing campaign having Steven Spielberg as your film’s director. Bridge of Spies benefits from having two of the biggest names in Hollywood in Spielberg and Tom Hanks. The studio has chosen to run plenty of TV ads as well, but they have also been running simple social media and digital campaigns. You may have even seen some of their banner ads taking up your browser window.



Perhaps the least known of this year’s best picture nominees is Brooklyn. This is largely due to the film’s extremely small budget. With just under $10 million to spend, the entire budget was spent shooting film (by comparison, films such as The Revenant, and Mad Max Fury Road, had budgets of $135 million and $150 million respectively). So how did the Academy find out about Brooklyn? The movie was shown at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival and caused a bidding war among studios. Brooklyn was sold for $9 million, one of the festival’s biggest purchases at the time.

Mad Max

Mad Max: Fury Road

As a sequel, Mad Max: Fury Road already had an established market among male viewers. This time an attempt was made to reel in the female demographic. This was done by promoting the movie as having a feminist theme. It is also very noticeable that while the movie is named for Mad Max (Tom Hardy’s character), the more prominent character in all of the press releases and promotions was the female warrior, Furiosa, played by Charlize Theron. The studio also invested in TV ads, spending over $1.5 million on ads during the 2015 NBA playoffs alone.

The Martian

The Martian

In this corner is our box office winner, grossing over $614 million worldwide. That stat alone may force us to proclaim The Martian our marketing champ among its fellow nominees. The whole campaign started with a series of “live” YouTube videos featuring Matt Damon as Mark Watney and other members of the crew preparing for launch to Mars. The videos feel unscripted and authentic, posted on a NASA affiliated YouTube channel named Ares: live. These videos made the mission feel like news, not entertainment (and I mean that in a good way). On September 2, just 10 days before the movie’s release, Ares: live announced that Mark Watney had been left behind alone on Mars. The hashtag #BringHimHome was promoted, and somehow the film felt even more real. Everyone felt like they had to see The Martian, because it didn’t feel like a movie.

The Revenant

The Revenant

In case you were wondering, this is the movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio. Oh wait, you already knew that? That’s probably because The Revenant’s marketing campaign seemed busier marketing Leonardo DiCaprio’s performance than it did the movie itself. DiCaprio’s name wasn’t the only one leading the headlines however. Fresh from his Best Picture and Best Director wins last year for Birdman, Alejandro Iñárritu’s name is about as difficult to forget as it is to pronounce. Combining these two names gave The Revenant a solid foundation with critics before the film even premiered. The studio’s strategy proved to be successful as The Revenant performed better than expected at the box office, bringing in over $39 million its opening weekend.



Room was another nominee that caused a lot of the general public to ask, “Wait, what movie is that?” With a budget of $13 million, marketing was not among the highest of priorities. Instead, the studio chose a different route. In every trailer and promo the studio emphasized the grandez of both stars’ performances, and campaigned strongly towards awards season, showing the film in all of the major film festivals. The film quickly gained critical acclaim and Room became the indie film that every critic was talking about. This isn’t the best campaign if you are hoping for box office cash, as the film only grossed $18 million worldwide. However, as far as awards go, a nomination for Best Picture is a pretty inexpensive way to get your name out there, even it is followed by the question, “What’s Room?”



The Best Picture winner Spotlight was released almost two months before most of its fellow nominees, and performed less than impressive at the box office. But you’ve heard of it, because while you were sitting at home waiting to spend your money on Star Wars, the Spotlight marketing team was hard at work executing a very different strategy than any of the films listed above. They were seeking endorsements, not from celebrities persay, but from journalists; the people who fill your TV screens, write your newspaper columns, and who figuratively enter your home every single day. The movie Spotlight is to journalism what Hoosiers is to basketball, and every journalist who saw the film told their friends and viewers to see it also. The movie gathered more momentum as the Oscars grew nearer, and was ultimately rewarded for it.

Let us know who you think wins best marketing by leaving a comment below.

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