Word of Mouth: ‘Just Go With It’ plays the demographics

It’s a bawdy comedy for randy guys starring a nearly naked swimsuit model. Or it’s a smart romance for women about finding the perfect man. If you believe Sony’s advertising campaign for “Just Go With It,” this weekend’s Adam Sandler movie might be both of those things.

Movie studios sometimes use slightly divergent marketing tactics to attract different demographics to their films, but Sony’s double-barreled sales effort for “Just Go With It,” a movie about a plastic surgeon who pretends to be miserably married to attract single women, provides a good study in how pitches for the same film can be dramatically distinct depending on who’s being courted.

When the audiences like what they see, romantic comedies — especially those opening on Valentine’s Day weekend — can deliver box-office fortunes. A year ago, New Line’s fittingly titled “Valentine’s Day” opened to $56.3 million, eventually grossing more than $110 million in domestic theatrical release (a follow-up, “New Year’s Eve,” is due later this year).

Sony’s Will Smith romantic comedy “Hitch” grossed $43.1 million in 2005, and a year earlier the studio’s Sandler movie “50 First Dates” opened to $39.9 million. But as with any romantic assignation, there can be bad outings too: In 2009, “Confessions of a Shopaholic” premiered to just $15 million, and in 2008, “Definitely, Maybe” opened to only $9.8 million.


The $80-million “Just Go With It” was among several high-profile movies promoted before, during and after Sunday’s Super Bowl, though the commercial for the Sandler film generated a huge bounce in audience interest, according to audience tracking surveys.

In Sony’s pregame spot for the movie (it paid $650,000 for a 30-second ad, less than half the cost of the same amount of time during the game), model Brooklyn Decker is seen not once but twice walking out of the ocean in a barely there yellow bikini. “Columbia Pictures presents the only commercial,” an announcer says before the commercial rewinds Decker’s slow-motion saunter, “that’s worth an instant replay.”

At the ad’s conclusion, the announcer offers male viewers some advice: “Tell your girlfriend it’s a romantic comedy.” Another television commercial aimed squarely at men opens with the words, “Not looking forward to date night?” before cutting to Decker’s jiggly stroll and a quick clip of Sandler’s character falling on his genitals.

Sony believes “Just Go With It” is in fact a romantic comedy, but the studio wants to attract as wide an audience as possible — including, perhaps, men who could buy tickets without their girlfriends or wives.

The tracking surveys suggest the film should have a solid but not spectacular opening: not as big a three-day take as Sandler’s “Grown Ups” ($40.5 million) or his “Click” ($40 million) but perhaps better than the debuts of “Funny People” ($22.7 million) and “Bedtime Stories” ($27.5 million).

While Sony’s Super Bowl ad attracted the most media attention and television viewers, the studio has been running less raunchy spots on television shows aimed at women — buying time on Lifetime, Oxygen and Oprah Winfrey’s new OWN cable network.

Those commercials focus more on costar Jennifer Aniston’s character, Katherine, who runs the office for Sandler’s surgeon Danny and is enlisted as his fake wife when Danny tries to woo Palmer, the woman played by Decker. In one commercial, Katherine forces Danny to buy her two pairs of shoes that cost $1,700 apiece. In another, an overweight woman complains about Decker’s body. The swimsuit walk is used to show how pathetic Danny is, rather than how hot Decker is.

Because Katherine is a divorced mother, the studio hopes that female moviegoers will see “Just Go With It” as female wish fulfillment — that you can have a second chance at love. Whether the particularly blunt two-prong strategy will work remains to be seen.