From the Spartan world of traditional movie marketing, we have now entered a rather sophisticated universe of digital movie marketing. Or rather, a universe where both are being deployed in an integrated fashion. Moviegoers today feel closer to the movie making process as their accessibility to film actors, directors and the movie itself has increased due to social media channels.
Let’s take the example of the much talked about movie of this year — Baahubali. A Telugu film directed by S S Rajamouli, Baahubali started building its online presence in 2013, almost two years before its release. It went on to create the first Telugu hashtag on Twitter, and worked with the social media platform to build interest around the movie. Baahubali opened with stupendous numbers — over Rs 50 crore on the opening day.
Or take Disney’s ABCD2, released this year in June, which also created buzz through its social media campaign. There was a Facebook chat on the film and then there were 40-60 seconds of the behind-the-scenes footage, which managed to garner over 10 million views. Such novel strategies were not exclusive to ABCD2. For the Hollywood film Ant-Man, Disney India associated with Uber to turn all the cab icons on the app into tiny ants. Then, the production house’s plans for the Hollywood franchise Star Wars: The Force Awakens, due for release on December 25, 2015, include partnering with digital influencers like Kanan Gill and bringing innovations in content integrations like the Star Wars Lightsaber Challenge app and similar digital activations built for the movie’s promotions.
Promoting films digitally today has become attractive due to the sheer variety of strategies that production houses can employ. For its release this year, Drishyam, Viacom18 Motion Pictures created live news reports with actors Ajay Devgn and Tabu bringing in realism to the criminal case, which was part of the movie’s plot. The idea was to highlight the two different sides to the story. This was extended offline with TV screens placed across theatres, encouraging consumers to vote online for who they thought was innocent.
There is no doubt in trade circles that digital marketing has taken centre-stage this year. Films today have widened their focus from YouTube and Facebook, and expanded into newer platforms like Instagram, Snapchat, Viber, WhatsApp etc. What has emerged is that the measurement of the success of a movie trailer or song is based on views, likes and engagements. This is why films are now choosing to tease audiences with content online.
For movies, YouTube and OTT platforms like Hotstar become important, and exclusive original content is fed here. For Bombay Velvet, Fox Star Studios launched a mobile-first movie preview on Star India’s digital platform Hotstar, which included four minutes of selective scenes from the movie before it was released. The film also had a talk show featuring the actors and director of the film.
Amrita Pandey, VP and head of marketing and distribution, Studios, Disney India says, “Actors who are active on social media along with their fan clubs are an important currency in movie marketing.” Or consider the kind of associations movies have struck with some of the largest e-commerce portals, driving value for both parties involved, as well as the consumer. An example of this is the Star Wars Store and its collection on Amazon. “Today’s audience can watch film content on several devices including mobile phones, through which they can sample the lead actors’ clothes and accessories and then proceed to buy the same online,” Pandey explains.
Clearly, social media and its mediums/ formats hold big possibilities for marketers. Facebook is the key player but other platforms like Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat are coming up in a big way.
Yashraj Films is cashing in on this trend with its youth division, Y Films, which is creating original content only for the web. This includes a series like Man’s World, a comedy about gender inequality and Bang Baaja Baaraat, a romcom, among others. Manan Mehta, VP, marketing, Yash Raj Films (YRF), believes co-creation of content is becoming an important trend . “A lot of big stars have appeared in content created by Y Films. So this cross-border transaction of time and effort that’s happening is really transforming the movie marketing business. It’s hyper-targeting,” Mehta says.
Community marketing will also play a huge role. Take the example of Dum Laga Ke Haisha whose music (by Anu Malik) had references the team felt might not be well-known to the younger generation. Targeting youngsters through digital mediums helped because many would talk about it to the older members in their family, creating a buzz around the film. For Kanu Behl’s Titli, YRF created a digital community through conversations about indie directors in general, which included Titli’s director.
Facebook: first choice
Sure, the digital medium is gaining more importance but do film marketers have preferences on what platform works best? Experts say the platform’s significance will be proportionate to the audience base. But as far as a larger demographic is concerned, Facebook will continue to dominate. This is because a majority of people still access Facebook online, and nothing else.
Pandey agrees. Facebook, YouTube and Twitter are the three primary platforms that Disney uses for engagement, content deployment and brand building. “We were among the first studios in India to start using Instagram effectively to showcase quick and fun videos on our 2014 movie Khoobsurat. Snapchat is proving to be an extremely exciting new avenue as well and we have been watching it closely and will soon be making a huge splash on the platform in 2016.”
Others such as Rudrarup Datta, VP, marketing, Viacom18 Motion Pictures, feel digital marketing needs to be a mix of using social and digital media in close correlation with one another. A growing trend is the use of videos across digital platforms to drive engagement. Listicles here have hit the right spot in satisfying the requirements of the digital audience for entertainment and information. Consumers prefer consuming content rather than advertising communication, hence, content platforms are going to be important.
Traditional still matters
While looking at different digital mediums is important, one should not forego the importance of traditional channels. Television viewing is still a family affair, movie watching is a social outing, and newspaper circulation is still increasing. Thus it is important to understand any medium’s effectiveness before shifting to other mediums. Cross-platform engagement is critical. “A television spot can encourage consumers to log on to the digital assets of the brand to drive interaction or a digital campaign can be extended on the ground to make it relevant. The trend will be similar going forward,” Datta says.
So how much are producers actually spending on digital marketing? Unofficial estimates suggest movie marketers are spending almost double of what they were spending on digital from last year, which is around 10-20% of the overall marketing spend of a movie. Experts estimate in some international markets, the TV ad budget for Hindi movies is the same as the digital ad budget. In fact, digital marketing could be as much as 40% of the entire marketing budget in years to come.
2015 has illustrated the prowess of the digital medium for the movie marketing business and things are only likely to look up from here.