How ‘Honest Trailers’ Picks (and Profits From) the Movies It Skewers

Parody series is a hit with fans and advertisers alike

Whether it's pointing out the litany of forgettable characters on Game of Thrones or how Queen Elsa of Frozen is really a manic-depressive with god-like powers, Honest Trailers consistently entertains the Internet with its brutal takes on popular films and shows.

On Tuesday, it released its latest episode, mocking Divergent, which it accurately labeled as a Hunger Games knock-off that made things a little too convoluted. 

The key to selecting which movie goes under the microscope is part fan demand—Divergent had been one of the most requested Honest Trailers—and part ability to go viral, said Andy Signore, vp of programming at Defy Media and creator of Honest Trailers. He said while you can't always predict what will be a hit, all viral videos have one key element: They keep it simple.

"You don't want to get too complicated with your idea. You want some foot in a relatable topic. That’s always the first step," Signore said.

Since Screen Junkies—which was originally part of Break Media—debuted Honest Trailers on its YouTube channel in February 2012, its number one show had been watched more than 320 million times. Also, its most popular episode on Frozen has more than 15.6 million views. (Break Media partnered with Alloy Digital in Oct. 2013 to create Defy Media.)

Due to Screen Junkies' success, Signore said brands like Skittles and Best Buy often buy pre-roll and end cards for its episodes. Getting a company to subject itself to a brutal re-examination, however, isn't the easiest thing. "It's hard to work with a specific movie itself," he admitted. "Sometimes, they don't want to be honest about their movie."

Screen Junkies has had success in doing native integrations with its other programs, including The Screen Junkies Show! and Screen Junkies Approved. Signore has noticed that his audience has grown to accept brand integrations, provided the material is useful, helpful and not out of the realm of usual content.

For example, to tie in with X-Men: Days of Future Past, the team worked with Norton Anti-Virus to create a show around best mutant powers. "That was a topic we would have done anyway. We just had to figure out a way to help them in their own goals and fit what our audience wants," Signore explained.

If you're a publisher who aims to reach film nerds, making sure your viewers are happy is key, Signore added. And if your fans like what you're doing, then the ad campaign is more likely to succeed.

"There are a lot of people doing great film reviews and commentary. If you are passionate about it, you're entertaining and you know how to market your voice in a clever fresh way, you can succeed," Signore said. "You just have to do it consistently week to week, and make sure you're pushing your own content."