Tentpole Marketing Campaigns Focus on Concept Images Rather Than Stars

Blockbuster Movie Marketing Focus on Concept

Marketing materials including teasers, one-sheets, posters don't play up highly paid cast

With marketing costs for summer tentpoles continuing to balloon, it seems like studios would want to push their expensive stars into filmgoers’ faces early and often.

Instead, Brad Pitt, Johnny Depp and Matt Damon are largely absent from the teasers for “World War Z”; “The Lone Ranger” and “Elysium” — and that’s by design.


On early one-sheets for three of the studios’ biggest bets, the stars either weren’t recognizable or weren’t pictured at all. Universal took a similar approach with Tom Cruise starrer “Oblivion.”

The idea is to sell a film initially based on a concept, says Par domestic marketing and distrib prexy Megan Colligan.

“That indelible first-look image is important to establish a certain tone,” she says. “By the time we open the doors, there will be no question that Brad Pitt is the star of this movie. It’s more about being iconic.”

“World War Z” features a striking image of a helicopter being pulled down by zombies; “Lone Ranger” depicts a masked image of Depp, while “Elysium” shows only Damon’s back.


Overseas, however, marketing campaigns still rely heavily on star power. And while Warner Bros. has no major star wattage in “Pacific Rim,” the studio created country-specific posters that feature the film’s local alien-fighting robots.

“People love the personal relationships they can have with characters,” Colligan says. “In the end, audiences know how they relate.”

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  1. EK says:

    When in charge of marketing at Paramount at the time of “Urban Cowboy,” my favorite campaign image was a silhouetted cowboy riding a mechanical bull. Charles Bludhorn, the chairman of Gulf + Western which owned Paramount at the time, came to a marketing meeting and asked pointedly where John Travolta was in the one-sheet. I used the iconic argument to which he informed me and those assembled that he didn’t pay Travolta “all that money” to be invisible.. and I subsequently went with the image of cowboy John leaning with his back against the Gilly’s bar holding a Lone Star beer bottle and looking ready for whatever came his way. Movie was a big hit for us and probably would have either way and, of course, Travolta was all over the trailer and TV spots (which was one of the points I made at the ill-fated meeting) so his presence was never in doubt but I did like that iconic poster image.That was long ago, of course, before the internet, social media etc. when marketing was a simpler business … and more fun than it is today, less fragmented and more about the essence of the movie we were selling than the bells and whistles used to promote it. So I still like the iconic approach as long as the marketing mix is right..

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