Batman V Superman Marketing Case: What Went Wrong?

Considering the fresh but rotten Batman V Superman reviews according to Rotten Tomatoes, you may ask “What did go right?” but my issue here is not its content since I didn’t see it yet, but to point out how Warner Bros. handled its marketing process. Although it’s clear the main problem lies in the content, as well as in the title itself.

2016 will be a significant year for the superhero movies. For the ones who are not overload by superhero inflation already expect more to come. Deadpool came in its naughty and dirty glory, Batman V Superman is here now, Civil War is so close, and X-Men: Apocalypse, Suicide Squad and Doctor Strange are on their way. Fox made a huge success with Deadpool, not just in terms of box office and reviews but also its incredible campaign management. As much as I loved Deadpools brutally honest and straightforward campaign, I hated Batman V Superman’s almost every step which basically shouts right at your face ‘Give Me Your Money Now You Punk!’. While Deadpool’s campaign was so unconventional, hilarious and over-the-top, almost everything about Batman V Superman’s were extremely conventional, boring and overloaded. So to say, it was a perfect example of ‘over-marketing’.

DC Comics’ two biggest heroes are sharing the big screen for the very first time. A match between The Dark Knight and Man of Steel is a pretty big deal, even if you are not a hardcore comics fan but an average movie goer. It’s the greatest gladiator match in the history of the world indeed, as Lex Luthor indicated almost in every trailer. Then, why most of us feel barely excited about this biggest superhero fight we’ll see on big screen?

The problem lays in the fact that Batman V Superman is the first movie of DC Extended Cinematic Universe project. I exclude Man of Steel here, because producers weren’t sure about for a cinematic universe project at that time. Everything was depending on the possibility whether Man of Steel will be successful or not. This project, however, is incredibly important for Warner Bros.

Since we talk about cinematic universe, it’s inevitable to mention Marvel/Disney. Marvel Cinematic Universe project which started in 2008 with Iron Man was a goal to achieve for WB Entertainment, even if it’s not possible to surpass it in the moment. To catch up to the momentum Marvel created in 8 years, Warner Bros. dived into the cinematic universe project right away. They needed a shared universe and they needed it as soon as possible. This may sound familiar to anyone who works at advertising or involved in marketing. Just like any other project would go under these circumstances, expectations raised, process was fastened up and creativity dropped to catch up the deadline. In a short period of time, Warner Bros/DC Entertainment announced a series of standalone and team-up movies which are planned to end in 2020 for now.

Marvel, on the other hand, has done at least five stand-alone movies where they introduced their characters before a team-up movie. They slowly kept building their shared universe until this year’s Civil War. Some were successful in terms of critics, some may not, but for them, we can all say now it’s a good time to release a movie where superheroes can clash with each other. Even if Iron Man or Captain America doesn’t die in Civil War, there are many other superheroes in the universe now and we may expect casualties. They share so less and keep the vital details as secret so successfully, we believe anything can happen, anyone may die at this point.

Can you say the same thing for this movie? Considering this is the first movie we’ll see Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman together, how can you expect one of them to die or lose in the movie? And how accurate to build up your whole marketing campaign on the possibility of one of them to lose? Does the campaign going on under the #WhoWillWin hashtag really mean anything at this point? Isn’t just the answer simply ‘none of them’?

To me, Batman V Superman just seems like a big, glorious merchandising project which Warner Entertainment can sell tons of action figures, clothes, comics, and many many many other products that include even cereals. You cannot expect from big budgeted action/fantasy/sci-fi movies and comicbook adaptations to sell more merchandising products for sure. As someone from advertising business, this isn’t something I can argue. Yet, I can argue the way they sell those. Especially, for me, Disney is more aggressive about this than any other. Honestly, during The Force Awakens campaign, I couldn’t remember the last time I checked the internet and Star Wars wasn’t there. That’s not my point. Warner Bros’ way of selling doesn’t just seem to be aggressive but also, it looks like products were already manifactured, stored, packaged and they needed to make a movie to sell those.

By now, aren’t we all overwhelmed by all Batman V Superman teasers, trailers, TV spots, Turkish Airlines ads, viral campaigns, product commercials, many other posters, banners, print and outdoor ads? Well, of course, there is nothing more natural than doing a 360° advertising for a company like Warner Bros. since this is the biggest superhero adaptation they do. I’m just not sure marketing teams and agencies they work with understand really the notion ‘less is more’. For example, when you combine all the teasers, trailers and TV spots together, you can basically watch 15 minutes of the movie. Anyone in the bussiness can say showing the 15 minutes of two and half an hour long movie is an enthusiasm-killer.

As a die-hard Batman fan, I’ll sure go watch the movie but I can’t help to wonder how Zack Snyder, executive producers and all the teams involved in the process took Batman V Superman from the point ‘a project awaited with an incredible anticipation’ and brought to the point ‘audience is not really dying to see’ in less than a year? Is it really my fault having zero expectations and excitement despite of being a fan who can give everything to see Batman & Superman on the screen together? Am I wrong to think that I feel like I’ve already seen it?

Nevertheless, it will probably break the record of Man of Steel’s $115 million dollars in its opening weekend, but will it survive the critical verdict aftermath? More importantly, will the upcoming movies in DC’s plate survive Batman V Superman’s poor start?

Let’s all hope The Joker, Harley Quinn and Deadshot heat the things up in David Ayer’s Suicide Squad this summer. The positive reactions that movie will gather may sweep away the negativity around Batman V Superman.

Now, I will go and amuse myself with this irony for a while: Superheroes’ future is now in the hands of the villains. What a twist. Didn’t see that coming, did you?