Trailers, Advertising or Content?

Trailer on Trailer

Here’s a question for you, is a film trailer a piece of advertising or is it content that we film fans actively want to see? Content is the media we want to consume, every article we read online, every TV show we watch, and every podcast we download, this is all entertainment and information that we seek out and pro-actively watch/read/listen to. Advertising is the other bit. Advertising is almost our way of paying to get the content we want. If you want to read an article enjoy this animated ad at the side. If you want to watch a show then prepare for a third of it to be adverts. If you want to download a podcast for free please listen while they read a message from their sponsors.

In a world where the internet is everywhere and we are constantly keeping our eyes transfixed to a minimum of three screens at a time we want constant streams of media and we want it for free. Advertising means that we can continue to get it for free no matter how irritating it can be at times.

But where do trailers fit in?

This question occurs to me from time to time, normally when I am trying to watch a trailer on YouTube. When a trailer is shown on TV or played on the radio then it is clearly just another form of advertising. They are paying lots of money to shove a product in front on your face in the hope that you will buy it. Whether it is Will Smith peddling After Earth or Barry Scott pushing Cillit Bang it is a simple advert to raise awareness and sales. YouTube is an entirely different matter. On YouTube trailers get to be both advertising and content.

If you look at the image at the top of the page you can see that I was trying to watch the trailer for The Road on a YouTube channel dedicated to trailers. Before I could watch the content I wanted to see I was show an advert which just so happened to be a trailer for Tower Heist. Somewhere an advertising agency was paying so that I would watch a trailer before I was allowed to watch a different trailer. Content is our end and advertising is simply a means to an end.

Even over here at Mild Concern we are guilty of blurring the lines a little. Many, many times in the past we have featured a trailer as content. 99% of the time this was either because the trailer really excited us or because we wanted to give it a proper dissection. On only two occasions, the other 1%, we have featured a trailer because somebody paid us to do so. It’s not necessarily something we like to do but we’re open about it and it pays for the hosting but if we’re honest the trailer for Johnny English Reborn probably wasn’t going to make it here on its own merits.

For the most part I would say that the different between a trailer as advertising and a trailer as content is that a trailer can only really serve as content when it is for a film that people either already want to see, a Twilight trailer used to be an event in itself, or for a film that was not previously on your radar but presents a film so intriguing you want to share the two and a half minute preview with the world, Upside Down for example. I quite often seek out trailers and watch them in a way I wouldn’t watch other advertising. I want to see them and don’t need the reward of an episode of Coronation Street to make me watch.

However…

I don’t see how agencies tasked with promoting a film can really justify trying to monetise the trailers themselves. I recently sought out the trailer for Upstream Color after having been baffled by it at a press screening. I found the trailer on the film’s official YouTube channel which is normally the best way to watch a trailer; it will be the best quality and won’t feature any advertising. And yet it did feature advertising! Amazingly it isn’t enough that you want to find out about a small independent release. You still have to earn the right to watch their advert by watching another beforehand. Trying to profit from your advertising itself is baffling. The film should be the product and not the trailer, you can’t really expect to make money from both.

Trailers in the pre-internet age were forms of advertising pure and simple but these days they are just as likely to be found posing as the main attraction in an article as they are simply preceding the main feature at the cinema. At their heart though trailers will always simply be an advert, a commercial. As much as you might want to see a trailer the advertising agency wants you to watch it even more and so we should never be made to watch another advert first.

Advertising is a necessary evil, but let’s not get carried away. OK?

Another Rant About the Digital Economy Act

We had a bit of a rant about the Digital Economy Act back in March last year when the UK government were proposing to block websites and cut off internet users. As fans of various art forms we obviously believe in supporting artists and have the DVD collection to prove it, but don’t necessarily see all forms of piracy as objectively wrong. It’s a bit of a grey area in which you can’t assume that every file downloaded is a theft. One thing we certainly don’t agree with is anyone having the power to block websites (barring the obvious foul sites of course).

It was a relief to read this week that the government seemed to be taking a more modern look at piracy and copyright. The government is going to drop any attempts to block copyright infringing websites and there was even talk of allowing people to legally make digital copies of their CDs and DVDs for use in other devices.

What an enlightened government, which has finally realised how the modern consumer operates and that it doesn’t make sense to turn the majority of Britons into criminals. We won’t have any websites blocked and freedom of speech will truly reign as it should in a modern civilized society. I mean, we don’t want to become the next China do we?

The celebration didn’t last long as it turns out the only reason this part of the Digital Economy Act is being dropped is because the Motion Picture Association have gone ahead and gotten a judge to force BT to block a website without any need for the Act. That’s right, no need for legislation as all a company needs is enough money and they can get websites blocked by ISPs.

Funnily enough UK Music, a body representing musicians and record labels in the UK, think this is a bad move too, but for different reasons. UK Music would prefer it if websites were blocked by government without them having to pay the legal fees first.

Regardless of whether you consider piracy to be a real crime or not, surely the fact that a private organisation can effect what we can see online is criminal? BT’s CleanFeed was designed to stop the circulation of child porn, not to stop people sharing copies of Avatar.

Anything that pisses off James Cameron has got to be a good thing, right?

Something Odd in Fopp

While roaming the shelves of Fopp, a favourite if financially dangerous haunt, I came across the above DVD boxset. Now I won’t argue that £3 is a bargain of a price and it is the very reason I find shopping at Fopp so irrestistable, I just marvel at the fact that Groundhog Day has been paired with 50 First Dates. One is brilliant and the other horrible, I’ll let you guess which is which.

I can only imagine that they were paired as they involved a man constantly repeating his first date with a woman who has no memory of their previous dates. Kind of.

Madness.

Anyway here’s a choice soundbite from Groundhog Day.

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House of Lords Passes Piracy Bill

After that burst of culture we are going to get political as the House of Lords has passed the highly controversial Digital Economy Bill which could disconnect people from the internet and block web pages following mere accusations of piracy.

The bill has been essentially written and strong armed into parliament by the music industry and the entertainemnt industry at large. Their claim is that internet piracy is costing them billions of pounds each year in lost revenue and so want those that do pirate neutered so they will in future have to pay to get their entertainment fix.

This is a problem for so many reasons, one being that proving exactly who has been downloading what is not as easy at it might seem as many internet connections are shared and wireless networks left without password protection. Allowing courts to block websites is also a step in the direction of internet censorship for which China received a lot of criticism during the Olympics two years ago.

The big problem is of course that this is a bill written by the recording industry in order to make their flagging business model remain viable. They want to be able to make money the same way they always have in an ever changing world where bands are increasingly finding live performances and merchandising are bringing much more profit than simple studio albums. The main fallacy in their complaint about piracy is the assumption that every downloaded file is a lost sale when so many people download to test a film or song before deciding to buy. Alternatively someone might spend all their spare cash on CDs and DVDs and still supplement this illegally, you can’t say that if someone can’t get something for free illegally they will happily pay £7.99 to get it in store.

Of course there are always ways to operate online without a trace which is what it is expected pirates will do if the bill is passed by the House of Commons. In fact the UK intelligence community is apparently against the bill for this very reason as it will make it harder to spy on people if internet users are forced to cover their tracks.

The Digital Economy Bill is expected to be rushed through the House of Commons before the general election with minimal debate so start kicking up a fuss now!