Category Archives: Movie Marketing

It’s because movie trailers are commercials that they need critical reading

Samuel Adams and IndieWire has shared some thoughts he has about movie trailers. The cause for this particular editorial is the overly enthusiastic reaction by some people to the trailer for Inherent Vice, the upcoming movie from director Paul Thomas Anderson. Here’s Adams’ thesis statement:

Trailers ruin movies. Or, if “ruin” is too strong a word, they lessen the experience of watching them, the way it would if some blabbermouth friend told you a film’s plot in advance. Some trailers are more subtle about it than others, but even the best pull enticing moments out of their original context and serve them up in an appealing stew. If the trailer is a good one — by which I mean one that successfully stokes your desire to see a movie — those moments remain lodged in the back of your mind, and you can’t help but anticipate them. 

Now to be clear, I get where he’s coming from. Even if a trailer doesn’t spoil some sort of big surprise or lay the movie out in such broad strokes that it shows the major beats from all three acts of a movie what they contain can be considered spoilers or, at worst, unwanted glimpses at the movie.


But what he’s talking about are many of the reasons why I started writing Movie Marketing Madness all those years ago. Too many people – people who were aspiring to the role of film journalist in some manner – were just posting a trailer and saying “OMG this looks awesome” without any critical thinking behind it. What I was more interested in doing was looking at *why* the trailer was doing what it was doing.

It’s understandable that Adams is frustrated by the piling on of fanboy enthusiasm every time there’s a halfway decent trailer released. As he said, most of the time the only impact it could have is to make someone who’s already aware of and excited about a movie want to see it less. And the gushing is embarrassing to watch for anyone with a modicum of self-respect or journalistic integrity, though I’ll admit that my criticism has sometimes been swept away in a wave of “SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY” excitement over how good a trailer makes the movie look.

To that end my recommendation is Adams and people like him start looking at trailers through a different lens. Yes, they are often to designed to either appeal to the elite few in a niche target audience (Inherent Vice, Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World) or a mass audience that includes the kind of people some snooty film journalists deride as mouth-breathers and who need everything laid out for them before they opt to shell out their money. The question to ask then is “Why.” Then trailers become much more interesting not for what they are but why they are that way.

It’s because there’s so much media being produced – both the promotional stuff and all the outlets that are more than happy to share it (with gusto because they want to keep the publicity pipeline flowing) that we need to turn a more critical eye to what we’re being sold. I understand where Adams is coming from. But the next step is just as important.

The same people saying click-bait is a problem are the ones clicking on that bait

facebook_logo.pngI was going to write something really profound about Facebook’s announcement that it was cracking down on “click bait” type stories, penalizing them the News Feed algorithm based on a number of factors, but then Dave Coustan wrote this and why bother. See his post for how this is likely to impact brand and other publishers.

The question I keep asking, though, is how did Facebook ultimately decide this as a problem it needed to address? It says these types of posts were resulting in a steady amount of negative feedback, both on pages themselves and in a survey, where people said these types of “…and you won’t believe what happened next” articles weren’t very good.

But then why do they so frequently appear in people’s News Feed? I can understand why people can feel like they’ve been the victim of a bait-and-switch, but then why take the steps of engaging with that post in a such a way that similar stories show up more regularly?

This is, to me, a bit like surveys where people tell a news organization they want more hard-hitting stories about international news but then tune in only when one celebrity gets in a traffic accident while driving naked. Surveys are notoriously bad ways of gauging actual behavior and the changes now being made based on those results are now going to impact a lot of publishing programs.

Facebook Save and the needed next step in read-it-later apps

Facebook introduced Save last week, their own version of a “read it later” service that allows people to save interesting stories for reading at a later time. The idea being that while they’re scanning Facebook they may see something that looks interesting but they don’t have time right then to click through to the story or to fully digest it, so they need to save it for later, when they presumably have more time. This puts them in competition with existing services like Pocket, Instapaper and a handful of others.


When I first read about the service it struck me as a solution in need of a problem. That’s largely because of not only how I see people using Facebook, which is in large chunks of time so they can sufficiently scan their Newsfeed, but also in how Facebook has spent so many calories recently positioning itself as part of the ongoing, current conversation. They want to be the place where people are talking about what’s on TV, what events are happening and so on, so anything that is geared toward time-shifting seems inconsistent and a bit odd.

Going back to the first point, “save for later” functionality has in my experience always been something that’s been sought by the power-user set and not necessarily by the mass audience, who just want to go online to check email and check for updates from friends, family and the brands who they’re hoping share coupons with them. That’s part of the reason why RSS, which by its very nature was all about time-shifted viewing and saving deep reading for a later time, never caught on, because the desire to do so just wasn’t there in a mass audience. They didn’t need to do that because they had their bookmarked pages and were fine with that workflow. And it’s part of the reason why the average web user hasn’t even heard of Pocket et al, because that’s not how they’re consuming content online.

So it’s not clear who Facebook Save is really meant for. And the best guess I can make is that it’s intended to be something that brand publishers are supposed to applaud because it dangles the possibility that while someone may not click through to a story now, they may do so later.

But metrics for Facebook Save were not part of the announcement and it’s unclear as to whether this is something that will be introduced or added on down the road. Without it, though, it will be difficult for publishers to truly measure how and to what extent people are using this tool.

Facebook Save is, though, not unique in this manner. To the best of my knowledge none of the big save-for-later apps offer any sort of metrics for publishers. And those numbers are absolutely necessary for publishers in the same way that “day plus seven” ratings numbers have increasingly become necessary for TV networks. Let’s walk through why:

I, as a brand publisher, post X story on Facebook today. And I can see in my site analytics that views to that page/post spiked in the period immediately following that, knowing that links on Facebook (or Twitter or anywhere else) have a very short half-life. There may be a few moderate bumps down the road but generally after a certain period of time you’re going to see those numbers flat-line.

But now factor in save-for-later functionality, whether it’s within the Facebook framework or in something like Pocket, which integrates with Feedly, Digg Reader, Twitter’s mobile app and more. If I, as publisher, can start to attribute traffic to those apps then I have that much more complete a picture of my readers. And it’s not just that, since apps like Pocket allow for reading completely within the app, without sending any traffic to the source site. So if these apps were to work with publishers to show how many people were saving stories from their domains, how many articles they were saving, where they save the article from (Twitter, RSS, Facebook etc), how long they saved the story before they read it and so on, then all of a sudden publishers are swimming in additional reader data that can help drive strategy on a number of levels.

It also opens up a world of possibilities for the apps themselves, as well as their business models specifically. Imagine if apps were able to sell ads to publishers that looked like recommended reads, giving readers the option to either save it for later reading or to go ahead and visit the site directly. There’s value in both options.

There’s also this from Om Malik:

Those are great ideas that would, yes, require some development work. But honestly a network that’s based on similar reading habits is of much more use to me than some other social networks. It’s basically what Google Reader Shared Items was before it was so brutally ignored and killed. It’s easy to see scenarios where I say “Ooo…X Friend would like this story, I’ll message it to them” within the Pocket – or other app – framework.

On an even more basic level, these apps need to more fully embrace a variety of networks. For instance, it would be nice to be able to choose LinkedIn, Flipboard or other networks to share a story from Pocket instead of just Twitter or Facebook. (Note that I don’t use Buffer, which is an option within Pocket. Not because I don’t want to, I’ve just never taken the time to set something like this up and it’s for an even thinner slice of the audience than users of save-for-later apps.)

Better metrics and data would serve the save-for-later market well. Since Facebook is now treading into these waters in a serious (even if it might be a drastic misreading of their audience) manner it’s a good time for the existing players to start mining new areas to prove their value to readers and publishers, both important stakeholders in how the tools they produce get used.

Watch this brilliant…

Not that I’m questioning how great a bit of writing this John Oliver bit is, but have we entered the stage of the video’s life yet where people are calling it “brilliant” simply because others have used that word and the people who are just getting to it now don’t want to look less than insightful as to its brilliance? Cause that’s how it’s increasingly reading to me.

This is by no means unique, just the latest example of a video (or story, or photo) that cycles through the online world over the course of days and you see the same sort of thing with movie reviews and other mass-consumption items. A sort of group-think sets in where each person needs to match – or outdo – the hyperbole assigned to something by those who have already commented on it. It’s the internet equivalent of Fredo’s “I’M SMART!” lament in The Godfather.

This Is Where I Leave You trailer

I know this seems kind of corny – a lot of people on Twitter have been calling out the fact that it’s about yet another family of well-off white people who are having relationship issues, a topic that’s been covered on film extensively – but darn it if I don’t dig this trailer. In particular what jumps out at me is Tina Fey, who seems to be channeling some cool, uber-natural type of performance that’s free, at least as far as I can see here, of ticks and quirks. Combine her with Jason Bateman you have a movie that’s almost scientifically guaranteed to be one that I’m inclined to see. And I’m sure I’m not the only one.

History of the movie trailer is a great watch

I’m extraordinarily late to this, but the “History of the Movie Trailer” video that recently made the rounds is absolutely worth watching. Here’s the full write-up with background notes if you want to fully geek out over it.

The History of the Movie Trailer from on Vimeo.

Mobile an important part of the movie marketing process

There are a lot of good points made in this story about research into how moviegoers use their mobile devices for a variety of purposes. But the one that stuck out at me is that 87 percent of those people used their phones to further research a movie they’d seen an ad for elsewhere.

There’s always been a gap here in terms of fully utilizing the mobile experience. Too many times there not much waiting for people on a mobile-optimized site or even within an app. There’s little to continue to feed the initial excitement that comes with seeing an awesome trailer and wanting to learn more beyond, say, watching the trailer again or a simple cast list. It’s a missed opportunity.