Emotional Netflix documentary “Father Soldier Son” had the most effective trailer this week

July 17, 2020, 8:45 PM UTC

For the second week running, Netflix has beaten its rivals for the mantle of most effective trailer. Last week the trailer for “The Old Guard'' knocked out the competition, and this week the intimate military documentary “Father Soldier Son” takes the top spot in YouGov’s Friday film trailer competition. 

Each week, YouGov Direct asks a group of its members to watch movie trailers. We then report on what they say. YouGov Direct’s surveys investigate how effective movie trailers are in persuading people to consider seeing a film, what they think about the content of the trailer, and how good or bad they expect the movie to be. Thousands of people provide immediate feedback on movie trailers using the YouGov Direct platform.

Learn more about YouGov Direct and find YouGov Direct on the App Store and on Google Play.  

“Father Soldier Son” follows the lives of a military man and his two young sons over the course of nearly a decade. This moving family portrait started out as a yearlong New York Times video  project, but quickly evolved into something bigger when the documentary’s main subject - Staff Sergeant Brian Eisch - suffered a grievous combat injury. 

“Father Soldier Son” had the most effective trailer of the week. Prior to seeing the trailer, 11 percent of YouGov Direct users said they were somewhat or very likely to see this Netflix documentary. After viewing the trailer, that number increased to 35 percent. That's a lift of 24 percentage points in intent, the highest lift this week. 

YouGov Direct also asks respondents to tell us how good or bad they think a movie will be, based on the trailer. “Father Soldier Son” once again came out on top with a rating of 3.8 from users. This is out of a possible 5.0 and compared to a median score of 3.5 for all trailers tested to date. 

What made it such an effective trailer? When we asked respondents what they enjoyed most about the trailer, over half (54%) said it was the documentary's deeply personal story and themes. 26 percent of users also liked that the trailer did not reveal what was going to happen to this family shaped by war, saying the trailer ‘communicated the story line without giving too much away’.

But Netflix isn’t without competition. The trailer for another decade-in-the-making documentary has also been turning heads this week - although perhaps for the wrong reasons. This Friday Hulu debuts “We Are Freestyle Love Supreme,” a look at the eponymous improv group that changed Broadway. Featuring Lin-Manuel Miranda, this documentary might make for a good accompaniment to the recently released "Hamilton" on Disney+.

“We Are Freestyle Love Supreme” was the most anticipated film this week amongst YouGov Direct users. Of those who took the survey 75 percent were already aware of the film. That level of awareness, however, did not translate into interest. Before watching the trailer, 11 percent of respondents said they were likely or somewhat likely to see this ebullient Hulu documentary. After viewing, that number rose to 24 percent viewing. That’s a lift of 13 percentage points in intent, 11 percentage points lower than rival documentary “Father Soldier Son”. 

But it wasn’t all bad news for the documentary. Fans of musical movies were especially excited about the non-fiction film. In fact, 45 percent said they were somewhat or very likely to see it. 

What made the trailer less effective? YouGov Direct users appeared not to be as interested in the story or themes in “We Are Freestyle Love Supreme”. When we asked what they liked best about the trailer, 31 percent said it was the docs ‘story or theme’. That compares to 54 percent for “Father Soldier Son”. A further 28 percent of users said ‘I didn’t like anything about the trailer”.

The most effective trailer in the world of video-on-demand this week was for “The Sunlit Night”. Starring Jenny Slate, this comedy tracks an American painter as she finds her way north to the Arctic Circle, and the lost souls she meets there.

Before seeing the trailer, 7 percent of users said they were somewhat or very likely to see this arctic comedy. After viewing the trailer, that number increased to 29 percent. 

This gentle comedy also received the highest rating out of all video-on-demand films released this week. When we asked YouGov Direct users to tell us how good or bad they thought the movie would be based on the trailer they gave the film a score of 3.4 out of 5.0. The lowest score of the week (3.3) was recorded by “We Are Freestyle Love Supreme” and the Lucy Hale rom-com “A Girl Like You”. 

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Image: Getty

Methodology: Data is based on 4,000 interviews, including a minimum of 400 responses for each movie trailer tested. Surveys were conducted online on July 16, 2020.