Propaganda Marketing: 8 Movies That Made It Work
Consider this a lesson in hype.
We're so saturated with media these days, that it's harder for something to stand out in the crowd of advertisements, hashtags, and other various calls to action. And Hollywood's taking notice. No longer will a simple movie trailer suffice in building the hype necessary for a big box office showing. So studios and marketing gurus have taken a page from the Joseph Goebbels playbook and turned promotional materials into propaganda.
The faux politicization of something as ultimately trivial as a blockbuster definitely puts the "campaign" in marketing campaign, but also makes what could be boring or routine more interesting and engaging. (Although, this might be a dangerous strategy in a world where some of the population think headlines from The Onion are real.) Let's take a look at some of the best uses of movie propaganda over the last few years.
The Hunger Games
With the whole proletariat vs. bourgeoisie thing going on in The Hunger Games franchise, propaganda marketing is a natural fit, and they've been doing it since the first film hit theaters in 2012. There's even an entire (and incredibly detailed) website dedicated to taking on the point of view of the Panem elite. The gimmick is to make us (real people) feel loyalty to the Capitol (fake government), even though they know we're obviously going to side with Katniss, because duh.
In preparation for Mockingjay, they unleashed District posters aimed at inspiring unity and purpose:
And the first teaser for the third film is all about control and subtle threat:
Transformers 4: Age of Extinction
The basic premise of movie propaganda is to emphasize a lie that the film will then expose (e.g. propping up President Snow as a benevolent leader when we really know he's an abusive, power-hungry dick). The same goes for Transformers. These posters would have you believe the Autobots are evil when really they're here to save our asses from danger.
(Bonus: That phone number actually works, in case you want to narc on Optimus Prime.)
District 9 is a lot of things, but at its core it's an allegory about immigration. Naturally, the propaganda posters for the film fell on both sides of the issue. (You could sub out the alien images for people silhouettes and replace the word "human" with "American" and the two outer signs would probably sell out in Arizona.)
X-Men: Days of Future Past
You're a human, and therefore you need mutants eliminated in order to maintain the dominance of your species. That was the message behind the most recent X-Men film's marketing strategy. But we know the truth: Mutants are awesome. Who doesn't want to have superpowers?
Then there's this very realistic ad for the very fake Trask Industries which doesn't even mention X-Men, but will make you second guess every real commercial designed to make a giant corporation look like it has your best interests at heart.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes
"Viral marketing" is the big industry buzz phrase these days. As Jimmy Kimmel proved, if you can get millions of people to believe a YouTube video, you can control them. So the people behind the Planet of the Apes sequel went the found-footage route with this fake video designed to show how primates are advancing to the point of weaponizing, and thus should be stopped.
You can picture the Upworthy headline now: "Young Monkey Gets Opposable Thumbs on an AK-47 and You'll Never Guess What Happens Next."
Let's not blame the marketing materials for Transcendence's flop at the box office because they were pretty cool. The posters for Transcendence were anchored in the film's conflict between the super computer in Johnny Depp's big bald head and the protestors who believed artificial intelligence would be the end of us all.
But how will we watch our cute cat videos?!?!
Propaganda is political. So of course we were treated to satirical slogans, attack ads, and fake super PACs when Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis ran against each other in The Campaign.
The premise for The Purge is pretty dumb — all crime is legal for one day a year — but it makes for pretty alarming propaganda posters.
What's your favorite use of movie propaganda? Let us know in the comments, below.