Critics loved it. Sundance launched it. A little movie starring Kumail Nanjiani and Zoe Kazan told the incredible true “love sick” story of Kumail falling for his wife against a world of opposition, personal and cultural. The core obstacles were tricky subjects to address and needed just the right touch. First, soon after meeting, his girlfriend falls into a coma; second, his Pakistani parents object to him dating a non-Pakistani (“a white girl”). Both key plot points were hot topic issues, potentially divisive, so the social assets framing the story had to be as smart and funny as the film itself.
The campaign wove together a mix of clip-based content, original pieces, and special shoot video. We worked closely with the Lionsgate team to draft copy options for each asset and multiple options for post copy until hitting exactly the right notes – humility, a fresh angle, the unexpected offbeat joke, and a dry conversational tone that welcomed fans into the world as friends who got the joke. The goal was to get fans talking up The Big Sick as something that truly “feels different,” driving anticipation in waves as the movie set to roll out in phases.
So to deliver broad ticket sales, we built out from the core appeal: comedy. Produced by Judd Apatow and starring a fresh comedy voice (and co-starring Ray Romano), this was our test: is the content funny? Whenever “romance” or “culture clash” or other narrative beats came into play, they had to be in service of the larger comedy sell. As the premiere approached, we also drove awareness of the Big Sick Comedy Tour as it rolled across the country, again reaffirming the film’s stand-up comedy bona-fides.
Comedy was the gateway to the mainstream audience; and our very hands-on, tailor-made campaign helped open the gate wide for this indie jewel. The Big Sick opened in just five theaters with an incredible $84k per screen average. Our campaign ramped up with a focus on critic quotes and intensified community management; by the national debut 3 weeks later, it totalled $7.5M in weekend ticket sales and continues to play strong week after week, with over $34M and counting.
Total Results (2 weeks after wide release):
449,566 Total Engagements
57,970 New Fans
+ 75,764,789 Impressions
Over 400 paid media assets created for local markets
Mining the Comedy
The Anti-Marketing Campaign
These characters are real people – so we wanted to speak to fans outside the bubble of movie marketing fiction. This mini-campaign presented our cast in a series of statics as if a friend were chatting up the film and breaking down the players. The look moved away from high-gloss to simple backgrounds with a dry one-liner and a clean and simple headshot. To reinforce the “real people” angle, we also created faux dating app profiles for our two leads.
SPECIAL SHOOT CONTENT
Kumail & Ray: Platform Riffing
When you’ve got stand-up comedy improv talent starring in your comedy, use them. We leveraged a special shoot day to create custom content tailored for different platforms and holidays. Kumail and Ray took out ideas and outlines for comedy bits then riffed their own call-outs, leaning into their character voices and teasing the movie – including a unique elevator pitch of his own movie by Kumail.
SNAPCHAT STORIES AND FILTERS
The Big Sick Comedy Tour
The stars hit the road for live stand-up tour across the country, from NYC to LA. Kumail and Ray, along with Aidy Bryant and Kurt Braunohler performed in 5 cities; for each stop, we delivered Snapchat Story cover images and lenses. Judd Apatow even took a turn at the mic on the College Tour, as talent hit a slew of campuses for screenings and hilarious Q&A sessions.
For each event, our community managers gave a hard push across official channels to drive awareness of the tours with the underlying message that The Big Sick was all about making people laugh.
And… Everyone Raved
This was one of those “don’t miss” movies everyone agreed on; so we leaned hard on glowing critic quotes to drive new fans to the theater, laying the text over motion pieces to capture the interplay between the stars. We also surprised new fans who tweeted how much they loved the movie after seeing it by tweeting back original illustrations featuring their “reviews.”