100 Days of Pop: Episode 24 Spoilers!

Avengers Endgame sticks an 11-year landing. Game of Thrones, heading into its final descent attempting and later this year we see the end of the Star Wars trilogy. It’s like Pop Marketing Olympics out there right now!

And in this year of pop culture endings, it’s become extremely tough to avoid a certain modern idea. An idea that’s so powerful, the mere thought of its presence drives people away from their phones and away from all social media use. An idea so mighty that it’s brought an almost thought extinct sense of urgency to human viewing habits in a world ruled by Netflix and watching on your own time.

Spoiler Alert!  On this episode of the #Pop100, we are talking spoilers!

Spoilers, or finding out a clutch element of fiction that reveals plot  or “gives away” an important detail of said fiction, therefore SPOILing or RUINing the entire experience for someone.

The Spoiler is an idea that on the surface seems like it’s always been with us.

  • Vader is Luke’s daddy

  • Bruce Willis is dead the whole time

  • Rosebud is just a stupid sled

  • Norman Bates is his mother

  • Samus is a woman!

  • Kristen shot JR

  • Hell, Juliet isn’t really dead man!

There are historically epic plot twists and famous climatic endings, but they all existed in a world without spoilers. The spoiler is a modern idea and another one born from the age of the internet. According to Google trends, the phrase “Spoiler alert” in reference to film and TV started picking up use in 2005 within internet fan message boards, used as a warning to those that venture past. There be spoilers ahead.

2005 is also when the word “video streaming” came into play and also the birth year of Hulu. and no those 2 things are not mere coincidence, but proof that the spoiler belongs to the internet and now has been weaponized by the real-time connected world of social media and the invent of the social feed.

Because in 2019, the spoiler isn’t just a cordial warning, but a potential landmine that could be hiding out just behind that unassuming post of Linda’s daughter’s graduation. It only takes a second.

Ok, so fast forward to 2019 and the release of Avengers: Endgame, the capstone of the MCUs 11 year run and the super bowl of pop culture spoiler bait.

The Russo bros (who directed Endgame) had spoiler experience from the prior year’s Avengers: Infinity War which they also directed.  Infinity War fell prey to a spoiler meme that came out a day after the movie’s premiere and the brothers vowed to tackle this problem head-on with Endgame

So these 2 geniuses made a move that will go down in pop-marketing history and instead of fearing the spoiler they faced it.

Like pop-marketing Judo, don’t fight the energy of your opponent but use it to amplify your own. The Russo Brothers took ownership of the Spoiler by calling it out and bringing attention to it.

They started by penning a letter to Marvel’s fan base that was released the week before the premiere and the release of the hashtag #dontspoiltheendgame which even came with its own cute little emoji.

By doing this, they drug the Spoiler out into the light. This, of course does not do jack to actually controlling spoilers out there but what it did do was give the Marvel fanbase a strong sense of urgency to see the movie on opening weekend, if they didn’t want the 11-year journey spoiled. Which lead to a 1 Billion dollar opening weekend, the most presell tickets ever sold and the quickest movie in history to reach 2.5 billion.

That’s when they doubled down getting another round of PR for putting an actual end date the the spoiler ban 2 weeks after the premiere.  

LOL, they coined a new term spoiler ban and also drew a new line in the dirt, previously never articulated, saying that 2 weekends after the movie is launched is the new safe zone. Guaranteed that this will become the new normal for spoiler bans.

But Marvel wasn’t done. They pulled a hat trick and utilized all of that spoiler ban energy to promote the next Spider-Man: Far From Home movie by releasing a trailer premiering on the day the Endgame spoiler ban ended with an intro from the famously loose-lipped Tom Holland who told everyone not to watch the trailer if they haven’t seen End Game yet.  Epic Pop Marketing maneuvers.

We take the knee to the Russo Brothers and Kevin Feige of the MCU for their Pop Marketing prowess and  turning the idea of the Spoiler into a marketing tactic that sent droves of fans to the movies during the opening weekends, which are the key KPI for success for Hollywood movies and how successful they’ll be financially.  

That is it for this week’s Pop100 and if you dug this episode, please comment with your favorite spoiler moments in pop culture history or any ideas of how spoilers may be used in the future as a marketing tactic for non-entertainment properties.  You can also hitup pop-marketer.com and signup to my newsletter where I share the newest pop marketing news and case studies as I see them.

See you next time true believers.

Joe Cox