By now, most people have learned that what you see in a movie trailer does not always accurately represent the entire movie. Sometimes trailers can be intriguing and well-made, but the movie sucks; or the trailer can be lame, but the movie is actually fantastic. In fact, you can recut any movie to tell whatever story you want. Recently, though, it seems that some production companies and distributors have made the move to tweak their trailers to suggest an entire different genre.
For example, let’s look at the recently released film by Universal: Bridesmaids. When seeing this trailer for the first time, I giggled at the obvious slapstick comedy trailer and made a note to further investigate what I deemed the “Female Hangover.” As opening weekend drew near, I hadn’t read any reviews, but the whisperings around the office pointed to a funny movie. I’m a fan of Kristen Wiig, so I went opening weekend anyway.
As I sat and watched the movie, I waited for the slapstick “Female Hangover” to begin. Yet, as the time passed, the slapstick, physical comedy moments were few and far between. In fact, this wasn’t the movie marketed to me at all: none of the raucous one-liners from the trailer even made the final cut. Instead, I was roped into seeing a more serious comedy about Kristen Wiig’s character trying to get her life back together. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoyed the movie; I would’ve just preferred to know the tone before I went into the theater. I was kind of annoyed, especially since this wasn’t the first time this year this happened to me.
Early in 2011, after an episode of “The Office,” I saw a slapstick comedy trailer for Ad Hominem Enterprises’ Cedar Rapids starring Ed Helms, and I believed it to be the “Hangover in a Hotel.” (Why all of my slapstick comedy trailers are compared to the Hangover is an entirely different issue). Still, I saw it. And like Bridesmaids, I was misled into seeing a movie about Ed Helms’ character trying to get his life together with some rare, raucous, comedy moments.
So what gives, production companies? I’m not alone in being misled. Let’s talk about how Supermarché Catfish was marketed as a horror movie when it was, in fact, a documentary about online relationships and facades. There’s a fine line between marketing your produce to a wide audience and misleading them, and these three movies crossed it.
I don’t know where to point my finger, but I can only assume that someone decided that misleading moviegoers would kick up the numbers at the box office. Why not market Bridesmaids and Cedar Rapids as slapstick comedies? The Hangover was the sixth top grossing movie of 2009, so that must be what the public wants! So even though our movies don’t exactly meet the criteria, let’s at least dupe the public into thinking they do. And hey, you never see documentaries like Catfish in the top 100 grossing movies of the year…but you see horror movies there! That’s comparable, right? No? What the heck, let’s do it anyway.
But the short term gain in profit will have a long term effect on their credibility. This happened to banks and credit card companies in regards to their overdraft and credit protection. Protecting yourself from overdraft embarrassment and missed payments sounds good on paper, but in actually, banks were making a killing from the service. Earlier this year, I received two letters informing me that I could opt in to class action suits against Chase and Capitol One’s seemingly-helpful credit protection. I didn’t, but I know a few people that did and then promptly canceled their cards. The public image of banks decreased significantly, and it will take them time to recover.
This may seem like an extreme example compared to movie trailers, but if seriously misleading trailers keep surfacing, my brand opinion about different production companies is going to decrease rapidly. Seeing their logo will no longer pique my interest, but make me roll my eyes. And honestly, I would like to wait until the end of the trailer to see if it’s eye roll-worthy or not. Duping the customer is no way to earn brand loyalty, and in the shrinking film industry, that’s something they should already know.
Have you seen any movies marketed in certain genres that actually belonged in another? Any products that you have purchased that didn’t match the description?