The Insanely Unique Thing About Movie Trailers

August 11, 2014 § Leave a comment

Movie trailers are almost universally enjoyed. There’s lots of things which make movie trailers great.

That’s not what I like best.

The thing that I like best about movie trailers is a little different. It’s not a feature within the movie trailer, but a fact about the trailer itself: Movie trailers are all…actually just advertisements.

I think this combination (A: They’re ads, and B: everybody likes them) is positively one-of-a-kind. Nowhere else do consumers share the same universal joy about advertising.[ref]The Super Bowl, maybe?[/ref] The ads aren’t even all that difficult to avoid, if you just decide to show up a few minutes late to the theater or linger at the snack bar. But no! To the contrary, missing the ads at the beginning of a showing is almost like missing the best part of the entire movie-going experience.

There’s a handful of things which contribute to the success of the movie trailer. It certainly helps that trailers are advertising for pure consumer entertainment. It’s possible that consumers are more tolerant because there’s a fairly equitable ad-to-content ratio (3-4 trailers vs. 90+ minutes of movie). They don’t really have to bring up the pain point of pricing since “find your local theater and pay the cost of a movie ticket” is pretty universal knowledge.[ref]You might readily imagine how trailers would become distasteful if they all ended with “Buy your tickets today! Just $14.99 plus shipping and handling!”[/ref] But what I think deserves the lion’s share of the credit is the notion that more than almost anything else, movie trailers are incredibly articulately targeted.

With a movie trailer, you’ve got:

  1. A very strong idea on demographic (theater full of self-selected people suitable for G, PG, PG-13, R)
  2. A great head start on behavioral factors (viewers have already established they like going to the movies)
  3. A great head start on psychographics (viewers who are settling in to see a horror movie are highly primed for other horror movie trailers)

It feels like the entire modern consumer economy is fueled by advertising — our apps, our websites, our shows, our blogs. And more often than not, that advertisement is treated as a nuisance — some disruptive noise to put up with which helps your service provider to pay its bills — which we’d all avoid if we possibly could. There’s a reason AdBlock Plus is consistently among the top-rated add-ons for Chrome and Firefox. Companies like Spotify and Pandora hedge their entire business around freemium services which basically say “Hey! If you like the product but don’t want to put up with the crappy, ad-riddled version, you can pay us money!”

There’s research which suggests we consumers see an average of 5,000 ads per day. That’s crazy. Five thousand disruptions on a daily basis. 1.85 million annoyances annually.

Movie trailers give me hope. They prove that it’s possible for ads which fund the world around us to be something much, much better than the pesky bother we halfheartedly put up with today. That’s exciting.

On a related note: I’m joining a company today which aspires to do more or less exactly that.


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