The Outrageous ‘M3GAN’ Marketing Campaign Was a Triumph

Alberto Rodriguez/GA
Alberto Rodriguez/GA

If you live in New York, or inhabit any corner of the social media landscape (Instagram, Twitter, even YouTube), chances are you’ve witnessed some absurd advertisements in the past month. More specifically, we’re hedging our bets that you’ve seen a life-size doll with strawberry blonde curls, a little button-down jacket, and gigantic eyes around lately—often dancing, always murderous. That girl is M3GAN, star of the movie M3GAN. She is everywhere.

As a part of Blumhouse’s guerilla marketing campaign for the movie, around a dozen M3GANs (humans dressed as the character, Mary Jane shoes, creepy blue eyes, and all) have been specifically unleashed on New York City, creeping everyone out on the subway and on top of the Empire State Building. They have raided the Today show and The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. And outside of NYC, they have marched onto football fields to do M3GAN’s now-infamous dance.

This all started when eight of the M3GAN women danced at the premiere for the movie out in Los Angeles, which wowed critics and other folks back in early December. Reactions to these girl dolls ranged from “simply gorgeous” to “I can’t wait for this lunacy.” That was only the beginning.

The M3GAN dolls have seen more of New York in a week than an NYU kid can manage in their whole freshman year, visiting late night and daytime talk shows, popping into the American Girl Doll store, skipping around Radio City Music Hall, and clomping up the escalators at a Regal Cinema to watch TÁR. The movie has subsequently posted these clips on every single one of their social media accounts, allowing users to share and quote-tweet to the high heavens.

Though the real life M3GAN dolls are by far the most chaotic (and therefore, the most attention-grabbing) part of the marketing campaign, there’s more to it than that. The film’s debut trailer made waves when it was released last October, causing the internet to unravel into complete disarray. Soundtracked by Taylor Swift’s “It’s Nice to Have a Friend” with way too on-the-nose dialogue like, “Cady, you lost your parents; you’re my niece,” it quickly made waves for its overall ridiculousness. M3GAN herself even became a queer icon.

That trailer, paired with the hordes of fans online and positive reviews, led to a box office boom for M3GAN. The film, which cost around $12 million to make, raked in the dough its opening weekend, earning $30 million stateside for a $45 million worldwide tally. Some folks online have pointed out that there’s been more support from the LGBTQ+ community than there was for the film Bros. Billy Eichner’s landmark gay rom-com bombed at the box office, not even able to scrape up $5 million in its first weekend, leading Eichner to criticize non-filmgoers as bad allies. Though there’s no official stat to prove that the queer community has been showing up to support M3GAN herself, many have made their love for her clear online.

The M3GAN marketing has also found a special home in the hearts of Gen Z, it seems, as Universal reports that a whopping 44 percent of the film’s opening weekend audience was under 24. This in-your-face guerilla marketing—which also worked for Smile, another horror movie, whose campaign planted smiling creeps in crowds of people to promote the film—really works on younger audiences, as annoying as it may be for older viewers.

‘M3GAN’ Dances, Sings, and Murders In a Horror Film Unlike Any Other

Then, there’s part of M3GAN’s success that boils down to the pure merit of the film, another groundbreaking success. The movie has earned a surprising 93-percent certified “fresh” score on Rotten Tomatoes—that’s higher than prestige award contenders like The Fabelmans (which is at 92-percent “fresh”) and Tár (90 percent). Though the marketing was compellingly unhinged, the great reviews are likely another factor in why so many people went to see M3GAN in theaters this past weekend.

Surely, this in-your-face, constant, wacky marketing campaign has also agitated some folks. It’s everywhere! It’s really goofy! It makes no sense! There’s no end to the creativity of the M3GAN campaign—the “doll” herself even did an online Q&A with PopCrave. If you think the whole shtick is getting kind of annoying, chances are, these ads are not aimed at you.

<div class="inline-image__caption"><p>M3GAN on <em>The Tonight Show</em>.</p></div> <div class="inline-image__credit">NBC</div>

M3GAN on The Tonight Show.


Horror movies, especially ones that target a Gen Z audience, have found success with out-of-the-box marketing—the wackier, the better. Remember when Warner Bros. tied red balloons to sewer grates in honor of It? Or when Sony made the subways look like they were flooding for 2012? Expect more in-your-face marketing for horror movies, especially with M3GAN’s massive success. With new Exorcist and Evil Dead movies coming out this year and the upcoming Scream 6 taking place in NYC, we may be in for some more real frights.

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