Has this ever happened to you?
You finally see a movie on TV that you shunned at the cinema. And it’s not bad. In fact, it’s pretty good. And you ask yourself, "why didn’t I see this in first run?" And the answer that returns to you is, "the ads on TV made it look kind of dubious."
This happened to me last night. I was sitting in my hotel room, ransacking the limited selection there for something interesting. And I came upon the Tom Hanks stuck in an airport movie. Sure, it was a little stupid in places. But it also had lots of good points–none of which were promised by the TV ad I saw on TV.
There is a necessary problem here. Ads for TV always use footage from the movie itself. (They get this for free. Why would they go and shoot something more?) The trouble is they cannot show the "punch lines" without giving away the ending. And they cannot show the subtler moments, because out of context, these tend to be a little cryptic.
What they are left with is not very interesting. In the Tom Hanks in an airport movie, I was left thinking, "stuck in an airport! C’est moi. Why would I want to see this in a film?" More exactly, I couldn’t imagine how a story about a man in an airport could engage or hold me. All the ad footage had done was to confirm my suspicion that life lived in an airport would be pointless and dreary.
The solution here is obvious: make real ads. Don’t use your own footage. Act like a real marketer instead of marketer-in-law, marketer on the cheap, marketer by proxy. The qualities that make footage good for a movie make it almost necessarily bad for an ad.