On June 7th 2012, a group of media innovators gathered at Stradella Road HQ for one of our ongoing Salons. This time the discussion was on key trends and opportunities related to Empowering Independent Cinema Marketing and Distribution.
Our group included independent film makers, distributors and platforms, marketers, talent agents and our Stradella Road team. We shared lively, free-wheeling conversation and candid observations about the state of a business that is in a word, changing. Here are some highlights…
Addition, Not Subtraction
One theme that quickly emerged was that living in a world of hyperconnected consumers is making decisions about the right addition to the current mix of media and mediums a real challenge. It’s not just a matter what to add to traditional media options—it’s about how much more needs to be done to increase audience engagement before, during and after a film is released.
The obstacles pile up quickly: More work without increased budget, the willingness of talent to participate in social engagement plans, the coordination between multiple media, creative and engagement strategies. On the plus side is an interesting new addition to the marketing arsenal:
the audience itself, an audience that can be made “captains of campaigns.”
We looked at ways marketers can help prepare and train consumers to take on the responsibility of helping a film succeed and discussed our experiences using some of the new “crowd sourcing” tools and platforms such as Tugg.
For some content players, engagement is fast becoming as important a measure as raw views.
As one of participants stated flatly of an episodic piece: “Likes matter more than views.” While this may seem counter-intuitive to some (a view is a view is a view, isn’t it?), the need for a new breed of content creator is to have audiences return regularly rather than show up one time, and to have them continue to engage with product extensions across mediums (transmedia) without having to be re-marketed to each time.
Uniquely Identical Strategies
Building a customized mesh of strategies and tactics that guide an audience is essential, and while at a tactical level, there may be some fundamentals (for example you’d be crazy not to have some kind of online trailer for a film), the reality is that there are no simple formulas or templates to follow.
Talent is one factor that can throw formulas out the window. One participant cited a mega-star who simply does not do social media—no Twitter, no Facebook, nothing at all. It seems to not matter a bit to their success. Then another related that talent participation in social media was the key to building the audience for their film and firmly stated the belief that their talent must play along.
Everyone seemed to agree that event-izing a film is the way to go… while recognizing that people don’t have unlimited time to attend a never-ending parade of events, and that for consumers a film might not really be an “event” as much as it used to be. Something of a paradox, no doubt.
There is definitely an additional level of creative effort beyond making a quality film that is needed to connect with an audience and build immediate engagement with the property before release. In the best-case scenario, planning for this should be included right at the budgeting stage and kick off with at the very beginning of production.
The big takeaway was that citing a strategy that worked well for one title within a genre and simply doing it again and expecting the same results is folly. Our group consensus? There is no formula, and there may never be one, and that’s OK.
Content & Platforms & Distribution
We also debated the intricate connections between content and platforms and distribution. One participant put it rather bluntly: “Content is content and platforms are irrelevant.” Another stated that “Hollywood has always adjusted to new platforms, we just happen to be in the middle of a readjustment to new media.”
Part of the readjustment involves how to shift thinking and planning from a model where the consumer had only a few media choices to a world where media consumption choices are, in effect, infinite.
One big topic was Video On Demand (VOD) and no one in attendance was shy about expressing opinions on the effect VOD is having on audiences:
- “There is an extreme on-demand component to how everyone is living now and we need to address/tap into that. VOD is essential to the sophisticated viewer.“
- “Netflix has changed the industry from I want to see this specific film into I want to see a film.”
- “With VOD my audience is potentially the whole planet—am I missing out on revenue due to regional restrictions?”
- “Does anyone know if day-and-date VOD really cannibalizes theatrical? The evidence seems contradictory. How can we find out for sure?”
- “VOD is a huge threat… except when it’s a huge opportunity.”
Another topic was the impact of mobile devices. One participant sounded somewhat exasperated when she revealed that “my kids watch movies on their PHONES—they don’t even care that the screen is so tiny!” and another revealed the startling fact that “75% of their [substantial!] media views are from mobile.”
Ultimately, we came to the end of our session with a sense of invigoration. Change can be scary, but change also brings with it new and exciting opportunities. We’re in the midst of a creativity boom, and many thousands of emerging models for marketing and distribution are getting rapidly testing, proven or discarded. Creating the right mix for everything from promotion to distribution is and will remain complex. That’s where our artistry comes into play. And we wouldn’t have it any other way!
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