Trailers, Movie Posters, Augmented Reality Games, APPS, etc., etc.: Promotional Materials in the Academic Spotlight

OFFICIAL AVATAR TRAILER – Download the INTERACTIVE one at www.avatarmovie.com/air/

I got a Call For Papers yesterday from a colleague, contributor to and resource for this blog, Dr. Keith Johnston, a lecturer in film at an University of East Anglia in the UK. He’s been invited to edit a special ‘Promotional Materials’ issue of Frames, the online peer-reviewed journal published by the University of St. Andrews.

This is a watershed moment people: advertising, publicity and promotion of films is emerging as a capital S subject of academic inquiry. Woohoo! Yes, there have been scholarly considerations aplenty–but only here and there, and just a few book length studies. But a special issue of a distinguished journal means that critical mass has been reached. The floodgates are open. I’m just sorry Professor Lisa Kernan isn’t here to see how critical her work was to the development of the field.

Besides congratulating Dr. Johnston on the academic distinction represented by this invitation, I wrote to thank him for the list of potential topics that he sent along to likely contributors to the journal. Effectively, he wrote a description of what I have intended this blog to be publicizing, exploring, examining and celebrating.

Meanwhile, I offer the list. Some readers will be delighted (I hope) to find that what they do for a living is the object of scholarly inquiry. Others, I believe, will say it’s about time. I know Keith will be asking, what next, what new technology, what new media?

POTENTIAL TOPICS [For the upcoming special issue of Frames.]

• How do promotional materials create or enhance the audiences’ relationship with the feature film or television program?
• Do good promotional materials mean that waiting for the film to arrive has become more enjoyable than watching the final product?
• The relationship and reliance on genre within trailers and other marketing materials
• Who produces the promotional material? What industries exist to create and disseminate these ephemera?
• The rise of ‘Interactive’ trailers for films such as Iron Man 2 and Avatar
• Audience response to trailers that reveal ‘too much’
• The rise of fan ‘parody’ or specially created trailers
• The aesthetics of movie posters and the expansion of the poster campaign (where films feature multiple posters focusing on character or different aspects of the film)
• Selling to different audiences: are promotional material gendered? Are different national characteristics displayed through such materials?
• The relationship of promotional materials to known pleasures: narrative expectation, genre, star figures, sequels…
• Trailers within adaptation theory: a further ‘adaptation’ of the material?
• Trailers in other media: television, radio, online, mobile phones
• Online promotional campaigns
• The rise of viral marketing and ARG (Augmented Reality Games) within independent and blockbuster promotional campaigns (The Dark Knight, Paranormal Activity, Prometheus)
• The role of the actor, star or crew in talk show or ‘personal appearance’ style promotional activities

Finally, I’ve used the Avatar Interactive Trailer above as the a/v component of this blog, because of what it represents: an effort to develop the traditional trailer within a new media landscape and for audiences with commensurate expectations. Because the technology of this blog doesn’t allow me to host an interactive trailer, I invite you to download it from the Avatar movie site and experience it for yourselves.

As Dr. Johnston argues in his landmark study, Coming Soon: Film Trailers and the Selling of Hollywood Technology, the medium of presentation, the media of distribution and the technologies of film and trailer making determine what movie trailers (entertainment promotions) have been, what they are and what they will be, as much (or more) than any other formal quality or marketing imperative.

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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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