Marvel And Disney’s Avengers: Endgame Marketing Can Change How Blockbusters Are Promoted
We won’t know until we see the film to what extent the contents were hidden from us, or to what extent there were story turns and plot reveals that actually justified such obvious secrecy. Will this be the Lost series finale, which at least attempted to blow our proverbial minds? Or will this be like the Breaking Bad series finale, which merely offered a high-quality conclusion where the various arcs played out pretty much as expected? Even if the film plays out like (for example) Tomorrowland, Us or Interstellar, where a seemingly spoiler-free campaign is used to “hide” a movie that essentially plays out as expected, that’s not a bad thing.
Avengers: Endgame is on its way to an over/under $850 million global opening weekend (yes, it could go a lot higher, but I digress) with a campaign that barely reveals any of the movie. While I’d argue that The Last Jedi and Chris Nolan’s Dark Knight sequels were even more “spoiler-free” than Avengers: Endgame, the MCU flick had one distinct advantage. Since Endgame is following Infinity War’s shocking cliffhanger, every person walking into the theater already knows what the movie will be about (the surviving heroes defeating Thanos and undoing the “snap.”). As such, the “how it will be about it” factor has been, despite the best efforts of Jake, Izzy, Cubby and Skully, been able to remain entirely under lock-and-key.
Speaking of which…
The marketing assumes you’ve seen Avengers: Infinity War:
Unlike arguably every other MCU movie, this “season finale” offering is more than willing to sell itself without spelling out what the plot of the movie happens to be. Yes, there are references to Thanos and his “kill half the universe” plot that surprisingly succeeded last time out, but most of the marketing (including the Super Bowl commercial which was seen by 98 million people in North America alone) is throwing you right into the deep end of the pool, without wasting time bringing you up to speed either on the events of Infinity War or the overarching narrative of the MCU. The marketing tidbits that do reference prior movies are plugging nostalgia, not getting people up to speed.
The campaign doesn’t need to offer “spoiler-y” footage just to explain what the movie is about. Marvel and Disney know that we already know that we’ve seen Infinity War and that the cliffhanger was so “top priority” that the next movie can’t be about anything else. This isn’t “Hey, the Capitol brainwashed Peta” or “Hey, Elizabeth murdered Jack Sparrow to save the rest of the crew!” This is “Thanos wiped out half the universe,” so they know that we know that Endgame won’t be about anything other than dealing with that. The entire Avengers: Endgame campaign has been essentially “Hey, this movie exists, you know what it’s about, here’s a small taste of how it will be about it.”
There has been almost no traditional marketing:
By the time Avengers: Age of Ultron opened in domestic release (one week after its overseas debut), the film had been given four trailers, 16 clips and 42 TV spots. Now we can debate to what extent those materials qualified as “spoiler-y,” and I will happily admit that the marketing for Age of Ultron was a lot better than for The Avengers back in 2012, but we had 42 TV spots for a movie that was guaranteed to make a gazillion dollars. And that’s not abnormal for even a movie of this nature. So it says something that we’re less than a week out and I can easily count the official pieces of marketing that have been released for the film.
This time around, if we go off Marvel’s official YouTube page, there have been (as of this publication) exactly two theatrical trailers (one on December 7, 2018, and another on February 14, 2019), one Super Bowl commercial on February 3, the first official TV spot (which highlighted the various dead Avengers) just under a month ago, two featurettes (which generally don’t play in theaters and were mostly about reemphasizing the whole “We lost!” thing), a (comparatively spoiler-y) 60-second “Hey, tickets are on sale!” preview on April 2, the one and thus far only released film clip showcasing Captain Marvel on April 8, four new TV spots over the last week and a 2.5-minute “remember all these other MCU movies” nostalgia pitch this past Monday.
There will be more TV spots over the next week, presumably at least one that highlights various critical pull quotes after the embargo drops and another that essentially sells the whole “Summer starts tonight!” pitch. There may be another clip or two as the stars do the talk show rounds, and there will, of course, be magazine articles and online interviews timed with the film’s premiere. But unless someone screws up or panics between now and Thursday night, audiences will walk into Avengers: Endgame next week knowing everything about what the movie is about but almost nothing about how it’s about it. And, quite frankly, that’s how it should be, especially for a preordained blockbuster of this nature.
The five TV spots hit all cylinders, including the recent “Gee whiz… fun!” spot pitched toward the Disney XD demographic. You don’t need countless TV spots and spoiler-y clips for huge movies like this. Audiences are either interested or they are not, so the purpose of the marketing campaign is merely to keep reminding them that the movie exists and is coming soon. For that, you can get away with running the same two trailers or the same half-dozen TV spots on a constant rotation. If Avengers: Endgame opens as well as expected, I hope the industry takes this (along with the spoiler-free/barebones campaign for Us) to heart. When you got it, you don’t have to flaunt it.
Article written by: Scott Mendelson