Trailers are one of the most important advertising techniques used in the promotion of films. With the increased accessibility to view them, not only through television and cinema, but also countless other new media devices, we are constantly subjected to their glossy, energetic intrigue which battles for our desire to watch the features they promote.

Originally trailers were used to entice the viewer by showing us snippets of the film; its individual uniqueness and qualities i.e. the genre, whether it is suspense or comedy and its main contributors. Basically its appeal and why we should pay to go and see a particular film.

But it seems many advertisers are ignoring these simple rules and instead subjecting us to mini versions of the films which reveal all the best bits and even tell us the ending quicker than you can chuck your popcorn at the screen.

With so many films being released each month and each one battling for our attention; many advertisers seem to have the ethos of – the more we show them, the more likely they are to come.

…every major scene or incident is already exhausted in the trailer…

As my frustration has grown, I have realise that it is often films of poor quality that feel the need to grab our attention by bombarding us with as many key details they can squeeze into three minutes, even if it means showing us scenes that are not even in the film.

One of last year’s most anticipated horrors (to me at least) was Case 39. It looked to be a chilling, supernatural thrill-ride with a leading star and an accomplished supporting cast (a rarity from the genre, but because I watched the trailer first I left the cinema feeling cheated.

I became a victim of the increasingly common crime of the trailer being better than the film…

Apart from the fact it was a lacklustre film anyway, every major scene or incident is already exhausted in the trailer, and it even includes additional scenes that are not featured in the film in a bid to deter and confuse us, as without these red herrings we would know exactly how the film unfolds, who the clandestine antagonist is, and how the film concludes. I became a victim of the increasingly common crime of the trailer being better than the film.

The idea that only films with obvious potential, do not need to exploit themselves by revealing all is advanced by recent successes such as Paranormal Activity.

Paranormal Activity was last year’s sleeper hit and much of its success and revenue came from its clever advertising campaign and the efficiency of its trailer. Rather than showing us any of the film, we instead find ourselves looking at an audience, on the edge of their seats, in the pitch black, flailing and screaming as they watch the film before us.

The ingenuity of this trailer emerges from its simplicity. It does not reveal any of the film’s narrative and leaves us with a great anticipation to indulge in the thrilling experience of the reactions of others.

The creative minds behind many trailers need to learn that even if the film they are promoting is not going to win a bagful of Oscars, at least do not cheat the audience into watching the film, as ultimately the effect is a nullified viewing experience.

As Paranormal Activity holds testament to, many of the most memorable trailers do not even feature a single frame of the film, and most of the experience of watching a film can include the hype that precedes it.


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I am a film enthusiast and creative writer. Feel free to visit my personal website at

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