Movie marketing foreplay

Social media and online content has changed the game for the advance-publicity business

Jen Chaney has a point. The blogger and�self-described �celebritologist� argues in The Washington Post that Hollywood�s marketing of its movies has reached a whole new level thanks to online and social media content.

Movie marketers have always been in the hype business. In 1930, MGM�s publicity machine went into overdrive with the phrase �Garbo talks�. The difference, though, is that back then, films were hyped in the weeks before they were released. Now, we�re talking months and even years of advance publicity.

As Chaney points out, Warner Bros. unveiled the first picture of the new Superman, Henry Cavill, online in August last year. For a film � Man of Steel � that won�t be seen (legally, at any rate) until June next year. That�s almost two years of, Warners clearly hopes, �advance fanboy and fangirl chatter�.

Chaney notes that �engaging in a bit of premature audience seduction, particularly online, is hardly new� (Blair Witch Project, anyone), but now the studios are applying a formerly low-budget strategy to its potential blockbusters, with �many films engaging in varying degrees of something we�ll call movie publicity foreplay. For several months, sometimes a year-plus, the studios behind these projects titillate fans with provocative sneak peeks � casting announcements, photos, trailers, alternate reality games � until it�s finally time to deliver the full monty: the movie itself.�

Online content and the reach of social media is the game-changer, with every film � from the soon-to-be-released Hunger Games to Peter Jackson�s not-soon-to-be-released (it won�t be seen until next year) Hobbit � getting in on the act.

Online content has altered expectations, with nerds, film buffs and the merely curious expecting behind-the-scenes tidbits in an advance, reversed manifestation of the now-standard DVD extras. So in a sense, the studios are merely responding to demand and giving the public what they want � proof of the power of social media.

But as Chaney points out, such a content marketing strategy can backfire �if it�s not executed properly�. She quotes film-publicity expert Joshua Jason: �You can campaign however you want and be clever. But you have to have product that stands up.�

Notable recent examples of films that clearly haven�t stood up to all the super-advance online-content publicity include Disney�s John Carter and Universal�s Cowboys & Aliens. Plus, �there�s also the risk of overdoing the marketing to the point where potential audience members are already sick of the movie before the first Saturday matinee�.

Whether that will happen with Avatar 2 is highly unlikely. Because as we all know, movie-goers simply can�t get enough of blue aliens and James Cameron. And anyway, two years of advance publicity isn�t too much.

Is it�?


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