Why Straight Outta Compton Created Different Trailers For Different Racial Groups

While it was criminally ignored by the Academy Awards, one thing is certain about Straight Outta Compton, it made a boatload of money. The film was a huge box-office success at the end of last summer. Now, executives at Universal and Facebook have talked about one of the reasons that they believe they were able to achieve success. They targeted different racial groups with different trailers for the film.

Speaking at South by Southwest this week, Universal EVP of Digital Marketing Doug Neil, and Facebook head of entertainment Jim Wood opened up about how they were able to customize the marketing to different ethnic groups, in order to give them the information that they needed in order to become excited for Straight Outta Compton. According to Business Insider, the issue was that the level of familiarity with rap group N.W.A. was drastically different among different ethnicities. The "general population" was deemed to not know much about N.W.A. as a group, however, they did know who Ice Cube was, as he’s become a famous actor in his own right in recent years, and that Dr. Dre is known as the man behind the Beats headphone brand. Therefore, this audience saw trailers on Facebook that never mentioned N.W.A. by name and instead set the film up as the "origin story" of Cube and Dre.

African-Americans, however, were viewed to have a baseline knowledge of N.W.A, and so the trailer marketed toward them used the name over and over again, while Hispanics typically got a short trailer that included flashing quotes written in Spanish. Overall, the marketing plan certainly appears to have worked, as the film grossed $160 million at the domestic box office.

However, it appears that setting up this marketing wasn’t as simple as directing it toward racial groups, something Facebook wants to be sure people understand. In a statement Facebook says

Several news outlets have stated that Facebook allows advertisers to target ads based on race. That is not accurate. Facebook does not have a capability for people to self-identify by race or ethnicity on the platform. As part of its advertising offering, brands can target ads on Facebook to people based on how they might respond to content. The affinity segments are created, in a privacy-safe way, using signals such as different languages, likes, and group membership on the platform.

So apparently, their advertising algorithms do not allow advertisers to target consumers based on race. Users don’t actually provide racial information to Facebook, so it would be impossible to do. Instead, what Universal apparently did was look at things that users liked and did on Facebook, which may have given a strong indication of their race and this data was used to target the trailers. Language preference is part of Facebook, which would have made the Spanish language trailers easier to target.

Here’s a non-Facebook version of a trailer. We honestly hadn’t noticed before that, while the name N.W.A.is mentioned here, the name’s Ice Cube and Dre show up much more.

Is this the future of movie marketing? Specialized advertising designed to interest you in a film? What do you think? Let us know in the comments.

Dirk Libbey
Content Producer/Theme Park Beat

CinemaBlend’s resident theme park junkie and amateur Disney historian. Armchair Imagineer. Epcot Stan. Future Club 33 Member.