Twenty years ago, horror campaigns were fairly plug-and-play. Studios assumed that there was a finite audience for the genre, so there was no need to do long-lead marketing. Throw some money at it two weeks before release, and you’re good to go.
Thankfully, that’s not the case anymore. There is no better example of that than Neon’s deeply unsettling campaign for LONGLEGS. We mean that as a compliment.
It all started on January 5th with a 36-second teaser revealing a father’s call to 911—underscored by menacing strings— playing under a photo of a smiling teenage girl flanked by her parents. It ends with a cut to what looks like the same girl, presumably dead on the floor, and some kind of cryptic cipher. The name of this clip is “Every Year There Is Another.”
A week later, Neon gave us another 36-second spot, adding another piece to the puzzle. This time, two people with flashlights uncover a box – maybe a coffin – beneath a cross atop hay-covered floorboards. There’s more menacing music, a smash cut to a figure covered in a black veil, and more cipher pieces. This one is titled “Remember To Say Your Prayers.”
A third mini-clip was added, “We’ve Been Waiting For Her” dropped on January 19th.
Last week, Neon released a full, dialogue-free 90-second trailer that expands on the sense of dread from the first clips. Creepy? Check. Religious Iconography? Check. Devil symbols? Check? Candlelit basements and sepia-tones evocative of the 70s? Check.
As if that weren’t enough, Neon dropped four highly disturbing posters. Unfortunately, audiences did not respond well to these one-sheets. All received grades of C or lower. At The Quorum, however, we love them.
Not just because there are so many. One poster is great. Four feels like a wealth of riches. We love them because they are part of a campaign that teases and prods. One that provides hints that invite you in without revealing too much. One that projects confidence in the filmmaker’s vision. And we love how Neon has parsed out clues that slowly and intentionally draw you in. We even like the uneven kerning in the letters in the title. Some letters touch. Others are far apart. Everything seems slightly off-kilter.
The posters may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but the tracking data shows a strong groundswell of support for the film. The median opening weekend for a horror film is $12M. With more than five months before its July release, LONGLEGS looks well positioned to surpass that number.
The four key tracking metrics show that the film is performing quite well. Interest in the movie is at 49%, which is easily above the average of 39% for other horror films at the same distance from release. It’s also well above the average in location and fee, meaning people are willing to pay to see the movie in a theater.
The only soft spot is awareness. At 15%, it’s below the average of 21%. But, truth be told, that 15% figure likely doesn’t capture the full impact of the trailer released last week. And there is plenty of time for that number to go up.
Overall, the tracking paints a picture of not many people knowing about the film, but those who do, really want to see it.
As for where the campaign goes from here? We encourage Neon to give us more. More breadcrumbs. More hints. More teasing. But please don’t give away too much. We appreciate a strategy of less is more.