The Five Biggest Mistakes of the Jupiter Ascending Marketing Campaign



Now, I don’t mean to blame any individuals here – Jupiter Ascending is a very difficult film in that it defies easy categorisation, which makes it very hard to market. I can envisage the WB marketing team collectively breaking out into a cold sweat after seeing it for the first time (”err, sir, how do we market all the creepy incestuous stuff?” “You don’t! Not a word about it! Okay? Not a damn word!”).

Despite that, I think we can all agree that the marketing campaign for the film (such as it was) failed badly in that it didn’t capitalise on the film’s strengths. Here, I run down the main things the marketing campaign got wrong/failed to do at all:

1. Presenting the film as a typical action-oriented sci-fi flick/constantly name-checking The Matrix

While Jupiter Ascending does have several big action set pieces and people punching things, it’s almost entirely atypical as far as modern sci-fi films are concerned. It’s sci-fantasy and entirely unashamed of that, creating its own bonkers universe and splashing around in it happily like a pig in muck. The world-building in Jupiter Ascending is every bit as important, if not more important, than the action. If the marketing campaign had really pushed the weird and wonderful world of Jupiter Ascending to the fore rather than the action, people probably would have gone into it more willing to be immersed and drawn into the mythology. Instead of that, people were looking for slick action a la The Matrix (while I felt the action in JA was great, varied and nicely executed, it’s very different from the action in The Matrix on multiple levels – anyone expecting something in the same vein as The Matrix will have been sorely disappointed). Instead, they got flying rollerblades.

2. Not putting out an art book

The one aspect of Jupiter Ascending that almost everyone could agree on was its visuals – they were bloody beautiful and were marvellously realised by an exceptionally talented pool of VFX artists. I’ve read comments from people essentially saying that while they didn’t enjoy the film, they adored the visuals and would love to own a book exploring them. Such a book would have really celebrated one of the strongest aspects of the film, emphasising its visual beauty and grandeur.

3. Airbrushing Eddie Redmayne’s freckles into oblivion (see image)

Look at the comparison pics above and you’ll hear a million graphic artists crying out in agony at seeing their profession so cruelly defamed. While this is obviously a small thing in terms of the bigger picture, it seems deeply foolish to render your Academy Award-nominated/winning lead villain unrecognisable on account of excessive airbrushing.

4. Limited promotion

The film had an unusually limited promotional trail, with the main cast members only showing up at a single premiere (the LA one). While there were various other screenings in London, Chicago and Tokyo, they weren’t really major events and didn’t generate much coverage. Cast interviews were also limited, with only Mila Kunis, Douglas Booth and Sean Bean really pulling their weight when it came to the promotional treadmill. I can only think that the film’s marketing budget ended up being very small indeed given the size of the film, since a film with a budget of $178 million would normally have a full-on marketing blitz to back it up and multiple major premières around the world. In short, the studio lacked faith so didn’t back the film up with the marketing resources it sorely needed.

5. Not targeting the film at women

This is perhaps the single biggest mistake of the campaign, since it’s absolutely fundamental. A make-up kit and a few fashion dolls aside, Jupiter Ascending was pretty much marketed as a typical sci-fi action flick – the trailers, advance clips and interviews emphasised the action. Working off the promotional materials alone, it would be easy to mistake Caine for the lead. Jupiter Ascending is the story of Jupiter Jones and her personal growth, and it’s unique and really rather wonderful because of that. The marketing campaign for Jupiter Ascending didn’t really respect or cheerlead for the film’s main character, shoving her aside so the spotlight could rest on a bankable male star (Tatum). In the end, all of the hype and excitement from women came from the grassroots level – from tumblr, twitter and female-run blogs and podcasts. In failing to capitalise on the film’s appeal to women, the marketing campaign effectively missed Jupiter Ascending’s in-built audience.

But it’s not all bad. Jupiter Ascending is gradually finding an audience, and the person running the WB tumblr gets it (I will forever be grateful for “intellectually fascinating”). Learn from your mistakes, WB – it’s not too late to put out an art book!