The world of screen media and entertainment is evolving at a breathtaking pace. The online marketing of these products is no different. Everyone is trying to figure out how best to leverage the Internet and all it offers for the promotion of films, television shows and web series, but no one has definitively cracked the code. The reality is there is not one simple answer. However, in my discussions with producers over the past year and a half, there do seem to be some universal challenges when it comes to the online marketing of movies, TV shows and webisode series that are somewhat unique to each media. Over the upcoming weeks I will be diving deeper into these issues and try to offer some solutions to point you in the right direction. First up, the feature film.
The Feature Film
Definition: For the purpose of this exercise, a film is defined as a single piece of feature length screen media (usually at least 90 minutes). It can be fiction or non-fiction and involves distribution through film festivals and/or movie theatres. The challenges below do not necessarily apply to works that go direct to video or television broadcast.
- Gatekeeper involvement. The online marketing strategy for a feature film will involve a distributor who will expect a substantial say in how, when and where your film is promoted.
- Event driven marketing. The promotion of a feature film will be tied to specific offline event milestones (i.e. opening weekend in theatres or festival screening dates).
- Success defined in offline terms. Success metrics are tied to “bums in seats” at these events and not necessarily online metrics such as “likes,” “shares,” “followers,” “fans,” “views” or “visits” (all associated with social media and website presence).
- Tracking online success offline. It is difficult to track online activity through to offline activity (i.e. did these moviegoers come to the theatre on opening weekend because they saw online ads, tweets, or Facebook postings about the film, discovered it through an Internet search or played an online or alternative reality game?).
- Staggered release schedules. A feature film will not be released simultaneously throughout the entire world but an online marketing campaign can reach everywhere at once. How do you reach the online audience in the right geographic regions at the right time in the release schedule? How do you not lose their interest if they cannot see the film right away?
- Form partnerships with your distributor and everyone else who could be potentially involved with the online marketing of your film, including your stars, fans, production personnel, and digital agency. You never know where the next great idea is going to come from.
- Incentivize the online/offline connection. It’s a tough one to crack, but connecting offline sales to online activity is something everyone is thinking about. The Scene movie rewards card is an example of a mechanism through which this could be done because it allows for the tracking of ticket sales (in return for points). Even something as basic as “redeem this code you got on Twitter for a deal on your ticket price” would help to fill in this void in the current data picture. A universal, effective way to gather this kind of data is still needed, however.
- Redefine success. “Bums in seats” mean money and money is what greases the wheels of the film industry. But there are many more ways to drive revenue and determine the financial value of a movie project, especially when the online world is involved. It becomes about more than the milestone events and the theatrical and video sales revenue. Think merchandise, game and app sales, exclusive online content, advertising and much more. All of the “likes,” “shares,” “followers,” “fans,” “views” and “visits” build your consumer base for these products.
- Go beyond the movie screen. By building content on the Internet that adds value and expands your story, you keep your audience engaged until the film comes to their home town. It also creates fodder for the search engines, social networks and relevant niche online communities. All of these components are critical for online marketing success and building your web audience.
- Leverage geotargeting. Maybe someday simultaneous release of a film will be possible and intellectual property (IP) issues tied to geographic distribution will be non-existent. But that is not the case today. It is, however, possible to control what people see online based on where their computer is located. This ability means you can roll out an online promotional campaign to a targeted geographic region and tie it to the release schedule of your film. Coloured by lessons learned and cultural variations, this kind of geotargeting can be a very powerful tool. It turns the challenge of a staggered release into an opportunity.
These are just some of the challenges and potential solutions when it comes to the online marketing of feature films. There is still much to explore and learn and From Search to Screen will continue to do just that.
Or Revisit Last Week: Keyword Research: Why Should Filmmakers Care?
Submit suggestions, questions or tips of your own via email to annelise(at)veria.ca or Twitter @veriatweet