Friday, June 27, 2008

The Lost Art of the Movie Trailer

I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with movie trailers. On one hand, they usually look really cool and inform me about upcoming flicks I might want to see. On the other hand, they usually SPOIL THE ENTIRE MOVIE. And that really grinds my gears.

My loathing of modern movie trailers was reaffirmed when I found this article over at Fark (a great social news aggregator site -- much more humour and none of the popularity contest syndrome that plagues Digg). It's a Top 10 List of Great Movie Trailers of the Last 30 Years. A single tear fell from my eye as I watched these cinematic masterpieces, and made me truly wonder why the marketing minds behind the Hollywood blockbusters feel the need to give the whole movie away for free.

The worst offender in recent memory was the trailer for The Incredible Hulk, which gave away nearly every single plot point in the movie. Here is what I learned from that trailer: Edward Norton is on the run from the army. The army finally tracks him down, where he goes all Hulk crazy on them. One of the soldiers he pounds on is Tim Roth, who doesn't like to lose. He volunteers to get Hulkasized himself so he can take down Norton. Good Hulk and Evil Hulk go head to head in the middle of New York.

If I know the entire story, why should I pay for the movie when it finally comes out?

At Marketing Breakthroughs, we talk about "selling the sizzle, not the steak" with our ads. This means that advertisers should give consumers a whiff of what's great about their product, without giving them the whole meal up front. Seems that movie trailers used to follow this formula, but somehow they've lost their way.

At least the art of the movie trailer isn't completely dead. The best quasi-recent one that I can recall was for The Devil Wears Prada. This trailer showed a single scene from near the beginning of the movie, introducing us to the two main characters and general premise without giving away a single thing. And I thought it was fantastic. It sold the sizzle, but not the steak -- the way any good ad should.