How to Market Marty, Leo and The Wolf of Wall Street

Paramount Pictures’ CMO Josh Greenstein explains

Marketing a movie is always work—especially when it’s about a wholly dishonorable Wall Street operator in the go-go ’80s. Josh Greenstein was up to the challenge. Since 2011, he has served as CMO of Paramount Pictures, which distributed Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, in North America and Japan. Adweek caught up with Greenstein to learn how the studio turned a hard-charging portrayal of excess, full of graphic sex, drugs and general immorality, into a blockbuster, and nominee for the Academy Award for Best Picture.

Adweek: First, the nuts and bolts. What was the target audience for Wolf?

Greenstein: Adults 18-49, entertainment consumers, moviegoers. Marty has a huge fan base. Leo DiCaprio has a huge fan base. We opened wide, so it was a national campaign.

What about the popular sentiment about Wall Street? Did you pay particular attention to that as you approached marketing the film?

Well, we did pay attention to what was going on, but we really tried to broaden out the messaging for the film. To us, it was a movie about our times—Marty wasn’t just making a movie about the overreaching greed of the ’80s. Everything in this film is still applicable to what’s going on today, where people are in life and how they’re feeling about the world.

How deeply involved in the marketing of the film was Scorsese?

On a campaign, it’s always lockstep with him. He’s a true partner in the marketing, in every aspect of the campaign, because he’s such a visionary. We want to be able to take advantage of that mind in our campaign. For instance, we worked on [the teaser trailer] together. He instantly loved the Kanye [West] song [“Black Skinhead”] that we used in it. That was a pretty bold song to put in the first piece for a movie that was set in a different period, and Marty embraced that.

How did you use social and digital?

One thing that got passed around a lot was the GIFs of Leo break dancing from the trailer. We started with an uncompromising take in terms of our advertising, and I think that got people excited that Martin Scorsese was bringing his vision to life on the big screen because I think people expect that from Marty. They expect him not to pull punches. …

We didn’t try to paint the movie in a different light. We embraced [the lead] Jordan’s character, we embraced the controversy. We didn’t try to paint him as a super-likable guy. We tried to stay as true to the film as we could [laughs] … under advertising limits.

According to Nielsen, trailers tend to play better with moviegoing audiences than shorter TV spots, yet TV is still a huge part of any big campaign. Where’s your focus lie?

To me, it’s a matter of sequencing. I think trailers, whether they’re in-theater or online, are a great opportunity to give people a more long-form version of what a movie is about, getting them excited to see the film. And television is incredibly important, and it really helps us close very hard and very targeted to our audiences. So they’re both important.

Which social stats do you look at most?

In the first week, we want to be, you know, over 5 million or 6 million views. We want to feel like it’s consumed, that it feels very hot out in the world. And then we monitor the conversation and see what the reactions [are] … one, are people even talking about it? We want people to be passing it around.