Avengers AND Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows post-release TV Spots: Jump on the Bandwagon!

AVENGERS TV SPOT, Released May 8th.

Last week, after AVENGERS shattered opening weekend box office records in the United States, the trailermakers cut a :17 spot to exploit the extraordinary news. Presumably, the distributor had contingency plans for just this kind of post-release TV spot and probably gave the go-ahead on Sunday, as the numbers indicated what it had on its hands. It’s a terrifically clever and effective :17 seconds of promotion, which regardless of the anticipation and preparation, is an impressive achievement for no more than a day or so of editing, voice over, graphic design and post.

The trailer unfolds along two avenues, with voice over copy asserting that Avengers has experienced the #1 opening of all time and that it’s one of the best reviewed movies of the year. The first marketing approach is the “bandwagon” appeal, which basically says that everybody in America is seeing this movie; it’s a phenomenon you shouldn’t miss. The second mode of persuasion is the “appeal to authority,” whereby “expert” opinion is adduced in support of the proposition that you too ought to see this movie.

Neither of these will be unfamiliar to audiences. What’s noteworthy about this spot, however, is the way in which scenes and dialogue have been cut to support the marketing claim, rather than the marketing claims tailored to movie. Samuel Jackson‘s superhero wrangler Nick Fury appears first with the first word: “You’re up,” which in the absence of a visible interlocuter addresses and convokes the audience. We see quick cuts of Capt. America‘s shield, Iron Man blasting upward and a group shot of the heroes poised for action, as the voice over declares, “the Avengers is the #1 box office opening of all time.” Cut to Tony Stark, “it’s historically awesome,” he says, a reaction wrenched from context but remarkably appropriate here. He’s followed by the Hulk‘s full-throated roar of approbation.

The Voice Over continues, “And, it’s one of the best reviewed films of the year,” as logos for Rolling Stone, Time & USA Today alternate with one word reviews (Epic, fun, exhilarating, heroic, incredible, smashing, daring, spectacular, perfect, amazing triumph, a blast) that proceed in ever increasing pace over scenes of the various superheroes in action. Finally, Scarlett Johansson‘s Black Widow offers the opinion, “you’re gonna love it,” presumably also taken from context, followed by quick cuts of Tony, the Hulk and a final V.O., “The Avengers, rated PG 13, now playing,” over the credit block.

For comparison sake, I decided to take a look at the post-release TV spot for the previous box-office opening weekend champion, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part II.

In this :17 spot, cut after the 169M opening for the final installment of that decade long franchise, the trailermakers chose the same two marketing appeals, but reversed the order.

The spot opens with Voldemort causing mischief and the VO copy: “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is one of the best reviewed movies of the year,” whereupon a “cloud” of logos from the publications in which said reviews ostensibly ran, appears against a dark and stormy sky.

As kinetically edited scenes of action unspool, the V.O. continues, “and the biggest opening in motion picture history,” spoken over a graphic card on which the exact same words are spelled out in the HP font. Dialogue of Harry grappling with Voldemort and leaping from the battlements of Hogwarts (was this scene in the film?) while saying, “let’s finish this as we started, together,” follows, addressing both his antagonist and the audience.

Finally, the VO returns with the exhortation, “don’t miss the best possible end, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part II, rated PG 13,” over a graphic card with the words of the Wall Street Journal’s movie reviewer, Joe Morganstern, “The Best Possible End!”

So, here you have it. When your film opens huge, cut another TV spot to trumpet the news, intimating that your audience will want to participate in such a cultural event. In the event that strong reviews accompany stellar box office, don’t be shy to toot your own horn. It’s a tried and true strategy, that’s been around since the blockbuster era began.

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movietrailers101 by Fred Greene is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

About Frederick Greene

Entertainment Copywriter & Visiting Assistant Professor, UCLA Dept. of Theater, Film & Television. I teach a graduate seminar in new movie marketing, which focuses on the history, contemporary practice and likely future of a/v advertising for motion picture entertainment.
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