Much can be said about whether movie trailers give you an accurate sense of a film’s quality or whether said trailers give too much away about a film’s plot, but at the end of the day the real purpose of a trailer is to convince you to go see the damn movie. Over the years, the marketing agencies responsible for these finely tuned advertisements have gotten very good at manipulating audiences into feeling whatever they want. In a recent clip from Vice News, executives and editors from a handful of these agencies discuss the tools they employ to trick us simpletons into caring about the fate of Dominic Toretto or laughing at a well-timed nut punch.
It turns out, a lot of what the science of trailers boils down to is quality sound design. Repeated motifs like “sixty voices rising,” power downs, and bass drops are the bread and butter of thrilling movie trailers. Similar to the much parodied “BWAAAH” from Inception, they’re the kind of things you can’t stop noticing once you hear them in isolation. Other popular trends include somber covers of pop songs and rhythmic repetition of a particular sound, like heavy breathing or the cocking of a gun.
As with any industry driven by clicks, the trailer business tends to chase trends like those listed above, subdue them, and then beat them death. Once audiences become aware of a particular manipulative tactic, it loses its effectiveness. But it’s important to remember that, as Create Advertising co-president Jonathan Gitlin says, trailer making “is definitely not fine art. It is commercial art.” When it’s done well, the trailer will get lots of views, the movie will sell lots of tickets, and you’ll find yourself having been played, for better or worse.
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