Storytelling Through Trailers: The Cornerstone of Movie-Marketing

You must penetrate the popular culture. The consumer must hear about your film from his or her inner friend base, the outer friend base, the DJ, from the news. (Jeffrey Godsick, senior executive vice president of marketing at Twentieth-Century Fox).

Trailers are one of the most important aspects of movie-marketing. Robert Marich, the author of Marketing to Moviegoers: A Handbook of Strategies and Tactics, discusses the role of trailers in movie-marketing at length in his book because of their ability to tell the story quickly and they are easily revised as more scenes are shot. Trailer production begins almost immediately in order to get the word out about a new picture. Footage is sent to the “trailer shops” as it comes in, often “dribs and drabs as a film is being produced” when it’s unclear what footage “will and won’t be used in the final movie” (Marich, 30). As a result, trailer makers need to find the most compelling parts of the storyline and piece them together in order to hook the audience and get them to look forward to the film’s release. As Marich explains, “Creative executives say that it’s their job to make the trailer as engaging as possible, which means shoehorning in the good parts of the film” (33). In order to make this happen, some scenes are shot with the sole purpose of adding it to the trailer (33). Since all films have trailers to promote them, it is easy to see how “shoehorning in the good parts of the film” often means following a certain formula. This parody created by comedians, Brian McElhaney and Nick Kocher, comments on the pattern that most Academy Award winning film trailer’s seem to incorporate.*

What makes this video particularly funny is it’s acute understanding of how trailers introduce characters and their story lines through certain iconic images specific to the genre the film is a part of. In this way, understanding a film’s genre is key to marketing a successful film. Billboards, in-lobby ads, and other promotional photos all carefully specify their given genre, so that audiences have an understanding of what the movie is about or what they can expect.

Promotional photo for the new comedy, The Wedding Ringer (2015).

The promotional photo for The Wedding Ringer is a great example of how a comedy markets itself through an image. It is clear from where Kevin Hart stands above the crowd the he is the protagonist and likely the cause of the events that led to all the other characters’ disheveled appearances. Trailers can also play up other, secondary parts of the plot in order to attract a larger audience. Marich explains that “For television commercials, marketers can draw from a movie’s subplots to try to entice a secondary audience” (33). In the case of the latest installment of The Hobbit trilogy, the trailer played up the romantic coupling of Kili and Tauriel in order to draw in more female viewers.

Theatrical trailers are the most effective way of marketing films because they play upon our pre-existing knowledge of film and film conventions. They also exploit the successful marketability of genres, which already have faithful audiences willing to go to the theater to catch a new comedy, rom-com, or action flick.

Works Cited

Marich, Robert. Marketing to Moviegoers a Handbook of Strategies and Tactics, Third Edition. 3rd ed. Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 2013. Web. 24 Feb. 2015.

*I must tip my hat to fellow blogger kathrynlunte for helping me find this video.

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