Film on Lost Boys of Sudan Uses Keys to Stand Out
By Stuart Elliott
THE creators, producers and distributors of a new film are hoping that keys will be the key to helping their movie stand out in a crush of fall releases.
The film, “The Good Lie,” is a drama featuring Reese Witherspoon that is to be released by Warner Bros. on Oct. 3. The film tells a fictionalized story based on the arrival in the United States more than a decade ago of African refugees known as the Lost Boys of Sudan; Ms. Witherspoon portrays an employment agency counselor who helps a group of Lost Boys arriving in Kansas City adjust to American life.
A campaign to build awareness of — and sell tickets for — “The Good Lie,” which is to begin on Thursday, is centered on two tactics that are significantly reshaping the way movies are now promoted: social media and cause marketing.
The campaign involves a nonprofit organization in Los Angeles, the Giving Keys, that was coincidentally started by an actress, Caitlin Crosby. The organization hires people who are trying to escape homelessness to make jewelry from repurposed keys that are inscribed with inspirational messages; buyers of a key are asked to “pay it forward” by giving it away to someone “you feel needs the message” and then blogging about the experience on the organization’s website, thegivingkeys.com.
In connection with “The Good Lie,” 250 keys inscribed with the word “Give” on one side and “Good” on the other will be distributed to celebrities and other so-called influencers who have a large and loyal following on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube. The campaign will have elements that include a hashtag, #GiveGood; a video clip; events like engraving of keys for those attending screenings of “The Good Lie”; and giveaways of 50 additional keys to fans whose posts in social media are deemed inspiring and carry the hashtag.
Plans also call for the conversations generated in social media to be amplified by, among others, Ms. Crosby, the Giving Keys and Warner Bros., using their own social media accounts.
The cause-marketing aspects of the campaign are part of an attempt to aim “The Good Lie” at religious audiences. Another example is a philanthropic effort, the Good Lie Fund, in conjunction with the Tides Foundation, raising money to help Lost Boys in real life.
The campaign is being created by Ignition Factory in Los Angeles, which works for Warner Bros. and is part of the Omnicom Media Group division of the Omnicom Group. Although Warner Bros. and Ignition Factory declined to discuss the budget for the campaign, the social media focus suggests it is a thrifty initiative, estimated in the low tens of thousands of dollars.
“This kind of promotion, a way to give back, is inventive and in line with everything we’re trying to do on a grass-roots basis around the country” to interest moviegoers in “The Good Lie,” said Molly Smith, a producer of “The Good Lie” who was executive producer of the Oscar-winning movie “The Blind Side.”
“What I like about it is that it’s like a call to action,” she added, “giving people another way to be proud of giving back” and giving celebrities a way to “talk about something positive they’re doing instead of selfies.”
“The Good Lie” is not an easy film to market in that it has “themes and values” that may appeal to religious ticket buyers, Ms. Smith said, but “isn’t strictly a faith-based movie; it isn’t ‘The Ten Commandments.’ ” Ms. Smith financed “The Good Lie” through her Black Label Media and it is being released by Warner Bros. through a distribution deal with Alcon Entertainment, a company in which her father, Frederick W. Smith, founder and chairman of FedEx, is a primary investor.
The campaign is the first time that the Giving Keys has been involved with a “major motion picture,” Ms. Crosby said, adding, “I love what this film represents.”
“We’re going to encourage our followers and influencers, and their followers and influencers, to do random acts of kindness,” she added, “from the smallest gesture to big things like Reese’s character.”
The emotional components of the campaign echo some themes for the traditional advertising for “The Good Lie,” including posters and print ads that carry the headline “Miracles are made by people who refuse to stop believing” and these lines that are superimposed on screen during the theatrical trailer: “She opened her home. They opened her eyes.”
Chris Denson, West Coast director of Ignition Factory, said: “At the end of the day, we wanted this to be an extension of the storytelling and not make it feel like marketing. ‘Give Good’ is so central to what the story is.”
It is crucial that potential audiences not perceive the campaign as “a stunt,” he added, and the social media platforms will achieve a goal to “develop a community of like-minded people.”
At the same time, “one thing we like about this program is that it has a physical component” in the form of the keys, Mr. Denson said, in contrast to many social media efforts that have no tangible presence in real life.
Still, the number of keys will be limited to “close to 350,” he added, because “creating exclusivity is key, no pun intended,” to stimulating buzz online.