Posted to Volacci's blog on May 11th, 2011

Whoa! Wednesday: Movie Trailer Conversions

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Conversion optimization, believe it or not, wasn’t born in the world of the web. Don’t believe me? Think: coupons, “50% Off! TODAY ONLY!”, and “Free Samples” just for starters. Even SEO has its origins in the yellow pages! (Ever heard of “AAA+ Storage”? That’s how your grandparents got to the top of the yellow pages.)


But where else is conversion optimization applied? Whether the movie industry is aware of it or not, there is an element of conversion optimization in movie trailers. Think about it: You’ve got less than 3 minutes (more often around 2 minutes) to tell a story, make the audience interested and care about what happens to the characters. You also have to make your Unique Value Proposition (UVP) clear - what makes your movie different, better, and unique from other movies out there?

So today, we’re going to take a look at 4 types of movie trailers:

Bad trailers for Good movies

Good trailers for Bad movies

Bad trailers for Bad movies

Good trailers for Good movies

Bad Trailers for Good Movies


What makes this a bad trailer? Well, for starters, anyone who has seen Braveheart knows this trailer took about 90% of the cheesiest clips from the film and mashed them into a trailer. If I had never heard of or seen Braveheart, I might have seen this trailer and mistaken it for a romance, not a story about a hero’s bravery.
MISTAKE: Giving the wrong impression

Star Wars

Sure, Star Wars was like nothing audiences of the 70’s had ever seen before so it must have been difficult to know how to cut a trailer for this film. But if there was a wrong way to do it, it was this one. How does this trailer tell a story? How does it make me care about the characters? How does a cheesy voice-over reading me the ad for the movie make me want to see it?
MISTAKE: Not telling the story

Good Trailers for Bad Movies


I daresay that anyone who has an interest in exciting movie-going experiences would have been extremely intrigued by this trailer! It was extremely exciting to hear those footsteps and to see all those cars being jolted off the road at once. Sure, maybe it doesn’t tell a complete story, but there’s one thing this trailer has to offer that others don’t: a Unique Value Proposition. Considering this was made in 1998, this trailer basically said, “This is unlike anything you’ve ever seen before.”
WIN: A strong UVP.

The Village

I have several friends who claim that The Village was a great movie. While I may disagree, what I will agree with is that this trailer was perfectly executed. It told a complete, enticing story; it was obviously different from other period films; it was edge-of-your-seat nail-biting and intense!
WIN: Extremely absorbing.

Bad Trailers for Bad Movies

C Me Dance

Do I really need to comment on this? I think it speaks for itself.
MISTAKE: Everything about it.

Julie and Jack

Sorry you just wasted two minutes of your life. Lesson learned, though.
MISTAKE: Wastes people’s time with incoherent plot and even worse acting than C Me Dance.

Good Trailers for Good Movies


Given that you can’t tell the story of Inception without giving too many secrets away, I’d have to say this is the most well orchestrated trailer. It told me the basic idea of the movie, showed me things I’ve never seen before, and blew my mind away with the music.
WIN: A strong UVP, well-pieced plot, gripping music.

The Lord of the Rings

What makes this trailer so good? Well, for starters, it showed me something groundbreaking that no movies had ever done before: EPICNESS. The first film was released only 3 years after Godzilla and had surpassed anything any movie before it had ever done. Granted this is only a teaser for the trilogy, so it introduced me to the whole series, told me when each movie would be available, and gave me a very brief introduction to the characters and trailers. Some would argue that this trailer didn’t do a good enough job of telling me the story. My argument: It’s a miracle the book was ever successfully made into any movies at all!
WIN: Groundbreaking epicness.


Okay, I cannot mention excellent movie trailers without mentioning Cloverfield. I remember the first time I saw this trailer in the theaters, everyone was silent, watching it. When things got intense, everyone was literally on the edge of their seats, heart racing. After the trailer was over, everyone was talking about it for minutes into the beginning of the feature film we all paid for! I was talking about this trailer with my friends after the movie was over! The trailer immediately went viral online. It will be a long time before another trailer so successfully reals me in and throws me back out as this one did.