Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Teaser Previews for Trailers -- or -- The Ongoing Death of Traditional Movie Marketing

At LAT, Ben Fritz pretty much hits the nail on the head with his write-up re: the new practice of previewing trailers, saying:
  • The online video touted an epic unveiling from one of Hollywood's most revered filmmakers: "In three days, Ridley Scott returns to the genre he redefined...."

  • For the next two days, subsequent videos ratcheted up the excitement for the new project from the director of "Alien." 

  • Then, finally, it arrived: not the movie, not even the full-length trailer, but the one-minute "teaser" for Scott's upcoming 20th Century Fox release "Prometheus." 

  • "We teased the teaser," said Fox Chief Marketing Officer Oren Aviv. "And it was viewed 29.7 million times." 

  • This is the new world of trailers, in which the Internet and rabid fan culture have turned one- to three-minute ads, once seen only in theaters, into events promoted and analyzed as avidly as the films themselves. 
The newest examples, for 'Looper', with a talk-up by one of the stars and the director, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Rian Johnson, were released in countdown mode over the last two days. The next one will be released tomorrow and the trailer itself will roll out on Thursday. They're very well done and have generated positive buzz.

As Fritz says, we've seen these trailer teases for 'Total Recall', the latest 'Twilight', and of course 'Prometheus'. I love them, at least in concept. The campaign for 'Prometheus' strikes me as a bit tedious while the one for 'Totall Recall' has been pretty sharp. It's where the heat is -- the trailer -- and now, the build up to the trailer. This phase, whatever it ends up being called, is without a doubt the core of movie marketing today. If you can't generate good buzz with a trailer you're dead in the water.

We've come a long way from the days when trailers were discussed Monday morning at the office around the water cooler when you were barely able to remember details and set things up so badly nobody cared anyway. Today, online, buzz cranks up minutes after a trailer makes its debut. You can tell whether a movie will score almost immediately.

I think trailers, and now the slow-burn build up, work better than clips, featurettes, or even official movie sites. 'The Hunger Games' site was a hit, and a notable exception, but when, really, was the last time you spent any time at a movie site? Trailers are delivered on phones, pads, pods, notebooks, etc. You can watch one while waiting for the bus. It's an entertaining way to kill a couple minutes when you don't feel like doing much else.

Right now, traditional marketing like posters and billboards are looking old-school. Really, you could put nothing on a movie poster but the name of the movie and some basic boilerplate and the movie would be a hit if a) it was good and b) it had a good trailer campaign. It's all about the trailer. Nobody would avoid a movie because it has a poorly designed or boring poster. Movies that have lousy posters do great business all the time. Great posters, however, don't mean much either. You can create posters that all the bloggers talk about and everybody loves and the movie may still tank. Run a great trailer, though, and you're money.

I'm looking forward to the next iteration in trailer rollouts. We're in the middle of a campaign for 'Battleship' that's interesting. The first trailer got panned across the board. People figured the movie was a sure flop. But trailers got better and so did the buzz. The latest trailers play great and bear no resemblance to the first clunker, and the movie has steam. I wouldn't be surprised if this was done on purpose. The strategy could be: Start with a howler of a trailer, have all the bloggers make fun of your movie, then deliver better and better trailers that make your flick look like a come-from-behind gem that's must-see. Sounds weird, sounds stupid, but whether it was by design or dumb luck, that's exactly what happened with 'Battleship'.

The other new thing that we're sure to see more of is the motion poster. We've had a few primitive efforts but the one for 'Total Recall' strikes me as a cut above, thematic, and visually interesting. This could lead to cool things.

'Dynamic Content Posters' could have clickables that lead to movie sites, mouse-over hi-def stills, clips, or soundbites, and trailers that run within the poster itself. You could have a countdown clock (I know, tacky, but something to try) and imagery that changes every time the poster is viewed. That would renew interest daily or even several times a day. Bloggers would embed the media continuously if it kept changing instead of just once like we do now when a poster is released.

There's no reason to keep using technology from a bygone print advertising era to sell movies. Compared to trailers the buzz on movie posters is light. They're posted and forgotten the next day. The craft seems to be in decline as well. You see very few good posters anymore. Most are utilitarian at best.

Trailers sell sizzle. They've evolved and no one saw that coming. It's only a matter of time before posters and other marketing tools and strategies follow suit.


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