Recent years have seen the release of some huge blockbuster films, all of which have included months if not years of promotion to build the buzz and get people talking almost as soon as a film has been green lit for production.
Once again we are fast approaching blockbuster season, and there are predicted box office smashes set for release over the coming summer months. Because of this, here are (in no particular order) some fantastic film marketing campaigns and techniques from years gone by to demonstrate the creative lengths the industry will go to in order to make sure the box office figures meet the opening weekend expectations.
1) Creative use of online presence – The Blair Witch Project
Known for its creative approach to marketing techniques, The Blair Witch Project had everyone convinced that the actors in the film were in fact real people who had really been killed by the ‘Blair Witch’. The website featured childhood pictures of the missing actors as well as the tale’s back story, presenting the film as lost footage instead of a mockumentary. To take things even further, the actors in the film were actually listed as “presumed dead” on IMDB!
Daniel Bettridge / GamesRadar
2) The entire Deadpool marketing campaign
In one of my favourite marketing campaigns of recent years, the Deadpool marketing quite literally became an extension of the film’s world. In a number of videos, social media promotion and print billboards the self-awareness and humour of the films primary character came across on every level. On top of this, the overly self-aware campaign parodied a number of different genres in it’s billboard advertising, and even produced a billboard advertisement consisting only of Emojis! If that didn’t get you talking about the film, then what would?
@DeadpoolMovie / Twitter
3) Competitions – The Simpsons Movie
Everyone who’s seen an episode of The Simpson’s knows that the fictional town of Springfield’s location is never explicitly revealed. As part of an integrated campaign, fans of the show were invited to vote for their own ‘Springfield’ to host the film’s premier – with ‘Springfield, Vermont’ being the winner.
Bethany Simpson / iMediaConnection
4) 1950s 3D and ‘Gimmick’ Cinema
Odorama, Hypnovision, Duo-Vision, If you can think of it, it’s probably been done. In a response to a drop in cinema audience figures in the 1950s film makers took to adding sensory extras to many of their films and pushed this in the marketing. This happened to the extent that it didn’t matter about the content of the film as long as it had something unique that put bums on seats. This is also where 3-Dimensional Cinema had its first appearance ….
5) Digital 3D resurgence – Avatar
The first wave of 3D cinema in the 1950s and the brief second wave towards the end of the 20th century might not have made a significant impact as a marketing technique, but that didn’t stop James Cameron pushing this in his blockbuster smash Avatar. Arguably, the PR around the film and the technology used to produce it was more important than the film itself that it became a marketing tool in itself. In addition, the promotion included an interactive AIR trailer which showcased the improved Sitimulcam and Fusion 3D Camera technology within the film and integrated into social media feeds to encourage sharing amongst friends.
MediaShift / Nick Mendoza
6) Soundtracks – 1980s – present
For us youngsters, film soundtracks are almost an expected accompaniment to film releases. We like that song because it appeared in that film that one time, etc. During the 1980s a vast number of record companies became affiliated with film production houses, and as a result releasing popular music to tie in with film releases became an incredibly profitable marketing tool. This is so successful that even today we see hits such as Frozen or Guardians of the Galaxy gaining equal success through their soundtracks as well as their film releases.
Hollywood Records / Marvel Music.
7) Viral Marketing – The Dark Knight Scavenger Hunt
In possibly one of the most complex and engaging viral marketing campaigns ever, promotion for The Dark Knight included an extensive scavenger hunt for fans to unlock new trailers and information about the film. Starting 15 months prior to the film’s release, over 11 million participants directly involved themselves in the world of Gotham – helping Harvey Dent become District Attorney to serving as henchmen in the Joker’s army. The campaign was so extensive that it lasted over a year and created a fan experience that is still heavily discussed today.
Allan Cypes / Toysrevil.blogspot.com
8) Crowd-funding – Veronica Mars movie
Quite literally funded by fans, the Veronica Mars film was released following the most backed campaign in crowd-funding website Kickstarter’s history. Fans had previously expressed their dissatisfaction with the long running show’s ending, and Kickstarter was the final throw of the dice for creator Rob Thomas. In the end, taking a chance and promoting the potential of the film via Kickstarter payed off – to the tune of $5.7 million and the production of a film released online in early 2014
The Guardian / Robert Voets
9) Social Charades – ExMachina
During American festival SXSW, many users who found themselves swiping on Tinder and matched with a young woman called Ava. After talking to the user the woman requested that the match visit her Instagram page – only to find once they visited that there was one photo and one video promoting the film Ex Machina that was premiering at the festival that weekend! Quite a fit – using a tinder bot to promote a film about artificial intelligence.
10) Online Worlds – The Hunger Games
Brand loyalty is becoming increasingly important to cinema audiences – they want more than just a two-hour experience with popcorn and a drink. Franchise films with loyal fanbases are tapping into this and creating in depth digital campaigns. The marketing team behind The Hunger Games created an ultra-realistic online experience that invited fans to put themselves directly into the action and shop for ‘Capitol Couture’