Sony Pictures went “old school” to reach the younger demo when promoting the release of Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” in the U.K., Germany and Mexico. The studio’s international team, in partnership with Sony Music, created pop-up retro record stores in the three territories that evoked the vibe of Los Angeles in 1969.
“People want to be transported,” Milissa Douponce, VP, international marketing, Sony Pictures Worldwide Marketing and Distribution, tells Variety. With immersive experiences like this, “the goal is making people connect with the movie emotionally through the interaction [with its world], and hopefully it transfers to getting them engaged and excited to go see the movie.”
In London, the location of the pop up was Soho’s Sounds of the Universe record store, which used to be a pub where the Rolling Stones practiced in the 60s. More than 500 people passed through the store. In Berlin, Sony partnered with Dodo Beach record store in Schöneberg, the neighborhood where David Bowie lived with Iggy Pop. The pop up attracted more than 300 people. In Mexico City, the studio teamed with MixUp, an electronics and record store in Genova, and built the vinyl shop inside. More than 2,000 people came by in two days.
In the pop ups, guests could browse the racks of 1969’s top 100 ranked albums, and authentic merchandise, clothes, books, magazines and novelty items from the period. The movie’s soundtrack was playing in the background, which in addition to the music tracks also includes KHJ/BOSS Radio airchecks featuring L.A. deejays Humble Harve and The Real Don Steele, as well as period radio advertisements.
Props were displayed from the movie including Brad Pitt’s can of Chattanooga beer, Leonardo DiCaprio’s tape recorder he used to practice lines, and fictional cigarette brand Red Apple. Sony Music produced a limited-run, special edition vinyl in a plain white sleeve that had a special label designed by Tarantino.
Collecting the artefacts presented in the stores was no easy task. “Everything was really curated and authentic,” Douponce says. “We were pulling them from eBay and going to flea markets.”
Douponce, working with Adriana Sein, VP of international marketing at Sony Music, and Spring Aspers, head of music for Sony Pictures, had brought on board Tim Verrecchia and his partner Josh Matas to execute the pop up plan. She had previously worked with Verrecchia on an event to promote Danny Boyle’s “T2 Trainspotting” at Berlin Film Festival in 2017, when they organized an all-night rave in Berlin with music from the 90s and deejays like Goldie, in partnership with online platform Boiler Room. “When this came up I needed somebody who not just understood the movie and the aesthetic, and had a fashion sense, but also really understood the music,” she says.
Douponce had previously worked on “Baby Driver,” which – like “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” and “T2 Trainspotting” – is another movie where “we were working with a director for whom music is just an integral part of the story and it becomes another character, and we really try to leverage that in some way.” “This was the first time that I got to dive in deep with Sony Music and that was a lot of fun,” she adds.
Judging the success of such marketing initiatives is both a question of monitoring the conversations generated on social media, but also it is “the energy and enthusiasm” of the visitors and whether “they were really participating… like if they are trying on the clothes, doing selfies, and pulling out the albums,” Douponce says. Judging by what she saw in London and Berlin, the pop ups passed muster. “There was a lot of enthusiasm, and it was nice to see everybody get into the spirit.”
A key component was the participation of social media influencers, especially in Mexico. “They can really move the needle,” she says. “We saw more traffic on Friday because [the visitors] were referencing all the social they saw on Thursday.” Visitors shared their experience on social using #habiaUnaVezEnHollywood. More than 3,500 posts used the tag, generating 27.3 million impressions.
Photo credit (Mexico City): Enrike Roel