With a budget of 35,000,000, It has been able to splurge in production and marketing, securing worldwide headlines and attention. Following all the usual expectations of film marketing, the films success can be partially accounted to the marketing techniques and strategies used, as few of the movie’s fans have in fact read the book. It’s marketing campaign hasn’t revolved around securing well-known celebrities, or showing all the best scenes beforehand in the trailers. Instead, the marketing team have dedicated publicity stunts and social media to immerse the audience inside the story and making the town of Derry and its resident clown Pennywise seem a very real threat to our world. The boundaries between our world and Stephen King’s fiction are so successfully blurred we almost need to go to the cinema to make sure the story is in fact, just a film.
The tag line of the movie sums up the film’s marketing approach. ‘You’ll float too’ threatens, involves, and personally targets the viewer. Taken from the book, it refers to Pennywise’s luring of the children into the sewers, where they will float when they’re dead – the main horror aspect of the film. This tag line tells us that we are in just as much danger as the fictional children; Pennywise and his habits are maybe not so fantastical after all. Instead we have become involved in the story, told by the marketers, the film creators, and perhaps Pennywise, that we are in danger, the boundaries between Derry and our world dissolved. And when we’re told this, we’re sent back to our six year old selves and for the two seconds it takes to read the words, we’re almost sent into Georgie’s body, clad in that little yellow raincoat and wondering what, exactly, is that in the sewer? And when we stop reading, a shiver runs down our spines as we wonder how horrible exactly this movie can be – and most crucially, we’re willing to spend money to find out.
The most notable feature of It’s marketing campaign was the red balloons in Sydney during the run up to the film’s local premiere there. Overnight, red balloons were left tied to sewer drains accompanied with the film’s title and release dates, bringing the world of Derry to the locals. This publicity stunt was first class marketing, immersing the public and potential audience into the storyworld and causing some fright when they spotted the balloons.
As well as making the public scared and interested in the film, the stunt also caused a wave of free social media engagement, with people’s Twitter and Instagram accounts documenting the balloon appearances and ensuring the stunt reached people all over the world. The stunt’s effects and the free social media marketing it caused can be followed to the town of Lititz, PA. Police and media reported local balloon sightings, put up by a pranking fan rather that the It marketing team, and secured further endorsement of the film by the outlets who reported the stunt. The biggest case of the world of Derry and Pennywise seeming to be real and in our own world, the red balloon publicity stunt demonstrated the creative genius of the team and how much excitement the film could generate before people had seen the film, or, for the large part, read the book
There’s a few whispers of suspicions on the internet that last year’s clown sightings, with people donning clown costumes and scaring the public, were part of the film’s marketing campaign. The sightings certainly generated an active fear of clowns, turning them into the number one monster to fear. There’s no doubt this contributed to the hype of It and interest in it, but all allegations of the company being behind the sightings have been quickly shut down – the appearances weren’t taken lightly by the police across the countries they appeared in, and would be bad press for an official link between the two to be found.
Coincidence of not, the clown appearances of 2016/17 successfully bought clowns to life for the public, the unofficial start of Stephen King’s world entering our own and making us all terrified of Pennywise, Coulrophobia becoming a symptom of the impending release of It.
The release date of the film did not follow the trends of traditional horror movie releases, which usually arrive in the few weeks before Halloween. Released in the US on September 8, the film dominated what is known as a ‘dump month’ in the movie industry, traditionally being reserved for low-budget films which did not do well at their initial screenings. It has proved to be an exception to the rule though, undeterred by September’s risk to smash box offices and gain a $117.1 million dollar opening weekend; grossing the largest box offer record for any horror film.
The year of the film also ties in with bringing the world of It into our own. Stephen King’s book tells of Pennywise resurfacing every 27 years to the town of Derry. How long has it been since Tim Curry’s Pennywise came to our screens? 27 years. A detail for the fans, the year of the release adds even more to the feeling that Pennywise is in our own world and that It is the film to see this autumn.
The film’s presence on social media had its beginnings in January 2015, when director Andrew Muschietti posted a sketch of Pennywise on his Instagram. Hinting at Pennywise’s appearance, the character everyone was wondering what they would look like and how he would differ from Tim Curry’s 1990 portrayal, this image sparked interest and excitement about the film, with social media letting fans follow the developments.
The official social media campaign started in July 2016, with Muschietti uploading Missing Child posters from the fictional town of Derry. The first official image of the film came a few days later, where the character Pennywise was released, along with an interview with lead actor Skarsgård. This was followed up by Muschietti posting storyboard sketches, and then a release from Entertainment Weekly showing Pennywise’s full costume and an interview by costume designer Hanie Bryant. It received mostly positive reviews, with the biggest criticism being that Pennywise appeared too obviously scary. Whilst causing some divide, the release of the costume communicated one thing: that Skarsgård’s Pennywise was going to be one of instant terror and fear, setting up the tone of the rest of the campaign and film.
The film has official Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts, covering all of the expected social media platforms to be used. The film is notably lucky to have been able to use an emoji directly related and unique to the films plot – the red floating balloon. Whilst other films may struggle to find an emoji directly relevant, instead sticking to generic clown mask/ghost emoji’s, It has utilised their fortune well, with the balloon accompanying the majority of posts.
The Facebook page currently stands at having 1.7 million followers and but has stopped posting since late September – a sign of no longer needing to lure people to the cinema perhaps. The latest post follows the tone of the whole campaign whilst encouraging audience engagement with successful calls to action . Announcing its followers are part of the loser club now, the comments are filled with people tagging their friends to join them, effectively promoting the film to their friends. A previous post asks ‘How many times have you seen #IT?, prompting engagement and competition for who is the biggest fan whilst also encouraging people to see the film multiple times. Earlier posts include ‘IT can’t wait to meet you’ and merchandise giveaways for those who leave comments. It has used social media to further the feel of It being present in the audience’s reality, speaking directly to the reader and telling them that Pennywise is there.
The Instagram account has continued a more active approach. With 685k followers, it’s aimed more at fans than casual viewers and has recently started reposting fan’s art and costumes to its audience. A more personalised take on social media engagement, the Twitter has also followed this tone, with the filmmakers taking over to answer fans questions. The social media campaign has done well, utilising different platforms depending on their audience size but it is Facebook which perhaps has been most overlooked, especially as Halloween approaches. There have been no live videos and posts have stopped for a while, with no signs of the page being picked up any time soon – perhaps when the DVD release approaches, it will be.
The trailers for It have been released at large events for film fans, the movie successful in establishing itself as being worthy of a large fan following even from those who haven’t read the original book. The first trailer was released on March 11 2017 at the South by Southwest Festival, with the 90 seconds of footage released received well both with critics and the public, introducing them to the children of the film, the main characters. This was followed up 17 days later by a longer trailer and official poster first being released at CinemaCon and then receiving 197 million YouTube views in its first 24 hours. This was a new record in the number of trailer reviews received in a day, showing the success of the film’s marketing so far and the following it would have over the next few months.
The MTV Movie & TV Awards played host to the second teaser trailer released, another demonstration of the top-tier media events used to promote the film. Entertainment Weekly, a leading entertainment magazine, released new images and concept art of the film on July 13th, and on July 19th three reels of footage were shown at San Diego Comic-Con, continuing the release of the trailers seen as noteworthy events in themselves.
Two months before the film’s release, It had proved itself to have a large, record-breaking fan following, with viewers eagerly anticipating 90 seconds of footage, let alone the move itself. The portrayal of Pennywise and his differences to Tim Curry’s portrayal were being closely followed, with growing interest in the children of the film and just how scary It would be.
A high-profile film with an only just emerging A-list actor as its lead (Skarsgård’s only major American film previously was The Divergent Series: Allegiant, in 2016), it is no surprise that the PR team have secured interviews with major media outlets. Skarsgård has appeared on the Graham Norton Show, Jimmy Kimmel Live!, and CONAN, to name a few chat shows used to promote the film. Whilst not ground-breaking PR, It has upheld the expected standard when getting its actors interviews. It’s marketing has concerned Stephen King’s world seeming real and invoking that fear into its audience, but this is softened somewhat by PR appearances which break down the wall between audience, actor, and character. By no means weakening the campaign, PR is especially important with horror movies, showing the actors to be real, accessible, friendly and attractive people for the audience to fawn over and build up fan bases. This does of course, come with restrictions considering the majority of It’s cast are children, who will not draw the amount of following from the adult audience as fellow adults would. This explains the main focus on Skarsgård, who has had a rise in fan following and internet fan sites spring up since getting the role. Softening the actor’s image, the PR of It will most likely have been a collaboration between New Line Cinema and Skarsgård’s personal PR team, widening interest to audience members more successfully attracted to the film by individual characters than just the story.
Overall, the marketing campaign for It has been a well-documented success, with social media covering their publicity stunts and fueling an international fear of Pennywise and that he has entered our world. With relatively unknown actors and a September release date, the film could have stumbled but did not, with the hype for It coming from the marketing team picking up from a pre-existing interest in the story and a growing fear of clowns throughout the past couple of years. The most memorable thing about the campaign has been the balloons and eagerness of the public to post on social media. The balloons turned a previously innocent object into one of fear, invading our reality at the film’s Sydney premier and becoming iconic to the campaign. The social media posts have shown the campaign not only to have been successful, but enjoyed by the public who are eager to help join in. The aim to remove the boundaries between our world and Stephen King’s has been done with immense success, and with the fear of It being a well talked about and posted topic, it seems almost foolish not to go to the cinema and see what all the hype is about.