Written by Films

The Worst Kind of Film Ads

From the title of this piece, you might already trying to decide whether I’m going to be talking about:
– Trailers that give the entire plot of the film away;
– Trailers that are seemingly more interested in the awards their actors have previously earned than telling us anything about this new film;
– Ads for foreign language films that try desperately to avoid telegraphing that fact by not including any dialogue in the trailer.
But in this instance, I’m talking about none of those things.
Recently at work there was a group email that went around offering a free screening of an upcoming film. All attendees had to agree to was to be filmed and/or recorded afterwards saying what they thought of the film. These would then be used in television and radio ads for the film.
In fairness, the film may be superb.
I don’t know.
And from what I could see in the invitation, you could be as honest about the film as you liked. If you think it’s hopeless, then you can probably say that. But I wouldn’t imagine that your contribution would be used.
But my problem is that, regardless of how good the film is, these are the worst kind of cinema ads.
A trailer may be edited disingenuously, or include the only funny joke in the entire “comedy” film, but you at least stand a chance of making some kind of educated decision about whether you’re interested in the film (e.g. the trailer for Pain and Gain made it very clear that I’d rather chew my own arm off than ever go and see it). Yet these audience reaction ads are worse than useless.
It’s true that recommendation is a great way to get me to see a film. That might be a critic who I regard highly, or just a good friend whose taste I trust. Even someone who I think has an appalling taste in films can give me valuable information about whether or not I want to see a film.
But random people off the street are useless.
So if your movie ad is filled with happy smiling people emerging from a cinema somewhere telling a camera crew how great the film is, that tells me nothing. I’m certain that I could find a grinning fool who’d tell a camera that Sex Lives of the Potato Men was the best thing ever. Indeed wave a camera in someone’s face and they’ll happily lie to that camera as convincingly as they can manage to get screentime.
And the same goes for those print or outdoor ads that instead of using newspaper, magazine or established websites for critical remarks, use random people they’ve found on Twitter. I’m not saying that I implicitly trust anything that Heat, Stylist or the Daily Star says about a film, but I’ve got a better notion of how high they set their bar than I do @crazydavethecinemagoer or @everythingisjustsobrilliant.
While we’re at, horror films that are advertised with night-vision cameras focused on an audience “jumping” does not persuade me that your work is any good either.
Look – I realise it’s not easy being a film marketing company. You’ve essentially got a new “brand” to launch on an unsuspecting public every week. But these lazy advertising tropes fool no-one, and almost certainly don’t work.
And for me, they have the worse effect – I tend to think that you’ve got something to hide and that your film is actually rubbish.