Art & Biz: The Trailer / The Golden Trailer Awards 2012

If there’s a wild west in the trailer marketing realm these days, it lies in the proliferation of Web-focused online teasers. These video nuggets of varying lengths — usually shorter than a conventional 2:30 trailer — augment the traditional three waves of conventional trailers and are designed to ignite a virtual buzz.

Some are compressed teasers for later full trailers, meaning they’re almost like a trailer for the trailer.

“They don’t normally get tested” like regular trailers and TV commercials, says Tom Merchant, president and CEO of trailer house Flyer Entertainment, whose credits include “Avatar.” “It’s more seat-of-the-pants. It’s an area where you get to riff on one aspect of a movie hoping to get someone to pass it on to a friend” online.

“One of the best things to do is use that ‘buzz scene’ to become part of the water-cooler conversation,” says Chris Mollo, partner and creative director of Happy Hour Creative, a trailer house responsible for “Dolphin Tale” spots among others. “You want to get people talking about it in social media for a ripple effect. It isn’t the marketing dollars that do that. It is the fans creating a buzz. You are doing things to spark conversations.”

Walt Disney is issuing about a half-dozen Web exclusives for animated feature “Brave,” including a 39-second “Kilt” that spoofs macho Scotsmen wearing the traditional skirt-like garb. “There’s no particular length, but just what works,” says David Sameth, senior VP marketing at Walt Disney Studios. “We find sometimes they bring us to an idea for a TV spot that we would not have necessarily thought of otherwise. If they gain traction, we’ll sometimes convert them to TV spots.”

Sameth says he avidly reads user comments posted about Disney online videos, which often shape the creative thrust of later videos. As a film’s theatrical premiere date nears, the pace of video releases increases.

These teasers go by different names such as non-standard units, special clips, buzz clips, side stories and collateral videos.

Another label is mini-trailers when they are polished and broadly focused, but other times they’re essentially chunks of a film, sometimes given to TV outlets and used for “making of” promo docs.

There is caution about dispensing too much content, because every new marketing reel reveals more of the film.

“There’s a fine line over giving them too much content,” says Kristen Simmons, senior VP of the worldwide motion picture group at marketing researcher Ipsos. “For example, you don’t want moviegoers to think that they’ve already seen all the funny parts of a comedy.”

An attraction is that collateral video is relatively inexpensive to distribute online since it is not a paid ad. Exclusivity is a key point of negotiation with websites that desire an initial window to themselves, with distributors seeking prominent placement.

Sean Phillips, exec producer of Yahoo Movies, says several movie videos (trailers, interviews and collateral videos) are in rotation each week on Yahoo’s main page, which pulled 103 million unique visitors in April. Yahoo Movies logged 27 million uniques in April.

In the best-case scenario, AOL’s Moviefone found that a collateral video for “The Avengers” generated 12 times the views of the trailer from the Disney release, and videos for Disney’s “Chimpanzee” and Universal’s “The Five-Year Engagement” rolled up three times the normal trailer views. “If there is a movie people are interested in,” says Jay Kirsch, senior VP and general manager of AOL Marketplace, “they’ll watch anything they can find.”

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