Movie Marketing: Absurd Product Tie-Ins and Spoilery Trailers

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CC image courtesy of Bonita Sarita on Flickr

Robert Marich’s Marketing to Moviegoers: A Handbook of Strategies and Tactics provides an overview of movie marketing, covering everything from creative strategies to traditional advertising to product placement in films. I would like to focus on just two aspects that are examined in the book: product tie-ins and trailers.

As for product tie-ins, I would like to again bring up my paratext examination of The Hunger Games from my multimodal project last semester. There were two out-of-the-ordinary promotional tie-ins that I focused on which are relevant in this marketing discussion. The first is the Hunger Games subway sandwich line. Why did they think advertising Catching Fire through Subway sandwiches was an effective marketing strategy? The world may never know. Subway sandwiches have little to nothing to do with children battling-to-the-death for entertainment, even if the commercial spouts that “boldness” can be applied to both a sandwich sauce and Catching Fire. Evidently this was just a tactic to tie the two products together in an advertisement to attempt to sell more sandwiches and sell more theater seats.

The second product tie-in that I focused on was the Catching Fire CoverGirl makeup line. In my research for my project, I read an article entitled Why Fans Should Be Pissed About This ‘Hunger Games’ Marketing Campaign that completely bashed this promotion of a makeup line. In the article, Butler argues that using makeup to market for a film that is very anti-celebrity and anti-vanity completely goes against the moral messages of the story. These marketing tactics may make the studio money, but it is at the cost of sending conflicting messages to the consumers about what the Hunger Games series is meant to represent.

I understand that Hollywood studios face pressure to:

“enlist third parties to help carry the marketing load. Thus, film distributors turn to tie-in promotions…[where] the consumer-goods outfits get to associate their products with films, hoping that a little Hollywood magic will rub off (Marich 147).”

However, I think that marketing strategies such as these, which can be so easily seen through and criticized for being solely about making money, take away from the movie that they are trying to market for. Instead of making viewers want to watch the movie or buy the sandwich or buy the makeup, these marketing ploys may turn-off potential consumers and even lose them viewers or customers.

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CC image courtesy of leonem on Flickr

Now, let’s talk about trailers. In my experience, I have found watching trailers to be a very negative experience. The reason for this is simple: because movie trailers spoil the entire movie. It is for this reason that I refuse to watch trailers altogether. Although, admittedly, I occasionally make exceptions for some teaser trailers and for movies that I have no intention of seeing in the first place (so I won’t care if they are spoiled for me). If someone tries to get me to watch one I will leave the room. When trailers I’m actively avoiding come on at the movie theater, I look away and loudly think about other things to drown it out (I know, I’m ridiculous, I just hate spoilers).

I do, however, like the concept of a teaser trailer. They are typically shorter than regular trailers and sometimes made before the final cut of the film is complete. Sometimes teasers even use little or no footage from the actual film. I think that brevity in teasers is what makes me like them. That and the fact that since they are usually short, they have less room for spoilers. Spoiling a movie for me does not make me want to watch the movie. Leaving me in suspense, as with teasers, definitely makes me want to watch the movie. Even if spoilery trailers do get audiences in the door, in my experience, it results in disappoint when the audience finds out that they already knew all of the important plot points because the trailer spoiled it for them. I wish the concept of “teaser” trailers could replace our concept of regular trailers. I want to be intrigued and not spoiled.

Here, I would like to introduce a teaser trailer which I think works perfectly for its intent as a teaser, but I think it is also a good model for what more regular trailers should be doing. The official teaser trailer for The Dark Knight Rises:

This teaser is almost a full-length trailer with a running time of 1 minute and 35 seconds. It gives only the basic premise of the film, with Commissioner Gordon’s voice-over and dialogue, but without spoiling the plot of the film. It only uses a few shots that are actually in the final film. For filling in the minute and a half, they used clips from the first two Batman movies as well as generic shots (mostly CGI) of the city.

The shots that come from the film itself (i.e. Gordon in the hospital, someone climbing up a wall, a very short close-up of the villain Bane, and a shot of Batman about to fight Bane) are all simplistic and unrevealing of any major plot points. A trailer similar to this would be my ideal movie trailer. I don’t think that movie trailers need to be any longer than this, and I don’t think that they need to explain much more than this. Giving the audience the basic premise of the film and showing them the actors that are in it are enough, for me at least, to make me want to see a film. The more cryptic the trailer, the more likely I am to want to go to the theater to see the movie.

Butler, Charles. “Why Fans Should Be Pissed About This ‘Hunger Games’ Marketing Campaign.” PolicyMic. 22 Nov. 2013. Web. 25 Feb. 2014. <http://www.policymic.com/articles/74409/why-fans-should-be-pissed-about-this-hunger-games-marketing-campaign>.

Marich, Robert. Marketing to Moviegoers: A Handbook of Strategies and Tactics. Carbondale: Southern Illinois U.P., 2013. PDF.

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