Monday, July 16, 2018
  • Friday, Mar. 24, 2017
Neil Goetz
POV (Perspective)
Creating A Successful Movie Trailer Or TV Promo

Those of us who work in the entertainment marketing industry know all too well that creating a successful movie trailer or TV promo is an inexact science. When I’m working with a studio or TV network client to create a new piece of marketing for an upcoming campaign, I’m often reminded of my late mother, Marian. Not only was my mother an incredible cook and a master baker, but she knew that cooking was an art and that baking was a science. She was very instinctual as well as very methodical in her approach to everything she did in the kitchen. My mother’s talents were the perfect blend of art and craft, and she remains an inspiration to me when I’m working on a brand new marketing campaign.
Undertaking any new marketing campaign without a pre-conceived, upfront creative strategy, strategic message, and a clear understanding of the intended blend of “art + science,” is like taking a walk at night through the forest without a flashlight. You’re going to stumble along the way and the campaign is going to stumble.
I came into this entertainment marketing industry universe through one of the 4A’s ad agencies, where we learned to sell products through the method of “USP” or “Unique Selling Proposition.” I began my career there as a copywriter, where I quickly learned how to communicate the main selling points of an ad campaign through the use of words and ideas. The ad industry’s focus on USP always involved story as well...what is the “story” about this product? How will this product improve my life and those of my friends and loved ones? How will using this product make me happy?”
I think those of us in entertainment marketing today should consider looking back at this old school advertising approach, and spend more of our time developing the clear and compelling STORY that our film or television show is all about. Unfortunately today, many marketing campaigns include very few, or even no, “words” by which to convey the intent of their project. In my opinion, this might be a mistake. Once when I was working with Jeffrey Katzenberg, he wanted to just HEAR THE WORDS that were included in a trailer, so he’d know why he made that movie in the first place!    
I’d like to offer five tips on Creative Strategy for entertainment marketers to keep in mind while developing a new campaign:

  • WHAT IS THE STORY?  An effective trailer or promo should let the audience know and understand right away who the characters are. Are the characters being properly introduced? Is the sequence of events shown in the trailer constructed properly? Would I be able to convey the storyline of the film based on the trailer to my friends the next day? Today, many trailers and promos have lost the art of storytelling – they have become overtaken by style at the expense of message.


  •  WHAT GENRE IS THIS? Is your film or TV show a comedy? A thriller? A tear-jerking drama? An action/shoot ‘em up? A cross-blend of several genres? The trailer or promo needs to establish the framework for the visual messaging that’s being presented and what’s to come.


  • WHAT’S THE TONE? Once the genre has been clearly identified, we need to evaluate the “tone.” For example, a comedy can have a sophisticated tone or a raunchy tone. The question here is: How does the film make you feel?” Is your horror film more of a thriller or gore-fest? Does the trailer make you laugh? Terrify you? Convey big, incredible dramatic moments that grab your heart and soul immediately? When properly developed, the trailer or promo will instantly capture and express the tonality of the piece. This is where the “art” comes into play – because you are relying on your gut response to elicit the proper feeling from your target audience/viewer.


  • WHO IS THIS SHOW FOR? Who is your target audience or audiences? The marketing campaign needs to be designed to impact each of your key demos in powerful and effective ways. This is where the “science” of marketing comes into play, as your research results should guide you to the audience to whom your film plays best. You can then develop and create appropriate marketing elements and materials that best serve these demographics.


  • DO THE FLASH AND SIZZLE OVERPOWER THE MESSAGE? Given the extraordinary digital tools editors have at their fingertips today, many trailers and promos have become overpowered by flashy graphics and visual effects. The question needs to be asked: Are the music and graphics in this trailer in synch with the tone and genre and story we are hoping to tell? It’s always better in my opinion to have less flash but tell a stronger story. Too much sizzle can suck the life out of the message, something we call “Vampire Video.” Many marketers, hoping to reach today’s younger audiences, tend to over-rely on too much digital “art,” often at the expense of telling the story in the best possible way.

If marketers concentrate too much of their attention on Creative Tactics instead of the bigger picture of Creative Strategy, they are making a mistake. The “message” of your film or TV show is everything – you need to determine what’s the most powerful way possible to get this messaging out there. Before a marketer tailors a suit, he or she should think, “Is this even the suit I want to buy in the first place?”
When a studio or network marketing executive decides to bring in an entertainment marketing agency vendor to work on a new campaign, ideally, that vendor should be brought onto the team when the new project first gets green lit on day one. The vendor agency then has a good deal of time to assess the marketability of the project, and to determine the best ways in which to sell it to the public. The agency can arrange for the best unit photography, whether on set or on location or staged, can test and re-test the right copy lines, and has the benefit of time to nail down all of the right, and most powerful, marketing materials which will ultimately be delivered across multiple media platforms.
Bottom line: If the foundation of a marketing campaign itself is shabby, there’s no reason to become obsessed with the small details featured within the trailer or promo. The house itself needs to be re-designed, revamped, or torn to the ground, and a new one constructed in its place. If the campaign you’re working on appears to be on shaky ground, my advice is take a step back and re-evaluate it from an “Art + Science” POV, and ensure that both are being handled properly.
As my mother used to say, “Anyone can bake a cake, but it won’t taste good unless the right ingredients – measured in the right quantities – are blended together perfectly!” 

Neil Goetz is founder & executive creative director of The Engine Room, a strategic creative agency and think tank.