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Marketing Movie Marketing Takes Meta-Promo Too Far

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood April 17, 2012 at 4:29PM

I once got into a debate on Twitter about whether it was a journalist's job to post trailers and posters and new photos of upcoming movies--thus helping distributors to market their product.
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Moonrise Kingdom, vintage team photo
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I once got into a debate on Twitter about whether it was a journalist's job to post trailers and posters and new photos of upcoming movies--thus helping distributors to market their product.

It's not news that today's popular movie websites are engaged in a cozy relationship with Hollywood that bears little relationship to conventional journalism. In exchange for access to first-looks at new movies--from "The Avengers" set visits to "On The Road" character posters via Facebook and super-hyped advance trailer premieres, sites like TotalFilm or IGN will jump through hoops to hawk and promote studio product. 

Being the first to post anything guarantees a traffic boost. But sharing worthwhile info is fine by me. Posting early stills, poster art or an online trailer, which now helps moviegoers to decide what movie to see far more than newspaper ad listings (which many theaters are discontinuing, including AMC), serves as news, as far as I am concerned. It's new, it informs.

What I do not like, however, is the latest trend: leaking the teaser to the actual teaser, or trailer, or TV spot. This CinemaBlend headline sums up the trend: "Get Ready For The Looper Trailer With This Second Teaser." Please.

"Trailers are now watched more online than in theaters," writes the LATimes, "and in record numbers. Audiences streamed more than 5.3 billion trailers worldwide last year and are on track to significantly outpace that figure in 2012...Aiming to take advantage of the mania surrounding material that they used to just hope people would remember after leaving the theater, studios now market the marketing."

The downside of course is that for all the advance buzz on a film like "The Hunger Games," which delivered on its expectations, all of this dissection can lead to bad reaction, whether it's "Avatar," which needed length and context to be ingested properly, or the misconceived "Green Lantern" and "John Carter," which were disasters all around.

This article is related to: Marketing, Trailers, Video, Franchises, Media


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.