While most observers consider Knight and Day’s underperformance at the box office to be a reflection on Tom Cruise, one very good executive soldier is insisting that the movie’s weak draw is really a reflection on him. Fox’s co-president of marketing, Tony Sella, tells the L.A. Times that Knight and Day is totally, completely, 100 percent his fault: “Blame me, don’t blame Tom Cruise. We did lots of focus groups for this film, and no one ever said there was a star problem. Never. Tom Cruise was not the issue. I take full responsibility.” Did you hear that? He’s screaming from the rooftops! Tom Cruise was not the problem with Knight and Day! The problem was the screwed-up marketing!
Sella makes a pretty convincing case that Fox’s marketing team at least helped to mess this one up. Consider the puzzling poster that didn’t have Cruise or Diaz’s face on it. Sella’s fault:
“I was doing an homage to [fabled title designer] Saul Bass. It was a way for us to signal that this was a different, adult kind of movie…. It wasn’t in any way us trying to hide anyone, simply to make the film look unique.”
The general confusion about what the movie was about? Sella’s fault:
“You didn’t have to be a rocket scientist to know that when you got your trailer out in front of the biggest movie of all time [Avatar] and you still didn’t have the tracking numbers you should have, it wasn’t an awareness problem. It was a problem with our message.The minute the [bad] tracking came out, we went into Def Con 5, because the tracking never lies. We reacted almost daily in a way to make the campaign better, with different ideas and different spots.”
Also Sella’s fault? Believing in the power of grown-ups.
“If you’re over 40, this movie was a rock star — the whole concept, the Nick and Nora of it all. That was the whole theory behind selling the film, that it was a cool, adult movie, hence the poster and the graphics behind it … I guess that if I’m guilty of anything, it’s that I always believed an adult movie could work, even in the summer.”