A History of PR, Ad Specialties, and Movie Promo Tie-Ins

ad specialties

Public Relations, Ad Specialties Share Movie Promo History

The PR specialty often referred to as event promotion co-existed comfortably with the generic marketing label “Advertising Specialties”, a category comprised of often useless junk offered as customer engagement bait, usually sold from monthly catalogs sent out by merchandisers ranging from post office box headquartered side gig entrepreneurs to large resellers on the national stage.

Key rings, pens, notepads, and refrigerator magnets are top-of-mind when it comes to booth memorabilia and convention mementos, but the global pandemic and a freshly minted set of hygienic standards upset that business model.

For one enterprise zone, though, ad specialties were the stuff creative dreams are made of, and represent a time that’s come and gone in the history of over-the-top, cost isn’t a problem promotion. Before YouTube trailers, micro-targeted ad pop-ups, Netflix, and streaming on-demand content, the movie industry for one brief period relied on often wildly imaginative product tie-ins to lure paid views and valuable word-of-mouth.

How YouTube Clobbered the Memorabilia Industry

When Blockbuster arrived on the scene in the mid-1980s, catapulting to success with the then new medium of VHS to offer movie buffs their first taste of on-demand cheap cinema for at-home consumption, it created an overnight opportunity for Hollywood to redirect eyeballs and convert tastes at the point-of-sale.

Today, YouTube trailers have completely taken over how previews and film promos are served to the public. Cable channels, home theater, and streaming options compete with brick and mortar theaters for revenue, and the once thriving industry of targeted cinema ad specialties has been replaced by the complex task of creating and producing digital previews.

This Twitter account is dedicated to preserving what product promotion looked like for big budget Hollywood releases from the ’80s to the oughts, when giveaways faced no testing for conversion and spending limits were non-existent. Underwear, berets, snack foods, cereal, flashlights—if a logo could be stamped, carved, embossed, or shaped, anything in the vast world of consumer merchandise was fair game.

Movie Promotional Merch Unlimited‘s @NightPromoting offers historical insight into the art, not always evident, of adapting movie logos to merchandise well beyond cheap pens and instantly forgettable koozies. The giveaways, targeted to critics for then still powerful national and regional papers, magazines, and on-air broadcasts at the high end to VHS renters at the retail level, didn’t always make marketing sense.

For Promotional Use Only Belongs On Marketeers Bookshelves

Content creator/marketing indy shop A24 is a master at generating word-of-mouth for their products, and they’re also an archival site preserving memories of promotions ranging from Crocodile Dundee to The Color Purple. Their bookshelf worthy overview of film marketing is a 230-page plus hardcover history of memorable campaigns. For Promotional Use Only, which catalogs the Golden Age of tchotchkes from 1975-2005, is a treasure trove of both history and inspiration.