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How’s this for a game show title: Can You Outwit Ari Margolis?

Margolis, Fox’s creative manager, is the Andy Warhol of the TV trailer world, and Fox recently went in search of an auteur who felt he or she could outduel his marketing genius by creating an original 60-second promo for its new show, Gotham, which airs Sept. 22. The winning clip will air during the Sept. 11 episode of Sleepy Hollow, but already debuted online to tease viewers into becoming fans of the show’s new salute to the Batman legacy.

While the winner’s name has not been announced, you can see the top entry side-by-side with Margolis’ commercial masterwork, which has been successful in creating buzz for the new show. The Gotham Facebook page has more than 960,000 fans, and the show doesn’t debut for  two weeks.

Official and unofficial fan trailers play a major role in promoting a new television show or film. A well-made trailer can tantalize fans and encourage them to watch a new show, at least once. Getting fans involved in creating trailers has evolved from a pirate-dominated black hat space into one in which television networks offer filmmakers original assets such as short clips and images to spur creativity and lend a touch of authenticity.

Fox has been down this route before, with a contest that asked viewers to remix the promo for Almost Human (another Margolis creation), a sci-fi cop thriller. Clearly, the promosFox-made and fan-madewere more appealing than the show, which was canceled after one season.

Want to dive into the TV (or film) trailer business? Filmmaker Charlie Lynn, whose movie Beyond Clueless debuted at 2014’s SXSW, offers sage advice:

“Remember to alwaysand we mean alwaysput a funny bit at the end. Your audience needs to know that however gut-wrenching your war film/cancer drama/Holocaust epic might be, at least one moment is guaranteed to be chucklesome.”

Really? I have watched the trailer for Roman Polanski’s The Pianist a zillion times and have yet to even coax up a smile. Maybe Fox and its fans know better.

H/T TV Guide | Screengrab via Gotham/YouTube 

Allen Weiner

Allen Weiner

Allen Weiner has been a market research analyst in the area of new media and technology since 1994. He’s worked as writer, publisher and newspaper executive. He is the co-founder and publisher of Kombucha Network and the former managing vice president of Gartner.