As The Desolation of Smaug unleashes itself on cinemas, a word on movie posters using tweets from the public as endorsement.
In August of this year, I was fortunate enough to see Derren Brown’s brand new live show Infamous on London’s West End. After leaving the Palace Theatre, I was bemused but elated; he was outstanding and he put on a great show. I stood to the left of the entrance and watched the hundreds parading out with similar expressions on their face when something caught my eye on the side of the building – a poster. It was a poster for Infamous, but on it was something I’d never seen before.
The tweets on the Desolation of Smaug poster are from fans that have yet to see the movie. It’s just pure excitement and anticipation
It was Derren Brown stood on a stage, while almost the whole poster was made up of tweets to him regarding his show, like a patchwork quilt. “Great show, Derren”; “Infamous blew my mind”; “You’re a witch” (I’m paraphrasing from memory, but you get the idea). I thought it was an interesting and contemporary idea and I was genuinely impressed. Almost everything these days attempts to integrate modern technology into their business model, and what’s more contemporary now than social media?
I thought no more of it until last week, when the new poster for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug was revealed (you can see it here). In a similar move to those responsible for promotional art for the Derren Brown show, it seems the marketing team behind The Hobbit have opted for fan tweets on the poster rather than critical reviews or media magazine star ratings. There’s one major difference though – these tweets are from fans that have yet to see the movie. These tweets come from no prior knowledge of the movie, just pure excitement and anticipation. Perhaps it’s a way to get others excited about it, but will this new marketing strategy work?
Many people, including myself, take to social media sites to give mini-reviews on the latest movies and television shows. This can start a dialogue, which gets more and more people involved, making it a huge marketing tool. If the majority of your friends and like-minded people on Twitter are saying a movie is great but a critic is saying the opposite, this is unlikely to stop you seeing the film or enjoying it. This is the feeling of The Desolation of Smaug’s marketing team, who are using tweets from excited fans to feed the expectation on social media sites and amongst cinemagoers.
Surely critical opinion trumps a fan’s preconception? For or against, critics come from an informed place
This strategy goes hand in hand with a movie franchise like The Hobbit. Its loyal fan-base, with a mixture of book fans and fans of Peter Jackson’s epic Lord of the Rings trilogy, has a sense of community, particularly on social media sites. Word of mouth is a powerful thing and it’s even greater now you can reach continents with your opinion at the touch of a button. This shared anticipation is infectious and will spread a lot faster than a one-page review in a newspaper by a cynical critic.
Not that this means that the critic is becoming obsolete. A lot of film buffs will always seek the opinions or their favourite critics and film reviewers, that’s a given. Though this marketing tool works well for a fan-heavy franchise like The Hobbit, Paul Thomas Anderson or Nicolas Winding Refn won’t likely be using tweets on movie posters to promote their projects – it wouldn’t have the same impact because they have such a niche fan-base.
There’s one thing that bothers me though – surely the opinion of a critic who’s seen the film trumps a fan’s preconception of it? We can all get excited about a movie, but it’s only after we’ve experienced it that we can form a valued argument. Whether it’s for or against, it comes from an informed place. I can see 2014’s summer blockbusters using the same technique, with the latest Transformers movie or the next Marvel movie posters covered in reviews in 140 characters or less. One thing’s for certain though – it won’t take the movie advertising world by storm just yet.
All images: New Line Cinema