In the old days, movie marketing was simple. There would be a trailer, some TV commercials, some print ads and billboards, and the star would go around to the talk shows to promote it. But with more distributors releasing more movies on more platforms, advertisers have found it necessary to get creative to make their voice heard above the din. Some of these outside-the-box marketing tactics are fine. Others drive us crazy. Naturally, we're going to focus on the second group.
These are the eight most annoying movie marketing tactics in the movie business as it exists today.
Character posters for every damn character in the damn movie. Who is this even for? The people who collect movie posters aren't the kind of people who want 10 posters for one movie, unless it's their favorite movie of all time -- which, I hate to break it to you, "Legion" isn't.
Puzzles and treasure hunts and stuff like that. This isn't annoying so much as it's pointless, at least for me (and I suspect others), because I'm simply not going to do it. I have to look for clues and figure out codes and solve mysteries to see a clip from the movie? Nope. Not gonna happen. I will gladly be advertised to if you want to advertise to me. I will sit back and take all the advertising you want to throw at me. But if you're going to make me do the work, forget about it. (Remember when they wouldn't even tell us the title of "Cloverfield"?)
Sending worthless junk to movie critics. Maybe this is a little "inside baseball," but you might be surprised how much money studios waste on this kind of thing. Fox Searchlight's campaign for "Stoker" was a prime example. Shortly after the movie had its first screenings, in January, journalists got packages in the mail containing a silver key in a small white box. That was it. There wasn't even a mention of which movie it pertained to. (There's a key like it in the film, but many people on the studio's mailing lists hadn't seen it yet.)
A few weeks later, we got a follow-up package: a box of pre-sharpened pencils, accompanied by a small picture of Mia Wasikowska and the key from before. I suspect that if you analyzed the data, you would find that reviews of "Stoker" written by critics who had received these "gifts" were no more positive than those written by people who were not so blessed, nor did their outlets run any more "Stoker"-related articles. Total cost of the materials, plus shipping (mine arrived via USPS, at regular package rates), must have been around $10 for both items (key and pencil box), multiplied by hundreds of critics, bloggers, and journalists, most of whom threw everything in the trash. (Maybe the pencils survived. I can't remember the last time I needed a pencil, though.) Conservatively, the whole operation cost Fox Searchlight several thousand dollars -- a drop in the bucket where marketing is concerned, but pretty wasteful when you consider it probably led to the sale of zero additional tickets and didn't include materials that were useful. That money could have been spent on setting up a few more promotional screenings, which would have let audiences see the movie, tell their friends, and so forth.
3D. Except for a handful of movies that try to use 3D as another tool in the storytelling kit (e.g., "Hugo," "Life of Pi," "Avatar"), most 3D films use that extra dimension purely as a marketing gimmick (and, of course, as a way to charge more for tickets). That's especially true when it's a 2D film from years ago being re-released in 3D. "See 'Top Gun' as you've never seen it before!" Yeah, with a $15 ticket stub in your pocket.
Six-second previews of teasers of trailers. No. Just no.
Quoting random Twitter users in ads. This might fool people who aren't paying attention, who see effusive praise and assume it came from a reliable source. I assume that's the point, in fact. But those of us who do pay attention think that if you had to go searching on Twitter to find someone with anything good to say about your movie, your movie is probably pretty bad. Have you BEEN to Twitter? Lots of idiots there. Also, Twitter is just a method of communication. Saying "I heard it on Twitter!" is like saying "I heard it on the telephone!"
Misleading trailers. Nothing shows a studio's contempt for the audience more than a trailer that deliberately misrepresents what the movie is like. They do this with films that are hard to market, or that don't fit easily into a specific genre. They succeed in getting people to the theater -- but then those people don't like the movie, because it's not what they were told it was going to be. The studio doesn't care, though; the studio got its opening-weekend money. "Thanks, suckers!" the studio executives say, laughing as they high-five one another while rolling in huge vats of cocaine.
Pretending that advertising is news. "The new trailer for 'Not Another Wolverine Movie' will premiere online at noon Friday!" Well, all right. And when do the new Geico commercials drop? Pretty excited for those, too. To be fair, the only reason the studios keep using this tactic is that the vast majority of movie websites assist them (this one included), playing along with the baffling notion that the release of a trailer is somehow newsworthy. What's that you say? The makers of an upcoming film have produced an advertisement for that film? Scoop!