It’s the weekend, and you’re out with your friends, lost in the banter and laughs, having a good time. Your taxi halts for the nth time in traffic, you look out of the window and see a bus drive past you, on it a poster that catches your attention. It’s about some movie starring a popular actor who just can’t act. Memories of your girlfriend asking you if you had seen the first look of the same movie come rushing back to you, she’s also shared the trailer for the film on her Facebook you recall. Reluctantly, you make a mental note to check out what’s all the fuzz about before the next time you talk to her. Someone in the cab says something and your thoughts fizzle out in the laughter. Later that night, you switch-on the TV to find that the trailer for the movie with ‘the dude who just can’t act’ is everywhere. That favourite comedy show you love watching on the weekends has ‘the dude who just can’t act’ as the special guest for the night. The next morning, you pick up the newspaper hoping to catch-up on some headlines and there it is – a full front page ad of the same movie with ‘the dude who just can’t act’ in his khaki shirt and aviator glares. You receive a text message from your girlfriend; she says she wants to go for a movie. Later that evening you watch ‘the dude who just can’t act’ beat the crap out of bad guys. Wow! What a movie, you wonder. The advertising of a film in simple terms is known as film marketing.
Stripped down to its basics, it is an art and science of convincing consumers to buy movie tickets. This seemingly simple activity has gained much significance, and the way in which a film is promoted can have an enormous impact whether or not it is successful. Add to that the seasonal and cyclical nature of the movie business. The most awaited films of the year are released only during the festive season, or over the holidays. With so many big budget movies vying for the attention of the same audience, over the same period of time the job of a movie marketer is very challenging. He’s got to ensure that his film stands out from the pack. Nowadays, the marketing spend on movies has skyrocketed, in fact one studio head calls it, “the single most discussed and debated issue in Hollywood.” Historically, the average cost of marketing a studio movie in the U.S. was $4.3 million in the 1980’s ($12.4 million in today’s dollars). By 2007, it had shot up to nearly $36 million. If the MPAA (Motion Pictures Association of America) still tracked spending on P&A, that number would be upwards of $40 million today for medium-size films like The Fault in Our Stars or Tammy according to the Hollywood Reporter, Warner Bros.
Marketing Chief, Sue Kroll, believes that the paradigm for movie marketers has begun to shift. “We have to be more inventive about how we reach consumers,” she says. “Moviegoers are very savvy. You have to figure out new ways of appealing to them. We are seeing significant changes in the way we spend across all platforms. It’s a patchwork quilt. It never gets boring.” The most preferred platforms for movie promotions are newspapers, television, spot ads, internet, theatrical trailers & other media including cable TVs, radio, magazines, billboards, etc. One of the more interesting movie marketing strategies is the publicity stunt, an orchestrated/ pre-planned media event where someone does something incredibly silly, funny, outrageous or spectacular to draw attention to the opening of the movie. If you’ve seen any of Sasha Baron Cohen’s movies you wouldn’t be surprised at what Mr. Cohen can do to promote them. Movie marketing has evolved considerably over the years. It began with something as basic as a poster on a wall or a billboard that attempts to draw attention, and subsequently revenue for a particular movie.
With the passage of time, we see more and more innovative practices, used by movie marketers to attract their target audience. From tying up with products in order to develop a collaborative marketing strategy that would be beneficial for both parties, to showing up on popular TV shows, to piggybacking on a superstar’s fan base on social media, movie marketing has grown and evolved not only in terms of creativity, but also in terms of scope. It has been clearly observed that there is a direct correlation between the revenue a movie earns and the success of its marketing efforts. There have been several brilliant examples of creative MARKATHON 8 IIM Shillong cover story august 2015 movie marketing practices that have not only managed to garner a great deal of attention and money, but have also revolutionised the way we think about marketing in general. One of the most longstanding and effective ways in which movies are marketed is a device known as “the trailer”. The Blair Witch Project is an excellent example of how to build up hype and use teasers to instil enthusiasm regarding the release of a movie amongst the audiences. The sheer enigma surrounding the release of the movie, primarily due to its positioning of being live footage obtained from the camera of amateur videographers who end up in a horrific situation, makes this movie marketing campaign legendary. The ability of the movie marketers to immerse the audience in a shroud of mystery and horror, through the development of a website and an excellent trailer, was an outstanding example of how trailers should be used to build up excitement regarding a movie. Even though their positioning didn’t end up to be true, there was no way the marketing campaign would indicate otherwise to the audience.
Another important tool that movie marketers are beginning to use more and more, is Guerrilla
Marketing. Movie like 2012 have managed to utilise this technique very effectively in order to generate awareness regarding the movie. Subway stations were flooded with large 2012 posters that covered the entire length of the station wall. However, that wasn’t it. In order to make it literally appear as though the subway stations were flooded, they extended the posters to the subway floors as well. Marvel has also recently adopted the guerrilla marketing technique for the promotion of their latest feature film, The Ant Man. Miniature billboards on tiny stands were placed in strategic locations throughout the country, to promote the film with means that were in accordance with the theme of the movie – big things come in small packages. In the Indian context, the medium of communication of the movie’s positioning is what becomes very crucial. This is the reason why we often see actors and actresses involved in the movie, make efforts to promote the movie. Appearing on television shows for the sole purpose of promoting a movie, for example, has become commonplace nowadays for most Bollywood superstars.
However, we still manage to see certain out-of-the-box marketing gimmicks that have worked exceptionally well. Alia Bhatt’s engagement announcement on twitter, in order to promote 2 States, and Vidya Balan showing up at the ticket counter of Fame Cinemas in Mumbai, to sell tickets for Kahani, were certain examples of ploys that managed to catch the audiences by surprise. Campaigns like the “Aamir’s gone missing” campaign for 3 Idiots, is another example of how celebrities went above and beyond the call of duty in order to promote their movie. Therefore, we see that movie marketing has evolved from the simplistic measures that were earlier used, to well thought-out and planned strategies in order to increase the revenue that a movie generates. Movies manage to generate considerable following and recall in the short span of time that it runs in theatres. As a result, the effects of the marketing team are significantly amplified, be it good or bad. Therefore, it becomes extremely important for marketers, especially in today’s world, to understand these nuances in order to understand how to make a substantial and long lasting impact in a limited time frame.