[Stop Button Lists] The Ten Best Movie Marketing Campaigns Ever

The Ten Best Movie Marketing Campaigns Ever (or since 1999)

source: WhatCulture

  1. The Avengers (2012, Joss Whedon)
  2. Cloverfield (2008, Matt Reeves)
  3. The Dark Knight (2008, Christopher Nolan)
  4. Tron: Legacy (2010, Joseph Kosinski)
  5. Avatar (2009, James Cameron)
  6. The Matrix (1999, Lana and Lilly Wachowski)
  7. Paranormal Activity (2007, Oren Peli)
  8. 28 Days Later (2002, Danny Boyle)
  9. A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001, Steven Spielberg)
  10. The Blair Witch Project (1999, Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez)

Stop Button Lists is a new feature. When I thought of it, I wanted something flexible. Possibly scalable, definitely flexible. The first week’s post discussed a top ten list from thirty-five years ago, last week’s post looked at home video releases; those same films will be discussed in a different context in a coming post–see what I mean by flexible?

The idea is to look at different containers and how their contents relate to both the container and the other entries. The first week’s list was created by a single person, the second week’s list came from LaserDisc release dates. Containers can made in many different ways.

So for this post, I thought about doing an entirely different kind of container. I wanted to look at the most successful movie marketing campaigns and talk about those films. However, with the exception of an “AdWeek” article I couldn’t motivate myself to read, most such lists appear not on film or business sites, but on desperate-for-profit clickbait nonsense sites.

Cillian Murphy stars in 28 DAYS LATER, directed by Danny Boyle for Fox Searchlight Pictures.
Cillian Murphy stars in 28 DAYS LATER, the eighth best marketed film of all time, directed by Danny Boyle for Fox Searchlight Pictures.

On WhatCulture, which pays its authors based on pageviews (but nothing upfront), I found two lists with the same title. “10 Best Movie Marketing Campaigns Ever.” Two different authors, two months apart. I went with the list where I’d seen seventy percent of the films. And I wrote a post about the list.

Try as I might not to attack the bad choices, there was nowhere else to go with it. The list’s creator wasn’t interested in a conversation about the effectiveness of movie marketing, he wanted to get paid. He didn’t see a penny until he got a thousand hits or whatever.

I’m not a stranger to figuring out what will, based on available data, get the best Google results. I do it a little bit with the tags on the site now, trying to conform to existing Google keywords. So I’m not above being mercenary, I just try not to be intrusive with it.

And this list is intrusive. It plays its reader, who’s not just getting played for reading the article, but giving the hits–clicking between each photo to get to the next part of the post. Just reading it requires, through UI, a lot of commitment.

So the list has to be worth it. Either to enrage or to validate.

Once I got through a draft of the post, I couldn’t forgive the lack of research on the list. Analysis would actually be interesting, looking at a bunch of different factors. But WhatCulture isn’t about providing brief scholarly posts, it’s about getting hits.

A scene from THE DARK KNIGHT, directed by Christopher Nolan for Warner Bros.
A scene from THE DARK KNIGHT, directed by Christopher Nolan for Warner Bros. Its marketing campaign encouraged people to dress as The Joker and emulate the character’s psychotic behavior.

And putting The Avengers, The Dark Knight and Avatar on a list are going to get some hits. I’m still surprised how much of a readership boost I got around the time of my Avengers post on all the related films. It has enthusiastic fans who read about it.

That anecdote aside, The Avengers gets an average of approximately half a million searches a month. It’s a good search term for the list getting seen. And Dark Knight and Avengers are probably mutually exclusive, so you’d get both. Ditto Avatar. The list has its franchises, but it has different ones, ones with divisive fan bases. Except maybe Avatar, does it have divisive fan base factions?

The list is cautious, calculated. Does anyone really remember if A.I. had a good marketing campaign? The argument for The Matrix having one is a little strange; I remember when it was the zeitgeist and it seemed like it was ironic theater-going turned into a sincere regard for the film, not because of marketing. Of course, I only was excited to see it because it was from the makers of Bound.

Olivia Wilde and Garrett Hedlund star in TRON: LEGACY, directed by Joseph Kosinski for Walt Disney Pictures.
Olivia Wilde and Garrett Hedlund star in TRON: LEGACY, directed by Joseph Kosinski for Walt Disney Pictures. The film was marketed to tech savvy fans of the original film, which unfortunately excluded Homer Simpson, the only person to champion the original.

Tron: Legacy? It had a bunch of cool marketing things, but the movie didn’t hit the way it was supposed to hit. It was quickly forgotten; Disney even cancelled plans for Tron 3. Why’s it on the list? To get hits, because lots of people though the movie looked or sounded cool.

The silliest entries on the list are Blair Witch, Paranormal Activity and Cloverfield. It’s all the same thing–viral marketing where participating in that marketing is part of the film’s “experience.” Of the three films, Paranormal Activity–which I’ve never heard anyone talk about–is the most successful in the long run. Blair Witch immediately fizzled as did Cloverfield, but nowhere near as spectacularly.

I pruned the list in my first draft–a la George Carlin and the Ten Commandments–and even planned on doing something similar here. I wanted to look at why the movies got cut. But, really, there isn’t a point to it. It’s a pointless list. The goal of this post is, well, put simply, to make points out of pointlessness.

Hopefully, I succeeded. Otherwise, thanks for sticking it out.

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