Although they’ve existed in comics — and other entertainment mediums — for years, it’s only recently that comics readers are seeing so many of them.
From last summer’s “I Am An Avenger” campaign rolling out the “Heroic Age” era members of the flagship team to DC’s recent Flashpoint teasers with simply a logo and some text. Image Comics has even taken part in this trend, with not-so-subtle jabs at it in the parody “I am A Guardian” with characters like Gary Popper, and the month-long string of teasers hyping the upcoming Butcher Baker series.
They’ve become a well-worn tool in every comic publisher’s marketing toolkit — and with good reason. A well-crafted teaser sparks the minds of the comic-buying public’s imagination, much in the same way as a good cliffhanger at the end of an issue would. And better yet, they don’t really have to spend anything to circulate these promos; comic websites large and small, including ours, snap them up and readers seem to follow suit. You could call them advertisements, but “advertisement” means a paid announcement, and these are more like flyers solicited through the comics sites.
But why are they so popular? We asked the experts — the people that are using them — to find out.
“Teaser images are such a popular marketing tactic with us because it’s a fun way for us to show fans what might be coming up and inspire them to speculate, hypothesize and sometimes even rake us over the coals regarding what they think is coming up,” says Mike Pascuillo, senior vice president of brand planning & communications at Marvel. ” It seems people love spoilers, so this is a way to show part of our hand and get people excited without truly revealing the whole truth.”
Although neither DC Comics nor Image Comics accepted an invitation to comment on this topic, veteran publicist Alex Segura, who is currently Archie’s executive director of publicity & marketing, had a lot to say.
“Teaser images are definitely a tool for comic book PR and marketing, and have worked well for years. You also see them across media, in TV, movies, video games, etc. But like previews, cover reveals and creative changes, they’ve become a part of the comic book promo rotation, whereas maybe 3-4 years ago, they were novel,” said Segura, who previously worked as a publicist for DC. “Which isn’t to say they’re not useful — they worked for Blackest Night, Marvel’s Avengers relaunch and beyond. We’ve used them recently at Archie, most recently with our ‘Justin Beaver’ and American Idol/Simon Cowell images. I think two factors are key – timing and content. If the teaser is just a logo or stylized text, it’d better say something that gets people talking. Fans are smart, and they want to think about the teaser beyond just the title of the book. They also want to be left wondering what’s coming up after the teaser.
“As a publisher, you want to ask yourself — does this get people excited? Will it piss off more people than it motivates to talk about the book? Is there a payoff or are we teasing something that doesn’t merit this level of promotion? All of that has to go into your decision,” Segura explains. “But by and large, teaser images are a great primer and basically help remind fans that something big (hopefully) is coming their way soon. In that regard, they work most of the time.”
In a recent interview with Heidi MacDonald at the Beat, Joe Casey was asked about the marathon teaser campaign Image released in November 2010 for his upcoming title Butcher Baker. As is Casey’s tendency to speak frank and openly (which is catnip to interviewers), he was pretty frank on the idea of teasers and his expectations of results from the month-long campaign.
“Jeezus, I have no idea how you could measure it. Who knows if it’ll move the needle at all? But that’s not really the point. If anyone paid any attention at all – be it positive or negative – then I guess it was as effective as I could’ve hoped it would be,” Casey explains. “I’ve said this before; I looked at this teaser campaign more as some kind of weird performance art than anything else. Any actual awareness or promotion that comes out of it is a bonus.”