Movie Marketing: Some Interesting Developments from Serenity


I was watching some Sci-Fi channel last night when I got one of those Tivo interactive thumbs up commercials – where an icon appears on the screen during a traditional 30 second spot and by pressing the green thumbs up button, it pauses live TV and takes you to a longer commercial which has been pre-downloaded to your hard drive. This is something I have seen before, mostly for automotive ads, though I did see a pretty cool extended trailer for Stealth (waiting for Netflix on that one). This time though, it was a move called “Serenity”.

I often click through to the ads not because I am interested in the material in so much as I am interested in supporting Tivo and making sure they stay around – that and I am just waiting for something innovative to be done with the technology. This ad was more interesting for the content than the technology. I have seen the Serentity trailer on TV for the last couple of weeks and honestly thought this movie was just a dog – after seeing the extended commercial I am not yet convinced otherwise, but I am intrigued.

The Stealth trailer, and other ones that use the Tivo extended format are often just typical trailers. For Serenity however, they emphasized the excitement of those who attended the pre-screenings and showed very little of the movie. Apparently the storyline for this movie is an extension of a cult favorite TV show called Firefly that was cancelled after only a dozen or so episodes several years ago. The pre-screenings all sold out around the country in just a few minutes, driven by a net campaign to the core fan base – some of whom apparently drove hundreds of miles to get to a screening.

The Insytes provided by the movie goer during exit interviews after a screening is something we have seen for a long time, but this felt different. It has long been my contention that the exit interview is a form of blogging in which the medium of distribution becomes either a trailer or part of the nightly news via television. It is also one of the strongest ways to get on the radar screens of the core parts of the targeted demographic – the logic is simple, if I am a 30 something sci-fi geek who likes Renaissance Fairs (disclaimer: I am not) and I see someone like me on TV who I can identify with, I am more likely to take their word or reccomendation and therefore be influenced. In the 2 minute extended Tivo commercial, we saw 20+ people who are perfect specimens of the core audience divulging their core Insytes as to why they loved the Firefly series and this movie. Surprisingly though, there were more pre-movie interviews that post. Still, I expect the campaign will be one of the most effective ever on Tivo in terms of its impact on first week ticket sales.

The most interesting thing in the whole commercial for me was what the writer/director Joss Whedon had to say about his writing:

“I do this not to make things that people like – its only to make things that they love. I write for a moment when you just go – ‘oh god, I needed to see that’.”

— Joss Whedon

Wow, what a great driving force – this is a philosophy I plan on adopting in many aspects of my personal and professional life and perhaps one reason I will end up seeing the movie in theatres if any of my friends ever want to see it… but then again, most of my friends are probably not interested so I will look forward to adding it to my Netflix que in a couple of months.


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