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You can have as many great actors as you want, as well as the best director, and the most qualified crew in the world but your movie could still be an absolute flop when it comes to a box office. There are numerous examples of that when promising films went completely under the radars. It resulted in huge commercial losses and the overall creative distress of its creators.
Because like it or not, in today’s competitive world, promotion plays a crucial role in a product’s success. So it’s more likely that a tasteless film with a great promo will be appreciated much better than a masterpiece with no other promotional activities except word of mouth.
But it’s always better when good projects receive the attention they deserve, and today we will speak about those ones.
Here’s the list of the most inventive and creative promo campaigns for the films that changed the industry from the inside.
Gonzo filming and pseudo-documentary are two mainstream ways of making a horror film. But it wasn’t like that until 2008. The year when Paranormal Activity came out. The low budget marketing campaign consisted of several short youtube videos, designed to look like an accidental home shot of very disturbing and paranormal activities. There were no voice overs or text panels, just raw low-quality footage. Only by the very end of the video viewers were actually able to learn that it was movie footage. It worked like a charm, Paranormal Activity had an astonishing box office of $200 million with a budget of $15.000. Needless to say that it gave an impulse for countless sequels and remakes.
It’s a well-known fact that 3D technology for cinema was created specifically for Avatar. James Cameron was always very serious about his creations and he made sure that as many people as possible saw the movie. And so he invested heavily in special effects and in image editing. That is why all the shots in his movies are so vivid and bright. The promo campaign for Avatar was covered in mystery. The creators have decided on exactly how much info about the plot they wanted to give away and that amount was close to zero. People were anticipating the Avatar but nobody knew anything about the film itself, yet knew everything about the fact that it will be out soon and it’s full of blue-skin aliens. As we all know, it resulted in being a #1 box office movie in the world, scoring over a billion in total, and overcoming a legendary Titanic. By the way, the latter was also directed by James Cameron. This man surely knows a thing or two about making his movies popular.
There’s no need for yapping a lot about Avengers. You can barely find someone who hasn't heard about the cinematic universe of Marvel today. Avengers was a groundbreaking project in terms of promo because never before the promo of the film was embedded in other films. The main thing about Avengers is hidden in its heroes, their backstories, and character arcs development that complemented each other. So by watching one Marvel film you automatically were hyped for the next ones. Good stuff.
As a Hawkeye said:
As much as I hate to admit it, if we're gonna win this one, some of us might have to lose it.
Yet the Marvel promo strategy had proven itself to be a ‘win-only’ endeavor.
“Promoting yourself through other sources is a very efficient way of advertising and making an audience. Despite this method taking a long time to make it into a movie industry, the internet used it for years. Link building is one of the more well-proven ways of increasing your website’s authority” - Ally Krystovski, Head of Content at Linksmanagement.
The meta-irony is what made Deadpool so popular. This franchise ridiculed stereotypes of superhero movies before it went mainstream. To promote a Deadpool, creators also decided to rely on humor. They’ve released a series of videos, including a Christmas special, where Deadpool spoke to the audience, breaking the fourth wall. This promo campaign as well as the acting talent of Ryan Reynolds resulted in being a great financial success.
Borat is maybe the best example of disrupting marketing and shock effects in action. Sacha Baron Cohen was a relatively unknown actor at the time, which played a great role in making the whole plan work. Before the release, the actor held a press conference, being fully in character. It made people believe that he is really a strange documentary director from Kazakhstan. People went to the theaters to see that ‘crazy Kazakh guy’. But that’s not even the end of the story. When the president of Kazakhstan was visiting the US, partially trying to block the movie release, Borat held another press conference right in front of the White House. He said that he is a real president of Kazakhstan and that he loves the movie, and everybody should see it. Surprisingly enough, he just got away with it one more time. Journalists believed it was an actual president, so they streamed the whole thing with no idea that they just gave a very smart man the best advertising he could ever dream of.
So, you can surely say that the best promo campaigns are one that took it to the next level, refusing to play by the standard rules. Spending millions of dollars can’t guarantee you the result you are hoping for. To make it truly work, you need to be creative and think outside the box. That’s how you can easily turn a student film with a $15.000 budget into a successful multimillion movie franchise.
You can’t start a trend by following that of others, to be first in anything you need to go to unknown territory, making your own path.
Do you know other interesting examples that are worthy of our attention? Feel free to share them with us in the comment section!
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Updated on October 27, 2020
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