September 14, 2018

The Cutesy, Bromantic Brilliance of Civil Wars Marketing

If the box office numbers are any indication, that whole “everyone and their mom saw Captain America: Civil War” cliche might actually be true: the movie raked in a whopping $181.8 million last weekend in North America alone. While a lot of that success, no doubt, came thanks to nearly universal praise for the film, Marvel’s marketing gave people a healthy push into theaters to make it the fifth-biggest opening weekend ever. But what exactly got those extra butts in seats? We looked into it, and what we found was…well, it was weird.

The marketing campaign isn’t a self-aware meta-troll like Deadpool’s, or a self-serious, doofy dad schtick like Batman v Superman’s. Instead, it flips between stoic and cutesy; throwback and bleeding-edge; Reddit and Tumblr. In other words, it’s Marvel’s soul. Take a look.

Audience Participation (i.e. Pick a Side … Or Else!)

From the get-go there have been consistent calls to pick a superhero team, ranging from rah-rah to angsty to … Walmart.

And the team-building exercises really went to the next level on Twitter, where polls were conducted by the official Captain America: Civil War account:

Poor Cap seems about as good at Twitter as you’d expect. (Is that a Santa reference or a threat?)

And it’s not likeChris Evans’ account has any morepanachethan his character’s. It’s mostly about the Patriots (he’s a big Tom Brady fan/Deflategate denier), but he’s also got some tweets like this one:

That’s sweet, Chris, but you’re no match for Robert Downey Jr.’s more insouciantcalls to action.

Luckily, Evans got a little backup from Team Deadpool, aka Ryan Reynolds, aka the Trickster God of Marketing.

So far, all normal, dudely, superhero stuff. But when Marvel tries to use RDJ the way Deadpool uses Reynolds, things start to go sideways in a truly spectacular fashion.

The Big RDJ Tease

To begin with, let’s just agreethat Robert Downey Jr. is beloved bythe Internet, and the feeling appears to be mutual.

Onelook at these Avengers-themed holiday tweets, andit’s hardnot to believe deep in your heart that RDJ isas much of a stanas you are.

Being an unpredictable charm-bomb is RDJ’s thing,and while Marvel long agolearned to ride that bomb like Slim Pickens in Doctor Strangeloveyou could even argue that it helped shape the MCU’s toneit’s suited to aviral marketing campaign in a way thatCaptain America and his trademark apple-pie sincerity never could be.

But even the sincerity works when it’s wielded right. OneOmaze campaign raised funds for RDJ’s newly minted charity, Random Act of Funding: Donors entered to win a trip to NYC, where they’d get a seat in the audience for the filming of an episode of The Tonight Show, a private screening of Civil War, and a pizza dinner/photoshoot with Iron Man himself.

Look at this very Internet, very RDJ promo video:

So, basically what’s on offer here is a date with Robert Downey Jr., right? It certainly feels that way.

Bromancing the Stone

Even allowing for the fact that RDJisa troll, he’s beenshipping Iron Man/Captain America sohard that he might have been possessed byTumblr. (There’s is a large and noisy contingent of fansmostly women, mostly on that platformwho are extremelycommitted to the idea that Cap and Iron man are in love, and have been reading Civil War as a lovers’ quarrel from Day 1.)

Whether Marvel is complicit or not, this certainly looks like RDJ playing right into that narrative. And judging from the favorites/retweets, the fans ate it up.

That’s not to say that other parts of the Civil War marketing campaign aren’t similarlycutesylike, say, these custom emoji.

But since the bulk of this massive marketing campaign has beenstandard-issue, seeing Civil War through rom-com-tinted glasses is the closest thing they have to what feels like a stunt. Marvelmight notask actors tomassage Conan O’Brien in costume,buton the other hand, you’ve gotChris Evans saying this on late night television:

It’s no secret that Marvel movies are a dude-fest, and the male-female breakdown on those custom emoji is 9/2. Could this be an attemptalbeit a bizarro, kinda lackluster oneto win women over and smooth some ruffled feathers? Maybe, maybe not. Either way, though,consider usentertained.

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