Industry Report: Marketing
Future of Marketing for Cinema
28/09/2007 - This panel on the future of online marketing for films, organised by FilmFestivals.com and CFC Media Lab, was especially interesting, since we are currently at a time when online marketing is exploding and no one really knows how to handle it.
The panelists included: Malo Girod de L'Ain, founder of fest21.com and filmfestivals.com and his partner Bruno Chatelin, who is also the former managing director of UGC FOX, Columbia Tristar and who founded Major Buzz Factory; Ana Serano, Director of CFC Media Lab; Matt Dentler, the head of the film section of the South by Southwest Film Festival; and Jean Rognetta, a journalist and the narrator for the event.
And since it was a panel that encouraged discussion, the audience was important too, and was also made of up interesting figures: a man who works on mobile phone content; a writer/director from India; a reviewer for BBC; a podcaster/blogger who reviews film festivals in the interests of filmmakers, and a variety of film festival programmers and directors from all over the world.
The panel/discussion was mostly centered around the ideas of how films should be marketed now, using the internet since it dominates so much.
Girod de L'Ain opened up the event with a broad statement and some figures to get things going. Last month 15 million people used Facebook, 15 million used Flickr (a photo sharing website), 38 million used YouTube, and 60 million used myspace. "Internet has clearly taken the lead in terms of media...and this is only the start of this evolution," he said. "No media has achieved this success in this short of time."
Chatelin centered in more. "I had a chat with the Chairman of Universal, and he said how it's difficult to launch films in France where you don't have as much TV... he asked me if I thought internet could promote films in the same way," said Chatelin.
Serano pointed out that everyone is clear that internet is a mass medium now, but it's difficult to predict and deal with because its a sort of "push and pull kind of discussion among people, lots and lots of people talk with lots and lots of other people," she said. "And there are large tastemakers, particular bloggers who have a following, and it's a difficult space to maneuver in. There are audiences now who can have control of marketing and attention."
Dentler reiterated how important the internet is. "The internet is very much an avenue for marketing, it's about trying to decipher information rather than getting information you would get elsewhere, and rather than assuming the audience will come to you it's about going to them," he said. When he is helping filmmakers, Dentler tells them to just get their info out there, and he is shocked at how many filmmakers don't even have a website yet. He also pointed out that it's not simply a website though, because if you send a note out to so many myspace users, "The fact of the matter is that if they are addicted to myspace they are not going to want to leave their computer," he said.
So how can a marketer use the blogosphere [a term that used to be new but is now here and will be for awhile] to get people talking about a film?
Panelists agreed on one aspect for this answer, that it is important to get the viewer engaged.
Serano gave an example of this using her company, CFC Media Lab, where they are currently producing a film and they have user tests that engage the user early on, so that the user then feels like they're involved and can have a major impact.
And Chatelin gave an example of a company that gave bloggers the exact time their trailer for their new film was going to be introduced, so that bloggers could have countdowns on their blogs and at the same time advertise the fact that they would have the first trailer; and in that way the audience was involved. "The more you're out there, having a profile on myspace etc, the better, but you have to do it in a smart way. These people used their heads," Chatelin said.
Chatelin also believes in the importance of games and contests in online marketing. "Every marketer dreams of getting people to dream, offering a game is that way... A game is a key of a good marketing campaign," he said.
Another important topic that came up, one that concerns marketers and content producers, was that of giving away too much content so that the viewer feels satisfied and then doesn't feel the need to spend money on the real deal.
"Essentially it boils down to that you don't want to give it all away," said Dentler. Then he brought up a good point. "And the film industry has a blessing and a curse of being able to look at the music industry and see what happened there [in relation to free downloadable music, then burned CDs]. The question is how much of my audience am I putting away by giving so much content? If you're a filmmaker, it's about teasing with the content, but not giving it away."
An audience member countered this point with one example. A student with a p.h.d. from LA, who studies interactive fiction, she brought up the point of a best selling book "House of Leaves." The book was free on the internet for awhile and then when it was published was a huge success, after it had already been read on the internet for awhile, although maybe that is different than what would happen with film. "From the filmmakers that I see coming out of LA they are dealing with creative challenges," she said. "Like the question of putting so much of the film online and then making the viewer go pay for the movie if they want to see who kills who, etc."
Chatelin gave another example of this sort of 'viral' marketing, with a convertible car commercial. It was an advertisement with a slogan about how you better have good hair gel for the car because it will make your hair blown back, and then when the viewer clicks the picture online they see the beautiful hair, and then you have to enter your name and phone number etc, and after that, the viewer is suddenly involved in the ad, and their own cell phone rings. "It was so cool and funny that next thing you do is you want to share it," Chatelin said.
Dentler reminded everyone that this type of thing can be a failure too, using the example of the Hollywood movie, "Snakes on a Plane." The film was huge on the internet before it premiered; one could go online and have the voice of Samuel L. Jackson calling your friends, but the movie failed. "In reality the film was a stupid movie though and everyone knew it was going to be stupid… and ultimately quality is king," Dentler said. He then clashed this example with the fact of how NBC decided to sell TV show episodes on i-tunes and it's been a huge success, reasoning that this is because they are quality shows.
Chatelin made a good point next, near the end of the conference. "In the entertainment industry we've got great properties [like these] but people are scared to get away from their own product. You've got filmmakers scared to use trailers, when really you should use as many video sharing platforms as you can", Chatelin said before reiterating his idea about games. "Contests where people can enter to win, games where maybe a young filmmaker can win to go to Cannes for example, these are things you absolutely need to do. Then the viewer can dream."
Second Life, a virtual reality, is the next place marketing could take off for films, because it is a place where people may go in and watch films as if they are in a theater. Maybe this will explode soon but it hasn't quite yet. Dentler quoted a recent poll from the "Guardian" that said 15% of people said they would rather watch everything on their own computer than a TV or movie screen.