Monday 8 February 2016

Misguided Movie Marketing (VOR)

Movie trailers - love them or hate them, they form the backbone of generating buzz for upcoming blockbusters. But more often than not, these previews let slip a little too much about the movie that they're selling. And it's really starting to peeve this blogger off.

Movie trailers aren’t just adverts anymore; they’re events unto themselves. Nothing gets nerds tuning into ESPN football games or the Superbowl like the promise of a new Star Wars or Marvel trailer, and studios even preface their release with a dozen cryptic ‘trailer teasers’ that are a mere 15 seconds long and designed appeal to the Instagram generation. It’s not enough to hype a film anymore; you have to hype the trailer that arrives before it.

It may be lewd and crude, but Deadpool's
marketing has been damn good
Done the right way, movie marketing can be smart, subtle and subversive. Take Deadpool, for example. The traditional red-band trailer is on YouTube for all to see, but the sly emoji billboards, viral videos and humorous posters haven’t just been garnering the film a lot of buzz; they’ve been making headlines. As silly as it might seem, the sight of a 10-foot tall poop emoji atop a Los Angeles billboard has been a breath of fresh air in the world of movie marketing, especially when you look at raft of goofs and gaffes that plague the opposite end of the spectrum.

For every clever and inventive idea there are ten other misguided movie trailers that commit the cardinal sin - giving away way too much information about the plot.

We’ve seen it time and time again; determined to get as many bums into seats as possible, major blockbuster titles give the game away by revealing key plot details that, at the end of the day, would’ve worked much better if audiences had witnessed them first-hand in the theatre.

Warner Brothers recently copped a lot of flak for revealing the central villain in their upcoming superhero clash, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (Spoiler alert: the answer is Doomsday). This might not mean much to you or I, but diehard comic-book fans were left a little disappointed by the premature unveiling. Wouldn’t this have been something fun to discover, I don’t know, when we actually saw the movie?

Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman - what more do we
need to know?!
Originally pegged for release last year, WB have faced the difficult task of sustaining hype for Dawn of Justice across an elongated period of time, a situation that consequently resulted in key plot details being slowly drip fed to the press over the last 12 months. Doomsday, Aquaman – they’ve all been revealed in one-way or another. Even though WB promises there is a lot we haven’t seen from the film, I can’t help but feel that the most recent trailer was just the entire plot condensed into two and a half minutes. 

I mean c’mon – the film is called Batman v Superman for Christ sake – how much more information do you have to give? I, along with millions of others, was already sold on the title alone and would’ve appreciated knowing as little as possible. 

Another example of a major blockbuster that felt compelled to reveal key information to manhandle as many bums into seats as humanly possible is Terminator: Genisys. Pre-release, it felt as though the film has a lot going for it; Skydance had snagged Game of Thrones actress Emilia Clarke for a lead role, the series was returning to its time-hopping roots and, most importantly, Arnie was back. 

Terminator shot itself in the foot with a needlessly
spoiler-filled trailer
So why they felt it was important to tell us that John Connor (Jason Clarke), a key character in the series lore, had been converted into a Terminator in the trailer is beyond me. Such an integral rug-pull could’ve been withheld to maximise shock value. But who am I kidding? Plonking it into the middle of a two-minute trailer is sure to have a much greater impact! Great work Skydance!

The latest TMNT adventure - Out of the Shadows - is more interested in damage control than keeping secrets. Determined to convince the fanbase that the first film was just a misfire, they've crammed as much as possible into their two trailers. Characters like Casey Jones, Bebop and Rocksteady were pretty much a given, but Krang? His unveiling in this weeks' Superbowl trailer feels like it's been torn from the third act smackdown, just like Doosmday was in Dawn of Justice or John Connor was in Terminator.

The frustrating part is that it doesn’t have to be this way; as I’ve said, there are some great examples of film studios intentionally keeping their promotional material vague in order to build hype and generate interest in the final product – y’know, the actual movie. 

Take Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Hype for JJ Abrams’ franchise revival reached fever pitch late last year, thanks in part to the secretive nature of the carefully crafted trailers and promotional material. Key details like Kylo Ren’s parentage, Rey’s Force powers and Han Solo’s swift demise were thankfully kept underwraps. Furthermore, important characters like Maz Kanata (Lupita N’yongo), Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis) and Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) didn’t appear in the trailers – at all. We weren’t even given a basic outline of the actual plot. 

Marvel are pretty good at keeping their cards close to their chest as well; we were only treated to fleeting glimpses of Paul Bettany’s Vision in the build-up to 2015’s Avengers: Age of Ultron and, so far, the marketing machine for Captain America: Civil War has held back on showing us Tom Holland’s redesigned Spider-man or Daniel Brühl’s mysterious villain, Baron Zemo. 

Similarly, Fox has kept the string of adverts for X-Men: Apocalypse fairly restrained; the intent of the titular villainous foe has been kept more or less a secret. And, where possible, they’ve worked the new, fresh-faced cast into the frame (Sophie Turner, Kodi Smit-McPhee) in an attempt to engage with younger audiences. It’s sound, safe but also pleasingly guarded. 

And what’s the end result to all this? Money! The Force Awakens and Age of Ulron were smash hits that audiences flocked to see because, unlike Terminator: Genisys, we genuinely wanted to find out more. I can guarantee right now that Civil War and Apocalypse will rake in the dough also. Why? Because we crave every morsel of information about the story, the characters and the universe. Because we yearn to learn more, and the only way we can do so is to hop in the car, drive down to the local multiplex, sit in front of a massive screen and stuff our face with overpriced popcorn. 

So take a hint Hollywood. Films like Batman v Superman or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles don't need to be oversold and laid bare months in advance; chances are, we're going to see them anyway. Jam-packing every two and half minute preview with money shots of spoilers isn't going to make you very popular on the Internet. Try getting a bit more inventive and mysterious with your tactics and maybe, just maybe, you might just pique our interest that little bit extra.


  1. Great post! Batman v Superman have essentially given away their entire movie in the trailers and their big ending has already leaked online (assuming that it's true, seems it is)

    Civil War is doing a great job of keeping things under wraps, much like Ultron did. Nearly all of Ultron's marketing was from the beginning of the movie. Like you said, we never saw Vision, we never saw Sokovia being levitated in the sky. It worked.

    Althought TMNT needs all the help they can get with getting people to flock to that movie, IMO. Showing the Krang may have been a good move on their part.

    1. Big ending? I might've missed that, unless you're talking about Doomsday.

      Civil War has been doing great! It feels that same as Age of Ultron - I'm betting 90% of what we've seen is from the first half.

  2. As far as I'm concerned, you're preaching to the choir. You can't all the hype for some films and that hype is often filled with details. I feel like I have already seen Batman vs. Superman. I wrote a similarly themed post a couple months ago, if you're interested.

    1. Yeah, it feels like the campaign for BvS has been slogging away for a decade! It'll be a relief when it comes out just so we don't have to see anymore trailers haha. Thanks dude, I'll be sure to check your post out!

  3. Great post! I was turned off in seeing Batman v Superman by how big the sequel has been hyped. There's just too much going on, and I think it's getting out of control from how Man of Steel left off. I'm probably one of the few that liked the first one, and this sequel just has so many elements/villains/supposed villains/etc, I'm lost and uninspired to see it.

    1. Great points as always! It does feel like they're adding too many characters into the mix too early doesn't it? :)



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