What is a Teaser Trailer?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A teaser trailer is a short version of a movie trailer that is designed to pique the interest of the audience, getting potential viewers excited about an upcoming film. Teasers, as they are called, are typically released months in advance, sometimes as much as 18 months before the expected release date of the film, and they are used to build anticipation and curiosity about the films they advertise. These trailers can be seen before feature films in some movie theaters, and they are also released online and shown on television.

Teaser trailers are often shown before a feature film for a movie coming out months later.
Teaser trailers are often shown before a feature film for a movie coming out months later.

Classically, a teaser trailer lasts between half a minute and a minute. It may include footage from the film, often in a rough stage since the film has not been completed, or it may use entirely new source material. In some cases, a teaser is simply an abridged version of a regular movie trailer, including the film's tagline and key footage in a condensed version that is more television-friendly.

Trailers are an effective marketing tool on behalf of movie makers to get their potential audiences pumped up for upcoming movies.
Trailers are an effective marketing tool on behalf of movie makers to get their potential audiences pumped up for upcoming movies.

Some companies like to make trailers that literally tease their audiences with puzzles and cryptic references. For example, one might flash a few key images, followed by a title card with the date. Viewers are supposed to recognize the images, and understand that the date is the projected release date. This works best for iconic films and films in a series, as viewers become familiar with specific symbols. A classic example of this type would be a promotion of a Batman film that flashed the famous bat symbol on the screen, followed by a date.

A movie theater box office.
A movie theater box office.

Teaser trailers may also include hints and clues that viewers can follow, if they feel so inclined. It is becoming increasingly popular to include web addresses in trailers, so that viewers can go look up the film online, and some movies had used these addresses as a jumping-off point to involve viewers in an alternate reality game or series of puzzles, thereby drawing them into the story of the film. Others offer viewers the opportunity to sign up on a mailing list for news about the film, including notifications when longer movie trailers are released.

A movie theater.
A movie theater.

From a marketing perspective, the teaser is a brilliant tool. The brief advertisement is usually not terribly costly to make or expensive to air on television, and it can suck viewers in, getting people hyped up about a movie months before it is released. These trailers are often used to promote big budget films, with the goal of getting a return on the investment as quickly as possible, and they are also used to increase fan interest in major series or eagerly-awaited film adaptations of books or continuations of television shows.

Teaser trailers are shown before the main feature in a movie theater.
Teaser trailers are shown before the main feature in a movie theater.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments

croydon

@Mor - I think you can still get quite a lot of info into a teaser. They aren't all just a single image, after all. Some of them are just a short sequence from the film. After all, it's the ones that aren't well known that need to create the most buzz and they need to make the most use of their advertising budget.

Mor

@KoiwiGal - I think that film production companies like the teaser trailer because it's a cheap way of creating buzz, even if there isn't a gimmick to it.

All they need to do is one really good image, that's emblematic of the film, some iconic music and a date. They don't even need to pay much for the advertising spot, when you consider that it's much shorter than the average trailer.

Of course, it only really works if they have a property that people will recognize, whether it's an existing movie franchise, or a book or comic that is instantly recognizable.

KoiwiGal

It was the Blair Witch Project which first really took advantage of viral marketing by using teaser trailers and other promo stuff online. Before then, I think at the most you would get a teaser trailer on TV or in the theater, but mostly it would be straight advertising.

The Blair Witch Project did it differently, because they kind of implied that the movie was a documentary and linking that with the way it was filmed fueled all kinds of speculation and therefore free advertising.

Since then, other films and TV shows have done it in a slicker way, but I don't think anyone has managed to build up that much speculation since.

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