According to the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA, 2016), the global box office increases every year, reaching $38.3 billion in 2015. Despite this, among movies produced between 2000 and 2010 in the United States, only 36 percent exceeded their production budgets with their box office revenues (Lash, & Zhao, 2016). Movies can be classified as experience goods that are often distributed sequentially across medium platforms, starting with short periods of theatrical availability (Rennhoff, & Wilbur, 2011). Successful movies can generate great box office revenue and profits. However, the movie industry is also known for high risks. Six to seven of any ten major movies produced are unprofitable (Liu, 2006). The financial success of movies is uncertain (Lash, & Zhao, 2016). To maximize this, motion picture studios should use their (advertising) budgets effectively. Advertising in the motion picture industry is a huge market with lots of financial stakes involved: more than 80% of the advertising budgets is spent on pre-release advertising (Elberse, & Anand, 2007; Song, Jang, & Cai, 2016), where movie trailers are most commonly used for advertising (Hixson, 2006).
The Motion Picture Association of America restricts all trailers shown in United States theatres to a maximum of 180 seconds, with each studio receiving one exception per year (McMillan, 2013). Most movie trailers are varying in length between 60-180 seconds (Finsterwalder, Kuppelwieser, & De Villiers, 2012). Within these boundaries, movie studios are free to decide the length of movie trailers. Trailer length is one trailer element which movie studios can directly influence, and which also impacts the financial outcomes. Longer trailers contain more content about the movie's storyline and plot than shorter trailers. Longer movie trailers include more information about a movie (Finsterwalder et al., 2012), and increase the interest and intention of consumers to watch a movie. On the other hand, too long movie trailers can give away too much information, or cause fatigue and boredom, which can result in a decreasing intention to watch a movie. Conversely, shorter movie trailers might provide too little information which might leave consumers uninterested in the movie (Finsterwalder et al., 2012), or just enough information to arouse consumers' interest. The trade-off between trailer length and gaining consumers' interest movie studios needs to make, suggests an inverse U-shaped relationship, which implies that there should be an optimal trailer length. It seems plausible to assume that the optimal length differs depending on the movie and consumer, which suggests that there are (moderating) variables. One moderator where can be thought of is movie involvement; the extent to which consumers are captivated by a movie (trailer). Involvement is one of the most important predictors of message outcomes (Van Reijmersdal, 2016), which implies that movie involvement is positively influencing the watching intention; higher involved viewers have a greater intention to watch a movie. Assuming that higher involved consumers are more optimistic about a movie and thereby appreciate longer movie trailers, movie involvement possibly enhances the effect of trailer duration on watching intention.
Although the amount of scientific research in the motion picture industry has increased over the last twenty years (Eliashberg, Elberse, & Leenders, 2006), there are no previous studies performed on the possible effects of movie trailer length. This paper contributes to academic research by filling this research gap. This paper tries to outline how trailer length influences consumers' intention to watch a movie, and analyses the moderating effects of movie involvement.
This topic is widely researched in traditional television advertising markets (Newell, & Henderson, 1998; Singh, & Cole, 1993). The movie industry shares some characteristics with the television market; they are both mediums in the entertainment industry, offering motion services (Finsterwalder et al., 2012). Due to the similarities in both markets, previous findings in the television industry are transferable to make certain assumptions for the motion picture industry. However, additional research is needed because the industries differ in other aspects. Compared to the television industry, the motion picture industry has a relative short product life cycle. Going to the movies is characterized as a consumption activity (Delre, Broekhuizen, & Bijmolt, 2016). Also, the industries differ in the audiences they serve. The motion picture industry is targeted at multinational audiences, whereas the television industry is more locally adopted with local produced shows targeted at local audiences (Lee, Sung, & Choi, 2011).
The main finding of previous research in the television market is that longer commercials are more effective: information can be repeated more often by advertisers, and consumers are better able to recall the information (Newell, & Henderson, 1998; Singh, & Cole, 1993). However, these findings are not applicable to the motion picture market, due to the differences between the motion picture and television market, and those studies using different variables. The main research question this paper therefore wants to answer is: “How does trailer duration influence the effect of trailers?”. By trying to address this research question, this paper contributes to managerial decision making by gaining insight in how movie studios can create an optimal trailer length to raise consumers' interest for a movie, and how to deal with the possible effect of trailer length on different levels of consumer involvement.
2 LITERATURE REVIEW
2.1 Movie success factors
The development of motion pictures are long successions of creative decisions with economic implications for the different players involved (Eliashberg, Elberse, & Leenders, 2006). Eliashberg et al. (2006) classify critical success factors for motion pictures in a value chain consisting of three stages: 1) production, 2) distribution, and 3) exhibition. The distribution stage is perceived to contain the marketing activities in each market the movie is released (Eliashberg et al., 2006).
One important performance metric for distributors is the movie's United States theatrical box-office gross, which is an indicator of the sales potential in theatres in other countries, home video and television (Eliashberg et al., 2006). Another performance metric for distribution is pre-release advertising. On average, large motion picture studios spend more than 80% of their advertising budgets on pre-release advertising (Elberse, & Anand, 2007; Song, Jang, & Cai, 2016). Pre-release advertising activities consist of television advertising, print advertising, movie trailers, internet advertising, radio commercials, billboards, and non-media advertising, including creative services, exhibitor services, promotion and publicity, and market research (Eliashberg et al., 2006; Elberse, & Anand, 2007). Pre-release advertising can be effective for increasing demand and revenues (Song, Jang, & Cai, 2016). To maximize the effectiveness of movie advertisement within the large budgets, it is necessary to ensure the success of the promotional activities (Suckfüll, & Moellering, 2015).
2.2 Watching intention
Lash, & Zhao (2016) define three types of features for measuring movie success: 1) audience-based, 2) release-based, and 3) movie-based. Watching intention is classified as an audience-based feature. These are potential audiences' receptions of a movie. The more optimistic, positive, or excited audiences are, the more likely it is to have higher revenues (Lash, & Zhao, 2016). People are having varying expectations about what they will see when they visit the cinemas (Hixson, 2006). A moviegoer is more active in attending a movie than a television viewer is in watching a programme, therefore assumed is that moviegoers are more demanding in gratifying their expectations than television viewers are (Hixson, 2006).
Given the great amount movie studios spent on advertising, and since advertising is a major instrument of competition in the movie industry (Elberse, & Anand, 2007), it is important to understand the role of advertising to effectively implement movie advertising. Movie advertising expenditures have a positive effect on box office revenues (Basuroy, Desai, & Talukdar, 2006). There are different forms of pre- and post-launch advertising methods, among which movie trailers are the most commonly used (Hixson, 2006). Theatre advertising is the most traditional form for distributing movie trailers. Movie trailers contain portions of the advertised movie and are shown prior to other movies the audience comes to watch (Hixson, 2006).
2.3 Movie trailers
Trailers are a form of advertising wherein promotional discourse as well as narrative pleasure are linked (Kernan, 2004). Movie trailers enable moviegoers to view portions of a movie. A movie trailer provides a sample of the product that consumers might are willing to purchase. This sample allows the moviegoer to decide whether the movie is a movie they prefer. For many moviegoers, trailers are an essential part of the experience accompanied with visiting the cinemas (Hixson, 2006).
Movie trailers are motion picture studios' primary medium for advertisement, and the most used method for consumers to learn about a movie (Hixson, 2006). According to Hixson (2006), trailers have been found to be the most effective tool for movie promotion. Some movie marketers believe trailers must be pitched to the widest audience possible, and desire to see trailers placed in front of movies which are attracting large audiences (Hixson, 2006).
2.3.1 Trailer elements.
Finsterwalder et al. (2012) suggested a model with the most important movie trailer elements influencing consumers' movie expectations: people (i.e. actors and directors), style, story (i.e. plot, dialogue, and exposure), music, and genre. When a movie studio provides too much information about a movie, they risk exposing the plot or storyline of the film. Conversely, if they provide too little information they may leave consumers uninterested in the film. Motion picture studios should therefore create a trailer which gives consumers enough information to gain their interest without exposing too much content (Finsterwalder et al., 2012). In terms of advertising effectiveness, Newell, & Henderson (1998) define frequency, length, and placement as most important means.
2.3.2 Trailer duration.
Movie trailers are much shorter than original films (Oh, Chung, & Han, 2014). Consumers make their own assumptions about the story of the movie, based on the few seconds of content of the trailer (Finsterwalder et al., 2012). Movie advertising campaigns usually start with a ‘teaser' produced early in the movie production, which is shorter and contains less content than the main trailer. The main trailer, of which there are typically more than one version, usually lasts 90 seconds to 180 seconds (Kernan, 2004). Long movie trailers contain more content about the movie's storyline and plot, and include more information about a movie (Finsterwalder et al., 2012).
2.4 TV advertising
In the television industry, several researchers have studied the effects of length of an advertisement on commercial recall. Longer commercials enable advertisers to repeat information more often and viewers have more time to process this information (Newell, & Henderson, 1998). Also, longer commercials tend to result in greater recollection of the information contained in advertisements and greater recall of brand names of products (Newell, & Henderson, 1998). Previous studies suggested that 30-seconds commercials were more effective than 15-seconds advertisements in general (Newell, & Henderson, 1998; Singh, & Cole, 1993). Comparing 30-seconds commercials with 60-seconds commercials, there were no significant differences found in product recall (Martilla, & Thompson, 1966). Contrasting, Nelson, Meyvis, & Galak (2009) found that increasing the duration of a commercial interruption will increase consumers\' annoyance. People do like watching television, but dislike watching television commercials (Nelson et al., 2009).
Hypothesis 1a. Trailer duration has a positive effect on the intention to watch a movie.
Hypothesis 1b. The relationship between trailer duration and watching intention is an inverse U-shaped relationship: increasing trailer length results in a marginally decreasing intention to watch a movie.
2.5 Movie involvement
Involvement with the movie is likely to moderate the effects of trailer length. Garlin, & McGuiggan (2002) define involvement in their study as an individual-difference variable that is motivated by a range of personal, situational, and object-related antecedents, which create personal relevance. Personal relevance links the antecedents and the motivational state to a stimulus which results in potential attitudinal, behavioural, and cognitive-processing outcomes (Garlin, & McGuiggan, 2002).
Persuasion and information-processing theories suggests that involvement is one of the most important predictors of message outcomes. Research in traditional advertising showed that a moderate level of involvement with a medium can have positive effects on persuasion (Van Reijmersdal, 2016). Van Reijmersdal (2016) defines two types of involvement: high-involved and low-involved viewers. Movie involvement possibly enhances the effect of trailer duration on watching intention. High-involved viewers are more intrigued and persuaded by a movie trailer (Van Reijmersdal, 2016) and therefore likely to be more optimistic, positive, and excited about the movie (Lash, & Zhao, 2016), which increases the willingness to watch a movie.
Hypothesis 2a. Movie involvement has a positive effect on intention to watch a movie.
Hypothesis 2b. Movie involvement has a positive effect on the relationship between trailer duration on intention to watch a movie, such that more involved consumers are more optimistic about a movie, resulting in higher willingness to watch.
Figure 1. Conceptual model.
This study examined the effect of length of movie trailers on consumers' watching intention. Primary data was collected through a questionnaire that is used for collecting empirical data to test hypotheses. The study used an experimental design with three conditions varying in length of the trailer. The survey asked respondents questions related to the movie trailer that was shown in the beginning of the survey. In addition, the survey contained questions gathering general demographic information (i.e. age and gender). A transcript of the questionnaire can be found in Appendix A.
3.1.1 Independent variable: Trailer duration.
To manipulate the effect of trailer duration, respondents were randomly assigned to one of the three trailers selected from the movie “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales”. This movie was chosen because there were multiple trailers available differing in length, and during the period the data was collected, the movie was not released yet in the Netherlands. The three trailers were varying in length (i.e. long duration: 145 seconds, medium duration: 111 seconds, and short duration: 81 seconds). All other factors remained the same, to make sure that there were no other extraneous variables measured.
3.1.2 Dependent variable: Intention.
Constructs to measure the watching intention are respondents' general attitude towards the movie shown in the trailer, their perceived quality, expectations, and extent of plot exposure (i.e. spoilers).
To measure a respondent's intention to watch a movie, three items (i.e. weak/strong, improbable/probable, and unlikely/likely) are measured on a 5-point semantic differential scale (Suckfüll, & Moellering, 2015). Respondents' general attitude towards the movie is measured on a 4-item 7-point semantic scale (i.e. dislike/like, negative/positive, bad/good, and unfavourable/favourable) (Yoo, & MacInnis, 2005). Perceived quality is measured on a 5-point Likert scale (1 = strongly disagree, 5 = strongly agree). Measuring if respondents' expectations were met is done through a 5-point Likert scale (1 = strongly disagree, 5 = strongly agree). The extent of plot exposure (i.e. spoilers) is measured on a 5-point Likert scale (1 = strongly disagree, 5 = strongly agree).
3.1.3 Moderator: Involvement.
The extent of movie involvement was measured two times in the questionnaire: before and after the movie trailer was shown. Before showing the trailer, respondents were asked to indicate their preferences through selecting three out of nine descriptors based on content attributes of movies: 1) information/factual, 2) intellectual/detailed, 3) relationships/sex, 4) materialistic/greed, 4) crime/violence, 5) tension/suspense, 6) creative/imaginative, 7) supernatural/scientific, 8) comical/humorous, and 9) sport/athletic (Garlin, & McGuiggan, 2002). These content attributes are used because traditional genre descriptions have not proven to be powerful; it is open to many interpretations (Garlin, & McGuiggan, 2002). Assuming that there is congruence between movie preferences and involvement, movie involvement is measured by these items.
After showing the trailer, measuring movie involvement was done through using the personal involvement inventory (Garlin, & McGuiggan, 2002; Van Reijmersdal, 2016; Zaichkowsky, 1994). This inventory consists of ten 7-point semantic differentials that are applicable to the movie that is shown. The question was: “To me, the movie “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales” is…”, followed by unimportant/important, boring/interesting, irrelevant/relevant, unexciting/exciting, means nothing/means a lot to me, unappealing/appealing, mundane/fascinating, worthless/valuable, uninvolving/involving, and not needed/needed (Van Reijmersdal, 2016; Zaichkowsky, 1994). Number 1 is the negative side and number 7 the positive side, except for one item (appealing/unappealing), which is reverse scored.
The average score of respondent's intention to watch the movie on the semantic differential scale is used to compute one variable for watching intention (Cronbach's α .936, M = 3.76, SD = 1.13). To create one single measure of movie involvement, the scores were averaged (Cronbach's .928, M = 4.3735, SD = 1.09). Also, the scores for general attitude were averaged (Cronbach's .972, M = 5.38, SD = 1.46). Respondent's perceived quality of the movie, expectations, and extent of plot exposure (Cronbach's .535) are measured on a 5-point scale, and each variable is averaged to create three measures.
This study used a convenience sample of Dutch students. Participants were recruited online. Collecting data was done through an online survey. Data is collected between May 16 and May 22, 2017. 230 responses were collected. Respondents who did not (completely) watch the trailer due to technical errors or other reasons (n = 46) were removed. Respondents who failed the attention checks (e.g. not remembering the last spoken sentence in the trailer and ‘clicking through') (n = 93) were also excluded. The resulting sample consists of 91 respondents. The average age group is between 18-24 years (64,8% of respondents): 34,1% participants were male, and 65,9% were female.
The respondents were randomly assigned to one of the three trailer groups: 31,9% of participants have seen the short trailer; 31,9% the medium trailer; and 36,3% the long trailer.
Measured on a 5-point scale, respondents' average intention to watch the movie is 3.76 (SD = 1.13). The mean of general attitude was 5.82 (SD = 1.46), ranging from 1 to 7. The mean of participants' perceived quality was 3.32 (SD = 1.01), the mean of participants' expectations was 3.29 (SD = 0.93), and the mean of plot exposure was 2.23 (SD = 0.87), ranging from 1 to 5. Table 1 displays the descriptive statistics of major variables.
Table 1. Descriptive statistics of variables.
A chi-square test based on a cross table (2(1) = 2.8, p = .094) indicates that there is no significant association between gender and dropout rate. A one-way ANOVA shows that there is no significant difference (F(2) = 1.948, p = .145, 2 = .676) between the three conditions (i.e. short, medium, and long) for the people who dropped out during the survey. These findings imply that there is no selection bias.
4.2 Regression analysis
A linear regression is performed to test all hypotheses. To test the effect of trailer duration on watching intention (Hypothesis 1a), the variable watching intention is used as dependent variable, and trailer length (in seconds: 1 = 81 seconds, 2 = 111 seconds, 3 = 145 seconds) as independent variable. The independent variable (i.e. trailer length) was centred. Results are presented in Table 2. The effect of trailer length on watching intention is not significant (p = .639). Thus, Hypothesis 1a could not be verified.
To test for the proposed relationship between trailer duration and watching intention as an inverse U-shaped relationship (Hypotheses 1b), the independent variable ‘trailer length' is squared and centred, and included in the linear regression model (i.e. Trailer Length2 in Table 2). There is no significant relationship (p = .574) between trailer length and watching intention and the inverse U-shaped relationship cannot be drawn. Hypothesis 1b is not supported by the data.
The regression analysis examines whether the relationship between the dependent variable (i.e. watching intention) and the independent variable (trailer length) is influenced by a third (moderator) variable: movie involvement. The moderator (i.e. movie involvement) was centred. Results are presented in Table 2. Movie involvement has a significant positive effect (p = .000) on watching intention. Thus, Hypothesis 2a is verified.
To test for the moderating effect of movie involvement on the relationship between trailer length and watching intention, the independent variable and moderating variable are multiplied. There is no significant moderating effect (p = .214) of movie involvement on the relationship between trailer length and watching intention. Hypothesis 2b is not verified.
Table 2. Predictors of watching intention.
Trailer Length * Movie Involvement
Note. Dependent variable: watching intention. R-squared: 0.679
This study tried to examine whether trailer duration influences the effect of trailers in terms of watching intention. Additionally, this study aimed to investigate whether viewers' involvement with the movie is moderating these effects. Based on the findings, several conclusions can be drawn.
Firstly, there is no positive effect of increasing trailer length on viewers' watching intention. The data does not support an optimal trailer length, which implies that there is no inverse U-shaped relationship between the two variables as suggested in the introduction. Relatable, earlier research performed in the television industry reported other results: comparing 30-second commercials to 15-seconds commercials in general, longer commercials are more effective (Newell, & Henderson, 1998; Singh, & Cole, 1993). However, these studies are different in terms of variables used. Previous studies used product recall as dependent variable, whereas this study used watching intention. The differences in variables and purposes are an explanation for the differences in results. Product recall does not directly indicate buying (or watching) intention, and therefore longer trailers are not effective to generate higher watching intentions.
Secondly, this study found that movie involvement has a significantly positive effect on watching intention. The finding that movie involvement has a positive effect on viewers' watching intention is in line with the findings of Van Reijmersdal (2016). However, there is no moderating effect found of movie involvement on the relationship between trailer length and watching intention.
5.2 Managerial implications
The outcomes of this study imply that there is no significant effect of trailer length on watching intention. This finding is an important practical implication for both motion picture studios and theatre chains. Apparently, longer duration of trailers does not guarantee higher willingness to watch a movie. Thus, managers of movie studios can save costs: they do not have to spend great amounts on long trailers. Broadcasting shorter trailers on the internet, television, and in theatres is cheaper. Also, theatre chains can implicate this finding by screening more trailers before movies, which can result in higher revenues for both theatres and motion picture studios.
The given fact that movie involvement does influence watching intention is also accompanied with managerial implications for motion picture studios. The effect of movie involvement is independent of trailers, which means that there is no need to adapt trailers to involvement and to segment consumers based on the extent of how involved they are with the trailer.
5.3 Limitations and future research
This study has some limitations that need to be addressed. First, the outcomes only accounts for one movie. Respondents registered an average involvement of 4.37, which indicates that respondents were involved. Although, there is a certain variance in the level of movie involvement (SD = 1.09). To test the generalizability of the findings, future research should use trailers from other movies.
Directions for future research may be to research a possible indirect effect on watching intention via movie involvement, which can be tested with the first model of the PROCESS macro of Hayes (2013).
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