Movie marketing is a constantly evolving field. It wasn’t too terribly long ago that having a website for a movie was a fairly innovative practice. And just a decade ago a movie’s primary social media presence was a MySpace page. The film industry, like most all others, has changed with the times to keep pace with current trends and innovations, particularly those of the younger audience, those teenagers and young adults with loads of disposable income who are trying to be influential taste-makers among their friends.
So as we wind up 2016 it’s time to take a look at the year ahead and make some predictions on what might be the big innovations or changes made in how Hollywood markets its movies to the public.
Less emphasis on owned websites
Throughout the last two years studios have been going light on creating websites for their movies. In extreme cases that’s meant having no owned website at all, something far too many studios have chosen to do. Other times there may be a placeholder site that just has a single trailer and a link to buy tickets without any story synopsis, cast lists or other information available. Still others have simply built movie websites on Tumblr in order to save on some development costs.
The perceived advantage of going site-less is that consumer behavior has shifted to the social - and largely mobile - web so why pour money into website design when programming content on Facebook doesn’t cost nearly as much. At least that’s true the way most studios do it, which is to use it and other social platforms purely as a broadcast outlet. Because when you add in any level of audience engagement and response to the content marketing program that does require dollars to be spent on strategy and tactical implementation.
The downside of not creating websites is that there’s nothing for people to find via search. Whether you’re a movie studio or any other kind of company, deprioritizing your website leaves you at the mercy of everyone who does, allowing them to tell your story for you.
More Snapchat usage
Studios really began experimenting with Snapchat this year, usually on the paid front. The Girl on The Train was among the first campaigns from any industry to use Snap’s new “Snap to Unlock” ads, just one example of how Hollywood is usually among the first to adopt new ad technology. Other examples from just this year include the campaigns for both 10 Cloverfield Lane and Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising as well as the Jennifer Lawrence/Chris Pratt sci-fi drama Passengers.
What I’d expect in 2017 is that one studio or another will not just advertise on Snapchat but get into Discover, Snapchat’s news section, even if it’s just for a limited time. Back in the middle of the year Snapchat was said to be talking with Hollywood about producing more original content for the platform so it would make sense for one of the studios to get a short-term placement within Discover around the time of a major release. That would allow it to share exclusive videos and other content with an audience that’s highly sought-after at an important time. Sure, it would cost a pretty penny, but it would bring with it the kind of awareness - both directly and through press coverage - that would help a major release.
More influencer marketing
A recent study, recapped by eMarketer, showed influencer marketing was poised for continued growth going into 2017. There’s no reason studios shouldn’t be expected to be part of that growth. After all, the main point of influencer marketing programs is to both go where the audience is and to avoid ad blockers. Movie advertising is still largely dependent on the audience coming to to the ads on industry trade websites and elsewhere and those traditional banner and other ads are extremely susceptible to blocking technology.
While there hasn’t been a lot of movement in this area to date - a few experiments here and there for movies like Masterminds - there’s no reason to think it won’t expand. That’s especially true since in recent years more and more of the top stars on YouTube, Instagram and other platforms have signed with the same entertainment talent agents who represent Hollywood stars. That means the distance between the two worlds is shrinking and will continue to do so as influencers join the roster or specialized agencies and otherwise formalize their businesses.
However accurate these predictions wind up being, Hollywood is always innovating. So 2017 will likely be a year that sees new tools and tactics phased in while others are put on the shelf. Maybe a studio will finally launch its own branded app that brings in all its trailers and movie content. Maybe someone will completely ditch Twitter because it doesn’t see the engagement or ROI. It’s hard to know. But the trends outlined above allow some intelligent guesses to be made. Now we just need to sit back and see how this all plays out.
Chris Thilk is a freelance marketing writer specializing in movie marketing.