The “Saw” franchise shows great marketing takes guts

Oct 19, 2017

Thirteen years ago, a number of journalists opened their mail to find bags of severed hands, legs, ears, tongues and feet.

They were fake, fortunately. Enclosed with the artificial blood was an invitation to a new movie being released around Halloween: “Saw.”

It was one of many creative and effective gimmicks meant to generate buzz around the film, which spawned a $1 billion franchise. The newest installment, “Jigsaw,” came out Friday, Oct. 27.

One promotional idea that Lionsgate is using this year, and has used for all eight movies in the series, is a little more high-minded: nationwide blood drives.

The studio originally came up with the idea partly as a public relations stunt, partly to create a way for people to become more immersed in the story. The first 50 donors got free tickets.

The original blood drive poster for the first Saw movie featured a nurse who was actually a Lionsgate executive.

It’s now had the effect of doing good, having collected 120,000 pints of blood over the years.

But just as the Saw movies rely on shock value, you can’t keep getting attention by doing the same thing. So, the latest plot twist is using the blood drive theme to protest the U.S.’s restrictive policy on LGBT blood donations.

Whereas past promotional posters purely featured white female nurses, this year’s ads featured models of different races, genders, ages and orientations. The campaign’s called “All Types Welcome.”

It’s risky. Some will see it as offensive, others as exploitative. But it’s largely received positive PR, due in part to executives choosing candor over corporate-speak in explaining their intentions: “We want this policy changed,” said one producer.

Furthermore, this time around, every donor got free tickets to see the movie.

Long story short: Lionsgate shows that developing creative ideas is only half the marketing battle – you also need the guts to execute on them.


This article was written by our Account Executive Nicole Regis. It first appeared in our weekly newsletter, Long Story Short. To get stories like this automatically every Monday morning, sign up here. To see all other editions in this series, click here.

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