5 Marketing Mistakes of ‘Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey’
How bad marketing is ruining an amazing movie
While Joaquin Phoenix just won the Oscar for best actor for his main role in “The Joker,” another movie was just released that starred The Joker’s unfamous partner, Harley Quinn.
After the success of her character in “Suicide Squad,” Margot Robbie plays the role of the popular DC character again in her own spin-off. With around $746 million generated for “Suicide Squad,” “Birds of Prey” seemed to be a sure hit.
To be fair, the movie’s production is not bad, and it even earned really positive critic reviews on Rotten Tomatoes.
However, the movie is underperforming by at least $12 million, which is kind of huge for a film of this caliber. Although the movie had no competition, it still didn’t manage to meet expectations.
Many of these problems can be traced back to the marketing of the movie. So how did a movie about a popular DC character and featuring a huge star with an established reputation fail at the box office?
Here are the reasons why.
Believe it or not, the movie was not named “Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey” at first, but “Birds of Prey (And The Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn),” which, as you’ll notice, was not the easiest name to remember.
The title was changed on the last day before the theater release. The change was announced by Warner Bros. as “part of a ‘search expansion for ticket sites,’ making it easier for people to find the movie.”
Using the main character’s name first is common practice, and trying to complicate the name too much can lead to misunderstandings and a bad SEO ranking. The decision to forgo using Harley Quinn’s name in the first place baffled industry members.
This mistake demonstrates the impact of having clear and concise titles that are easily recognizable.
2. Bad Trailers
As said before, the movie is actually pretty funny, and it’s R-rated. It resembles “Deadpool” more than other comic characters.
Instead of attracting people with a trailer that surrounded this crazy universe, the marketers decided to play it safe by sharing a PG-13 kind of trailer that failed miserably to generate the expected momentum.
Exploring the utter ridiculousness and the R-rated side of the movie like this trailer would have been far more appropriate.
I would not be surprised if they released another trailer in the upcoming period to make it fit more with the spirit of the movie.
3. No Traction
In general, when a comic character gains momentum and they decide to produce a spin-off movie about it, the initial movie will be used to market the solo one.
Not in this case. The studio decided to separate “Birds of Prey” from “Suicide Squad,” labeling it as a standalone movie. Except for some appearances along with “The Joker” release or “Bad Boys for Life,” “Birds of Prey” was kind of left on its own.
Although this strategy is understandable for “The Joker,” with a different story and actor, in “Harley Quinn” it remains a mystery.
Sue Kroll, the executive producer said this about it:
“They are two standalone stories. Both are part of the complex and diverse DC world.”
4. Wrong Targetting
With a predominantly female crew in front and behind the camera, they decided that it would be a good idea to focus their marketing strategies on women.
Once again, they were wrong. The movie pulled a 53% male audience. It’s quite obvious that when you combine the sexuality of the comic character and the talent of Margot Robbie, the male audience will go crazy.
Not that their intentions or moves were bad: They tried to ride the “free independent women” train and promote a female cast.
Later on, when they realized their mistake, they decided to readjust their strategy and target the male audience.
The director Cathy Yan gave this answer when asked about the subject:
“Ideally, I hoped that the movie would be seen as not alienating to the other half. It had to be fun for everyone, and enjoyable. I don’t think we were too vicious or antagonistic or aggressive in any way. We don’t want it to be alienating; that doesn’t serve us.”
5. R-Rated, But Why?
While most of my fellow writers and critics agreed that the marketing moves made by Warner Bros. were questionable, I found this Forbes article that said that marketing was not to blame for the film’s failure.
He then proceeded to admit that rating the movie as R excluded children and also parents who didn’t want to watch the movie alone.
Following the “Deadpool” path was questionable as the character and the actor Ryan Reynolds were a perfect fit for each other. In addition, even in the movies, the unfamous superhero was not too far from the comics.
Harley Quinn, on the other hand, was an interpretation of the producers. This made it harder for passionate fans to relate to the character.
As changes to the movie marketing strategies are still being implemented, other factors like the coronavirus are affecting their theater sales in the Asian market.
With $88 million generated worldwide, the movie still needs to pass the $300- million milestone to avoid a loss.
I hope that these changes will prevent such a good piece of art from flopping.
Meanwhile, if you ever get the chance to see the movie, I would love to hear your thoughts about it in the comments section