How Netflix’s The Cloverfield Paradox Changes the Movie Marketing Game

With no warning, it trumped other Super Bowl trailers with instant availability

Netflix

In the end, there wasn’t even really a campaign.

A movie called God Particle has been on the backburner for a couple years now. Reports began circulating in mid-2016 that the movie was finished and was going to be the next installment in the Cloverfield franchise, which began in 2008 with that movie and continued in 2016 with the loosely connected 10 Cloverfield Lane. Neither Paramount Pictures nor J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot production company ever confirmed those reports.

As the movie bounced around the release calendar—originally slated for February 2017, then various 2018 dates—rumors began to circulate that Paramount wasn’t happy with it, possibly because it too closely resembled Life, the Ryan Reynolds/Jake Gyllenhaal/Rebecca Ferguson sci-fi thriller that flopped last year.

Things seemed to be coming together just a few weeks ago with the discovery of 04182028.com, which featured a scrambled video signal type broadcast with indecipherable dialogue and an unclear feed. People visiting the Tagruato website, one that played a prominent role in the story leading up to the original film, discovered a hidden message about a great technical innovation that had been accomplished by the company.

Then people started reporting that Netflix was willing to take the movie off Paramount’s hands. Once more, no one confirmed this, though conventional wisdom held that the anthology model was one Netflix was interested in expanding from shows to movies. The idea of a Super Bowl spot was floated that would settle the matter and announce an eventual release date.

Netflix wound up confounding everyone.

Last night during the Big Game, the streaming service released a 30-second spot for the movie now known as The Cloverfield Paradox—with the added surprise that it would be available to stream immediately following the conclusion of the Super Bowl.

While critics have been weighing in on the movie itself, Netflix’s strategy here offers some insights into how it’s upending not just movie distribution but marketing as well.

No Wait Times

Before the game, everyone was anxious for Disney/Lucasfilm to finally release a first look at Solo: A Star Wars Story. That movie comes out in May and had received no marketing to date because, as I point out here, it needed to wait until The Last Jedi’s campaign was over. And that turned out to be true, with a 30-second spot that offered quick glimpses but was primarily meant to promote the full trailer, which came out today on Good Morning America.

Disney: Here’s a teaser for a trailer for a movie coming out in three months.
Netflix: Hold my beer.

While Netflix may not have as big a stage as the Super Bowl to use in future, it’s shown it’s willing to shrink the marketing cycle down from weeks or months to hours. This is the epitome of creating a talkable moment and immediately capitalizing on it. There’s no lag between awareness and action. Even with the smaller campaigns Netflix has run, there’s usually at least a couple of weeks from a trailer being released to the movie being available to stream. Now, that’s essentially gone.

Minimal Viable Marketing

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings recently went on the record saying how he’d eventually like the service to do little to no external marketing, relying solely on internal recommendations to raise awareness and interest. While many of the campaigns being mounted are not sizable by any measure, it’s pulled out all the stops on a few occasions, particularly for recent movies like Bright and Mudbound. In both cases, there was something clear to be gained— attention for either a costly entry into the world of big-budget action originals or a prestige and socially relevant film with loads of critical buzz.

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