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Paramount’s marketing for the new Mean Girls movie was totally fetch, but like, did it pay off?

Cover image for Paramount’s marketing for the new Mean Girls movie was totally fetch, but like, did it pay off?

Photo: Mathias Arlund

Photo of Ashleigh Millar
by Ashleigh Millar

It’s official: the Mean Girls 2024 movie is the new Regina George of cinema (for now),topping last weekend’s US box office by bringing in $28 million, raising to $32 million on Martin Luther King Jr. holiday Monday. This is particularly impressive since this was originally supposed to be released straight to streaming on Paramount+. However, thanks to some successful test screenings, Mean Girls debuted on the big screen.

Opening to mixed reviews, and even a number of walkouts, it begs the question: is the film actually a hit, or was the marketing just fantastic? Despite the passable70% Rotten Tomatoes score and some innovative digital marketing, the internet is starting to clap back.

Get in loser, we are going to TikTok

Starting out strong, in terms of marketing, the Mean Girls team knew their demographic and had a sound plan in place to convert them into early adopters. With Gen Z being the key target audience, it was obvious that advertising had to trickle through TikTok For You pages and familiarise a generation of users who were perhaps too young to catch the original 2004 movie with the Mean Girls universe. So, on October 3rd (international Mean Girls’ Day), Paramount pulled a move that none of us saw coming. Recognising that TikTok users find a way of (illegally) posting movie and TV clips on the platform,Paramount posted the full 2004 Mean Girls movie onto the Mean Girls TikTok account for one day only (and split into 23 parts).

As planned, Gen Z started to get on board, and conveniently the“home-schooled jungle freak” trend organically took over TikTok shortly after. Among other clever marketing (and casting) strategies to capture this demographic, #12DaysOfFetch was launched on TikTok leading up to Christmas, followed by a music video and song release by Megan Thee Stallion and Renée Rapp (who plays the movie’s lead), with several lyrical and aesthetic references to the original movie. Social media stars Chris Olsen and Pierson Wodzynski also appear in the film itself while other social media icons, Reexe Feldman and Jake Shane, acted as creative directors for Paramount’s brand socials.

However, notably, not much was mentioned about this film being the movie version of the Broadway musical version of the original version. In an interview withVariety, Paramount’s Marc Weinstock explained that keeping the musical element of the movie a secret was intentional. He stated, “To start off saying musical, musical, musical, you have the potential to turn off audiences…I want everyone to be equally excited”. However, this does open the doors to potential disappointment…

Raise your hand if you have ever been personally victimised by #MusicalTheatreTikTok

The demographic that Paramount worked so hard to target its marketing towards has a very vocal and divided opinion. Many agree that the musically gifted cast, namely Rapp and Vandanapu, are talented and that the refreshed script is both funny and a homage to the original. However, there are definitely two camps when it comes to the execution of this new addition to the Mean Girls universe.

A now deleted-for-copyright-purposes video depicting a groaning and cringing audience as the cast burst into song went viral on TikTok and X over the weekend. In addition, many claimed to see audiences walk out after realising they had unknowingly bought tickets to a musical film. While keeping the musical theatre element a secret certainly put bums in seats, it did not hit the right note for everyone.

Although there are different theories circulating online, from too low a budget for a musical movie, to casting actors based on clout rather than merit (hiring non-musical actors for singing parts), musical theatre fans were disappointed with some of the reworking of songs to accommodate the actors and the lack of energy in the famously energetic numbers. This was so much so that there is a new viral sound on TikTok comparing the bouncing Broadway version and the ‘lacklustre’ movie version with accompanying captions like “go check on your musical theatre friends”. Could the attempts to capture a wider audience rather than creating a movie for the musical diehards have left them both disappointed and feeling uncatered for?

Either way, all publicity is good publicity, so the online debate ahead of its international release may actually play in its favour – perhaps another clever digital marketing technique by Paramount to be part of the social media conversation without rehashing the same debut campaigns all over again? International audiences are going to react in one of two ways: go to see the film in order to join the online debate, or completely avoid it now that its secret is out. Either way Paramount has successfully placed Mean Girls 2024 into the social zeitgeist of 2024.

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