"Snakes on a Marketing Strategy: How New Line Gambled and (Almost) Lost on a Major Motion Picture" is an article that was originally written as a classroom assignment for Marketing 321 class at Ferris State University in the fall of 2006, being the second official assignment for that class. The original assignment was in the classroom of Patrick Bishop. It was written around Monday of September 11th, 2006; premiering in class the following Wednesday.
The original assignment given in class was a self-analysis paper of strengths, weaknesses, and desires. This was followed up with an assignment in which students had to come up with a critique of a particular company, as well as explaining the ups and downs of that company's efforts to sell a particular product. Being really into the Snakes on a Plane hype of that time, the Dozerfleet founder chose to do a critique of how New Line Cinema tried to market that particular movie. The short paper got mixed results, thereby proving its point that New Line's strategy wasn't very effective.
Marketing 321 w/Pat Bishop
Wednesday, September 13th, 2006
How New Line Gambled and (Almost) Lost on a Major Motion Picture
Almost everything that is commercialized can be affected by one or another marketing strategy implementation, and motion pictures are by no means an exception. One is often compelled to ask though: just how do you implement the marketing strategy for a movie, and if so, how do you do it effectively?
New Line Cinema’s Snakes on a Plane is an example of what can happen when you second guess yourself. The studio wrapped up filming in September of 2005, but then ordered several re-shoots after a leak of information resulted in mass web hype.
Due to this, the studio reasoned that they would re-cater the movie to those most hyping it on the web. The result is that they alienated a larger population that could have become interested, and tried to market based solely off word-of-website. They also alienated a lot of would-be viewers, simply by deciding that the movie should be bumped from a PG-13 to an R rating.
Compare this with a similar movie market ploy: The Ring. Producers of The Ring also relied heavily on Internet gossip to spread the movie's popularity, focusing on TV spots only about a month before the actual release date. Knowing the success of Ringu, Dreamworks decided to appeal to a similar group: Internet junkies, rebellious teens, and those with a love for atmospheric works. Dreamworks made sure that The Ring spun as wide a circle as possible for a horror movie of its caliber, and then made sure that it not receive higher than a PG-13 rating.
With Snakes on a Plane, New Line Cinema tried to place its eggs in too few baskets. They targeted mostly those who were “in the know” on the web gossip, with only a few last-minute appeals to Samuel L. Jackson fans. The movie’s strengths were as an action thriller, but the commercials were geared to create a horror atmosphere, causing some who were less-than-informed to assume an occult explanation for how the snakes got there.
All in all, the marketing ploy of Snakes on a Plane was misleading to audiences, and neither developed nor maintained a mix of fans various or quantitative enough to produce the desired effect with the movie. The result was an opening-week revenue of only $15.5 million, which almost doomed the movie to failure.
So while marketing strategy implementation can make all the difference no matter what the product, the moral of this story is simple: snakes are a hard sell; so you’d better have a good sales pitch with a large enough audience. Otherwise, you'll be bitten by something far more humiliating than a snake on your rump.