With the first movie such a success, it’s no surprise that Warner Bros. is starting to roll out the marketing for this year’s It: Chapter 2. The movie, scheduled for release this November, tells the story in the second half of Stephen King’s original novel, following The Losers Club as they are now adults who’ve been pulled back to their hometown by the reemergence of Pennywise the clown.
The first trailer debuted today, showing a suitably creepy scene of Jessica Chastain’s character taking tea with an increasingly unnerving older woman.
You can watch the trailer below, but here’s another aspect of the marketing that’s even more notably clever:
Members of the cast have, with various levels of directness, been posting Instagram photos that might seem innocent at first blush until you notice the red balloon floating nearby. Chastain and James McAvoy along with Jay Ryan, Isaiah Mustafa, Andy Bean and James Ransone have all posted photos featuring a lurking balloon just like the one Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård) caries in the story.
The Instagram stunt, followed quickly by today’s trailer drop, mark the biggest bump yet in the marketing of It: Chapter 2 following last year’s San Diego Comic-Con, where WB included first look footage from the movie as part of a “Scare Diego” panel highlighting it and other horror fare for fans of the genre.
Enlisting talent to actively promote upcoming projects on personal social media profiles is a tactic Hollywood increasingly relies on. For many actors, it’s simply a good decision—if they can raise awareness and interest, it makes the movie more successful and boosts their careers. Ryan Reynolds has become known for taking a personal stake in the promotion of his movies, such as the Deadpool franchise (on which he was a producer) and the upcoming Detective Pikachu.
Some stars, like Dwayne Johnson, have such massive followings and such fierce control over their personal brands they’re able to charge studios for those promotions, with Johnson reportedly commanding $1 million for posts on his personal accounts.
Executions like this are undertaken by studios for the exact same reason they engage in influencer marketing campaigns; because they understand promotions from celebrities and well-known personalities are considered more trustworthy and relevant than posts and promotions from a brand account.
It’s a mindset also on display in the posts from the It: Chapter 2 stars. Those photos are, at first, quite normal and unextraordinary. Chastain is out for a walk with her dog, Mustafa is stepping out for a quick call. Only a few explicitly call attention to being part of the movie’s campaign or acknowledge the ominous balloon lurking behind them. Those more vague posts want the audience to hunt for what’s unusual, adding to the mystery and terror because OMG don’t you see what’s in the background, Jessica?!?!?!?
The official movie Instagram account has been getting in on the action, as well. All previous photos have been deleted from the account, which was used for the original, and then a series of balloon images appeared to be counting down to the release of the trailer.
That the actors are posting pictures of themselves along with the red balloons but the studio’s official account is taking a more direct approach shows how the marketing message needs to be tweaked for different profiles. The official account is more straightforward and less clever, implicitly understanding that audiences aren’t going to have the same reaction to something posted there they might have in response to a photo from someone the caliber of McAvoy.
With six months to go before the movie hits theaters, there’s still plenty of time for Warner Bros. to roll out even more engaging marketing tactics. The studio may have something big in store for this year’s San Diego Comic-Con or other events similar to what it did in 2017 for the original.
Whatever might be in the works, it’s clear that spooky red balloon is bound to be front and center. Or, as the case might be, hovering nearby, almost out of sight.