Marvel Releases Captain America: Civil War Trailer at D23 EXPO
Captain America: Civil War is shaping up to be the most anticipated MCU offering since the original Avengers film in 2012. In a curious move, Marvel Studios unveiled the trailer for the film at Disney’s D23 expo last weekend. The studio spared no expense, flying in both Chris Evans and Anthony Mackie from their European shooting location to participate in the unveiling. The unveiling itself isn’t entirely out of the ordinary. After all, big-budget films are typically promoted months in advance of release. The more interesting aspect of the trailer is that Marvel did not simultaneously release it to the public. What possible advantage could there be to withholding a bit of advertising from the rabid and growing fan base?
About a month ago, 20th Century Fox pulled a similar stunt at Comicon for the upcoming Deadpool film. Despite star Ryan Reynold’s assurances that “we’ll have something for you in three weeks” from the convention, HD versions of the Comicon trailer still mysteriously appeared online within a matter of days, sending 20th Century Fox on a whack-a-mole takedown spree. While the studio cited unfinished effects as the reason for the delay, it seems that very little changed from the Comicon version of the trailer to the official release. Some have speculated that the delay was artificial, a savvy marketing ploy to send fans on a goose chase looking for the leaked version of the trailer, and to build a more organic style of hype, at least by outward appearances. If that is the case, then the studio also spent a lot of resources pretending to care enough to issue YouTube takedown threats. As strange as it may seem, it’s a theory that can’t be wholly discounted, as every company is spending a lot of money trying to figure out how to launch successful “organic” marketing campaigns at the moment. Spending money to look like you’re not spending money. What an age we live in.
Could this be what Marvel has planned for the Civil War trailer? With an expected official trailer release of later this year, could Marvel be banking on leaks and organic reach to kick-start the Civil War hype? It would be an interesting approach, considering how tightly controlled the information flow is at Disney and other affiliated companies (Pixar, Apple, and even Marvel, for example). These are all companies that understand the value of presentation and perception, and releasing footage into the wild for the purposes of organic promotion could be a scary prospect for a marketing exec.
Still, something tells me that Kevin Feige, who has done nothing but turn 2nd tier properties into gold and in the process shaped western entertainment culture over the past few years, is being very calculated with this trailer release. I do think this was an intentional move. Maybe readers more well-versed in marketing tactics can enlighten me, but this is the only reason I can come up with for withholding the trailer with the film release approximately 9 months away. The timing is fairly consistent with the hype-building machine assigned to Star Wars: The Force Awakens. With that film, Disney released the first trailer in April, about 8 months prior to the scheduled release date. The only other possibility is that, due to Marvel’s propensity to “advertise” upcoming films inside of their current movies, perhaps they’re concerned about cannibalizing the theatrical release of Ant-Man, which features a post-credits scene for Civil War. Still, that line of thinking assumes that people are going to see Ant-Man simply for the post-credits scene, which seems a little far-fetched.
Considering all of these things, I think that organic marketing campaigns are influencing the “official” release schedule of hype material from film studios. It’s a trend that we can probably expect to continue at least until the next cool advertising trend proves effective.