In an extremely competitive industry in which thousands of films are released each year, it takes something rather special and unique to grab filmgoers’ attention. Due to the increase in CGI and developments in editing software, movie trailers have become more engrossing than a feature-length film was back in the day! So how does a production company convince millions of fans to see their film, as appose to the abundance of other movies out there?
Whether they require assistance from a branding agency or can do it by themselves, there is a multitude of innovative techniques used to make fans think a certain way. But every time, the sole goal remains the same: Generate hype around the film to generate as many ticket sales as possible.
Let’s take a look at a list of ingenious movie campaigns and why they worked so well.
The Blair Witch Project
The marketing for The Blair Witch Project well and truly changed the game. At a time when going ‘viral’ meant something completely different, the team behind the film used completely original methods to generate a massive hype. A website was created, (that mentioned no film) which told of the myth of the Blair Witch. Once there was talk around the site, flyers were dished out amongst colleges and at Cannes Film Festival.
However, there was still no talk of a film on the flyers. Instead, they had images of 3 people that had apparently gone missing. Apparently, being the keyword. The 3 people were, in fact, the main characters of the film. Interviews with the ‘victims’ families followed which was immersive as fans were dragged into the midst of a plot of a film they didn’t know existed.
By the time the trailer was released, fans believed it was promoting a documentary about the missing people, not a fictional film. This lured millions into watching the film and generated £250,000,000!
With the film itself costing a mere £15,000 to make, many would assume people weren’t flooding through the doors to watch Paranormal Activity. However, due to the innovative marketing of the film, people came in the masses. Paramount came up with the concept of democratising their film.
A trailer was initially released with a night vision filter, showing horrified viewers. Of course, if you see people terrified but not the film footage itself, you’re going to want to know more. And people did. The trailer mentioned a website and on said the site was a poll.
If fans wanted the film to be shown within their region, they had to vote for it. This stirred online discussions and got people all over the country talking about a film they had no idea about. Not only this, but the method added urgency and gave voters a sense of participation, further heightening their excitement for the film.
Despite the character of Borat being well known in the UK, he was unheard of in America. Therefore, Borat attended multiple interviews and late-night shows in the states. However, these were undergone with the audiences not knowing there was a Borat film being made.
To the viewers, they were just watching a clueless, foreign journalist being very odd on the TV. Borat skewered American culture, and the whole country was talking about him.
Some found it hilarious, others found it shocking. Ultimately, all publicity is good publicity. So, it was no surprise that when the film was released, millions were desperate to see a movie based on this ridiculous character. The legend of Borat didn’t stop at the film’s release, however. To this day, many people are unsure as to whether the events depicted are real footage or acted. This, therefore, still generates hype around the film now.
The Dark Knight
The campaign for this Christopher Nolan masterpiece was like nothing that came before it. Starting over a year before the film’s release, a website was made with a fake political campaign for the film’s character, Harvey Dent. To add to the teasing, hundreds of thousands of copies of The Gotham Times, (a fake newspaper that is used in the Batman films) were made and distributed across cities.
Once people let on these newspapers, the hype became massive. But it didn’t stop there. Cakes were made which contained cell phones inside them. When one of the lucky recipients found their phone, they could ring The Joker and listen to a recorded message by him. This introduction to the notorious villain was extremely immersive.
To add to this, Joker cards that read “HAHA” were distributed across comic book stores. The reason why this campaign was so successful was that the audience was solving clue after clue, somewhat transforming them into the mind of Batman himself. The film went on to earn billions in ticket sales, and the campaign won two prestigious awards.
So, as you can see there are many more ways to market your film other than making a trailer or a film poster.
The most innovative and creative methods are the most effective. This can be of particular use to low-budget production companies that are trying to compete against the big dogs. Just remember, Paranormal Activity had a meager budget, and by merely asking a single question, millions of fans were desperate to see the film.