Hands up if you’ve ever seen a commercial or advertisement for a film!
Yep, movie marketing campaigns are some of the most attention-grabbing pieces of marketing out there, and there are ones aimed at just about every single person out there.
With so much going on, these days movie makers have almost always got to do more than just put out an incredible trailer that leaves viewers desperate for more. (Although that always helps). You may be surprised at just how wide-reaching these amazing movie marketing campaigns are.
From the producers of some of the best-printed T-shirts around (if we do say so ourselves), we bring you…
Blair Witch Project
This is the granddaddy of today’s movie advertising strategies. Known to some as the best viral marketing campaign of all times, it is basic by today’s standards, but at the time it was truly revolutionary. It was 1999 after all, the internet was just getting started and marketers weren’t really worried about “going viral”.
A year before releasing the film, the production company made a website that told the story of the legend starting from 1785. They say that the families of the missing had asked the production company to make a movie about the story for them. There are police photos, footage of news coverage, interviews with the family members and even parts of a journal from one of the three filmmakers. If you tried to look up the main actors on the IMDB pages, they showed up as “missing, presumed dead.” The team passed out missing person posters, too.
Sacha Baron Cohen’s outrageous character Borat was originally presented as a real, actual character, and the film played off of this. He was already pretty well known in the UK, but stateside he was nearly completely unknown. He appeared on late night shows and did interviews in character, doing a pointed job of skewering American culture, often to bewilderment. Most people didn’t know what to make of this very friendly but entirely clueless foreign journalist. Even when the outrageous film came out, a lot of people were still wondering what was real and what wasn’t, so much so that Salon actually published an article separating truth from fact.
The Dark Knight
This installation of the Christopher Nolan-directed Batman series started its advertising campaign over a year before the film actually came out. The first step was a fake campaign for the politician Harvey Dent that was centred around a very clever website. They also ran scavenger hunts in different cities, created and distributed a fictional newspaper called The Gotham Times and even created cakes with cellphones baked into them that fans could later use to ring up the Joker. They also left Joker playing cards with “HA HA” in comic book stores. They also threw in a handful of more traditional movie marketing campaign tactics, like gripping teasers and trailers and eye-catching posters. The results? 11 million people participated and spent $1 billion in ticket sales across the world, meaning there were a massive number of people in theatres on opening night. And a couple of awards for the campaign, including the Cannes Lions Cyber Grand Prix Award and the Silver Cyber Award.
Deadpool really broke the rules when it comes to advertising. It was offbeat, unconventional and quite frankly, borderline inappropriate a lot of the time. They made fun of movie clichés, creating a “teaser for a trailer”, then an actual trailer, then a “12 Days of Deadpool” series of small pieces of content to get viewers ready for the second trailer’s release on Christmas. In total, there were 16 different clips for the TV that used almost identical footage in totally different ways. The posters also walked a fine line, with taglines like “Witness the beginning of a happy ending”, with Deadpool posing seductively on a bearskin rug in front of a roaring fire.
The Fault in Our Stars
This film is based on a book of the same name that was a massive hit with teenagers. If you’re not familiar, it’s a story about two teens with cancer who meet and fall in love. Cue lots of tears and teenage angst. So, the best place for the film version to promote itself was on social media sites that are popular with teens, like Instagram and Tumblr (where it actually hosted its official site). There were plenty of swoon-worthy photos of the stars of the film, as well as peeks behind the scenes and on set in a video, GIF and photo format. Author of the book John Green was also allowed to be on set and to share information, and he regularly tweeted out snippets of information that eager fans devoured. On top of that, they recruited brand ambassadors to spread the word even further. 20,000 people volunteered! That’s 20,000 people who were willing to do lots of free publicity. They did such a good job of getting the word out on social media that when the actors made appearances, events had to be shut down because there were just too many people in the crowd. All we have to say is #TFIOS #FTW.
The Hunger Games
Another huge young adult book series, another huge budget film for Hollywood. And like The Fault in Our Stars, this campaign did a fantastic job of reaching out to the teens and young audiences that would line up in droves to see it. They had a massive online campaign featuring an entire online world, with ways to let the most dedicated fans unlock sneak peeks and exclusive content. On top of that, they got a bunch of artists to participate in the soundtrack that were already a hit with their core audience, including Taylor Swift, Maroon 5 and Birdy. Other less-conventional strategies included the electronic remix of “The Hanging Tree”, a song from the film’s soundtrack and the release of a line of “Capital Couture” clothing, with a website where they got fans involved with things like the “District Style Challenge.”
We’re pretty sure a sequel to a popular movie series that’s basically about people running away from giant dinosaurs was going to be a hit anyway. I don’t really like action movies, but throw in some pseudo-science and a couple of dinos with big teeth and bigger roars and I’m there! But although Jurassic World came with a built-in fan base and an appealing concept, they had to market it as more than just another sequel. They created a promotional website that was like the theme park website would be if Jurassic World really existed, down to details like the park map, the current temperature on Isla Nublar and dinosaur fact sites. The best part of this website was that every single page got you towards buying a ticket for the amusement park and help you plan your trip. Of course, what you were really heading towards buying was a ticket to see the film at your local cinema.
This scary film generated huge buzz online before being released by using its “found footage” style trailers. A bit like the Blair Witch Project, it made it seem like a real documentary rather than a fictional film. The trailer showed snippets of tense moments from the movie and quotes about how scary it was but didn’t reveal much information about the plot itself. It also included audience reactions of people jumping out of their seats and screaming as they watched the movie. On top of that, they also created an online petition where people would sign and ask that the movie came to their local theatre. It’s considered the first time a major studio used this technique to get their marketing campaign to go viral. It was a huge success and got people talking about the film.
The Simpsons Movie
By the time The Simpsons Movie came out, the world’s favourite yellow family had been on the air for about two decades. Like Jurassic World, this meant it already had a lot of built-in fans who would probably see the film anyway — but they had to do something extra to make it clear it wouldn’t just be an extra-long episode of the cartoon. So, they brought some of the most recognisable locations from the series to real life. 7-elevens became Kwik-E-Marts, Jet Blue became “The Official Airline of Springfield” and Burger King let you make a Simpson’s version of yourself on their website. Everywhere you went, the line between cartoon and reality blurred.
Toy Story 3
Just about any Pixar film is highly anticipated, and as the third instalment in a much-beloved series, Toy Story 3 was certainly no exception. The marketing campaign hit just about every medium possible, from TV to radio to print to social media sites. They were clever about targeting their marketing efforts, too. There were lots of families with young kids, naturally, but there were also campaigns for people in their 20s who had fond memories of watching the Toy Story films when they were children. University students got special advanced screenings. For people who were slightly older, they ran a “Groovin’ With Ken” ad series that hailed back to the 70s and a fictional “Lots-o-Huggin Bear” commercial said to be from the 1980s.This was a great way to talk to lots of different audiences, and the film has made over $1 billion. In case you were wondering, that makes it the third most successful animated film ever, only behind Frozen (first) and Minions (second).
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