A couple of weeks ago, Shana O’Neil at Blastr created a tempest when she publicly questioned Warner Bros.’ marketing commitment to the upcoming Wonder Woman movie.
She pointed to a general lack of advertising and news coverage, specifically compared to recent Warner Bros. superhero releases like Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad, and wondered if the studio was keeping its foot off the gas because of the gender of the hero and the presumed target demographic.
Basically, she wondered, was Warner Bros. not giving this their full effort because Wonder Woman might not appeal to all the fanboys?
Intrigued by how the Wonder Woman campaign stacked up against other recent efforts, specifically those from Warner Bros./DC Entertainment, I looked back at the campaigns for BvS and Suicide Squad—as well as the ongoing push for Justice League coming later this year—to see if I could quantify any disparity.
Specifically, I looked at the volume of released marketing materials, not the engagement or spread of those assets. Here’s how things shook out.
How and When the Trailers Are Released
Here’s a quick recap of when the four most recent WB/DC movies, including Justice League, had their first trailers pop up for public consumption and discussion:
● Wonder Woman
Released at San Diego Comic-Con 2016, 11 months from release
● Suicide Squad
Released at San Diego Comic-Con 2015, 14 months from release
● Batman v Superman
Released April 2015, 11 months from release
● Justice League
Released at San Diego Comic-Con 2016, 14 months from release
Based on the above examples, Wonder Woman fits pretty well into existing patterns. WB gave it the brightest spotlight it could by debuting the first trailer at San Diego Comic-Con a little less a year prior to the release date. That’s in line with Batman v Superman, though other movies have gotten longer lead times. It seems to come down, with the exception of BvS, simply to where Comic-Con falls in relation to that release date.
Subsequent trailers also more or less fell in line with previous campaigns, debuting seven months, three months and then one month (give or take) from the release date. Wonder Woman achieved that level of parity with a new trailer that debuted May 7 during the MTV Movie & TV Awards broadcast.
TV Spots Have Been Less Frequent
Where O’Neil has a strong point is in the paid campaign. When her post was published, the studio had released three trailers but hadn’t really started the paid ad campaign for the movie yet. The first TV spot was released two days after that post, and whether there was a causal relationship or just coincidental timing, only a few WB execs likely know.
The paid TV portion of the Wonder Woman campaign has seen four spots released to date, and the entire effort will take place less than a month and a half out from the movie hitting theaters. Compare that to Batman v Superman’s 14 TV ads (at least those that were added to the movie’s official YouTube playlist), the first of which aired over two months prior to release.
Similarly, Suicide Squad (again, based on YouTube) got just six official TV spots beginning four months out. That campaign, though, felt bigger because of the steady stream of character-centric videos and other press activity, much of it focused on the on-set antics of Jared Leto. The Squad marketing was bigger, too, simply by virtue of it being a team movie with a variety of characters and big-name actors.
The Intangibles Are Important, Too
As I said, the Suicide Squad press cycle was kind of dominated by Jared Leto and his tendency to send dead animals to costars. That got very old very quickly, though, and there’s been no such hijinks around Wonder Woman, nor were there in the leadup to Batman v Superman.
Instead, the publicity for Wonder Woman has been much more focused on one of two areas—star Gal Gadot, and the character as a whole.
Gadot has been front and center for the entire campaign. She’s been sharing images on her social profile since 2015, doing interviews about the role in that time and generally being out there evangelizing for the character and talking about what it means to her. Her role has been as a loud voice dating back to the campaign for Batman v Superman, where Wonder Woman showed up and made the movie 27 percent better anytime she was onscreen.
For the last year, DC Entertainment and Warner Bros. as a whole have also been putting the character front and center as part of their “Wonder Woman 75” campaign marking the 75th anniversary of Wonder Woman’s comic debut. That has involved events and panels at Comic-Con and other conventions, commemorative stamp collections, new high-end collectibles, collections of classic comic stories and much more.
The company turned its attention to her in the same way it did in past years for similar anniversaries for Superman and Batman, and like Superman 75, it all culminates in the release of a new theatrical film. Capping things off, DC announced a massive “Wonder Woman Day” the Saturday of the movie’s opening weekend (similar to “Batman Day” that’s been celebrated for a few years now) involving free comics, events and retailer exclusives.
The problem the studio faced more than any other is that it was a first mover, beating Marvel/Disney to theaters with a solo movie for a female superhero. So, it was under the microscope with many people looking to see if it would support the movie as much as it did previous films that seemed more geared toward “traditional” comic fans, meaning dudes and bros 13-50.
There are certainly areas that could have been given more emphasis—the paid campaign stands out—but there are others that have been ? , especially the posters.
Tracking data from a month ago predicts an opening weekend of around $80 million, not huge by superhero franchise standards, and a number that may be impacted by the generally poor critical reception of previous DC movies and press narratives around them not doing well at the box-office in comparison to Marvel’s output. That will likely improve as the paid campaign fully amps up, and if it does indeed underperform, it will be easy to lay fault at the feet of the TV campaign, despite insistence from WB that it’s spending more on this movie than it did on Suicide Squad.
We’ll have to wait another month to see how all this turns out, of course, and gauge whether WB really did all it could to sell a property that in many ways is truly unique.
The Fans. The Brands. Social Good. The Future of Sports. Don't miss the upcoming Brandweek Sports Marketing Summit and Upfronts, a live virtual experience on Nov. 16-19. Early-bird passes available until Oct. 26. Register now.