Marketing Method: Ghostbusters (2016)

So finally, the trailer for the new Ghostbusters is out! Here it is:

So far, the reaction has been… mixed. Some have loved the new trailer and celebrated it as an exciting new entry. Others have had a… different reaction. Well, it’s sparked debate – so that’s something the marketing department did right, I guess?

Let’s get into it.

Speaking from a personal standpoint as someone who has followed the development of this new Ghostbusters, this trailer is confusing. Look at how it starts, “30 years ago, four scientists saved the world…” or something like that. Oh cool, so it’s a sequel right?

Apparently not, no. In a recent interview regarding his new movie, Paul Feig confirmed that his Ghostbusters is a reboot(or remake, whatever the popular term is these days). He even went in-depth to explain his reasoning in avoiding a sequel. Agree or disagree, as director – he gets to make that call. Unfortunately, the people making the trailer must not have seen this interview.

If it's a reboot, then it makes sense to have a "coming together" opening. Here's hoping the film moves a little more quickly than the original.
If it’s a reboot, then it makes sense to have a “coming together” opening. Here’s hoping the film moves a little more quickly than the original.

This did the trailer no favors as audiences received an opening that promised a sequel and went into a lot of shots that frankly looked familiar. Remember this library opening from the original? This one:

Well, here it is again!

Screen-Shot-2016-03-03-at-8.30.06-AM-700x291

Three scientists coming together to fight ghosts?

Check.
Check.

An additional black Ghostbuster who is not initially part of the team (and probably not a scientist)?

Check.
Check.

Ghostbusters saving the city of New York from an apparent sudden ghost surge?

Well… okay that one isn’t fair. Every Ghostbusters movie should hopefully involve Ghostbusters fighting ghosts in some way. I would hope. Oh, but there’s also Slimer:

gb6

Point being, for a trailer that opens with the implication of sequel, there is a lot of retreading common ground. This likely goes a long way to explain at least some of the negative reaction. Personally, I think this addresses most of the fair criticism. The rest is subjective but probably a little reactionary.

“The jokes don’t work. The ghosts look CG (spoiler: they are). The writing sucks. The movie isn’t funny.”

Calm down – we’ve seen less than two minutes. Now, have I seen better trailers? I have. That being said, and this is again personal opinion, is too much emphasis being placed on the trailer rather than the team behind it?

Let’s look at another movie coming out soon: Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. That film has trailers that are kinda all over the place. The first trailer offered an emotionally charged look at why Batman and Superman would fight. It didn’t get into too much plot, but provided a hook. The second trailer… likely told the entirety of the movie. Seriously, I don’t know for sure but I’m going to bet that after I see Batman v. Superman, I’m going to feel the same way.

That, in my opinion, was not a well put together piece of publicity. It suggested the unending need for more to satisfy the audience.

“Bored with Batman – we got Superman! Don’t like Superman – how about Doomsday? We also got Lex Luthor! Oh, here’s Wonder Woman! Justice League!!!!”

"WE ALSO HAVE AQUAMAN! PLEASE BE EXCITED!!"
“WE ALSO HAVE AQUAMAN! PLEASE BE EXCITED!!”

It cried a certain desperation that Batman and Superman are not interesting enough on their own.

But I am getting sidetracked. At the end of the day, Batman v. Superman is a movie made by Zack Snyder, a director with a… less than steady history (to put it objectively). Man of Steel, Sucker Punch, 300, Legend of the Guardians… Snyder does not have a consistent record when it comes to quality cinema.

Let’s look at Paul Feig, creator of Freaks and Geeks, Bridesmaids, the Heat, and Spy. While I have not seen the Heat (which has the lowest critical ranking of his recent films), that is a more impressive list to me. Spy was one of my favorite comedies of last year and has a trailer that looks:

Okay, I got it. Feig needs to hire some new trailer people.

It is strange to note that Snyder’s name is still being used for advertising, while Feig’s name is left off the Ghostbusters trailer.

Is there something more behind the seemingly incredibly malicious response to the trailer? Remember: people seem to love Star Wars: the Force Awakens, a sequel that had quite a few remake-ish similarities with a New Hope. I’m not going to get into it in this article – my short answer is I don’t know, maybe.

“I thought about it for a very long time. Like, many, many months. No, that’s not right. I was seriously thinking about this for years, really … It kept eating at me, and I really respect those girls. And then I started to feel like if I didn’t do this movie, maybe somebody would write a bad review or something, thinking there was some sort of disapproval [on my part].”             - Bill Murray on why he ultimately decided to be in the new Ghostbusters.
“I thought about it for a very long time. Like, many, many months. No, that’s not right. I was seriously thinking about this for years, really … It kept eating at me, and I really respect those girls. And then I started to feel like if I didn’t do this movie, maybe somebody would write a bad review or something, thinking there was some sort of disapproval [on my part].” – Bill Murray on why he ultimately decided to be in the new Ghostbusters.
There are legitimate criticisms to be sure, and the most frightening possibility that the studio might be trying to interfere with the movie in a classic example of “wanting it both ways.” That would not bode well.

So is Ghostbusters a sequel or a reboot? Who knows. Hopefully it’s not both.

Is it going to be a good movie? Too early to tell. At the very least, it appears to be in good hands.

Here is a trailer for the original Ghostbusters for contrast:

So full of jokes!

Marketing Method: Jurassic World

Fourteen years ago, Jurassic Park III hit theaters (yes, you are that old). The film received mixed reviews with many people calling it more fun than The Lost World… but also more stupid. The “they’re not monsters, they’re animals” approach championed by Steven Spielberg was gone, replaced instead with “here’s a new dinosaur… bigger and more terrible than T-Rex.” Granted, Jurassic Park III never pretended to be anything more than a simple thrill ride, just watch the trailer:

Three big things to take away from that trailer: 1. Dr. Grant is back!!!!!!! 2. Raptor intelligence. 3. New dinosaur – bigger and meaner than Tyrannosaurus.

While some enjoyed this approach, it is worth noting that Jurassic Park III was both the worst reviewed critically of the series (49% on Rotten Tomatoes and 42 on Metacritic) and the least profitable. The film grossed only 368 million with a 93 million budget, Lost World by comparison grossed 618 million with a 73 million dollar budget.

So while the film was an experiment, it does not seem like one the producers would like to repeat. Let’s look at the trailer for the brand new entry, Jurassic World:

Three big things to take away from that trailer: 1. Star-Lord is in Jurassic Park!!!! 2. Raptor Intelligence. 3. New dinosaur – bigger and meaner than Tyrannosaurus.

Wait…

Yeah, it seems like at least one part of the Hollywood machine, Jurassic World‘s marketing, is very content to recycle the old hooks of Jurassic Park III. Both films also share a similar “over the top” approach. Jurassic Park III includes shots in a river, in a giant bird-cage, in a lot of environments to add spectacle. Jurassic World shows much the same… adjusted from 2001 to 2015 (over the top means so much more today).

It is hard to claim you are making any kind of serious movie when this is a shot in the trailer.
It is hard to claim you are making any kind of serious movie when this is a shot in the trailer.

This marketing move is perplexing, given how the last film was received. While some fans enjoyed Jurassic Park III‘s ride, many wanted a return to the more intelligent Spielberg approach. Instead, audiences will be treated to Indominus Rex, the new dinosaur created by genetic modification… of all the largest and most dangerous dinosaurs into one… cause that sounds intelligent.

They should have just gone all out and added the DNA of Adolf Hitler... cause it might look cool with a mustache.
They should have just gone all out and added the DNA of Adolf Hitler… cause it might look cool with a mustache?

Indeed Indominus Rex has found itself at the center of Jurassic World’s marketing, and the controversial reaction to it. While some have expressed excitement, others have voiced the same critical words that Chris Pratt’s character states in the trailer: “doesn’t seem like a good idea.”

Escalation is a typical strategy in Hollywood sequels: bigger means better. Jurassic Park has been a film franchise that has followed this philosophy with every sequel. One T-Rex became two, became a Spinosaurus, became an Indominus Rex. What’s next? Two cloned dinosaurs… are they planning to give it wings? The problem with this approach is that it all says one thing: what is there isn’t exciting without something new added. In this case dinosaurs… dinosaurs are not exciting without new and better dinosaurs. What?

Dino Riders: the logical conclusion. Also, why has no one made a Dino Riders movie yet?
Dino Riders: the logical conclusion. Also, why has no one made a Dino Riders movie yet?

Granted, the story arch of the first Jurassic Park does not lend itself well to sequel material. There is a park that makes dinosaurs, dinosaurs get out, dinosaurs eat people – cut and we’re done. It isn’t an idea that demands “what comes next?”. The Lost World tried to change the formula, adding messages of conservation and naturalism vs. profiteering… to mixed results. Jurassic World looks squarely back in the first movie’s camp, however the trailer does contain some self-awareness that may be a sign that audiences are in for a treat. After all, Jurassic Park III had no character calling out how inane its central plot mechanic was.

Director Colin Trevorrow is untested, and that can be a good thing when it comes to injecting freshness into a series. However, two recent developments have further damaged excitement towards Jurassic World. Trevorrow has already said he has no plans to return for a sequel, which can be taken as either creative vision to do something else… or the studio was less than pleased with the final product. By itself, it is easy to assume the former, until we look at the early reviews… or lack thereof. As of right now: no critical review has been received on either Rotten Tomatoes or Metacritic. This is odd for a movie with such an imminent release. Pixar’s new film, by contrast, does not release until later than Jurassic World – and that already has reviews pouring in.

Time will tell what type of movie Jurassic World is. One thing seems already certain though, the Jurassic Park franchise marketing department needs to go extinct.

Unrelated note but am I the only one who also thinks these new toys are terrible? Seriously, it just looks like a mess of hard, jagged, plastic. Yeah, I want my child to play with that.
Unrelated note but am I the only one who also thinks these new toys are terrible? Seriously, it just looks like a mess of hard, jagged, plastic. Yeah, I want my child to play with that. I miss the old style figures.

A Sincere Letter to Weather.com

Dear Weather.com,

First of all: thank you. As the media world adapts to the changing mediums in technology, it is nice to see a new, streamlined version of the weather forecast. Gone are the days where I had to watch fifteen minutes of crappy local news, just to catch a glimpse of what might be happening outside my window that week. Those forecasts, despite their peppy weather… people (what’s the word for weathermen and weather-women?) were often very general, as they could not record a forecast for a specific area, but rather had to cover the region. Not that this method didn’t work, it simply led to more mistakes. People expecting snow might get nothing while those looking forward to flurries would instead take a blizzard to the (metaphorical) face.

Thank you, weather.com, because now I can get a forecast tailored to my town. What’s that, I can get an hourly breakdown? Hold the phone – a summary every fifteen minutes. You gotta be shitting me! Wow, weather.com, you are amazing. An improvement over the old ways in every sense… well, almost every sense. Let’s look at your homepage:

Thank god I know about that spider, seriously.
Thank god I know about that spider, seriously.

Okay, looks good. I have a temperature readout for several areas (available in both Fahrenheit and Celsius) and an active map of an area seeing a strong weather pattern… that’s all pretty bitching. Wait – what… adorable sleeping animal photos? I – what? 20 year-old dies of exposure… that’s bad I guess… was it from severe weather? The fuck is up with that spider?!

Yes, weather.com, while your information is fantastically applicable and usually very accurate… you really have to work on your website design. See, in the old days (and still now, actually), when weather people wanted ratings: they jazzed up the weather. Every bit of snow became the next super blizzard and hot days became DAAAAYUMMM hot days. It feels like you’re trying to compensate with these stories. Eye-catching, eye-catching! Look at us! That’s what they scream. Wouldn’t be so bad… if they all weren’t pretty stupid.

Thank god - THANK GOD - I know about Walmart's new truck.
Thank god – THANK GOD – I know about Walmart’s new truck.

Now this wouldn’t be so bad, if it weren’t on every page. Seriously, like every. single. page. on. your. website. What’s the point? Why do I need to know about cute animals. Actually, let me rephrase that: why do YOU need to tell me about cute animals. I already have imgur (pronounced im GRRRRRRRRRRR) and youtube, what do you really think you can do for me that they can’t? No weather.com, you have one job.

Can someone please explain to me why I need to see a giraffe being tragically cute while I'm looking for an extended forecast.
Can someone please explain to me why I need to see a giraffe being tragically cute while I’m looking for an extended forecast.

If you feel the need (and really, why do you?) to compliment your pages with additional information… well, could you at least make it relevant? That sixteen year old dying, that’s horrible but it has nothing to do with educating me about the weather. You’re WEATHER.COM! I expect two things from you: inform me of the weather and educate me on the weather. Your current links do no such thing. That’s pretty sad when there is amazing free information out there on the internet (it’s the fucking internet after all). Like look at these:

Took me all of two seconds to find those and it didn’t cost me anything. Plus that last one is Bill Nye. BILL NYE. Here’s a rule: if you’re an educational website – make Bill Nye available to your browsers. Seriously it’s not rocket science. Although, if you wanted to learn about rocket science, I’m sure Bill Nye could teach you.

I say look to Google. Google isn’t flashy, Google doesn’t try to keep people on by reading stupid stories. People go to Google because it helps them find the information that they want. If that information is weather-related, Google should be directing them to you.

“But,” you say, “we have to be flashy! People can get forecasts anywhere! We need to stand out!”

Yes you do – but not as that awesome weather site with the really stupid links sprinkled in! You’re not a cool website, you are never going to be a cool website (sorry). You’re where people go when we want the weather. Give us that, in copious amounts we could never hope to fully digest… but give us only that. Please, you’re embarrassing yourself right now.

Thanks for listening Weather.com

 

Sincerely,

One voice on the Interwebs