Tuesday, August 14, 2012

"Your movie stinks, see ours instead!" Question of the day: Should movie marketing campaigns bait each other?

It was my first thought walking out of The Bourne Legacy last Monday.  "I bet Sony and MGM wishes they could somehow attach a Skyfall trailer to *the end* of every Bourne Legacy print, purely out of spite."  Obviously that really isn't possible in today's theatrical distribution model, but why wouldn't Sony do the next best thing?  Why wouldn't they cut a new Skyfall trailer explicitly commenting on how mediocre the latest entry in the would-be heir-to-Bond franchise is?  Cue: various underwhelming clips from The Bourne Legacy.  "Wow... that bloody sucked!  That Aaron Cross sure is a wanker!  Let a real professional show you how its done... (cue Bond theme and fade in accordingly)."  Or whatever, you get the idea.  For reasons that may involve actual regulations or may just be a kind of mutual gentlemen's agreement, rival film studios don't generally call each other out like that.  But maybe, just maybe they should.  It may not be polite, but it would make modern film marketing that much more fun.

Would it not have been fun to see a Star Trek trailer that basically said "for a real summer kick-off film, skip X-Men Origins: Wolverine and wait a week for the real start season to start"?  How about a Payback commercial back in February 1999 explicitly telling Freddie Prinze Jr. and James Van Der Beek to get the hell off Mel Gibson's lawn?  Why not make explicit what the first full trailer for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows made implicit, that Bella and Edward and their forest-hopping adventures were mere pretenders to the throne?  Or even something as simple as commercials for Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl and Inception respectively apologizing for the dreadful summer movie season and assuring us that "This is the one you've been waiting for!".  We've seen some pretty clever fake trailers for both Expendables films (here and here), but yet Lionsgate gave no thought to releasing a commercial capitalizing on audience disinterest in Total Recall and The Bourne Legacy.  It doesn't have to be high art or subversive satire, but I can't be the only one who thinks that a certain willingness to call each other out and/or name names would make the game that much more enjoyable.

What do you think about this?  Would a willingness of film marketing campaigns to openly mock high-profile failures and/or acknowledge success in a joshing fashion ("You've already seen The Avengers six times.  Why not try a different movie this Memorial Day?") cheapen the process or lead to more intellectual honesty?  Obviously we probably wouldn't want art house films being ridiculed for their often meager per-screen averages ("But that's because it was on Video On Demand, right?  No?  Oh, never mind..."), but I think there is an opportunity for playfulness where little currently exists.  Share your thoughts below.  What priceless moments of inter-studio competitiveness were left on the table in your opinion?  Is this all a slow road to hell?

Scott Mendelson           


Ryan Stevens said...

My first thought is copyright issues. I understand for the purposes of satire one can depict a living person/film without risks of running afoul, but can one use film clips owned by other studios? Obviously, you can get around this by just mentioning the titles/characters of the other movies and having a narrator bad-mouth them.

Besides copyright issues, I wonder how much movement of individuals between companies in the industry would prevent this. If you are a mid-level executive at Sony, you sure as heck don't want to upset a future boss at paramount. But I don't really know how turnover rates work in the industry.

My final thought more comes from negative/positive campaign advertisements in political campaigns. Research has shown that in specific situations negative ads can be effective in painting your opponent of someone you don't want to vote for, they have a terrible tendency of making undecided voters very turned off of voting for any politician in general. I wonder if ad guys would see this as a problem of bad mouthing another film. Yes, audience goers will now think "Man that bourne movie sucks" but now that terrible taste in your mouth that your getting when you think about the bourne movies spills over to when your thinking about Skyfall.

Adrien Alexander Benson said...

Negating all forms of legal issues that might arise from this marketing technique, I shutter at how far this could end up going. We've seen what this kind of negative advertising has done to political campaigns, and while I know we're only talking about movies here, I would hate to see the already exhausting pre-release media storm that we get with films turn into a veritable gong show.

Mbjar2000 said...

I do recall a trailer for one of the Austin Powers movies that started with "if you see one movie this summer, see star wars, but if you see two..."

Simoncolumb said...

Yeah, that was a brilliant trailer!

Simoncolumb said...

I think AFTER a films release or an its-a-given steamroller of a film, fair enough. Once the film has had its day in the sun, all bets are off and its anyones game. If it s a film (like STAR WARS or, most recently THE AVENGERS and THE DARK KNIGHT RISES, a little poking-fun won't damage their release-camapaign) and then, at the very least, the advert would get some column inches in the press and thus get free publicity.


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