Monday, January 4, 2010

Deceptive Movie Advertising

I have become increasingly distrusting of the advertising that movie studios are creating to entice me to sit in a large dark room full of strangers for a couple of hours. These movie previews, or trailers as they are now more commonly called, are created to show what the movie is about in the hope that I will want to buy a ticket to see the entire production. As an advertising professional, I believe this is working because the theaters are filled with people. But, of late, I have seen a great disconnect between the trailer and the movie it promotes and I find this to be both misleading and manipulative. Let me share a couple of recent examples.

I recently saw Precious, the story of the horrific life of a young girl living in poverty in New York City. The trailers that were shown in television advertising create the impression that this is an uplifting story populated with happy people overcoming the difficulties of their lives. There are images of the main character dancing in a beautiful gown, waving to her boyfriend as he waits for her on his motorcycle, and of her mother doing a happy dance in their home. Yet, the reality of this movie is very difficult to watch. Yes, the main character does attend a dance dressed in a beautiful red dress, and yes, she does have a handsome boyfriend waiting for her, but these events occur only in her dreams...dreams that she uses to take her away from the horrors of her real life. And as the movie draws to its close, with a glimmer of hope for the main character's future, the story hits you one last time with another blow to the stomach. Yet, the trailers led me to expect a different story with a different ending. I applaud the acting, particularly the role of the main character's mother played by Mo'Nique (who should win the Oscar for best supporting actress), but the advertising messages that got me there were misleading and failed to show what the movie was really about.

I also recently saw the George Clooney movie Up In The Air. This movie has been promoted as a romantic comedy, yet there is nothing either romantic or comedic about it. The trailers imply that the main character is romantically attracted to his young protege while flying all over the country with her to carry out their work as corporate head choppers. Yet, the realitiy is that there is no romantic involvement between these two characters. The character played by Clooney is an unhappy person who has failed to maintain relationships with anyone in his life and has devoted his life to a shallow existence defined only by his job. And, again, just as you think the plot is taking him to the point of redemption, it hits you with another blow to the stomach that sends him back to his old way of life. Certainly, not what I had expected from the advertising I saw for this and which attracted me to the theater to see it. (Can you also imagine that there was actually a meeting held in Holywood where someone actually thought it was a good idea to make a movie about people being laid off from their jobs during one of the worst economic recessions in recent history? I guess they figured that any movie with George Clooney will attract a large audience no matter what the topic.)

Although this posting has nothing to do with advertising sales, it does raise my concern about the importance that advertising messages deliver to their audiences. The message should be truthful, and the product advertised should deliver what the message says it will. The movie industry seems to have failed to learn that basic element of marketing.

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