In the lead-up to Friday's release of The Night Before, Sony has promised the "funniest Christmas movie of all time." And if the materials we've seen to date speak truth, they appear poised to deliver on that promise. Gone are last year's complications leading up to the release of The Interview; this is the creative partnership of Seth Rogen and Sony unshackled from the dead weight of militant hackers and threats of violence.
There have been the usual rounds of interviews, trailers, and clips, but Sony also played around with finding the funny in a number of unique ways to promote the movie, particularly with the Bitmoji app, an extension of the original Bitstrips web comics app maker.
Essentially, Bitmojis are a fun way to cartoonify yourself, and the results can be hilarious when used in the right context, a quality that Sony took full advantage of to promote The Night Before.
First, the official Twitter account launched a Bitmoji #NightBeforeUglySweater sweepstakes. Followers were encouraged to submit Bitmojis of themselves wearing ugly Christmas sweaters for the chance to win an actual ugly Christmas sweater, just like the three leads of the movie (Rogen, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Anthony Mackie) wear on their last wild night out.
It was all in good fun, which is exactly what Sony was aiming for. Some might view the use of the Bitmoji app to enter a sweepstakes as too limiting for a broad audience, but Sony wasn't targeting a broad audience with its marketing campaign. The demographic targeted with the R-rated comedy falls squarely in the millennial age range, that tech-savvy, app-hungry demographic 20- and 30-somethings who grew up on Seth Rogen and Judd Apatow comedies.
But Sony also took full advantage of its charismatic, social media-savvy cast, as well. Carrying on with the Bitmoji love affair, Rogen, Mackie, and Gordon-Levitt took to Buzzfeed for an interview in which they answered using only Bitmoji cartoons - and the results were hilarious.
In case you were wondering, this is how they negotiate their salaries:
Anthony: I don’t care about no money!
Seth: I go, “Aaaaaw yeah!”
Joseph: And I wear my pearls!
It was an entertaining twist on the traditional interview, which can often run the risk of being cookie cutter, generating nothing but canned responses. Granted, it's rare to get anything other than a candid interview with any of those three particular actors, but that's the point - Sony knew its target audience didn't care as much about the filmmaking process as it did about the fan-favorite actors themselves. It was a smart move in today's individual brand-focused culture.
Likewise, Gordon-Levitt took to Facebook for a live Q&A with fans and his responses ranged from serious to silly. The interactive nature of the format allowed him to flash his trademark wit with fans, who wanted to know everything from advice on becoming an actor to whether or not he misses his glorious long locks from his 3rd Rock from the Sun days (the answer is yes, every time he tries to headbang to Guns 'n Roses).
And tonight, the trio will go big or go home, guest-starring on Spike's wildly popular Lip Sync Battle in a special holiday-themed episode. It's a show that has become a regular fixture in pop culture conversation, with dozens of episodes having previously gone viral. It's yet another way to harness the naturally engaging personalities of the cast, and get a potential Night Before audience to love them just that much more on the eve of the movie's premiere. If fans loved watching them do karaoke in reality, why wouldn't they love watching the same thing in a movie that's sure to be even more hilarious?
Sure, there are those who didn't "get" the marketing campaign, but the target audience did. The entire point was to have fun, to be a little silly, a little experimental, a little wild, and, yes, even a little immature. It mirrored the movie's plot, with Rogen, Mackie, and Gordon-Levitt's characters on the cusp of having to grow up and settle down, a prospect that many millennials are wrestling with in reality. The thought of just putting off the pressures of adulthood for one last, crazy blow-out is something to which most in the target demographic can relate.
Sony knew this, and zeroed in directly on that audience with the ultra-creative, relatable marketing campaign. And it appears to be paying off, with the small, counter-culture comedy on track to rake in $16.5 million in its opening weekend, a respectable haul for the modestly budgeted comedy.