Ghostbusters fan-edited trailer is a great lesson in keeping content lean

Published on March 10, 2016

Last week, Sony Pictures released an action-packed trailer for their upcoming Ghostbusters reboot. It was met with negative reviews from a passionate fanbase. However, a much shorter, fan-edited version of the same trailer shows us how keeping content simple and to the point is a smart strategy...

30 years after Ghostbusters hit our screens, director Paul Feig is bringing it back with this long-awaited reboot featuring a cast of famous faces from Kristen Wiig to Chris Hemsworth.

At the beginning of March, the studio trailer was released:

It garnered mixed responses, with the negative reactions escalating to the point where Feig had to step in on Twitter to defend his cast and crew in the face of the backlash. While there are myriad problems at play here, I’m just going to focus on the composition of the trailer itself.

The best way to illustrate the deficiencies in the studio trailer is to compare it to this fan-made version which, in my opinion, does a better job (and is demonstrative of the skills of a good content strategist). This version of the trailer keeps it short, ramps up the nostalgia to 11 and doesn’t give too much away, making me more excited to go out and see the film. As a result, remixing the original content has added much more value to the brand.

When you watch those two edits together, you start to see the problems with the original trailer. For a start, it’s way too long and it has way too much exposition. I didn’t need to know all their job titles, I don’t need to know that Leslie Jones’ character got involved because she “knows New York” as a subway employee, I don’t need to know that their version of Ecto-1 is a car borrowed from her uncle and I don’t need to know that a ghost possesses Melissa McCarthy’s character. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that last one was a straight up spoiler.

All of these things, I can find out by watching the movie and, ultimately, none of it is that relevant or crucial to the overall story being told. Stripped down, the story is “team fights ghosts”. That’s it. Keep it simple.

With this fan remix, the editor has given us the bare minimum of information that we need to know, but enough to give me some questions that I want answered by watching the movie i.e. What’s the team dynamic? How did they meet? What’s the “big evil” they’re fighting?

The lesson from this is don’t overdo it. Don’t show your hand too early. Give people just enough to get excited and have them wanting more.

Ghostbusters hits movie theaters on July 15, 2016 in the US