Many moviegoers are becoming wary of trailers and TV spots increasingly giving away plot points, and this may be starting to have a negative effect on the film industry. It was recently reported that the National Association of Theater Owners (NATO) has requested that movie studios adopt new marketing guidelines to increase audience interest by decreasing marketing elements such as trailer length.
It is highly unlikely that any of NATO’s requests will be significantly met. Studios have enough problems keeping their customers interested during the digital age. But distributors and exhibitors need not remain at odds. Rather than creating an obstacle for the film industry, this development actually presents an opportunity to try something new.
The marketing weight for movies could gradually be shifted from traditional trailers and TV spots to theatrical viral spots or vignettes, allocating most of a movie’s marketing life to enhancing the movie experience by expanding a film rather than merely revealing it. Audience anticipation could be more actively cultivated through participation in viral activities, and studios could focus on telling entire parallel stories related to a movie in pieces using members of the movie’s cast.
Viral spots would also be a good fit for TV. The possibility of movie-related content always gives viewers a reason to stick around during commercials, and indeed, they have.
Studios want to get people in theater seats, and the well-oiled, slow-to-change marketing machine they have developed over a century of business dictates that a movie be revealed little by little through trailers, TV spots, and product promotions. There have been traditional trailers which use content not present in the actual movies they advertise, such as those produced for the “Anchorman” films, but such campaigns are very much a minority.
As a supplemental tactic, viral marketing more often than not intrigues movie fans to pay more attention, from scavenger hunts for “The Dark Knight” to videos and billboards for “Man of Steel.” And Marvel Studios, by uniting its movies into a singular universe, has created a playing field all its own.
Studios are spending vast amounts of money on marketing anyway. A viral focus would be a more dynamic and just as economical way for studios to not only advertise their products, but to fulfill their greater need of experimenting with audience interest to find the next big thing. One viral vignette could center on one stylistic or plot element a studio wants to gauge, while another could concentrate on completely different ideas.
When you think about it, viral campaigns are better places for repetitive interrogation room scenes than movies.