When a movie is announced to be in production, we as movie fans and regular audience members know how the marketing campaign, both official and unofficial for each and every movie, will unfold. It doesn't matter if its the latest trending directors blockbuster, the latest instalment in one of our favourite franchises or cinematic universes, or the latest independent art house movie; the marketing of virtually all movies follows a set pattern. This pattern, regardless of what Hollywood studios would lead us to believe includes the inevitably leaked snapshots taken on location and the leaked footage from events such as the recent Comic Con in San Diego, where footage from X-Men Apocalypse was recently leaked. Producer of the movie and former president of production for 20th Century Fox Hutch Parker recently spoke up on the subject of leaked footage to IGN; here is what he said...
"I’d say it really isn’t intended to be leaked. It’s really intended to excite a core. From a marketing perspective, what they want is to share it with the most discerning eyes that are out there for this material. It’s the biggest and probably most intense focus group any of us ever have."
"Leaking footage a year in advance of a movies release is not such a good thing. The reason you don’t see footage out that far is you run the risk of it getting stale. Generally speaking, and I can’t speak for other studios -- I can’t even speak for Fox any more -- but I don’t believe their intention is [for footage to be leaked]. I think their intention is to get the most important opinions and opinion-makers in this community engaged in the promise of what’s coming."
"You hope that you excite a level of interest that [fans] will express and celebrate it. But it’s a scary-ass deal, because they’re not shy. If they don’t like it, if they aren’t feeling it, they’re going to let you and everybody else know. [Showing footage] is something people do with trepidation, but with hope. We make a movie and you want to believe it’s going to be great. The reality is, not all of them are. But you have to believe that going in. We go in wanting to be accepted and embraced, and ideally even acknowledged for having done it well."
Lets be honest, what Parker said above confirms that Hollywood studios see leaked images and videos as a form of, if not the epitome of viral marketing. While it is true that officially released videos of a popular movies trailer can hit millions of views in a relatively short time period, the buzz surrounding the poorer quality leaked trailers, and the sense of naughtiness we all get from watching what we are not meant to, is a much more powerful marketing tool.
Psychologically we are all wired to experience a rise in adrenaline when doing something taboo, illegal, or related thereof. Back in the 80's in the UK films such as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (pictured above) and The Exorcist were banned until 1998. While banned, the notoriety and sheer naughtiness of watching a bootleg, pirate quality VHS of these films was a common pastime, especially for teenage audiences, yet since the ban on these movies was lifted in 1998 and the movies have since aired on TV and been released on DVD and Blu-Ray, their popularity has dropped; they are nothing more than another two horror movies to be found in most peoples collections – a memoir of the naughtiness of the 80's. But they are also a reminder about the power of viral marketing.
Viral marketing is a truly powerful tool, that when used effectively – by the fans themselves, can generate more coverage, discussion and speculation than any officially sanctioned marketing can generate – fans will argue and debate for months over what they believe they have seen in a blurry leaked trailer. Of course, said studios need to provide the opportunity for these leaks to occur in the first place, and to encourage endeavours such as the Scified network and similar forums for those fans to debate over what they have seen. As such, and in a strange way the studios and the fans work together generating free, yet priceless marketing for a movie months before any official level of marketing can begin; supporting, denying or even fuelling the fans previous speculations as the movie counts down towards its theatrical release.