Writer’s Note: Spoilers for “Spider-Man: No Way Home” are in front of you.
Today, it’s hard to imagine a blockbuster movie hitting the big screen without a massive promotional campaign. From interviews to ad spots to teasers and trailers, production houses are making sure that as the weekend approaches its release, everyone is talking about their movie. Having said that, until not so long ago, films did not consider heavy promotional campaigning a priority, let alone an important part of their success.
That all changed in 1975 when the marketing team at “Jaws” released a poster that resonated around the world for years. At the time, “Jaws” looked like it would be an expensive disaster, taking 159 days to shoot, nearly three times what had been planned, and barely working for the protagonist, a robotic shark. In order to salvage what seemed like a lost cause, Universal, the production house behind “Jaws,” pumped more than $1.8 million into the film’s marketing campaign—a sum that brought its production budget to $9 million, more than any other film released in a year. The result: it became the first American film in history to cross the $7 million mark, paving the way for how production houses market their films to this day.
On January 17, exactly one month after its release, “Spider-Man: No Way Home” beat “Avengers: Infinity War” to become the fifth highest-grossing film at the US box office, grossing more than $650 million. As of February 3, it is the fourth highest-grossing film in the United States, having grossed over $730 million. Presumably, that $730 million would go a long way toward offsetting the reported $202 million Marvel spent marketing the movie. While it’s common for films to use the wide range of social media sites available to them for promotional purposes, the latest release of Peter Parker’s Failed Adventures has been discontinued, raising the question: How much marketing is so much marketing?
The answer varies from situation to situation, but the “No Way Home” marketing campaign certainly split opinions before it was released. Between the film’s Twitter and Instagram, the Official Daily Bugle TikTok and countless interviews, trailers, and promotional videos posted by Sony and Marvel, fans were treated to a barrage of content in the weeks leading up to the film. In the 40 days leading up to its worldwide release, the film’s Instagram made 59 posts, and has since racked up 63 more, averaging roughly three posts every two days. Even online communities far from the world of comic book movies have found the likes of Tom Holland and Zendaya popping up on their screens, with the duo appearing at the Ballon d’Or (also known as the Oscars in the soccer world) and even interviewing players from Tom’s favorite soccer team. Holland. Spidey fan or not, if you’ve been online in the month leading up to the movie, at least you’ve heard of it.
There is an argument to be made that such an all-encompassing, in-your-face promotion might dissuade some viewers from avoiding them and perhaps even the movie altogether. Before watching the movie, LSA sophomore Arjun Arora said, “I haven’t seen any of the trailers. I don’t know anything… and I actually like it.” However, both Marvel and Sony were well aware of who constitutes the majority of their fan base: the comic book community. A community thriving on speculation, ardent fans of Webslinger and the Marvel Cinematic Universe welcomed a barrage of posters and movie footage, sending Marvel and Sony their way. From YouTube to TikTok, the internet has been so full of theories and predictions that fans have looked into every frame and plotted every possibility that the online community has themselves become bogus marketers.
What added to all the excitement were the leaks – eventually, Marvel and Sony, with all their experience over the years, realized it was inevitable. However, spoilers may have worked to their advantage this time around. People weren’t complaining about the amount of promotional content being released, because with every piece of content not confirming their rumors and doubts, expectations grew. For example, although Alfred Molina’s (“Da Vinci Code”) return to Doc Ock was leaked months before any real marketing began, Marvel and Sony were still able to cash in on it. Between this leak and the release of the first trailer for the movie, fan speculation about the return of not just Doc Ock, but a bunch of old Spider-Man villains, has been pretty high. “No Way Home” sticks, and specifically with said trailer, confirmed all the rumors circulating, resulting in the most successful 24 hour opening ever for a trailer. It was the perfect way to start a flawless marketing campaign from start to finish.
Yes, a set of creative stickers will do the trick. Even nowadays, not every in-your-face marketing campaign has to be like “No Way Home,” and not every marketing campaign requires the use of social media. However, both Marvel and Sony demonstrated how beneficial the movie was, both commercially and in terms of popularity. Not only that, they have proven that if your campaign is well planned, then bombing your fans with promotional content is not such a bad idea, especially when theorizing is one of their favorite pastimes. Peter Parker may be “Public Enemy No. 1” in the Spiderverse, but in the real world, the titles have loved him.
Art daily writer Rushabh Shah can be contacted at email@example.com.