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Breaking the film marketing code

Existing media metrics such as ratings, impressions, readership, views, likes, click rates, etc., are often used as measures to evaluate a film’s media plan. However, these metrics do not measure the impact of the plan in influencing footfalls in theatres, and hence, the Box Office collections for the film. 

A research project was undertaken by Ormax Media to concretely establish the box office impact of various media used by film producers in their marketing mix. The research tracked the performance of nine media:
Digital media: Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and Twitter
Traditional media: Television, Print, In-theatre, Radio & OOH

As per the findings of the report, Facebook is one of the top 3 mediums in driving buzz and appeal for a film campaign, achieving it through organic methods like link shares and conversations, apart from initiatives like Facebook Live. Interestingly, Facebook and Instagram, combined, proved to have delivered the highest impact with 21 per cent contribution to a Hindi film’s first day Box Office sales. 

YouTube Vs Facebook + Instagram 

While speaking on YouTube having more appeal power than Facebook and Instagram put together, a Facebook spokesperson noted, “Music has been central to the movies marketing plan. A lot of viewers make their decision about viewing a movie based on just the music video. As YouTube has a legacy of music which is well entrenched, be it artist videos or teaser videos, it is becoming increasingly important for Facebook. We are ensuring that the rights of quality music owners and labels are protected. As we build this ecosystem on music, we expect this to change very rapidly because music is easily the most talked about content on our platform.” 

Reaching the audience 

According to the spokesperson there are two parts to reaching the audience – first is the partners that Facebook works with to adopt its various products. He pointed out here that, “User adoption in India is pretty quick for products that we launch and that’s the reason why out partners are excited, because they know that they can create incremental reach and much more engagement.” 

He further said, “There is this whole narrative of entertainment marketing shifting to storytelling in the community. There was a time when we had X number of channels where movie trailers played out every day. Today, a movie is a playbook of how to get the movie marketing right that has social media built at the core. What you see in Bombay Times is the last part of a much more complex marketing plan, where social becomes integrated into the narrative.” 

Facebook’s role in the partnership is to ensure that its clients are enabled and they are educated about the best practices. 

Social media Vs traditional media 

While film marketing today has social media at its core, the role of traditional media cannot be undermined. The spokesperson said, “That the order of importance and the function of each media has changed. The biggest trend in India is that smartphone adoption has gone through the roof and you are seeing a lot of regional content and a lot of Tier 2 and 3 users on smartphones. What that essentially means is that as digital gets mainstream, it will play a more important part in a movie’s success, especially movies that have large Box Office ambitions.” 

He noted that digital is no more an urban phenomenon and has become a mass phenomenon, thanks to Jio and cheaper phones. While comparing traditional media like print and TV to digital, the Facebook spokesperson said, “India is one of the few global markets where print and TV still have a 10-year window. What digital really allows these new studios to do is engage. That element is simply not possible with TV and print, which may be used for some awareness building. But when they want to build a group, for example, how Fox built a messenger Bot or when they facilitated a conversation between the stars with their fans on Facebook Live – these are simply not possible on any other media.” 

Smart movie marketers and smart actors have understood that. “Akshay Kumar has understood that the 24-hour promotion that he did for his film ‘Padman’ led to a huge amount of impact to the cause that the film stood for and I personally think that no print ad can be a substitute for that,” the spokesperson added. 

The long promotional road 

Earlier, movie marketing began around 20 days before the film hit the big screen. Now, one sees a longer window with a steady intensification of the promotional activities leading up to the film’s release. 

With the ultimate intent of a filmmaker being to ensure that they have Box Office impact, he has to engage the consumer from an early stage and on a continuous basis. From a consumer standpoint, there are several options available, so the movie marketer has to see what will encourage the consumer to watch the movie on a Friday instead of catching up on shows on Netflix or watching a cricket game. So the filmmaker’s ultimate challenge is how to target the right audience for his film. 

The spokesperson noted, “What you do on digital, especially Facebook, is interest based targeting. For example, the studio behind Akshay Kumar’s film ‘Gold’ (a sports drama based on India’s first Olympic medal post Independence for hockey) targetted people who love hockey as a game. That kind of targeting ability simply does not exist in any other form of media, so filmmakers are looking at Box Office ROI. Our job is to enable the ecosystem. We have the width of products and our job is to ensure that the right products are used in the right context. Facebook has continued to focus on how we can help users build greater and more engaged communities. The community word is really the maxim which we live by – everything we do is in the context of that lens and frankly, that is what makes us different from several other digital platforms. We are not about passive consumption.” 

The Facebook spokesperson further mentioned that the shelf life of the movie is no longer just those 20 days of movie marketing which used to happen back in the days. “What we are trying to do is give our clients a broader, longer shelf life and not just before the release but as long as they want to keep the experience alive. It’s not just about movies, the experience also translates to events like IIFA, which was earlier only available when you were going to watch it on TV. Now, we are just extending that shelf life across the ecosystem. What movie makers have realised is that if they build a community long before they release a film, then when the time comes they are able to break it,” he added.

Demographic for engagement 

While speaking about demographics, the spokesperson observed, “Digital has largely been male driven in India, upwards of 60-65 per cent is male audiences, but we see a huge variety of age groups. Again, based on the kind of movies, the interest and age can change. We can use all kinds of targeting tools – you can target on location, on gender, on interest. In that sense, it’s symptomatic of the digital pie in India. But if you spread across locations, across all cities, there is a huge amount of variety there, especially with Tier 2 and 3 coming into play majorly.” 

Here, he once again underscored the point that Jio has created that wave where access and affordability have both happened together. “What we are really seeing is a perfect storm in the Indian entertainment industry, where you have high quality content on the one side, while on the other hand, you have great smartphone experiences created by companies like us, and you have ease of data access and price. It is a great time for the consumers,” he added.

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