The Trailer Marketing Process at Warner Bros. (1 of 3)

The hallmark of a good movie trailer has a lot in common with People Magazine’s annual “Sexiest Man Alive” list in that it should always piqué interest, build suspense, and leave you wanting a little bit more.

Because the ultimate success of a multi-million dollar feature-length film often hinges on the quality of its marketing campaign, the process of research, determining a creative approach, finishing, and servicing should not be taken lightly. Especially when the average studio movie marketing budget costs around $31 million. And in no other piece of the marketing puzzle is this truism more strongly reflected than in the movie’s trailer, which serves as not only the flagship piece of the marketing campaign but the determining factor of style and tone for the remainder of the creative process.

From a Time Mazagine article entitled “Hollywood’s promo reels are bigger, flashier and costlier than ever, but can you trust them?” the author writes:

Trailers are tested, polished and targeted to audiences almost as carefully as the movies they advertise. Studios typically spend up to $600,000 on trailer production and prints, and buying TV spots accounts for more than half of the studios’ marketing budgets, which rose 13% last year. In 2001 the average studio movie cost $47.7 million to make and an additional $31 million to market.

In my interview with Tony Syslo, Vice President of Marketing Services at Warner Bros. Pictures, he sheds a little bit of insight into the complexity of the movie trailer marketing process and what it takes for a successful preview to come together:

With 11 movie trailers currently in production and a total of 25 in the pipeline, Warner Bros. maintains a slate of films that rivals the total number of films being marketed at any given time by competing studios such as Sony and Paramount.

Because the process of trailer creation and production takes into consideration the many viewpoints of the stakeholders involved from filmmakers, directors, producers, star talent, and agents, to creative agencies, studio executives and even sponsors, the final piece is more than just a marketing tool but rather a true testament to the creative forces inherent within the filmmaking process. In short, a trailer recognizes the breadth of a feature movie’s complex relationships and interdepencies and capitalizes on these nuances to bridge together a look and feel that encapsulates the scope of the creative piece. From an initial idea to a script, from location scouting to set building, from the casting call to costume design, to the filming and editing, and eventual production and marketing … the process of taking a film to market is both a dynamic and engaging step in translating a film’s ultimate message to the world at large.

For an example of some Warner Bros. trailers, please click here to visit their YouTube channel.


  1. Tiffany
    This is such an interesting article! Thank you so much. I’d love to connect with you if possible as I need some guidance on a product I am building that will help the movie industry with trailers and connecting to the audience. [at] gmail

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