Clever Movie Marketing Success Stories

In order to get people into the cinema to see the movie you’ve been working on for years, you’ll need to create a buzz. Most of the commercially successful films of the last twenty years have had huge marketing budgets which have allowed them to bombard us with trailers, posters and tv spots.

That’s all well and good, but what if you can’t afford billboards in Leicester Square? What if your marketing budget barely stretches to a few dozen home printed fliers? Never fear. Some of these films may have had huge budgets, but the clever tricks they have employed can be helpful no matter how much money you’ve got.

Blair Witch Project

In 1999 a small unknown film by Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez was having the finishing touches put in place. Little did anyone know how the news about three students and their camcorder would spread through the world. When the film was shown at Cannes, missing persons fliers were posted everywhere asking if Heather, Michael or Joshua had been seen and during the promotion period the producers claimed that the story of the Blair Witch was real. With clever marketing and a low budget there is little wonder it be became one of the most profitable films of all time.

The Dark Knight

In opposition to Blair Witch Projects uber low budget production The Dark Knight was one of the biggest budget films of the 00’s. The big names and bigger stunts would have drawn audiences no matter what. Warner Bros, however, was never going to rely on that when they had put so much money into the film. Using the recent emergence of internet viral campaigns, they put together an advertisinc campaign based around the Joker’s slogan ‘Why so Serious?’. They sent fans on scavenger hunts for trailers, got people e-mailing each other to reveal a picture pixel at a time and even sent people the fictional ‘Gotham Times’. If you’re looking to produce a slick, co-ordinated viral campaign do your research on the promotion of The Dark Knight and see what you can learn.


Another high budget film which had people talking about it for months before was James Cameron’s Avatar. Most of the buzz was because of the way it uses 3D, and large amounts of money were spent on pushing the trailer, but recently there has been an interesting development as online groups have sprung up of people with ‘Avatar Depression’. This has led to a second wave of news stories, which is never bad for box office grossings. Although this is not obviously a marketing plan, I would be surprised if their PR people weren’t pushing these stories into the news as lots of people will go see it just to see why people are talking about it.

CNN Article about Avatar

Paranormal Activity

Back to low budget now, and Paranormal Activity, the ultra low budget film which had huge amounts of publicity thanks to a combination of twitter, facebook and a website getting people to demand the movie in their city. A blatent publicity stunt, but very successful at drumming up support and news coverage for their film.

This article shows a couple of the clever tricks people have used when promoting their films, but there are hundreds more out there and thousands more that no one has thought of yet. If you know of a film with a particularly clever marketing campaign, drop me an e-mail and I’ll add them to this page.