“If the Advertising is Right and the Budget is Big Enough…”

This week’s reading, Marketing to Moviegoers, by Robert Marich, discusses the marketing strategies used by both major studios and independent filmmakers. Though there are countless tactics mentioned in this book, there were three that stuck out to me:

1.) Marketing the Characters

Sometimes movie characters with ordinary qualities are heroes who are brought into sharp relief by unusual surroundings and circumstances that are highlighted in advertising, along with the character. Author Ian Fleming, who penned the James Bond spy thrillers that spawned Hollywood’s biggest movie series ever, said in an interview, “Bond is a highly romanticized version of anybody” (Marich, 22).

8446294604_833e79fb79This is advertising based on narrative. Within the narrative, there are people, places, periods of time, that are relatable to a target audience. James Bond is mentioned here because the Bond franchise has survived decades upon decades based on the simple notion that men want to be him and women want to be with him. James Bond has the same qualities of the the film history’s best leading men – from Rudolph Valentino to Gregory Peck. These are characteristics that have always been and will continue to be incredibly marketable.

2.) The Push and Pull of Transmedia Marketing 

Over the years, film marketers deemphasized official websites because of the difficulty of generating traffic for a destination created from scratch and instead placed juicy content on established film websites with built-in traf- fic. Official websites remain to provide basic information. One of the last big endeavors by an official movie website was a first teaser trailer for The Matrix Reload generating twenty million page views and over two million downloads from thematrix.com in May 2002.

These new additions to advertising a film provides the ability to spread the word about the upcoming film, while also getting the chance to get a quantitative amount of views or downloads to track one’s marketing success.

If I think about how I hear about new movies, it always begins with seeing the theatrical trailers on the big screen. After each captivating preview ends in silence with the “Christmas Day” or “Next Summer” date announcement, I always love to listen to the quiet murmuring of my neighbors in the theatre. The best is when you can always tell when a trailer really catches the eye of the audience. With the enthusiastic response, though hushed, you can always tell when a film has a great market value.

However, even as a Film and New Media Studies major, I don’t get to the movie theatre that much anymore. I find most movie marketing online – through YouTube or Facebook. These quotes acknowledge the website created for marketing the film. When I think about it, I don’t think I have ever once gone to “such-and-such-the-movie.com” to research about an upcoming film. Though it is more cost effective, I doubt many people visit these pages.

However, Hollywood’s hopes that that new digital media would allow films to skip buying pricey conventional TV advertising never materialized because later films using the same tactics in digital media did not generate similar results. The first time around, moviegoers found the cyberspace razzle-dazzle an engaging novelty, but web users recognized later imitations as not genuine. 143

3.) Target Audiences: Festival vs. Commercial

When Marich was discussing film festivals in chapter eleven, I found his point of view on this type of marketing to be very interesting. There is a stark contrast between what succeeds at Sundance and what nails their opening weekend.

Arty films that wow film critics and judges at festivals often fall flat with moviegoers in a commercial release. This reality is demonstrated by Sundance Film Fest winners from 2004 through 2007. The big breakout indie hit from 2006 was Fox Searchlight’s offbeat comedy Little Miss Sunshine grossing an impressive $59.9 million, but the Sundance winner of the grand-jury and audience awards was youth drama Quinceañera, which grossed just $1.7 mil- lion for Sony Classics (Marich, 346).

This quote stuck out to me because I came to the realization that I know very little about film festivals. This quote discusses how some films gain some great market value at festivals, but they do not succeed at the commercial box office. 

Sundance_classicIs this simply based on the film? Do films that enter the festival target “festival audiences?” Do they expect success in both worlds? This caused me to jump over the Sundance website to investigate. Through the 1980s to today, I recognized a small number of films off the winners list. The few I recognized were the type of films to maybe get a Golden Globe nod for screenplay or supporting role. They stir up revenue, but they certainly weren’t blockbuster hits. 

I’d love to discuss this contrast with my classmates. For those who are familiar, and better yet, fans of festival films, how do you feel about this contrast in success? How much of this difference in success is due to the marketing of the film? What is the marketing like at film festivals and how does it compare to commercial marketing? And finally, what is required for one to succeed at both? Is that even the goal?

Marich, Robert. Marketing to Moviegoers: A Handbook of Strategies and Tactics, Third Edition. SIU Press, 2013. Print.

Images from Creative Commons

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