Marketing The Help

August 11, 2011 11:10:19 Posted at August 11, 2011 11:10:19
Lainey Posted by Lainey

Box office projections for The Help this weekend look strong. They say it’ll do at least $25 million and may even get to $30 million and beyond. It could be a great start to Viola Davis’s Oscar campaign. I love her. And that would be great for her. It’s just...

As I’ve noted, The Help was not my favourite book. I keep saying it was medium for me. Fundamentally I had some serious problems with the story and those views are more articulately presented and argued elsewhere. For the film then, though I’ve not seen it, I worry about the carryover of those core complaints, on top of the disappointment already expressed about the trailer, and why it looks like a Nora Ephron movie which, when you think about it, is actually really offensive.

But a trailer is not always truly representative of a film. A trailer represents how the studio is MARKETING the film. And they chose to market this film like ...well... like a Julia Roberts/Sandra Bullock movie. In the United States.

Have you seen the international trailer for The Help? I’ll attach the two back to back. The first is the US version. The second is the international version. (Source)

The Help - Us trailer

The Help
- international trailer

It’s not the same, is it?

It’s better. It’s not great. But it’s a lot better. At least to me. And now why?

Please don’t come with a brush off like it doesn’t mean anything. If it didn’t mean anything, why would they bother cutting two of them? What then is the difference?

“She raised me.”

“She did not.”

Well there’s that scene, for starters. And I broke down the face time for the actual help. The US trailer is longer and Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, and the “help” screen time amounts to 42%. In the international trailer, which is almost 30 seconds shorter, their screen time goes up over 56%. To say nothing of the overall difference in the tone of both clips.

You can blame it all on the marketers. And I know that there is a strong contingent out there who firmly believes that marketing messages drive tastes and preferences and programme the way we consume. What though do marketers base their strategies around? If we give them most of the blame, even more than half the blame, three quarters of the blame, isn’t there still a quarter of that blame that might have to be placed on the actual response? They designed it because of a response that needs to be elicited to drive people to see the movie. It was designed for a certain audience. It was targeted to that audience. And what does that response mean? Why did they think that people wouldn’t want to see images of the help raising their children? Why would they instead include scenes of girly hijink-ness over dialogue between a daughter getting really real with her mother about the woman who actually spent more time with her than anyone else? Why is the international book cover for The Help different from the North American version of it? Click here and scroll down to see. What is it about it that would attract or turn them away? What are they afraid of? What specific discomfort are they trying to avoid? And why are those truths the hardest to confront?

These are the questions I’ll be asking when I see The Help some time this weekend. Would love to hear your thoughts on it too. There’s also a website, if you’re interested, called A Critical Review of the novel The Help that takes what some may label an adversarial approach to the book. Thanks Tracy! Click here if you have some time to spare to go through the analyses of why many think The Help requires a little more thought.

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