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Invisible Advertising

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"This game's launch date was announced a week before launch. The game was unavailable in most stores in the U.S. until a week after launch, and Konami issued a press release announcing the game's availability three days after the game came out. Producer Tak Fuji, while in the States, couldn't even find a copy of his own game in the store, and called it a 'big shame' on him as a producer. THAT'S HOW MUCH KONAMI CARES!"
Jim Sterling, "Konami is Konami", discussing Blades of Time

Movies and TV shows are expensive. To be viable investments, they need to turn a pretty sizable profit. To make that money, they need to make people aware of TV and movies. This is where advertising comes in: billboards, television and radio commercials, interviews on talk shows, etc. Without these things, many people simply don't know a movie exists. This is how tickets get sold, and why people tune in at prime time.

Sometimes, however, the studio or network just doesn't think it's worth the bother. Figuring that the money is going down the drain anyway, they simply slip the work into theaters, into its timeslot, hoping that it will just quietly go away, and they will have fulfilled their legal obligations. So the movie does get released, and people who know about it can find it and see it. But the studio doesn't make it easy. These are cinemae non gratae.


This often happens when Executive Meddling slams headfirst into a creator who really, really wants to create the work he wants without interference, but is too green to have Protection from Editors.

On TV, this is one part of being Screwed by the Network. These are frequently Not Screened for Critics. Those who actually liked them will be the ones who Keep Circulating the Tapes. Compare to Never Trust a Trailer, when a work is intentionally mismarketed.



    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • In the US, Dragon Quest: Legend of the Hero Abel was shown as Dragon Warrior, broadcast on Sunday mornings with no advertising.
  • Toonami:
    • Before the revival, [adult swim] was largely ignoring most of the Saturday block of anime. They'd advertise Bleach (their biggest show according to ratings) for a couple weeks when a new season is coming up, usually while it's on reruns, and they'd usually advertise a new show to the lineup for a few weeks before it debuts, then go on to advertise anything that wasn't anime. Code Geass and Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit were greatly ignored when they premiered.
    • Toonami has gone to good lengths to prevent this from ever happening again. Any time the schedule is updated, a whole commercial to advertise the entire lineup is aired. The commercials air at all times, during Cartoon Network's, Adult Swim's and Toonami's own broadcastings. Even beyond that, more popular series like Bleach, Naruto, and Space Dandy are given their own advertisements.
    • In the case of Latin America, Toonami ads were cut considerably after the block was moved from afternoon to midnight in the schedule (not so much initially when the move was only in Mexico, but it did when the move spread to the rest of the Hispanic diaspora), but some of the series and movies were displayed on commercial breaks during the last full year of the block on air.
  • After lukewarm ratings for the first season of IGPX, Cartoon Network decided to move the show to Friday at Midnight, with exactly one ad detailing the change of the schedule.
  • In 2007, .Hack//Roots was randomly aired on Cartoon Network at Saturday morning at 4:30 AM EST. The only way anyone even knew it was airing was because someone noticed it listed on the scheduling and started to tell the internet about it. It wasn't even given a "Coming Up Next" bump like the network often announces for all its programming - bumpers during the show claimed the viewer was watching My Gym Partner's a Monkey of all things. There wasn't even an announcement of its licensing, let alone its broadcast. In other words, it really was that random, and went away just as quickly (and randomly).
  • Some anime that were shown on Animax Asia (such as Brave Witches and Akashic Records of Bastard Magic Instructor), receive no TV promos or advertising at all.
  • While on Cartoon Network, the Pokémon anime was rarely advertised and was regulated to an early Saturday morning timeslot when many kids weren't even up. Eventually, the series changed stations to Disney XD, which advertises it more and airs it in more accessible time slots.
  • Disney XD's advertisement of Yo-Kai Watch has been hit-or-miss. It usually airs very few ads for it.

    Film - Animated 
  • Warner Bros. didn't really know what to do with The Iron Giant; the studio kept putting off scheduling the release date several times to the point that the film's crew were worried that it would never be released. Warner eventually scheduled the opening for August 6, 1999, then gave it sparsely advertising and practically no merchandising, ending in it becoming a miserable flop in theaters), but gained a higher profile on home video and became a sleeper hit and cult classic, aided partly by the Cartoon Network marathoning the movie on Thanksgiving, thanks to head honcho Ted Turner seeing the movie during a flight and discovering he really liked it.
  • Rock & Rule had no advertising for its theatrical or home video releases. MGM acted like the movie didn't even exist.
  • The Hasbro-Sunbow Entertainment 80's trifecta of Transformers: The Movie, My Little Pony: The Movie (1986) and G.I. Joe: The Movie all fell victim to this.
  • Delgo though it became clear this was more a result of Not Screened for Critics.
  • Though a juggernaut of a franchise and being very well-reviewed, the 2011 Winnie-the-Pooh movie got buried twice by Disney's lack of confidence through limited publicity and being releasing against Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, but it was later Vindicated by Video.
  • Strange Magic: The trailer was released only two months before the release, which was in January.
  • This may be why Kubo and the Two Strings flopped at the box office despite universal acclaim from critics and audiences alike. Laika's films normally receive plenty of advertising, but Kubo's ads received barely any exposure on television and online.
  • Osmosis Jones received an odd case of this in that it DID get a decent marketing budget, but Time-Warner dumped it almost entirely onto Cartoon Network. Hence, commercial breaks on Cartoon Network were flooded with commercials and trailers for Osmosis Jones, but if you didn't watch Cartoon Network, chances are you never knew it existed. Even when it received a TV series, Ozzy & Drix, much of its audience was unaware it was a continuation of the movie - not to mention that the series in question aired on a different network from the one that had advertised the movie.
  • Despite getting tons of merchandise and promotion online, Olaf's Frozen Adventure was only mentioned in one television commercial for Coco which was rarely run. Because of this, most audiences did not know about the feature and were surprised to see it take up the first 20 minutes of the film.

    Film - Live Action 
  • Big Trouble was delayed due to the events of 9/11, and then given an untrumpeted release when it became clear that if they waited for 9/11 to blow over, they'd all be dead before they could release it.
  • Harvey Weinstein's companies, Miramax Films and The Weinstein Company, were pretty infamous for this.
  • The Boondock Saints. Granted, it was kinda justified (released around the same time as the Columbine massacre).
  • An early effort by Sam Raimi and The Coen Brothers, Crimewave, a sort of slapstick gangster spoof was met with disastrous results when screened for audiences, and was released only in five theaters across the states. The VHS was long out of print by the time it finally received a DVD release in 2013.
  • The 2008 feature film The Midnight Meat Train. Based on the short story by Clive Barker and directed by Japanese cult favourite Ryuhei Kitamura (Godzilla: Final Wars), the movie is a complete and utter bloodbath with the built-in typical horror movie demographic, and it didn't have a terribly high budget. What happened? The company that was releasing it, Lionsgate, switched management while the film was nearing completion. Rather than continuing his predecessor's work and fulfilling the obligations, the new exec shunted the film into a handful of cheapo dollar theaters, without a whit of advertising. It was Kitamura's first American film, and in interviews he had indicated that he wanted to switch to making films in America permanently, despite being quite bankable in Japan.
  • Averted and played straight with Zyzzyx Road: It played briefly in a theater to get around a pay scale loophole, inadvertently getting attention as the lowest grossing film in history. The film was released to DVD internationally later in 2006 as intended, earning over 10,000 times its box office receipts (not that high bar to jump through as the receipt was $30—which the director personally refunded). However, it still hasn't been released domestically and hasn't made back its $2,000,000 budget by foreign sales alone.
  • The Mystery Science Theater 3000 movie. The studio behind it, Gramercy Pictures, put everything into advertising the Pamela Anderson film Barb Wire - which, to add insult to injury, didn't sell very many tickets.
  • MirrorMask barely turned a head on its cinema run. Consider the visual style of that film and you'll get some idea how heavily you have to bury it for no-one to notice it.
  • George Lucas was afraid 20th Century Fox would do this to the original Star Wars film, a.k.a. A New Hope, so he secured the merchandising rights in the hopes that he could promote the movie if they didn't. 20th Century Fox happily handed them over, wondering why on earth he wanted the worthless merchandising rights instead of more money up front.
  • Tom Laughlin, the director/star of Billy Jack, was able to win distribution rights back from the original company when he realized they were doing this. He then started one of the first examples of saturation advertising and made it a hit.
  • Terry Gilliam's The Adventures of Baron Munchausen had only 117 prints made for the entire US distribution. Gilliam sourly noted at the time that minor arthouse films got 400 prints; the culprit was a regime change at Columbia Pictures.
  • 13 is the theatrical example of this. It didn't have any television commercials, instead relying on a few print ads and internet videos.
  • Slither:
    • Universal hardly promoted the film despite its critical acclaim and later tried to blame the film's failure on the director for not making it more accessible.
    • It happened again on the director's follow-up Super. After IFC Films spent over a million to buy the rights, they sat on it and only released a trailer four weeks before opening. Other than a few posters, there was almost no marketing on the film and it died in limited release (also some theatres won't play it due to it being unrated, as the director and studio expected an NC-17 rating).note  Thankfully, the movie did really well during it's simultaneous Video On Demand release, where it was IFC Films highest grossing VOD title for a while.
    • The happy ending here is that the director in question is James Gunn... so, yeah.
  • Let Me In got this due to a distributor change less than three months before release (Relativity Media bought original distributor Overture for their distribution outlet). Rather than give an ad campaign given to most wide releases, Relativity spent most of its money promoting the movie it was facing that weekend, The Social Network (which was co-financed but not distributed by them) while the studio was completely quiet about the film (it wasn't even mentioned on Relativity's website while The Social Network was). The film grossed only $12 million.
  • Dimension Films was notorious for doing this, films like Venom (2005), Texas Rangers (which was inexplicably shelved for over a year) and DOA: Dead or Alive were given very limited releases with virtually no advertising whatsoever.
  • Twice Upon A Time was given an incredibly limited release, aired once on HBO and twice on Cartoon Network, then disappeared from the public entirely, despite support from George Lucas and Henry Selick.
  • Fox is rather infamous for this. Some examples include:
    • They barely marketed The Big Year (only putting out a trailer a month before opening and having very little television exposure) despite having three big names in the cast (Steve Martin, Jack Black and Owen Wilson), an established supporting cast and a director whose last two films grossed over $100 million. Also, the marketing hid the film's entire plot (three men on a year-long birdwatching journey, which was based on a non-fiction book).
    • Tigerland: Zero advertising.
    • Ravenous (1999): Very little advertising which also mismarketed it as a teen-oriented horror film.
    • Idiocracy: Zero advertising (of course, given that it was on the contractual-minimum six screens nationwide, almost any ads would have been a waste of money).
  • Intentionally invoked by Paramount for Brain Donors to sink the movie after the Zucker brothers left the studio before its release.
  • This trope also affected The Way, an indie film by Emilio Estevez. It was to the point that the director's father/star Martin Sheen went on various talk shows to drum up publicity.
  • Paramount did this to Not Fade Away, a drama about rock music from David Chase, the creator of The Sopranos. Released it into a crowded Christmas field (and expanding to 500 theatres two weeks later), there was almost no marketing or publicity done for it and the studio more or less swept it under the rug while heavily promoting long on the shelf fare like Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters.
  • Another Christmas 2012 Paramount release that suffered for this was Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away. Paramount only got it on about 800 screens in North America, screens that were shared with other movies; it managed only two showings per day at each venue. There was a trailer and a TV spot or two but no other promotional efforts, possibly because Paramount couldn't figure out how to promote a film that, while produced by James Cameron, had no name performers in the cast (it's a compilation of Cirque live show performances linked by an Excuse Plot). As well, Paramount may have been preoccupied not only with another production they opened that particular day, Jack Reacher, but also with wringing every last drop out of Dreamworks' Rise of the Guardians before the holiday season was over, as that film — aimed at the same family audience, but a far more expensive, heavily-hyped effort — was underperforming at the box office.
  • Disney partially did this with Muppets Most Wanted: The Muppets conquered social media websites by force but peculiarly abstained from doing real life ads. As a Muppet fan pointed out, its release period rival Mr. Peabody & Sherman did the exact opposite with its marketing and proceeded to defeat underperforming Muppets at the box office, showing why you shouldn't put all your eggs in the Viral Marketing basket, especially if you're trying to reach a family audience. (That Muppets Most Wanted opened up against the Critic-Proof teen phenomenon Divergent AND that Disney had a blockbuster of their own to unleash just two weeks later really didn't help.)
  • While the failure of Return To OZ is often blamed on Nightmare Fuel that didn't sit well with the target audience (and not without reason), a lesser known factor was Michael Eisner taking over as CEO. The film, along with other projects championed by the former regime, got dumped into theaters with little advertising, save for reviews that criticized the darker aspects. While a few high-profile fans, such as Harlan Ellison, encouraged audiences to see it before it vanished, the film flopped as expected, putting an end to the directing career of Walter Murch.
  • Terry Jones' version of The Wind in the Willows. In America it played on seven screens without advertising and the rights got dumped to Disney due to Columbia Pictures executives simply having no faith in it (the film's poor box-office in its native UK most likely was a factor).
  • Tomb Raider was barely promoted (despite that being an established film reboot of the 2001 film; both based on the original Tomb Raider games (albeit the 2013 one). Not even any information or details on the production were given. Though as expected, it debuted on opening weekend on March 16 being a financial flop; earning $22 million in second place behind Black Panther. This made matters worse given the studio - Warner Bros. was heavily promoting Ready Player One (released two weeks later) more than Tomb Raider reboot.
  • In an unusual case for a big-budget tentpole release, Solo, which was a Troubled Production and fired its directors shortly before photography was scheduled to wrap and was almost entirely reshot, was frequently cited for its complete lack of promotion. Scheduled for a May 25, 2018 release, it wasn't until early February, less than four months before the release date, that Lucasfilm finally put out a trailer and promotional material for the film. For reference, the trailer for the prior Star Wars film, The Last Jedi, debuted eight months before its release date.
  • Aquaman waited five months until release before releasing the very first trailer, thanks to a combination of long post-production cycle and executive upheaval at DC Films. Director James Wan himself insisted on waiting until SDCC 2018 to release the first trailer as he wants to make it as faithful to the final movie as possible, especially given how previous trailers for DCEU movies have misled fans on the final product.
  • With the 1971 movie Wake in Fright, United Artists did nothing to promote the movie outside one trailer for it. To make matters worse, the film opened in America in a single theater on the east side of New York, on a Sunday night, during a Blizzard.
  • Despite rave reviews following its Cannes premiere, Disney did very, very little to advertise The Straight Story, and it only played in about 140 theaters and was quietly released on home video.

  • Book advertising in the United States on television since the age of Dianetics ended is incredibly rare, and always badly done; you can blame works like Kitty Kelley's unauthorized biographies and networks afraid of multi-million dollar libel lawsuits on the current rarity of them. The most publishers can seem to muster is a zoom-in and out of the book cover, a vague plot synopsis written with deep Narm, a couple of reviews from an author in the same field, and then a drop of "at all booksellers, or as an e-book on Amazon and Barnes & Noble". Only James Patterson seems to put any effort into his book ads, and he has to bankroll them on his own. Thankfully online book ads definitely have more effort put into them, and the publishing industry has put their eggs into the more reliable television interview circuit, where an author can go onto a talk show and sell the book on their own terms.

    Live Action TV 
  • The kiss of death of any series might as well be network promos for a night's block promoting a series with the line "Then after an all-new (show)..." with only a quick actor sweep or random scene without any context. Until it moved to TBS, it was very prominent for American Dad! when Fox aired it. With American Dad, it's just realistic to accept that the reason people aren't watching them is probably not that they're not aware of them.
  • This is how Community was promoted when it aired on Thursdays:
    Typical NBC Thursday ad: The Office is on! Office! Office! Office! 30 Rock is on too! Isn't that show awesome? A cool new episode of Parks and Recreation is on too! And Community is also on, but so is The Office! Office! Office! Office!
  • [adult swim] ran a show called Paid Programming at 4:30 am on without any on-air acknowledgment. It's like it was specifically designed to confuse viewers. It still got more advertising than the program's creators wanted, as it was announced at a convention. The Paid Programming slot unleashed Too Many Cooks upon the world, though it took a gray-market YouTube upload to get it any traction.
  • Arrested Development got almost no promotion from FOX, even after it became a critical darling and Cult Classic. Given how little publicity it got, it's a miracle it lasted 3 seasons (and unsurprising FOX ended up killing it). Netflix later revived the series for two more seasons.
  • Kristin Chenoweth's summer sitcom "Kristin" had few ads promoting it. It ended up Screwed by the Network after 6 episodes.
  • Police, Camera, Action! and Police Stop! - which were barely advertised at the time. Ironically, the likes of World In Action, The Cook Report and Coronation Street got a mention. But they were still popular...
  • Once Dollhouse started airing the second season, the only way to see any promos for the show were minutes before the episode aired.
  • The WB was particularly bad about this for some shows. Jack & Bobby was hardly advertised at all until near the end of the season, by which point it was too late for the ratings to recover enough to avoid cancellation. For Your Love on the other hand somehow managed to last for 4 years despite rarely getting much in the way of advertisement.
  • The US version of The Mole fell victim to cancellation at the end of Season 5 after ABC's marketing department did so little to promote the show that even many die-hard fans were completely unaware that the show had returned for the first third of the season.
  • ABC did the same with Million Dollar Mind Game in 2011, which was thrown into their Sunday afternoon Pit of Doom to be killed by the NFL games on the other networks.
  • German TV channel Pro 7 had only a single trailer for the Doctor Who revival series and showed it a whole week before the premiere just once or twice a day in the afternoon. After that there was no advertising to speak of, they didn't even care to update their information page for the show when they changed the timeslot after a temporary cancellation. Many fans think that this killed the show.
  • Top Gear one had an In-Universe example. The hosts are tasked with putting on an automotive-themed art show. Richard goes on the radio to promote the show and talks about several things... except the art show. Jeremy is listening and is not pleased.
  • This is pretty much what hosed Law & Order: Criminal Intent no matter what channel it was on. While Dick Wolf had always intended to keep all three main shows in the Law & Order universe afloat, the network had little to no interest in the other L&O series since it did not have a respectable decade-and-a-half run with a good fan following or focus on pretty people solving rapes and murders and gave it no advertising. This came to be to the dismay of many cast members, especially Chris Noth, so the series' move to the USA Network in its seventh season came as a breath of fresh air to both the crew and the fans. Unfortunately, while it did receive much more advertising and attention from the network, it ended up having to compete with SVU again which by then was adored by that network, as well (and ironically enough, their advertising of "do you prefer the Special Victims Unit or Major Case Squad?" did not help), in addition to USA's other popular original programming. It carried on for another few years before ending in 2011.
    • Law & Order: Trial by Jury suffered a similar fate, but circumstances were ready playing against the series from the get-go: aside from its limited advertising and the belief that the characters didn't have much chemistry with one another, tragedy struck when Jerry Orbach, who had both his presence and his character, Det. Lennie Briscoe, to be considered by most fans to be The Heart of the entire franchise, passed away of cancer in late 2004 after filming only two episodes. After that, quite understandably, both fans and the network lost interest and the series barely lasted one season.
    • Averted in the case of Law & Order: Los Angeles. The network advertised the shit out of the show, had one of its lead characters appear on an episode of SVU in an attempt for a successful lead-in for their spinoff, Wolf enthusiastically saying that the show was meant to serve as a replacement for the original series and airing numerous TV spots for it even before the Mothership was cancelled. In spite of all this, ratings lagged considerably and even killing off one of the main characters or executive producer Rene Balcer practically begging fans to ask the network to save the show did nothing to bring in viewers before it ended after one season.

     Manufactured Goods 
  • The 2002-04 Ford SVT Focus was developed by a special sub-division of Ford (that also made the Mustang Cobra and Lightning truck); exclusive marketing was part of the SVT image. It was available only through select dealerships, not included in the regular Focus full-line brochures or on the main Ford website, and SVT's relatively small ad budget mostly went to the more profitable truck and Mustang. People who owned it loved it, but many others who would have didn't know it existed until it was too late.
  • Microsoft's line of Zune players suffered from this greatly. The ad campaign to accompany its initial launch was half-assed at best and before it had a chance to prove itself in the market (and break Apple's monopoly) it fell victim to a vocal Hate Dumb rooted in Quality by Popular Vote. Only the hatedom wasn't as widespread as most believe because most mainstream consumers had no idea they even existed since Microsoft basically stopped advertising them at all by the time the second gen models arrived, save for one faux-infomercial starring an Expy of the Shamwow guy.
  • Asuna cars in Canada were this, do you remember the Asuna SE and GT? About the only ones anyone can remember were the Asuna Sunfire and Asuna Sunrunner but that's about it. Ironically, there's a small campaign to revive the brand.
  • To promote Pontiac's all new 2004 model line, GM sent out a mass mailing of fancy booklets titled "Meet the new Pontiacs". Conspicuously absent was any mention of their new captive import from Holden, the new GTO. While GM ignored the GTO, the front drive (and home-grown) G6 was extensively promoted to a similar demographic. The GTO was canceled after the 2006 model year. GM would axe the entire Pontiac division on October 31, 2010.

  • Used intentionally by Beyoncé with the release of her fifth studio album, 2013's Beyonce. The album was recorded in secret and released on iTunes without any prior announcement or marketing of any kind, though the unconventional release generated much more exposure from media coverage and heavy social media discourse than any type of paid advertising probably would have accomplished.
  • The same year as Beyonce's use of this trope, David Bowie managed to quickly overshadow it by doing almost the exact same thing with his album The Next Day, recording the album in secrecy and droppings its debut single, "Where are We Now?", on iTunes with zero fanfare. The sudden appearance of the single and its parent album came as a severe shock to fans and industry reporters alike, due to this being Bowie's first new material in roughly a decade; everyone had assumed he had more or less retired after suffering a heart attack on tour in 2004.
  • Outside of very rare cases like the first advertisement during The X Factor for 25 from Adele, record label 'advertising' on television is very much invisible and No Budget. The most record companies have done since the 2000's is either "soothing announcer talks about artist's new album over their Music Video with absolutely no continuity between the video and announcer", or "really loud announcer with no volume control talks about aggressive rap/rock artist's new album over their music video with absolutely no continuity between the video and announcer"; both cases seem to have graphic and lettering effects done on 80's era computers and Adobe Photoshop 3. Thankfully with album sales moving to the Internet, the artists themselves do most of the advertising legwork on their social media and newsletters, and with how MTV and most video networks are now, the no budget ads are mostly a thing of the past.
  • Even the Time-Life/K-Tel 'all the songs by the original artists' compilation album ads with loads of Narm are pretty much an artifact of the past as Spotify and Apple Music allow you to compile your own K-Tel compilation on your own for whatever you pay for streaming music, without the stuff you'll never listen to. The compilations still exist, but are manly either promoted only to Baby Boomers who won't give up whatever circular music playing device they use, or to completionists looking for a fast way to get everything an artist has.
  • Eric Church released his 2015 album Mr. Misunderstood to his fan club with no advance warning to anyone that he was working on a new album.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • ECW was famously Screwed by the Network in this way with TNN refusing to run a single ad for them, giving Paul Heyman ammo for his anti-network rants.
  • After NBC purchased Telemundo, they did away with all advertising for IWA Puerto Rico.

  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy originally aired in, as Douglas Adams himself put it in a foreword to the collected edition of the books, "a dramatic blaze of no publicity at all. Bats heard it. The odd dog barked." It was wildly successful anyway.
  • This tradition continues with new BBC Radio 4 comedy series to this day, with only the occasional trailer in between programmes and maybe a brief write-up on the website. They generally don't need much publicity, however, as they're first aired in an early-evening slot between the six o'clock news and The Archers where they're guaranteed a decent audience.

    Tabletop Games 
  • One of the reasons, along with not bothering to stock the cards, that the American release of Battle Spirits failed.

  • Most theatrical works get little in terms of televised advertisement, but this is because of how the American theatre industry works. Posters and such are commonplace, but commercials and trailers are not, as outside of New York, this requires travel to see a show and television advertising would be mostly wasteful. Only major blockbuster (usually Broadway) musicals like Wicked get ads, with 'road show' companies of musicals getting local advertising to spread the word about their performances. The Tonys and late night talk shows also allow a much better form of advertising in scenes of the shows themselves.

    Video Games 
  • In Japan, video game advertising is far more visible and frequent than the US, with commercials conveying the type of story and music involved, and showing actual gameplay instead of some vaguely funny skit and a title. Square Enix ran some well made ads for Chrono Trigger, Super Mario RPG and Final Fantasy VI, while the US got a commercial of Mog as a casting director for monsters with no indication of gameplay, and bizarre ads for Yoshi's Island, Mischief Makers, and EarthBound may have scared people away.
  • This is very common for games made by smaller game studios. Most games have a publisher who handles the marketing and distribution. Since The New '10s, digital distribution has become much more widespread and it's become easier to release a game with a smaller publisher or even self-publish. This has however come with a downside - most independent game studios don't have the budget to run commercials on television, buy banner ads, or run advertisements in magazines. Thus, a lot rely mostly via word-of-mouth marketing on YouTube, Twitch, or gaming blogs after their initial kickstarter. (Assuming they even have one) And even then, for every grassroots success like Stardew Valley or Five Nights at Freddy's, there are about three or four games like Thimbleweed Park, Dreamfall Chapters, Kindergarten, and Youtuber's Life that release quietly and at best become a modest success. Even sleeper hits like The Witcher or Divinity: Original Sin II are rather uncommon. Steam deserves special mention here - Steam had over 7600 games released in 2017 alone, and gets more and more each year. (With rereleases also counting) This makes it very hard for smaller games to get noticed.
  • This is thought to be one of the reasons FreeSpace 2 did not sell very well, despite overwhelming critical acclaim and praise. Particularly bad since its predecessor, Descent: Freespace gained respectable enough sales to warrant an ad campaign.
  • The Metroid series can't decide whether to avert this or play it straight:
    • Live action commercials were made for Super Metroid (in both the US and Japan - with the Japanese commercial boasting then-impressive CGI, and strangely populated almost entirely by Caucasians), Metroid Prime and Metroid: Fusion (with surprisingly high-quality CGI and directed by renowned director Alex Proyas, the former game's commercial even playing in some movie theaters at the time). Metroid: Zero Mission had some ads as well. But the Prime sequels had limited advertising, considering how the original was an extreme critical and financial success; it's odd that Nintendo would choose to lower the development time and advertising budget of Metroid Prime 2: Echoes (it relied often on viral marketing), almost give up on the advertising of Metroid Prime 3: Corruption (limited for the most part to opening a Metroid channel for the Wii to add demos and promote the release the Metroid games for the Virtual Console) and then fumble so much for the main series' attempted revival.
    • The highly-anticipated Compilation Re-release Metroid Prime Trilogy received no TV and highly-limited internet advertising. It was lucky to have a website.
    • Metroid: Other M got another great live-action-CGI commercial and a cool website, but the ads only started running a few days before release. And then Reggie-Fils-Aime asks the fans why they didn't buy it (although the game's mixed reception didn't help, the marketing was clearly a problem as well).
  • Sony has hardly marketed the Playstation Move despite the acclaim of the peripheral and wireless gameplay being the latest trend at the moment. They also seem to rely on nothing but strong word of mouth in America to sell the Playstation Vita after 2013, after refocusing the platform on Japanese imports and independent titles.
  • One of the biggest problems that Armored Core has is that it is almost never advertised past E3. This has caused the game to be thrown between publishing companies like a spiked ball. To elaborate, the series has been taken up by three different companies after the original dropped it (after Last Raven). Sega picked the series up for 4, only to drop it and for Ubisoft to pick it up. Ubisoft dumped it, and now Bandai has the ball for Armored Core 5.
  • Bandai Namco Entertainment seems to give absolutely no importance to advertising games of the Tales Series in the West. Usually it follows a pattern of localization announcement followed by months of silence, and then a short trailer a week before releasing; and that's it. And they wonder why the series isn't that popular around here. The only titles that were decently advertised were the two Tales of Symphonia games, but Nintendo was probably the one responsible for that.
  • Project .hack was well-advertised to begin with in the US, but every release after the first game, including the sequel series .hack//G.U., experienced this, in addition to getting the Friday Night Death Slot if it was an anime other than .hack//SIGN.
  • A certain MMORPG called Flyff is slowly dying out, partially because of this and partially because of... interesting decisions being made by its developers and host.
  • When was the last time you saw an EverQuest (not EverQuest II) advertisement? You might not even know the game is still around and they are still releasing expansion packs every year.
  • With the exceptions of Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, Bayonetta 2, and NieR: Automata, this has happened to PlatinumGames with every game they put out:
    • Madworld had a damn good TV ad, but unfortunately it got very little airtime, most likely due to Sega believing that such game would tarnish the Wii's image.
    • Infinite Space got no advertising outside of Japan whatsoever, and the advertising it got in Japan was very, very limited. The game was shipped out to stores without any announcement beforehand, which resulted in god-awful sales, and it has now become one of the rarest games for the DS. note 
    • Bayonetta received a huge ad campaign in Japan. In other countries, Europe only got a magazine ad which gave very little indication to what the game was about, while the U.S. got a great magazine ad that was rarely printed, and a mediocre television ad that was rarely aired.
    • Vanquish got advertising in Japan and France, but not America or other parts of Europe, due to Sega choosing to promote Sonic Colors instead.
    • Anarchy Reigns got no advertising outside of Japan, save for a Gamestop pre-order ad.
    • Outside of Japan, The Wonderful 101 had lots of internet ads, but no television or print advertising at all. Even worse is the fact that the internet ads kept emphasizing the fact that it's on the Nintendo eShop, which led people to believe that it's an eShop exclusive title. Because of this, and heavy amounts of promotion on the eShop, it has sold exceptionally better on the eShop than it has in retail.
    • The video game of The Legend of Korra got no advertisement, all thanks to the show itself being Screwed by the Network.
  • Capcom was very bad about this during the sixth-gen era of console gaming. Neither Killer7, Ōkami, nor God Hand got any kind of advertising in the West. Okami did get promotion years later for its Wii, XBLA, and PSN re-releases, though.
  • The Typing of the Dead: Overkill, of the House of the Dead franchise, got almost no advertising outside of a Twitter post when it was plopped onto Steam. The developers were apparently hoping to ride the wave of hype and the cult status the series has gotten for the very cheesy second game, which also had its own even-more-cheesy Typing of the Dead game, and its own cult following.
  • One of the many reasons Nintendo's games don't sell quite as well in the UK, is because Nintendo of Europe's attempts at advertising them are, in a summary, "on their website, in the official magazine and maybe on the Disney Channel if you're lucky". Okay, the most important games ever (think Pokemon, mainstream Mario platformer or perhaps Zelda) might get a commercial during a lesser known TV show, but anything else may as well not be advertised at all in the region. It's even worse in Poland, where there are absolutely no advertisements for Nintendo's games. The only Nintendo advertisement in the country since a long time was a commercial for the Wii, which played way after the console's original launch, and a commercial for the Nintendo 3DS, which was one of the international ads with terrible dubbing. Both commercials received very little air time. As a result, Nintendo made no effort to advertise the Wii U and finding the console at a retail shop is a borderline miracle. Likely as a result of the massive failure of the Wii U and learning from their mistakes, Nintendo has averted this trope with an absolute vengeance with regards to their follow-up console, the Nintendo Switch. Their extremely aggressive advertising of the console and its big hit games is one reason why the Switch sold so staggeringly well during its opening monthsnote .
  • Despite Nintendo publishing quite a bit of new IPs, a lot of them tend to suffer from invisible advertising - which is why you rarely see people referring to Ever Oasis or Fossil Fighters.
  • Active Worlds, Worlds Chat and other obscure MMOs fell victim to this a few years after their debut as well as being forced to duel with the juggernaut that is Second Life despite coming out years earlier. They all fell into obscurity as well due to this.
  • Ask a person what games launched with the original Xbox. Almost all of them will say that there was only Halo: Combat Evolved, Amped Snowboarding, and sports games. This is all thanks to the fact that these were the only games advertised at launch; games like Cel Damage and Mad Dash Racing were swept under the rug by both their publishers and Microsoft alike.
  • Generally considered by the (tiny) community of the online version of Dynasty Warriors to be its downfall. The only people who knew about the game were those who already had an Aeria Games account, were lucky enough to find an advertisement while browsing the internet in things completely unrelated, or saw an article detailing the closure of the servers. Naturally, just like all of their other failures, Aeria Games has gone on the record to say it's Koei's fault, not theirs for not providing the necessary funding for a better advertisement campaign.
  • What caused Oddworld: Stranger's Wrath to bomb on release, despite its positive reviews. This caused it to be somewhat of a Franchise Killer until an HD remake for Abe's Oddysee was released eight years later.
  • Dragon Quest games post-ninth installment (which had Seth Green in commercials) have gotten very little, if any, publicity outside Japan, which may have contributed to the beginning of a new dark age for the series outside Japan.
  • The western release of the first Gungriffon had essentially no marketing from Sega, a fact that some publications lamented in their reviews of the game.
  • Being a niche series about living on a farm, Harvest Moon games generally have no advertisements or commericials. If they do, then they're usually paper advertisements or online trailers.
  • Dillon's Rolling Western games have suffered from this, due to being eShop only titles. The third game in particular, despite getting a retail release (in Europe and Japan), flew completely under the radar. This was especially the case in North America - where a lot of people shelved their 3DSes in 2017 once the Switch came out (With some only taking them out for Pokémon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon.)
  • The vast majority of BEMANI games get promotional material and location testsnote  roughly half a year prior to release. Popn Music peace, however, got the short end of the stick, with an announcement of the game shown only one day prior to the game's release, with no location test. This comes off as a little suspicious, given that Sound Voltex, another BEMANI game, got announced and was given the usual pre-release routine the same month that peace was released.
  • Apex Legends is a rare intentional example. It was Respawn Entertainment, not their parent company Electronic Arts, that made the decision to announce the game on the day of its release. Respawn's producers didn't want to start a conventional marketing campaign out of fear that it could alienate their fans, mislead audiences about the final product, or place unreasonable expectations. As such, they wanted audiences to try out the game for themselves and promote it via word-of-mouth and replay videos. However, after the game came out, EA did advertise in the form of a wide variety of sponsored streams.

    Web Video 
  • In a variant, most fans of Guru Larry were not aware that he was a member of Channel Awesome until the #ChangeTheChannel scandal of March-April 2018 drew attention to it, as the site had done nothing to promote him up to that point despite Larry joining the site in 2009, a year after Channel Awesome itself began. He nevertheless managed to attain a respectable fanbase through YouTube and social media alone. When the scandal struck and sparked a mass exodus of Channel Awesome's contributors, Larry deliberately chose to stay with the site till the end specifically as a form of protest against the site for not promoting him for so long.

    Western Animation 
  • Numerous shows on [adult swim] are put on the schedule without actually being advertised, especially anime; they're getting a bit better about it, though. On the other hand, on April 18, 2008, a show (The Rising Son, a spoof of Soap Operas focusing on the life of Jesus), premiered at 5 o'clock in the morning, without any announcement of any kind except for the title appearing on the schedule.note  It was bad enough when they moved their new anime to 5 a.m. without advertising it...
  • On the main Cartoon Network, Robotomy (aka Superjail! for kids) was rarely acknowledged until the start of 2011, three whole months after its debut.
  • What ultimately killed The Life and Times of Juniper Lee as CN never advertised the show after its first season. The show wasn't even given the dignity of airing its final two episodes on TV, instead being punted to CN's video service.
  • This is one of the biggest causes for the short (read: one month) run of Sunday Pants. The show was never advertised, nor was it given any mention on the CN website.
  • Grojband had the second half of its first season "exclusively premiere" on the network's website and tablet app, which is code for "the ratings were terrible for the first half, but we have to air the rest somewhere".
  • Ben 10: Omniverse had its eighth and final season get the 6 a.m. burn-off treatment in two weeks in November 2014; the only reason it seemed to air was to get a tax write-off onto Turner's balance sheets before the end of the year.
  • The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes! went through a period in its second season in which Marvel stopped sharing online previews. The show also received a scant amount of merchandise during its run.
  • One of its Disney XD brethren, TRON: Uprising went through worse. Credit where it's due, Disney Channel did air a prologue episode about a month before the premiere, but promotion for the series evaporated about midway through the run, and the network (apparently fearing a cult following similar to the bronies,) buried the show in a 12AM Sunday timeslot. There's been no concrete word on the show's fate, but all signs are pointing to end of line.
  • There was exactly one commercial for DC Nation and Cartoon Network would only run it during DC Nation. There was another commercial for DC Nation on Boomerang, for some reason. They ran it at least once in each half-hour. But it's just a generic collection of clips that was put together from then-unreleased episodes just before the block came back in January 2013.
  • The Legend of Korra:
    • The series was treated horribly from the second season (or 'book') on. Nickelodeon rarely acknowledged the show for 15 months after Comic-Con 2012. When it released news of its 2013 schedule, it only stated Korra would be premiering late that year, but giving absolutely no estimate. Finally, at Comic-Con 2013, it was revealed that Book 2 would premiere in September... in a Friday Night Death Slot. Even between Comic-Con and the premiere, Nickelodeon rarely aired trailers (and after the premiere, still rarely did). After a few episodes, the show was pushed back to 8:30 with little warning. Now, after the much-anticipated Beginnings 1 and 2, the show was then stuck at 8 pm. Again, with little warning other than an occasional commercial on TV, a tiny video in a corner of the show's page on Nickelodeon's site, and various TV schedule guides. The season finale had a premiere of midnight on a Friday night online, after a very blatant and dirty campaign by the network for viewers to "unlock" the premiere with Tumblr reblogs. Knowing that the goal would easily be reached meant they had to do no promotion for the actual airing on television for it the next week as the diehards already watched it online.
    • Book 3 fared no better, as the only time Nick advertised it at all was the day it aired. This was because Nickelodeon's Mexican sister network somehow managed to upload three episodes to their website well before the show was ready for air and leak them out. Most networks would have just ignored it because the episodes were in Spanish and only the diehards would care and it was of episodes in the middle of the book, but Nickelodeon's chaotic management as of late irrationally panicked and just threw them on the air with zero promotion and the complete trashing of the traditional Comic-Con buzz-building, no matter how confined the leak and how bad the fandubbing of them were. Not helping also was Nick deciding not to stream the episodes after they aired either, meaning with Nick's traditional "we'll never repeat anything but SpongeBob and our sitcoms" policy, you had one shot to watch and that was it. All that wonderful non-advertising and self-piracy cut the ratings in half, and with four episodes remaining, Nick decided to shunt it off to the Internet. It streamed to various web presences, and this left the possibility of the final book ending up never seeing a minute on Nickelodeon at all. The showrunners told us not to panic, though: the fourth season would happen, and it did; online and rushed out in October, with a pity marathon of Book Three on Nicktoons (a network not in HD for most of the country) beforehand. The last few episodes of the series also got the Nicktoons pity treatment in the same Friday night timeslot.
  • Legends of Chima was heavily advertised during its first season. Not so much for its second and third.
  • Sonic Boom premiered in a 7 AM/6 AM timeslot with no advertising - in fact, the first promo was shown after the first episode(s). Compared to how much attention the video games received, it's especially jarring.
  • Like with most of Cartoon Network's shows, The Mr. Men Show never got that much attention after the initial trailer and barely advertised it when the second season came about. This was what caused the show to get canceled, much to the dismay of the fans.
  • Numerous shows on PBS Kids, such as Arthur, Nature Cat, Wild Kratts, Ready Jet Go!, and Peg + Cat all have been subject to this trope occasionally whenever they have a week of new episodes. Nobody ever knows about the episodes unless they check their local PBS station's website or the show's social media promotes the episode, and so ratings tank.

  • The major political parties in the US often run candidates for office in every partisan race, though for candidates they consider unviable, e.g. Democrats in the deeply red South and Northern Plains, Republicans in the deeply blue West and Northeast, they will often give no funding for advertising or get-out-the-vote operations, opting instead to divert resources to competitive elections. The same happens if an election is considered extremely safe, for example, California Governor Jerry Brown was re-elected in a landslide in 2014 despite running a "virtually nonexistent campaign". Brown's Republican opponent spent millions on advertising and campaigned heavily in the final days of the election while Brown spent almost nothing and opted to attend a class reunion at Yale the weekend before the election.
  • Netflix started as a DVD-by-mail service, but had transitioned most of its business to streaming video by the 2010s. While Netflix still operates their DVD-by-mail service, they don't spend a dime promoting it and don't even mention its existence on their signup website. For comparison, they spent nearly $1 billion promoting their streaming content in 2016.
  • Pinball marketing is atypical: Paper flyers were given out at trade shows and other events, aimed at operators to convince them to buy the machines to put in public. Jolly Park, on the other hand, while it DID have a flyer of its own, was made when its manufacturer, Spinball SP, was failing as a business and did not have the money or resources for proper marketing. Spinball made the machines with the remaining parts and supplies it had and then died. One could also argue that this is why Capcom's time in pinball was so short, at only two years: They're quite good at selling to video game players, but they never got the hang of selling to pinball operators and went mostly unnoticed by them.
  • Huy Fong Foods, the company that produces the ubiquitous green-capped rooster logo sriracha sauce, has never spent a dime on advertising. The company's founder, David Tran, created the version of sriracha sauce most consumers associate the flavor with, but failed to ever trademark the name, allowing numerous company to manufacture food using the sriracha brand. Tran has stated he has no intention of ever seeking a trademark on the name, as the ubiquity of it functions as free advertising, and his company sells over $100 million of sriracha sauce every year.


Example of: