Super Bowl Sunday provides the most unique advertising opportunity of every calendar year.
With over a hundred million people watching the big game every first Sunday of February, commercial spots become extremely valuable real estate. Because of this, thirty seconds of airtime costs advertisers upwards of five million dollars, which forces movie studios to show their best stuff in a very limited timeframe.
Still, the shorter length of Super Bowl spots is often a net-positive. If a flick's release is still far off, the studio drums up interest in their film without having to give too much away. If their movie is close to its release, those thirty seconds can be dedicated to building upon old trailer footage. So really, who can lose here?
Despite the worldwide turn to streaming, the Super Bowl is traditionally shown on live network TV. But that doesn't mean the streaming world can't still benefit from Super Bowl ads, too. With instant access to thousands of pictures at a viewer's fingertips, some studios have used the Super Bowl to give audiences their first look at a project that was premiering imminently.
Fans will surely recall Netflix taking this move to the extreme in 2018 when they dropped their very first trailer for The Cloverfield Paradox, and announced that the full movie was streaming later that very night. While that movie left a lot to be desired, the quick turnaround from the Super Bowl ads drummed up significant interest in the project.
Warner Bros. is in an unprecedented position this year, and I'm not talking about the dozens of theatrical releases they're dropping on HBO Max. Their streaming service is set to release a director's cut of a four-year-old movie with double the original runtime, triple the characters, and quadruple the confusion for the casual fan.
In less than two months, Zack Snyder's Justice League premieres on HBO Max. Aside from a sizzle reel in August, an updated look in November, and a new teaser image on the director's Reddit every other Tuesday, there has been virtually no marketing campaign for this massive project.
Sunday's Super Bowl presents the best opportunity to get the most eyeballs on this four-hour epic, but will Warner Bros. pull the trigger? Here's why (as well as why not) Zack Snyder's Justice League will get a trailer during the big game.
The Snyder Cut NEEDS a Super Bowl Spotlight
This movie is less than two months from now. Does it feel like it?
Sure, these are weird times. The typical movie marketing campaign simply doesn't exist in 2021. But all that aside, streaming services provide real stability in a world of unpredictability.
Disney+ was able to meet the release dates they set for The Mandalorian's sophomore season and WandaVision with no problem, and loaded the weeks leading up to their releases with teasers, trailers, and TV spots to get fans buzzing.
The point of a marketing campaign is not to sell a movie to the diehard fans that dissect every frame of a trailer; they're already sold. Rather, the marketing is tailored toward the uniformed customer. Its purpose is to showcase the product, explain why it's worth your dollar, and to let you know where you can find it. If any movie is to succeed, they need eyeballs from both the diehard and casual crowds alike.
The Snyder Cut fans already have March 18 circled on their calendars. After all, their unwavering passion is what got this retelling green-lit in the first place. But on the side of the casual fan, Warner Bros. has done virtually nothing to garner interest for this flick.
Zack Snyder's Justice League is a four-hour retelling of a failed 2017 movie made complete with new footage, characters, financial backing, and creative freedom. It's a project that Hollywood has never seen before and likely will never see again. And the casual fan probably doesn't even know it exists.
Warner Bros. needs to drop a spot for Zack Snyder's Justice League during the Super Bowl. After all, Snyder did just announce the March 18 release date for this flick, so Sunday is the perfect opportunity to kickstart this marketing campaign and get audiences familiar with the wildest concept in cinematic history. Give the Super Bowl thirty seconds of familiar characters, as well as a couple of new ones, and pepper it with title cards briefly explaining the premise.
“The Completed Vision, Four Years in the Making, Zack Snyder's Justice League.”
This film is already at unbelievable disadvantage. Snyder's Justice League is set to drop one day before the MCU's The Falcon and the Winter Soldier premieres, a series most likely getting some Super Bowl airtime on Sunday. If Warner Bros. wants to compete with the star-spangled series come March, they can't let Marvel Studios walk out of the big game with all the buzz.
Why Warner Bros. Won't Market It
It genuinely feels like Warner Bros. is pretending this movie just does not exist.
Sure, they green-lit the retelling early last summer. And yes, they reportedly poured $70 million into reshoots for it. That said, recent reports make it pretty clear that Warner Bros. decided to give the go-ahead because they couldn't take the outcry for it anymore. In fact, it was so bad that Sean O'Connel wrote a book about it called Release the Snyder Cut: The Crazy True Story Behind the Fight That Saved Zack Snyder's Justice League. Excerpts from the book have made the rounds and revealed how fans would flood unrelated Warner Bros.' social media posts demanding they release the Snyder Cut instead.
With a platform like HBO Max that had low-risk-high-reward potential while also starved for original content, green-lighting Snyder's version of the film seemed like a no-brainer.
Yet here we are, nearly a calendar year later with the highly-anticipated flick on the horizon, and not a word from Warner Bros. DC FanDome debuted a sizzle reel trailer back in August that was packed with new footage. Since then, Zack Snyder has shared new still images, some concept art, and posters on his various social media pages. Why is he doing all the work?
As much as the fans (as well as the cast) want to #RestoreTheSnyderVerse, it is becoming increasingly apparent that the future of DC Films does not involve the fan-favorite director. Warner Bros. is moving forward with world-changing projects like The Flash, which will take the DCEU in a new multiversal direction. This will open the door to tell elseworld stories like The Batman, which will spotlight the Caped Crusader and keep him away from the greater cinematic universe.
With that new direction in mind, the Snyder Cut is a chance to tie a bow on a soon-retired era of the DCEU. Oddly, Warner Bros. giving Zack Snyder the opportunity to end his tenure the way he wanted to is a gesture that goes against their plans for the future. It's almost as if they're taking a step back before they take one forward. So to them, the simple permission to let this movie happen is more than enough.
The studio likely does not want to build major anticipation for a project they don't see a future with, which makes sense from a business standpoint. Dropping another five million dollars on the Snyder Cut is a chunk of change that Warner Bros. would rather throw at something they can invest in long-term.
So... Will it Happen?
Now that both sides of this will-they-won't-they coin have been analyzed, the pros and cons laid out as best as could be, I've reached the conclusion that we will likely not get a Snyder Cut trailer on Super Bowl Sunday.
For advertisers, a Super Bowl TV spot is the ultimate sign of faith and stamp of approval in a project. The Snyder Cut was green-lit not to bring in a new batch of fans, but to appease the legions already behind Zack Snyder's vision that don't need a shiny ad to buy in.
This was certified when the studio gave Zack Snyder's Justice League the extremely claustrophobic release date of March 18, one day before The Falcon and the Winter Soldier debuts. When that weekend comes around, Sam Wilson and Bucky Barnes' duo series will have a full marketing campaign of momentum behind them (and if WandaVision continues to crush it, an epic finale to build on). The Snyder Cut has to premiere a four-hour project just 24 hours sooner, on a work day, with no marketing momentum, and a lackluster Wonder Woman 1984 as its HBO Max predecessor.
From the jump, this movie was made by its fan movement for its fan movement. So in an effort to ensure it's a one-off, standalone picture, Warner Bros. is positioning Zack Snyder's Justice League to get wildly overshadowed within a day of finally being available to the world.
Warner Bros. is giving this movie virtually no time to breathe, which should tell you all you need to know about their aspirations for it. Nevertheless, the biggest advertising day of the year is on Sunday, and Warner Bros. has a movie coming up.
The ball is in their court — will they take a shot?