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The Case of the Shrinking Movie Marketing Campaign

Just as the entertainment industry is consolidating, with mega-mergers like the newly completed Fox/Disney shrinking the big studio landscape, so are mega movie marketing campaigns. As covered in a recent article in the New York Times, they’re catching up with our collective instant gratification culture fueled by Netflix and its 150M+ global subscribers and shortening the promo cycle for tentpole film. After all, what’s the point in a teaser trailer for a movie coming out in a year when we’ve been trained to watch trailers merely by scrolling over movie titles and watching with the touch of a button?


Disney spent more than three years promoting “Tron: Legacy,” which came out in 2010.

With viewers caught in an endless cycle of entertainment choices that fuels decision fatigue and shrink their ever-shortening attention spans, movie marketing needs to adapt to set their films up for success. That means full film campaigns in just a few months like Warner Bros. did for Aquaman in five months that resulted in over a billion dollars at the box office. A year earlier, they released Suicide Squad after a 13-month campaign that did well but made significantly less than the Jason Momoa starrer for a multitude of reasons.


Shorter movie marketing campaigns are a reprieve for viewers’ eyes and studio’s budgets. Today's biggest films often are supported with $200 million marketing campaigns when the average cost of marketing a studio film in the U.S. in 1980 was $4.3 million ($12.4 million in today's dollars according to THR). Studios will no longer have to create the onslaught of trailers for each film and cut down on the rampant TV commercials and video ads that the majority of consumers skip entirely unless stuck to watch during live sports programming.


Moviegoers will benefit as well. Just imagine, fewer trailers to sort through that often feel like they're giving the plot away. Plus, less nonsensical internet chatter from trolls second-guessing filmmakers and pointless Easter eggs to pore over. We can discuss it after we see the film, WookieLover1977, ok?!


Thankfully, the studios are starting to acclimate. Warner Bros., Universal, and Sony opted to save their money and delay starting their respective early marketing machines by skipping Comic-Con, which just took place. I doubt anyone will be less excited to see Wonder Woman 1984 next summer because of it. The film’s director, Patty Jenkins, made sure of that by releasing a new image in a tweet to maximum effect.


Social Media is the most natural place to push movie marketing and any additional cost to ensure movie stars promote their films a little more is a small price to pay when the studios start calculating how much money they’ve saved by holding off a bit.


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