Avatar is estimated to have cost £200-300m. But, most importantly, the producers also spent around a further £100m on marketing.
I haven’t seen Avatar, and I’m not particularly bothered. Why? Because life’s too short, and there are many other films I’d rather see.
But what was fascinating to me, was how the marketing of Avatar got a bandwagon rolling. People flocked to see a film many would have had no interest in unless they were bombarded with messages telling them how this was the “biggest film of all time” and “the future of movies” etc. It demonstrates the power of marketing – regardless of the product.
In contrast, one movie I did see around the same time was Moon. A great film, driven by an engaging story, strong visual appearance and an Oscar-worthy performance by Sam Rockwell (sadly overlooked by the Academy who were swept along with the hype, nominating Avatar for 9 awards). It also had a beautifully designed poster (above).
That £100m marketing budget spent on Avatar succeeded, propelling it to record-breaking gross ticket sales roughly 250 times as big as Moon. I guess this is a triumph for short-term aggressive marketing.
Moon cost £3m to make. About 1% the budget of Avatar. Without a huge budget, Moon’s creator Duncan Jones relied on creativity. Used model making rather than CGI to make a film that looked fantastic, yet was still driven by human performance and emotion, not whizz-bang effects. When asked what he would have done with double the budget, Jones said:
“The majority of it would have been spent on giving me and the crew and Sam more camera coverage and more takes. So it wouldn’t have been a hugely different film, I don’t think. The story was largely contained anyway. There wasn’t a natural way to expand it just by throwing money at it. It was what it was. More money just would have given more time.”
So what’s my point? That actually, you can polish a turd? No. It’s a lesson for brands and businesses that the rewards from creativity are more valuable to a smaller, but more discerning audience. An audience far less transient, who will stick with you for the long-term, allowing you freedom to develop new ideas and an audience interested in trying them.
So if you can’t spend big, get more creative instead.