Over the last few days, people have asked if the Wonder Woman marketing undersells the picture. Considering the history of studios not standing by or hyping female-led CBMs, this worry has some legitimacy.
That said, I’m not sure it’s a valid worry in this case. Looking at Wonder Woman in the context of her cultural heft, the dominant narratives surrounding the movie, and the previous entries into the DCEU, I think that the marketing team surrounding this film knows exactly what they’re doing.
First, I don’t think that DC undermarkets Wonder Woman. I think they’re targeting their marketing to specific groups — specifically, the most important group: women. Wonder Woman has a prequel YA tie in novel coming out, a makeup line, collectible Barbie dolls, and, if you walk into many department stores, you’ll find shirts, sports bras, leggings, and the like. This marketing looks at the demographic likely to both want a superheroine, and have the income to go see the movie. It puts the idea in the heads of little girls, young women, and their mothers.
Women have been waiting for a modern female superhero movie since Black Widow made her first appearance in Iron Man 2. Wonder Woman gives them that. DC is counting on that market: women not necessarily paying attention to movie press or reviews, who just want to see a badass woman headlining a major superhero picture.
These are the women who are most likely to enjoy Wonder Woman. These women haven’t been swamped with the rumors dogging the production, or the overwhelming narrative in genre criticism that the DCEU is failed/failing, and who just want to enjoy a movie about a character they recognize, but might not actually know anything about. This is the general audience market that DC wants to court with this marketing campaign.
LEARNING FROM THE PAST
From what I can tell, DC has learned a very important thing from releasing Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad in the same year: you need to target your marketing. BVS had the big-deal, tentpole marketing akin to what an Avengers movie gets. That got the Avengers-type audience in seats — but BVS was not an Avengers-type movie, and so critical and audience reception suffered.
Then, the Suicide Squad stuff was almost laser targeted at the ‘Hot Topic’ demo, both in terms of content and in the style of the marketing. Dark, gritty backgrounds mixed with intense pops of secondary-color neon, and characters like the Joker and Harley dominated the marketing. This got that demographic in, but there was also another demographic that came in droves, especially during that hugely leggy period after the opening weekend: people of color and women. They came to see Harley, sure, but they also came for Will Smith‘s Deadshot, and, likely, because this movie had the highest ratio of characters of color to white people that a comic book movie has seen so far.
DC knows now that its best bet is to market to the niches most likely to enjoy the content, and to pay attention to women and people of color as markets. While Justice League will likely still be marketed like a tentpole due to Batman’s position as a major part of the narrative, Wonder Woman is aimed at women.
I think that’s a good thing and a smart business move. By focusing on courting female audiences, they’re looking at the audience most likely to express excitement and joy to see the movie in June. That audience reception will ultimately be far more important than the critical one — think about how Suicide Squad ultimately grossed over $700mill worldwide in the face of middling and negative reviews, because it was in theaters for basically forever, because people kept coming.
Do I think they could be marketing more? Yeah, probably. I don’t watch a lot of TV, but I’m surprised I haven’t seen any of the TV spots or trailers on YouTube yet. But I think the mode in which DC is marketing is the right way to go.
Wonder Woman, starring Gal Gadot and directed by Patty Jenkins, will premiere on June 2, 2017. Focusing on the First World War, we will follow Diana as she enters ‘Man’s World’ for the first time and aims to save the world.