Ways Not to Market Movies: Marketing Campaigns Gone Wrong

It’s not unusual for a movie or TV show to have a huge marketing campaign, especially something creative involving online promotions with the hopes of going viral at some point. As with any type of marketing campaign, there are times when good intentions simply fizzle out with lackluster results. Sometimes the culprits are easy to pinpoint; other times not. Entertainment is fickle, but one thing’s for sure- some marketing campaigns just don’t work the way they were intended to. Here are some examples of marketing campaigns that just didn’t yield the intended results when all was said and done:

I Love You, Beth Cooper (2009)


The concept of this movie is that a young man proclaims his love for the girl he’s admired throughout the film during his valedictorian speech. 20th Century Fox thought it would be a good idea to pay a real high school student to do something similar during her graduation ceremony. The “see, this can happen in real life, too” moment backfired and failed to go viral as intended. While the video did eventually catch on, it wasn’t until after the movie already bombed – and certainly not the kind of publicity the studio wanted.

Snakes on a Plane (2006)


In this case, the clip for the Samuel L. Jackson movie actually did generate a lot of interest online. Unfortunately, what works in a brief clip doesn’t always captivate moviegoers for a few hours in the theater. After the initial buzz, the producers behind the film jacked up the snake quotient in the movie as much as possible to capitalize on the title. It was obvious to even the casual observer what this film was about before ever seeing it, which is why not too many people did.

The Science of Sleep (2006)


There’s nothing wrong with using social media as part of your marketing campaign. For the marketing team behind this movie, however, several fake LiveJournal posts didn’t exactly make real users come on board to support the film. After several legit users noticed that the accounts were practically new and that the positive posters happened to be “friends” with each other, it didn’t take long for the campaign to fall apart. Users decided to team up; not to promote the movie, but to actively decide not to see it…oops!

Limitless (2011)

M436 Bradley Cooper stars in Relativity MediaÂ’s LIMITLESS.

What appeared to a video showing a man with a unique device he built that could instantly hack into the Times Square screens and post any video made the rounds and went viral. Some astute viewers thought it might be fake. It turns out that the video was really a promo for the Bradley Cooper movie. The problem is that the video circulated among techies poised to discuss some innovative scientific breakthrough. Most people who viewed the video had no idea that it was even promoting a movie.

Anchorman 2 (2013)


As 2013 came to a close, fictitious anchorman Ron Burgundy, Will Ferrell reprising his role from the original Anchorman film, was everywhere. You can’t deny that the marketing campaign itself was successful. From a social media blitz to a local news appearance with Will Ferrell in character, there were plenty of viral-worthy moments during the countdown to the movie’s December premiere. With all the hype, it was expected that the movie would shattered box office records. That never happened. The problem? Maybe there is such a thing as too much publicity. Mixed reviews didn’t help much either. Better luck next time, Ron.

Hailey Harper is a marketing strategist and writer from Tucson, Arizona. She has had articles published about social media, satellite TV, movies, and management.


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