I ran across a story in my feed today that read, "Elevator Murder Experiment Fails." And with my background in movie theatre work over the years, I immediately thought that the article was going to be about the movie the video is promoting, Dead Man Down. Because the movie had a hard time finding movie-goers this weekend, to the tune of $5 million or so, meaning it was playing to a lot of emptiness. But the article was not about that. So I immediately re-directed my attention to the box office shortcomings of Dead Man Down. Does any blame go towards a video like that?
Elevator Murder Experiment: It Didn't Get People in the Seats, but What Exactly Is Its Responsibility?
Thinkmodo has done a lot of fun videos for movies over the past couple of years. The one that immediately comes to mind is the one for Chronicle called "Flying People in New York City:"
And they did the classic Rise of the Planet of the Apes one called "Ape with an AK-47." Also a big hit for Fox:
But they've also done some abstract ones, like the one where the guy cut a parking meter in half with a chainsaw for the movie…In Time? It fits, I suppose, but doesn't really make you want to watch the movie:
So then comes the "Elevator Murder Experiment," which has some connection to the movie, but doesn't immediately call Dead Man Down to mind:
These are what we call small sample sizes, and we also don't know exactly how these studios are going to ultimately measure the success of these campaigns, but the first two videos were for movies that raked it in at the box office for the most part and the last two underwhelmed. There are several factors when determining a film's success. But I tend to believe that the basic movie trailer seen in movie theatres is what determines the success of a movie, especially an unknown entity not tied to a well-known franchise with a built-in audience.
A trailer has to convey that this a movie you want to see because this is the story, these are the characters, and these are the stakes. When it comes to a viral video like any of the four above, the hope is that it enhances a campaign and makes people understand the fun that is in store. That's why I don't think a video like "Elevator Murder Experiment" or In Time's "Crazy Guy with Chainsaw" have much of a place in a movie campaign. They do great as far as sheer video marketing is concerned, as they generate interest in the video, if not necessarily the movie it's supposed to be advertising.
What Thinkmodo hopes to get from it is a number of TV outlets and websites talking about it and associating it with the movie, even though there are no overt branding messages in the video. But the content made specifically for Dead Man Down and In Time is too dark to associate with the supposed fun of a movie anyway.
Chronicle and Rise of the Planet of the Apes were likely already going to be hits based on their trailers. The Chronicle trailer on YouTube was one of last year's most-viewed trailers mainly because it has content that is specifically tailored to YouTube's happy zones. The Thinkmodo campaigns for those movies had content that better fit those movies, also. And both movies had the air of "fun" in them.
There's no doubt that if the movie's awareness and interest is already good, then a campaign like this can help. But it doesn't have much of a chance to generate interest on its own, and so the impact of them is questionable no matter how many people watch the video. These videos certainly didn't hurt the campaigns of Dead Man Down and In Time. But of course, I have no doubt there's some studio executive wanting to pin the blame on them.
I hope we continue to see more Thinkmodo creations, and perhaps see something that takes the movie's marketing to another level.