Marketing a film is an incredibly tricky business. The marketplace has become so crowded with content that only the best marketers, and not necessarily the best films, make a return on investment. (I’m looking at you, Infinity War.) Film marketing is also often overlooked by the key creatives on a movie, and can be dismissed as “the business side” of things.Guess what?
Film marketing is creative
They go hand in hand. A writer that does not think of their audience during the writing process is pursuing the romantic ideal of what a writer is. The romantics are now pretty much finished, and their books have been adapted into movies by more industrious people than them.
It is easy to dismiss marketing as a discipline as well. “Oh it’s just savvy marketing.” is a sentence many people can say when seeing an ad. We do live in environments where ads are omnipresent we have, more or less willingly, been given an education on how to decipher a 30-second spot so effectively that we can recognise when we are being manipulated. Yet marketing is what is going to make or break your film’s career.
What is more, the market for films is far too crowded for you not to consider marketing as early on as possible. I jotted down a few ideas for this article on a phone that can also shoot moving images in 4k, i.e. Hollywood standard, and everyone is writing and making their films on their smartphones. There are now just too many films to keep track of.
You have to identify a few components very early on: external ones, such as who is your audience and defining segments in your audience in order to go as granular as possible in your campaigns, and internal ones, such as the tone of your film, benchmarking other films (you should use the same films as the ones from your pitch deck or lookbook) and establishing visuals. This is also a great time for you to harness the theme of your film.
Film marketing in the 21st century
Once you perceive film marketing as an extension of your story world, the differentiating ingredient will be how creative you get with your campaigns. Maybe sometimes marketing can get a little gimmicky. But can you criticise the use of VR to promote Ready Player One, for instance? No, it makes perfect sense, not just because it creates a buzz, but because it is an extension of the movie.
However, the main trends that you should follow when marketing your film are not what is done in the film world: it’s what happens in the real world. And in the real world, one of the main events is the newfound agency of minorities in society. Even better, even inside minorities, there is a growing awareness of the need for intersectional activism, i.e. the need for feminism to not be just a white issue, or for the queer community to express itself not just on behalf of white men, etc…
The end of history as it was predicted by Francis Fukuyama towards the end of the 20th century did not come, and ideologies are still very much in battle, albeit perhaps more perniciously. This is why it is very refreshing to see that a major studio such as Sony Pictures has just created a job, to be taken by Ellene V. Miles, to be in charge of their “intersectional marketing”, as Deadline reported.
What makes this fantastic news is twofold: number one, this means that mainstream studios are taking into account the tectonic shifts happening in the world at the moment and, number two, Sony’s marketing department will gain a better understanding of their audiences in a more granular way, and potentially more successful.
Finally, intersectional marketing also has the potential to flip the script one the basics of marketing: who is your audience. In the primary elections in upstate New York, a young campaign organiser by the name of Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez defeated the multiple-term incumbent for the House of Representatives. Explaining her success, she stated that while polls gave them tens of points behind, polls only reflected the views of people who usually went voting: her success resulted from turning the tables on that particular factor.
If film marketing campaigns manage to not just understand their audiences more, it can also reach people who were not understood previously. By widening the reach of marketing campaigns, as well as by creating more diverse content, the film business may well join streaming studios into the 21st century.