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Spending Your Green (Lantern) Wisely

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Earlier today, I read a post on Jennifer Joseph‘s blog that suggested that Warner Brothers was afraid that the upcoming Green Lantern film was going to be a failure. If you’d like to give it a read, head on over to her blog. Her assessment is that since she hasn’t seen much advertising for Green Lantern – at least in comparison to Marvel big-hitters like Captain America and Thor – then Warner Brothers is gearing up for a failure. Personally, I couldn’t disagree more. This is a discussion I’ve had at great length in the past with regard to past WB superhero films, specifically Superman Returns. It’s not nerves that we’re seeing, it’s smart spending. I’ll explain more after the jump.

It’s worth noting that in March,Warner Brothers openly admitted that they were a little behind with marketing because the film is so heavily reliant on digital effects. When some of your most amazing sequences aren’t actually completed yet, it can be difficult to pull together marketing materials. However, even setting that aside, I think there are good reasons for WB to be slightly quiet on the marketing front for Green Lantern right now.

Before I get into those, though, let’s try to better understand Let’s Jennifer’s suggestion that Green Lantern isn’t receiving a suitable amount of advertising.  To set the stage, here are the release dates for the big comic book films, as Jennifer posted them on her site:

  • Thor – May 6th (actually, it’s already released internationally)
  • X-Men: First Class – June 3rd
  • Green Lantern – June 17th
  • Captain America: The First Avenger – July 22nd

Now, let’s look at exactly how much has been released to promote each film.

At the time of this writing, these are the core marketing materials I was able to dig up for each film:

  • Thor
    – 11 Posters
    – 9 Television spots
    – 2Trailers
  • X-Men: First Class
    – 3 Posters
    – 0 Television spots
    – 2 Trailers
  • Green Lantern
    – 11 Posters
    – 5 Television Spots
    – 2 Trailers (Counting the WonderCon footage. Plus a new one is releasing with Thor this weekend)
  • Captain America: The First Avenger
    – 1 Poster
    – 1 Television Spot
    – 1 Trailer

Looking at the numbers above, it appears to me that so far this year, Green Lantern is only being eclipsed in marketing materials by Thor, a movie that’s releasing this Friday, and is already out in international markets. Thor’s stiffest marketing competitor at the moment, Green Lantern, doesn’t come out for another six weeks. Additionally, Lantern is light years ahead of X-Men First Class, which releases two weeks earlier. That’s not a bad head start for a film that Warner Brothers admits they’re ramping up slowly on.

So now that we have a good picture of the actual marketing landscape for this year’s big superhero films, let’s talk a little bit about mindshare. Mindshare, put simply, means how aware people are of your film. Audiences only have so much space in their brains to remember things, and when you pay for advertising, you do so in the hopes of gaining and ultimately keeping people’s attention.

In a situation like we have this very week, loading up viewers with Green Lantern marketing would be wasted money. Thor, one of Marvel’s big bets for the summer, is releasing this week, so it goes without saying that the filmmakers will be dumping out their bank accounts to get as many viewers into the theater as soon as possible. Traditionally speaking, these big films make most of their money relatively early on, sometimes even in the first weekend or two. If Warner – or anyone, for that matter – wants to break through all of the marketing push around Thor, it’s going to cost them a lot of money to be heard through with all that thunder. That was a Thor joke, in case you missed it.

Paying out loads of cash right now to gain mindshare over Thor is ultimately wasted money, because people can go see Thor this weekend, but they can’t see Green Lantern for another six weeks. Mindshare is only valuable if it turns into money spent on your movie at the end of the week. In short, it doesn’t matter if people remember right now that a Green Lantern film is coming, as long as they remember it on opening week. If you want them to know about you on opening week, then that’s when you do your huge marketing push.

The days of Batmania 89’s frivolous marketing spending spree are over.Hollywood has to be smart about their spending, just like the rest of us. The most valuable marketing that Warner Brothers could do right now would be to put the Green Lantern trailer in front of the audiences who are going to see Thor, and that’s exactly what they’re doing. With a single piece of marketing, they capture Thor’s entire audience and proclaim, “Hey! When you’re done watching Thor, you can go ahead and start looking forward to this Green Lantern movie we’ve got coming up!”

Beyond this week’s new trailer, I don’t really expect to see a major push on Green Lantern marketing until after X-Men First Class opens. Why not? Well, at that point, everyone will have seen Thor and X-Men, so there won’t be much mindshare competition. WB will have the opportunity, then, to lay down a very thick coat of Green Lantern marketing for a solid two weeks, just in time to make everyone think to themselves “Hey, I’d really like to see that movie. When’s it coming out? Oh, next weekend? That’s great news! I can’t wait until Friday!”

And let’s not forget that once the Green Lantern film is released, there’s still a very long tail planned for the franchise. With news of a Green Lantern television series in the works, WB isn’t merely focusing their power rings on a fire-and-forget plan for this summer’s blockbuster. They’re looking at the long-term planning for Green Lantern as a potentially Potter-calibur franchise for them. If they play it right, I think they could remain competitive against a pantheon of Marvel films with just their Green Lantern and Batman properties. But then again, I’m probably biased.

UPDATE: Just a single day after writing this article, WB released online the theatrical trailer that will be showing with Thor starting this weekend. Check it out below:

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