Movie Trailer Science

I didn’t realise until reading this recent piece in London’s Independent broadsheet that making film trailers was a $200m dollar industry.

It made me think about my early days of regular cinema attendance, largely only enabled by my student discount. I distinctly remembered this 1993 ad for the Stallone flick, Cliffhanger. It clearly leaves you in no doubt as to its purpose. A brash new arrival in the then nascent Indomitable Hero genre, so uplifted by Die Hard, it was striking for having no dialogue.

It was the first time I’d seen just music. In this case, apparently “a re-orchestrated version of the Dies Irae from the Requiem Mass in D minor by Mozart“.

Having subsequently seen the movie, the only thing I think strange is that you don’t get a clue as to how gloriously John Lithgow played the ruthless villain.

Still, movie trailers are interesting from a new solution sales product perspective. I know you could argue that such teasing is a marketing function, but I think most of us accept these days that those of us with a territory have to whet appetites ourselves to achieve the best success. Regardless of central Marketing effectiveness.

So let’s look at the current state of trailer making best-practice unearthed here.

“Teaser trailers can be launched up to a year ahead of release”

They can tell you little but be slick, dramatic and enticing

[You’re] not selling a narrative but an abstract representation of one

Great trailers are always about raising questions but never answering them

Another trick is the montage. Trailer editors look for iconic, easily read images that have strong emotional visceral impact and stick in the memory.

“Audiences can now engage with a trailer for up to an hour. A good trailer is all about seduction. It should tease you, make a strong impression, and then leave you wanting more.”

Can we adapt any of these six quotes from the article to help us?

Well, perhaps we can. First off, a trailer no longer seems to serve up a two-minute edit of the movie itself. It doesn’t follow the usual three-act structure and it doesn’t give the game away. How different is this from many a pre-launch pitch? The ones I hear often tell you so much that there’s no compulsion to read any of the lavish gumpf sent upon actual launch.

How can you tease your prospects into wanting to learn more?

One idea instantly came to me. When have you asked any of your clients to riff on a specific problem? One that you know you can soon resolve. Imagine getting them to give you a thirty second summary, or half-dozen sentences, on what it is and what it means to them. Then you’ve got the starting point for a “trailer” of your own as you start your latest product selling journey.

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