You are now entering Ad Space, a realm of commercials, brought before us so we might examine how they work, and discuss why we both love and hate them so. So it is written …
A 2011 romantic comedy film
Wait … are there Muppets in this movie?
I just love this ad.
Granted, other movie trailers have used this same bait-and-switch tactic before. They’ll make the film look like a serious thriller, but then the hero will do something stupid and wacky, and surprise! It’s a comedy! Or they’ll make it look like a cutesy product meant for very young children, but surprise! Raunchy sex jokes!
What sets this ad apart is how it commits to the gimmick. It spends nearly a full minute, over half the ad, making it look like this film is the blandest, most generic, lowest stakes, lowest concept romcom ever. By the time it gets to listing the actors, a lot of viewers will have mentally checked out. So when the narrator starts introducing Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy, it’s given a moment to creep up on the audience, to make them go “Wait, am I seeing this right?” before doing the sudden swerve into advertising what the movie’s really about.
Not only is this a well-executed, attention-grabbing gag, but it’s also a surprisingly truthful piece of advertising. This sort of playing with genre conventions, and playing with audience expectations, with characters fully aware that they are characters in a movie, is exactly the sort of humor that the Muppets in general, and 2011’s The Muppets in particular, love to do. If this trailer made you laugh, then there’s very good odds the movie’s sense of humor will gel with yours.
And, really, isn’t that what any good comedy trailer should do?