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  • Writer's pictureJames Cullen

Subversive Marketing 101: The Cloverfield Paradox

Marketing and PR revolves around lead times and promotion in order to raise awareness and drive interest for a product. So, it would seem counter-intuitive to release a product - or a film - without so much as a clue that it was about to be dropped. But that's exactly what happened for The Cloverfield Paradox during Super Bowl 51, and, in the humble opinion of this freelance copywriter, it may just be the best marketing tactic ever.

The Cloverfield franchise has played with our preconceptions of the movie marketing mix. The first film featured an untitled trailer showcasing the destruction of New York City. The sequel, 10 Cloverfield Lane, was touted under a different title, and only linked by another secret trailer. So now we have the third instalment, who's trailer dropped mere hours before the big Netflix release. So what does this tell us?

Netflix Changed the Game

If there was any doubt that the streaming nature of Netflix has altered both the TV and movie industry, then that has been blown out of the water. The usability, connectivity, and ease of platform viewing means that traditional marketing methods for movies and TV shows are almost defunct. Netflix has even destroyed the billable star myth, producing series and movies with relatively unknown casts, knowing that the premise of it's offerings will entice viewers. While this means quality productions can be made, it also means the Hollywood system is desperately scrabbling to compete. It only makes sense that, for a franchise that is so in touch with shock and awe and new technology, Cloverfield makes the move from the big screen to the red screen of Netflix.

Subversive Marketing Works

Another key example of subversive marketing is when Beyoncé dropped an album with no publicity in 2013. Instead of relying on a steady stream of interest built up over a period of time, the star took the risk that the move itself would be all the PR needed. And she was right - with the self-titled Beyoncé album selling 120,000 units in its second day, bringing its two-day sales total to 550,000. Beyoncé debuted at number one on the Billboard 200, with three-day sales of 617,213 digital copies - showing that the shock marketing tactic worked.

Is the Film Good?

Now, here's the shocker. The film isn't very good. Almost unanimously the film has been panned, using the argument that followed Netflix's Bright (about humans and mythical creatures policing together...) that Netflix can make its users watch anything. The film's critical response is almost irrelevant to Netflix, as long as people watched it, talk about it, and talk about the shock reveal of the trailer.

Q: Is Advertising Space at the Super Bowl Worth It...?

Super Bowl ads cost $5 million for 30 seconds - this figure increasing 87% since 2008. This equates to: 4 weeks of Snapchat filters, 2 million more people reached on Facebook, 2.6 billion Instagram impressions, 2.6 million paid search clicks on Amazon, 1.85 billion display ad impressions. As a freelance copywriter, the damage I could do for $5 million could keep a brand's content marketing going for years. But brands continue to pay the extortionate fee.


That's because the Super Bowl is like Christmas for those who like to see what advertising campaigns brands can come up with. People in LA were shocked when Scientology took an ad space, while others criticised Budweiser's bragging about donating $100k of water. The ad spaces are extortionate, so to use them for subversive marketing can almost guarantee that with a 47.4 overnight rating, and 111 million tuning in for 2017's Super Bowl (or 113.7 million with the streamers) that people will see it. Plus, the shock factor will add to the word of mouth chatter that is imperative to the success of a brand, product, or piece of entertainment. Netflix and J J Abrams certainly achieved that. Whether the film tanked or flourished, it wouldn't matter, because Netflix made sure they were the most talked about thing about the Super Bowl.

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