Apr 15 2014, 11:04pm CDT | by Forbes
I suppose I should have seen this coming. I spent the last three months praising the relative restraint of the X-Men: Days of Future Past marketing campaign. Up until three weeks ago, we had only seen a single trailer, a grab bag of context-less photos, a few 5-second teasers, and a cover shoot for Empire Magazine. 20th Century Fox only saw fit to drop a second full trailer three weeks ago, to coincide with the overseas debut of Walt Disney's Captain America: The Winter Soldier. But now, with Sony's The Amazing Spider-Man 2 dropping in the UK tomorrow, Fox has given us a third and “final” trailer. That will teach me to say nice things ahead of time.
And not just a trailer, mind you. This trailer drop has been preceded by a 60-second clip that premiered on the MTV Movie Awards, a handful of posters, as well as some “controversial” Carl’s Jr. commercials that showed off Mystique and Quicksilver’s respective powers. Aside from the stunning sexism of the Mystique ad (that’s for another day), these kinds of commercials are as good a way as any to advertise the film to general non-hardcore audiences without overtly spoiling portions of the film. And speaking of general audiences, there is a reason this trailer is debuting during an episode of Conan O’Brien’s TBS talk show.
This is a clear sell to the kinds of moviegoers who haven’t seen an X-Men film in theaters since X-Men: The Last Stand eight years ago. So the question becomes was Fox really showing restraint earlier, or where they just waiting until the big movies dropped to premiere their respective trailers? That in itself is not a bad strategy, since your going to get more general audience eyeballs on your trailer if you attach it to the opening weekend of Captain America: The Winter Soldier as opposed to Non-Stop or Need For Speed. So if this is the start of a full-speed ahead saturation campaign leading up to the film’s May 23rd theatrical release, does that mean I was wrong to give the studio props for holding back for as long as it did? Well, yes and no.
First of all, had Sony not chosen to release The Amazing Spider-Man 2 two-and-a-half weeks before the unofficial start of summer in America, it wouldn’t quite feel like we were getting hit with a deluge of materials all at once. That’s not to say Sony is to blame for Fox’s marketing choices, but it feels sooner than it otherwise would have because of the brief time between Captain America 2 and Amazing Spider-Man 2. And even with three trailers and the various other tidbits, we still don’t have all that much knowledge of what the film is about from the marketing materials themselves. If the materials sell the film without spoiling the film, then I count that as a win.
For better or worse, I learned more about the film’s plot from glancing at last week’s Summer Movie Preview from Entertainment Weekly than I have from all of the marketing materials combined. Yes the trailer makes the “mistake” of revealing the first act and then unloading a (potentially) visually-spoilerish action montage, but it still makes a strong general audience sell. It highlights Wolverine while offering reassurances that Jennifer Lawrence and Michael Fassbender are back. This isn’t the inside baseball sell, and the sheer amount of outdoor, broad daylight action bodes well for the film’s scale. Boding less well is the rather obvious fact that the older stars (Halle Berry, Patrick Stewart, etc.) are basically glorified cameos.
Unless Fox really blows their gasket and starts leaking footage or letting cast and crew blab about who will or won’t be in Age of Apocalypse, it stands to reason that most moviegoers (and especially most critics) will be able to go into the film relatively blind. Moreover, in terms of the whole “how long before the release date” thing that I talk about from time to time, it can be argued that Fox is still playing smart ball. It’s a different thing to be unloading promo material right before the release as opposed to months in advance.
I’ve long argued for holding off the majority of your saturation-level ad campaign for the last couple weeks before release, since the vast majority of general moviegoers won’t be paying much attention until the summer movie previews start dropping. It’s the same concept in presidential elections. The pre-Labor Day campaign is arguably for the “fans” (I.E. political junkies), but the general voters often don’t start paying attention until the debates start. Same deal here, or so I’d argue. While I hope Fox doesn’t drown us in spoiler-filled clips and interviews so close to the finish line, it still bears worth mentioning that they chose to blow their load relatively close to the actual release date. As I’ve written before, the general moviegoers don’t need teasers and posters a year out in advance.
It’s fun for the converted and gives writers like me an excuse to write about this stuff. But for pre-sold would-be blockbusters like this, the copious general audience ticket buyers can be sold upon merely being told the movie exists relatively close to the release date. Fox still gets a passing grade with their X-Men: Days of Future Past campaign (no, I don’t think they care about my approval either). And of course, with marketing, the end result is how well a given film performs. If it’s a hit, it doesn’t matter how good or bad the trailers were, how good or bad the movie is, or whether or not the studio released too much material too soon. And if it’s a flop, same thing.
I didn’t care for a single trailer for The Avengers, but Walt Disney knew they had a winner in the film itself and held their head high. Conversely, the first teaser for Superman Returns remains an all-time classic and we all know how that worked out. Bryan Singer’s X-Men: Days of Future Past, starring Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, James McAvoy, Ian McKellen, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, and Halle Berry, opens on May 23rd from 20th Century Fox. As always, we’ll see.
Forbes is among the most trusted resources for the world's business and investment leaders, providing them the uncompromising commentary, concise analysis, relevant tools and real-time reporting they need to succeed at work, profit from investing and have fun with the rewards of winning.
blog comments powered by Disqus