The Deconstructed Brief
Nun image II.JPG

THE NUN

TOO SCARY FOR YOUTUBE

Brand: New Line Cinema

Challenge

This is the golden age of horror movies. Over the last few years, horror has become one of Hollywood’s most reliable genres. The films frequently outperform their small budgets. In 2017, the horror genre dominated the box office and generated strong reviews with movies like “Get Out” and “It.”

Experts believe that horror movies provide a needed distraction during uncertain times.

“Horror and startle can distract us from the everyday thoughts and concerns,” Dr. Margee Kerr, a sociologist specializing in fear, told the New York Post. “We’re not thinking about our bills, about the future of the economy, about health insurance — we’re completely in the moment.”

The popularity of the genre has spawned a rising glut of horror films. So, how can a movie studio help its latest horror release stand out in a sea of scares?

Rationale:

New Line created a pre-roll video that was too scary for YouTube. The six-second ad begins with the familiar white volume control bars turning to mute against a black background. In a flash, a zombie-like monster dressed as a nun jumps out at the viewer with an otherworldly scream.

The short video drew so many complaints that YouTube decided to remove the ad. Many YouTube users complained that the unskippable ad was too much of an interruption. Who wants to nearly have a heart attack while watching videos on their couch? YouTube officially said that the ad was removed because it violates the website’s “shocking content policy.”

Some believe that getting banned was New Line’s plan all along. YouTube’s decision earned widespread coverage in mainstream news and social media. One Twitter user shared a warning about the ad that was retweeted 136,000 times.

“This is the best possible press for a horror movie,” tweeted John Squires, editor of the horror website Blood Disgusting. “YouTube removing the ad is infinitely better marketing than the ad having been left up.”

Key insight

Heart attack in six seconds.

What they said:

@peachesandcreame_ wrote on Twitter: “IM LITERALLY SHAKING AND TEARING UP RIGHT NOW I JUST WANTED TO PLAY EPIPHANY BUT WHY DID YOUTUBE GAVE ME A FUCKING THE NUN JUMPSCARE AS AN AD AT 5 FUCKING AM.”

Lessons to be learned:

  • Embrace the genre. The Washington Post points out that the video is essentially a “jump scare,” a technique frequently used in horror movies where a character sees nothing, and something shocking suddenly appears. “The Nun” pre-roll video is specifically speaking to fans who love stuff like this.
  • Hijack behavior. — One of the main reasons the video is so powerful is that people don’t expect to be scared in a pre-roll ad. (Granted, this is exactly what got the ad banned.) The video mimics the familiar behavior of adjusting your volume to watch a video before hitting the audience with a scare.

  • Tap into the power of pre-roll. — New research found that shorter ads boost awareness and recall, especially on mobile platforms. Six-second ads are now an accepted part of most digital video platforms. Broadcast media has started to increase the number of similar bumper spots.