All the Feels: How the Trailers for This Summer’s Movies Break Down Emotionally

Unruly debuts EQ for Trailers tool

Zoe Kazan and Kumail Nanjiani in The Big Sick

Advertising is meant to be emotional.

We’re supposed to feel the journey of that older woman struggling with arthritis when all she wants is to go outside and play wiffle ball with her grandson. We’re supposed to invest deeply in the story of the man who struggles to find just the right kind of paint with which to complete his weekend renovation. We’re supposed to cry at the dog that delivers the letter from the wounded soldier to his pregnant wife just in time for Christmas Day.

Those emotional connections are supposed to make the audience more likely to feel positively toward the brand doing the advertising, and therefore more likely to select it the next time an opportunity comes up.

The same is true of movie trailers. Whether it’s making us laugh, making us tense up with anticipation, or feel a tingle at the heroic adventures depicted, we’re meant to get charged up. Those teasers are designed to use the 90 to 150 seconds available to them to sell us the premise, introduce the characters and outline the story, all in a way that hits some emotional chord. And that is meant to motivate the audience to go to the theater, make a purchase on iTunes/Amazon or subscribe to Netflix.

To gauge how emotionally resonant the trailers for some of this summer’s notable new releases are, video technology agency Unruly created EQ for Trailers, a tool designed to show studios just the kind of gut impact their trailers are having. The mix of movies analyzed included not just blockbusters but also smaller titles that trade more clearly on emotions like compassion, terror and love, not just spectacle and wonder.

Here’s how Unruly ranked the 10 movies analyzed, with their EQ score, which combines emotional intensity, favorability and purchase intent, with the average being 5 out of 10:

1. Spider-Man: Homecoming (6.3 EQ)
2/3. Wonder Woman / Star Wars: The Last Jedi (6.1 EQ)
4. Cars 3 (5.7 EQ)
5/6. The Big Sick / The Dark Tower (5.6 EQ)
7. War For The Planet of the Apes (5.3)
8. Baby Driver (4.9 EQ)
9. A Ghost Story (4.1 EQ)
10. Band Aid (4.0 EQ)

The big takeaway? Spectacle still dominates, and creating a sense of wonder in the audience will trump smaller stories. But titles like Spider-Man, Star Wars and Cars likely benefit from heavy weighting in the “purchase intent” category because of their massive campaigns and high general audience awareness. The Big Sick and Band Aid can’t compete, with their smaller marketing budgets and lack of special effects.

That makes the appearance of The Big Sick, written by and starring Kamail Nanjiani from Silicon Valley, alongside The Dark Tower all the more impressive since it’s the highest-ranking movie not based on existing material.

Notably, according to Unruly, two of the smaller movies—Band Aid and The Big Sick—saw the biggest uptick in purchase intent after people finally saw the trailers, meaning it is largely an awareness problem. Once people know these smaller movies are an option, their interest goes up.

If you dig into the numbers that go into the final score, what jumps out is how, across the board, no more than 80 percent of the audience felt any of the trailers gave away too much of the story. While that’s to be expected for smaller movies like Baby Driver, or those like The Dark Tower, whose campaigns have only just started, it’s surprising for something like Spider-Man. Those trailers have made what seems to be an effort to show as much of the story as possible, leaving no stone unturned.

While smaller, non-IP movies like A Ghost Story and others scored well in terms of favorability (though not as well as Wonder Woman, Star Wars and other franchise entries), they were much lower in categories such as “Inspiration” and “Warmth.” No one watched the trailer for A Ghost Story and came away with warm fuzzies, that’s for sure. But those were the movies that see higher Converter Uplift scores as awareness turns into intent.

You can see the whole Unruly EQ for Trailers chart here.