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Movie Mis-Marketing: Who Else Wants Production Companies to Tell the Truth?

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.

What I expected 'Bridesmaids' to be...

What I expected ‘Bridesmaids’ to be…

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.

...and what 'Bridesmaids' actually was.

…and what ‘Bridesmaids’ actually was.

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?



Mandy Kilinskis

Mandy is proud to be a part of QLP’s content team. A self-professed nerd, her interests include video games, sitcoms, superhero movies, iPods and iPhones but never Macs, and shockingly, writing. Her claims to fame are: owning over forty pairs of Chuck Taylor All Stars, offering spot-on coffee advice, and knowing an unbelievable amount of Disney Princess facts. You can connect with Mandy on

Comments

  1. Jana Quinn

    I don’t think the vast majority of moviegoers pay attention to studio logos (or even writers or directors, but that’s another story for another day), so I’m not sure how much brand impact there might be.

    What I have done is avoided watching trailers (unless I’m captive in a movie theater).

    For me, an even bigger problem with movie trailers is that they give away far too much of the film. I have been excited at the basic premise of movies or bare-bones plot descriptions but then later never saw the movie because the trailer gave away 90% of the film. Why go for the suspense of the last 10% if I can just look it up online after it premiere?

    Even though I have tried three times to get into the desperately boring THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO, I still want to see the movie because the trailer is riveting WHILE NOT GIVING ME A CLIFF’S NOTES VERSION OF THE PLOT.

    The worst offender I can remember off the top of my head is Armored, which I would normally be totally into but was given almost the entire plot – every riveting twist and turn – in the trailer:

    http://www.imdb.com/video/imdb/vi3894936089/

    • Mandy Kilinskis

      No, I agree, the vast majority of moviegoers don’t pay attention to studios, writers or directors. But the people who do are the ones that write reviews or movie blogs and those people can (not always) have an effect on the attendance of a movie.

      I also agree that in general, trailers do give away too much of the plot. Yet, I disagree about The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. After seeing that trailer, I did not feel excited for it, I felt like I had just seen 35 seconds of dramatic camera angles. In that case, I would’ve liked a touch of plot. Maybe a hint at exhibition.

  2. JPorretto

    I am shocked beyond all reason that Bridesmaids did not have any of the clips from the trailer in it. That is a HORRIBLE precedent to set. If you’re using footage from the cutting room floor, then where does it end? You can make a trailer is about any damn thing you want. You could even film scenes specifically to make a trailer that you think will draw more attention….

    Shocked I say!

    • Mandy Kilinskis

      I’m waiting for the trailer with some kind of heart-racing chase scene that ends up promoting a romantic comedy.

  3. Amy

    Even though I’m a huge Boy Meets World fan (“Feeny? Fa-fa-fa-fa-feeny! Feenay! Fee-hee-heenay!!”), I would still be disappointed if I thought I was going to watch something hilarious and that’s what it turned out to be.

    It seems that more often than not, movies are cutting out most of what’s shown on the previews. This falls under false advertising if you want my honest opinion. And with movie tickets being almost $10 a pop, it’s ridiculous to not get what you’re shown.

  4. Mandy Kilinskis

    Oh, I love Boy Meets World. It’s touching, but also funny – which is exactly what I thought Bridesmaids was. Which again, awesome movie, just not what I was expecting.

    You’re right though, that does seem to be more of a trend these days. Which, okay, if they need to cut some of that based on audience reaction or whatever, that’s fine, but all the time?

    • Amy

      Exactly! I don’t enough about the industry, but couldn’t they do the pre-screenings first and then create the previews based on what’s still in the feature length film after it’s edited for its wide release? That just seems like the most logical order to do things in, but again that’s just me.

  5. Joseph Giorgi

    “But the short term gain in profit will have a long term effect on their credibility.”

    In a perfect world, this would be true. It’s sad that production companies (and more importantly, the major studios) don’t have the decency to accurately represent the tone of their films in the trailers. You don’t normally see this kind of misrepresentation in the independent arena, but it’s becoming all too common with Hollywood fare, and it’s tarnishing the integrity of mainstream movies in general. Then again, most mainstream movies are tarnished by their lack of originality anyhow, so I’m not sure why I’m so upset. I’m just so torn when it comes to cinema these days. :’(

    I think you’re absolutely right in saying that “misleading moviegoers [will] kick up the numbers at the box office.” Again, it’s sad, but true. The marketing teams and editors responsible for the current movie trailer formula should be equal parts impressed with and ashamed at themselves. I love a riveting movie trailer, but I hate that most of them are simply designed to broaden the appeal of the movie itself.

    I guess I’m just saying that this is an excellent post! I agree 127%! :)

    • Mandy Kilinskis

      I hear you, Joe. I don’t know why this bothers me so much either, but it does. While I don’t want to know everything that’s going to happen in a movie, I want to know that I have the right genre and tone.

      I realize that the film industry is struggling, but as I said, duping customers isn’t the way to see a better bottom line.

  6. Lauren G.

    Finally, someone is pointing this out. I’d like to consider myself a little bit of a “movie buff.” It takes a lot for me to go to the theatre to see a film when it first comes out, instead of waiting til DVD. I too have been disappointed going into watching a movie and finding out I already know the majority of what happens because of the previews, seriously? The film industry has seriously gone down hill over the years, a lot. I find myself watching “older” movies that satisfy me more then newer movies, but that subjects for another day. :)

    I too am a fan of Kristen Wiig. I haven’t seen “Bridesmaids” yet, I now will wait til DVD to watch it, maybe. I think that most movies are referred to me by several people before I will watch a new release. I do not pay much attention to production companies, I go more for who’s acting in it or directing, etc. Or the brief glimpse of a potentially good plot. Or sometimes a sequel to a film I really like, such as the new X-Men which I would love to see in theatres ASAP…hint hint Josh. :)

    • Mandy Kilinskis

      I enjoyed the new X-Men movie. And you know what, the tone of the trailer had the same tone of the movie – and I appreciated the heck out of that!

  7. cyberneticSAM

    I loved Bridesmaids! I thought that was hilarious! I do sort of agree the way they marketed it – kind of like a girly movie as well, which I thought was weird. Still though, I liked that the tone was not to slapsticky b/c like The Hangover, but i get really annoyed with that kind of humor. I just don’t think it is that clever. Bridesmaids had just enough slapstick and then it was jam packed with subtle humor which I thought balance it just right…how comedies should be!

    • Mandy Kilinskis

      I’m with you! I adored the movie and was pleasantly surprised with the humor, it just took me a while to drop the ‘this will be a slapstick comedy’ preconception that I brought into the theater because of the trailer.

  8. Kyle

    I totally agree with your points although I can’t think of any current examples since I haven’t been to the movies in a while. I’m also not surprised by your tendency to relate comedy trailers to “The Hangover” because I find myself doing that too.

    Misleading trailers are lame. I rarely go to the movies, but when I do I want to have an idea of what I’m seeing. Sadly I don’t think this practice is particularly hurting sales for these studios. As mentioned in previous comments, people pay little or no attention to studios/writers/directors so I think misleading trailers is a trick that will be around for a while.

    • Mandy Kilinskis

      It is clearly my new sub-goal in life to get people to pay attention to these things. Otherwise we will all be duped over and over again!

  9. Amanda

    Great post Mandy! I agree with you–I wish that movie trailers would accurately portray the movie and not give away the whole story. I think that a movie’s trailer should set the correct mood for the movie, and hook you in so you want to watch the rest of the story, not give it all away! And you’re dead on, Bridesmaids was advertised as a female Hangover movie.

    • Mandy Kilinskis

      I would have been way more excited to see Bridesmaids if the trailer accurately reflected the tone of the movie. However, I doubt they would’ve had the same success at the box office if they did. Still, New York Magazine reported that 2/3 of the audience was only women, even with a trailer that catered more to the Hangover-loving bros.

  10. Jenna

    Great post, Mandy! While I haven’t been duped like this in a while (mainly because i am either too broke or don’t have enough time to go see a move in theaters), I remember thinking this about the movie Funny People. It’s marketing focused on all of the hilarious actors that were in it, the trailers were funny, and it even had “funny” in the title, but it ended up being a depressing 2-hour movie.

    I was extremely disappointed because all of the funny parts were shown in the previews, which is another thing that production companies do. I hate it when I go to see a movie expecting it to be hilarious, and find out that it is actually boring and all of the funny parts were in the trailers.

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