American Film Market 2011 conference: unofficial notes
Nov 6, 2011 11 AM: Marketing Conference notes part 2: "Wide Releases"
Notes by B. Hahne
The original blog location of these notes is: http://2011afm.blogspot.com
This is day 3 of a 5-day series, check back at the blog for more as the days go by.
Clarifications or pithy comments by the note-taker will generally appear in [square brackets like this].
These notes are copyright (c) 2011 by Bruce Hahne. Noncommercial, nonprofit redistribution and/or pointing people to the blog is permitted and encouraged.
Disclaimers: "Free notes, you get what you pay for!" There notes are a summary, not a transcript, and represent my best effort to capture the panel discussion plus Q&A. They also probably contain errors. I'm not in the film industry, nor do I play somebody in the film industry on TV, nor am I affiliated with AFM / American Film Market or with any of the firms associated with the panelists.
[In general there were problems with this panel: the moderator had issues articulating succinct, coherent questions, she interrupted her panelists multiple times, and she doesn't understand the internet. This is the first panel at the conference where I observed multiple audience members walk out partway through.]
Moderator: Pamela Rodi, Executive VP for Marketing & Publicity, Myriad Pictures. Previously at Sony, 10 years.
- Vincent Bruzzese, President, Worldwide Motion Picture Group, Ipsos OTX MediaCT, generally known as "OTX". Research firm based in Hollywood.
- Tomas Jegeus, co-president for International, 20th Century Fox.
- Karina Kogan, CMO, BuzzMedia, an online publisher, owns ~36 web sites. BuzzMedia has movie studios as clients. Digital advertising and marketing.
- Jack Pan, EVP for Marketing, Summit Entertainment. Handles digital marketing. Summit has the Twilight series and Jack is working on Breaking Dawn.
Pamela: This panel is about marketing "mainstream and wide releases" using current technologies.
Pamela: "New technologies", about the term. Tends to mean "anything that happens online or by phone or is an app." Is the terminology wrong? What's your definition?
Vincent: Depends on context, who is using the term? Movie industry is slow to adopt to technology. Much of Hollywood is still trying to figure out email. The real problem is how to use the tech.
Tomas: It's not new, everybody is using it. We used to have a "digital" department in my firm but we don't have that anymore, we don't have "digital watches", we just have "watches". Everybody is checking text messages in the morning when they get up. In the UK, radio listening is at its highest ever (this includes internet radio listening). TV viewing in the US is up - more ways to watch TV.
Pamela: Difficult to draw the line between tech as distribution mechanism, and tech as content.
Karina: Re "new tech", it's about richer experiences for the customer, ways we can improve marketing. How to captivate an audience, get them to watch a trailer.
Jack: Technology happens every day, "new" depends on the audience. At Summit, we look at what technology is permeating people's lives and how to tap into how people are using that technology.
Vincent: I have some examples.
- TV shows started going onto the internet - people said ratings would decline, which turned out to be wrong.
- "DVRs will make it possible to not watch TV commercials" -- turns out that a large number of DVR users will REWIND when they see a film trailer and watch the trailer.
- Twitter: people thought it would change everything but it turns out to be one of the least-impactful marketing methods. [Maybe in his realm?]
Pamela: Give some examples of how you structure a marketing spend for a wide-release film today.
Jack: Our TV spend hasn't decreased, if anything it's increased. TV viewing has INCREASED as a result of DVR, TV is still the most efficient way to reach a mass audience in a short amount of time. And of course our marketing campaigns are very fleeting compared to things like brand campaigns. Our efforts are focused around creating a big opening weekend. The places getting hit are outdoor [billboards] and print spend.
Pamela: BTW I have some stats here, despite the fantasy of all this "free advertising" to be had on the internet, 60% to 70% of filmgoer's decisionmaking process is based on seeing film trailers on TV.
Jack: Web is part of people's lives but it's very fragmented. Decentralized. The way to get scale is to use networks online that have scale, or something else. Reach is what matters for an ad campaign, and TV gives that. There are online publishers who do offer reach comparable to TV, but we use digital [I think he means internet - everything is "digital" these days] to reach targeted demographics.
Tomas: Print advertising is down even though people outside of the US still read newspapers. TV spend about the same. We're increasing outdoor ads - very influential outside of US. And next year 10% of outdoor screens [billboards] will be digital [i.e. not just giant fixed posterboards]. You can do things with those outdoor screens is fancy - you can build complex 3D campaigns. Not always allowed due to regulation in the US, but we do that in Mexico.
People used to never want to watch ads, but thankfully our commercials in the movie industry, people tend to want to watch them. You have to be in many different places - it used to be a few well-understood media channels. And we used to segment in quadrants, but today segmentation is much finer-grained. One film might have 20-25 different subgroups, and you can target those subgroups online. More work.
Pamela: Karina, about putting a campaign together. Tell us what happens.
Karina: We're about content. We try to partner with all the studios. How can we talk about your film in the period of time leading up to its release? We try to get content from the studios: exclusive stills, interviews with cast, etc. If an audience isn't engaged with your content then they won't be engaged with your advertising for the film. For Breaking Dawn we try to create lots of content around the film. We did an overlay animated wedding invitation on the film web site, replica of the invite in the film, and visitors can RSVP via Fbook or Twitter. If they RSVP'd via Fbook then that showed up in their friends list and went viral that way.
Pamela: The digital universe is vast - how do your firms decide what to do?
Jack: Yes, difficult to keep up with who offers the most scale - it changes quarter to quarter. We did a brainstorm with [web / online] publishers that have delivered in the past. Ended up with
Pamela: Are there standardized rankings in this business, like Nielsen? I'm confused.
Tomas: "Rate" is a tricky thing anyway. In TV, buying "rating points" doesn't necessarily tell you much these days - you don't know how many human beings actually sat there and watched the show. Similarly online.
Pamela: So how do you measure? [Why is she moderating the internet technology panel when she has no basic idea about success metrics commonly used in the industry?]
Tomas: Click-thrus is one way. You buy effectiveness.
Vincent: There's no shortage of companies pitching services in this space.
[Discussion about hit counts]
Karina: Not easy to get 1M Youtube hits. It turns out you have a higher probability of getting hit by a bus than getting 1M Youtube hits. You can't think "I'll just put this up on the web and the universe will embrace it."
Vincent: TV spend vs. non-TV. The decision about whether to see a movie these days is often made weeks, or more than weeks, in advance of the release date. Yet 60%+ of the marketing spend still tends to be on TV ads in the week of the release.
Pamela: non-US, are Fbook and Twitter also big?
Tomas: Twitter not as big, but Fbook will continue to grow for next 5 years. Fbook is overtaking the local players in every market. It will grow in all emerging markets: Brazil, Russia. Not presently in China. Then Fbook will reach saturation point and go down. Incredibly important for us right now.
Jack: Our Fbook interaction is 2/3 non-US is what we see.
Tomas: We don't do web sites anymore, there's no point. Well, we make it as a landing page sort of. We use the vehicles out there already: Fbook, some other media portal, somebody with audience. Youtube.
Jack: For us it's the aggregate of what you do across many places - you're never going to get these huge crowds coming to your web site. Also different across different industries. If you're a restaurant with locations and coupons and so on, that's different. As a movie we need to get our message across many different places in a very short amount of time. That's different from established brands that have been around for decades.
Pamela: About genre differences, are there differences in how you use digital [she means internet] campaigns?
Tomas: It's not about genre, it varies per movie. We put the trailer up for our anti-hero superhero film, and normally when you do this on Youtube you don't get that many hits for a new property, but we've got almost 1-to-1 when people see the trailer that they want to comment on the trailer. So for now, all we're going to do is push the trailer - no cast interviews, nothing else, because we don't have to, we have the trailer. With other films if you don't have an immediate hook with the trailer then you need to add more content, and you can push different content to different segments - it depends on the film and the audience segmentation.
Pamela: You have to customize all that content for all those segments.
Tomas: with TV you couldn't segment like that at all.
Vincent: You do get fanboys who say well, I can't help a film, but I can hurt a film, I can spread bad word of mouth about it. I'm finding nowadays that the goals of these campaigns are simply to not piss off the fanboy community, keep them happy. And then you can start your actual campaign elsewhere.
Karina: We had that with one of our films, fanbase reaction to a casting decision was very negative, so the studio rapidly worked with us to release cast shots of the actress with the right hair color, etc. (Pacify the rabid fans.)
[Discussion about movie posters.]
Tomas: Used to be that the poster was just for the movie theaters, and then the poster was offered online as an afterthought. That's changing. Most people are connecting to the internet via mobile phone - you need to think about something that works in postage stamp size AND can be blown up - the traditional movie poster doesn't work well.
Vincent: The posters work well now - you see the poster and then people immediately go online on their mobile and look up the movie. They're IN the theater seeing the poster for an upcoming movie, and instead of waiting 5 months for a trailer that comes out later, the poster is making them look for more info right now.
Karina: You had earlier asked "how far in advance is too soon?" For Bridesmaids: the cast wasn't A-list, it's a chick flick, can it be funny at all, is raunchy humor with women even OK, no cast that we can put onto Leno or Late Night. We work with a lot of celebrities who blog on our site. So we created viral videos of these celebrities talking about their bachelorette parties, raunchy stuff, being bridesmaids. that generated a lot of buzz, so we got 200% more views of the trailer than the studio was expecting. It worked because we started early.
Q: Karina and Jack, about the wedding invitation thing for Twilight, give us some numbers, who viewed, how many purchased. [She thinks she's going to get exact marketing response numbers for a major property? Please. I'm sure those numbers are highly guarded.]
Jack: That's one metric among many and I don't have the numbers in front of me. We did extra work to make sure tickets were available for sale when we started advertising. We even tagged out TV spots with "tickets now available online!" which is not a common practice. Every time we've had an opportunity for an invitation, we took it. But hard to correlate online ticket sales to any specific marketing event/spend, since there were many things in-flight at one time. BTW, the number of Fbook fans and number of trailer views doesn't correlate well with total box office - there are too many variables. You might get CTR of 1.2% which is a fantastic percentage, but it doesn't tell you how well your box office will be.
Q: Hollywood has a "major expert problem" [?? Oh, the guy apparently wants to advance the thesis that the entire movie marketing profession is a scam, it's all just chaos anyway.]
Vincent: I wouldn't want to ignore the past. Sex and the City, and Bridesmaids, are very different properties yet you can learn something from one and apply it to the other.
Pamela: In this business there are potholes, and you can end up falling into those with some filmmakers, but we try to be experts as best we can.
Q: - Re the Twilight RSVP, was that targeted at fans and how do you avoid ad overload?
- Re viral: how do you create good ones without celebrity access?
Karina: Re Twilight, we know we have a very engaged audience, and we're the authorities on the subject - we have one of the biggest bloggers who writes "Breaking Down Breaking Dawn" on our site. I don't think people considered the ads to be an assault - if you come to an entertainment website you expect to see entertainment ads. Re the viral question: you don't have to have stars to make a popular video.
Q: - iPhone apps, please comment.
- Rewarding people with Tshirts and such for sharing with friends?
- Budget: what % spend online vs. radio vs. other?
Pamela: Nobody is going to share exact percentages with you.
Tomas: The spend depends. We sometimes spend 40% of the media budget online. Sometimes it's only 10%.
Karina: I just did a campaign for our own web sites and we had 4-cent cost per acquisition on Fbook, which is very good since we were so targeted. It literally cost us only $50 to test that.
Vincent: Re apps, people will download a Twilight app, but for most movies people aren't going to do that.
Jack: Right it's about the value proposition to the user - you can create an app for any movie, but what will the user get out of that app that persuades them to add that app to the collection they already have.
Tomas: Right, among the thousands of apps being created every day, why will they download your app? We did do an app for Rio and linked it with Angry Birds, which was huge success, but we tied it to that existing property.
Q: "Wide release", what's the smallest number of theaters you've worked on for a release?
A1: 600-1000 is considered wide release. But these days you don't usually see that, you either see super-saturation or you see platform [staged, local] releases.
A2: Remember this panel is about wide-release films. Also remember the "digital" part of a buy is coupled with a big media spend all over the place. Many of the questions here seem to be coming from an assumption that you can do ALL marketing online. [Yes, that's because the audience is entirely microbudget filmmakers who are clawing for some way to make their ideas succeed. Mismatch between audience and panel.]
Q: Re piracy, is this changing your ad campaigns?
Tomas: Piracy has changed how we release. We now do day-and-date releases in Russia, same date as US, since Russia is the hub of piracy, it starts there and spreads. Family films tend to still survive piracy somehow. Tintin will be interesting - that's releasing all over the world but NOT releasing in the US yet, what's going to happen there? Pirated releases are online within HOURS of your release of a film now. All releases have been pushed towards simultaneous releases.
Pamela: Future of advertising?
Tomas: The same problems are there - how do you get people to listen to your marketing message? I could have the Fbook ID of everybody in the world and that doesn't necessarily help me.
Vincent: Information is the market of the future. Many people now make up their minds about whether to see a movie based on the 3-sentence IMDB description, which by the way nobody ever takes credit for, we don't know who writes those.
Karina: Targeting is getting more interesting. Advertisers often know more about you. Video is interesting, particularly WRT mobile.
Jack: Hyper-targeting is something to watch. Make a moviegoing experience specific to people based on location, they're near a specific theater, or near a group of fans. How much can we hyper-localize?
Q: As an indy filmmaker, if I get a name actor and want to pitch to a distributor, and if we try to go viral on the internet, are there things we should NOT be doing to avoid stepping on distributor toes?
Pamela: Probably everything that you did. Some distributors are sensitive and want to control everything. In publicity you can't go back to the same media outlets with the same story a second time. A "unit publicist" working with your publicist will help you make these decisions.
Q: So you're saying I need to decide in advance how the film will be distributed? [poor guy, this is the wrong group of people to give advice to small-budget independent filmmakers.]
Q: Economic downturn. Many distributors have closed but their leads are sometimes now working as independent consultants. These are called "PMDs". What do you think about doing that, working with "service deal" companies?
Vincent: Some are worth it, some aren't. And depends on the type of film. Look at their track record. But this is an industry of connections, and that often matters more than anything else.
Q: I've heard about anti-piracy campaigns in which fake copies of movies are uploaded to torrent sites in an attempt to saturate the torrent market with bad copies - is that still happening?
Jack: If you go online you'll see all kinds of links that claim to be to movies, and it's just people trying to get you to go to their site - that's not us, that's just happening organically.
Karina: I had a client who said they wanted to "leak" a clip through us, i.e. make it look like it was leaked. So we did it and then 24 hours later the studio called us and said "take it down, we don't have international rights!" Well, too late.
Pamela: You need to clear all the music rights, etc. At AFM there have often been prework prints shared, and they use uncleared music, that's just in the room showing it to a potential buyer in private, but now this stuff is ending up online. And people will take the info sheets and posters and scan them.
Pamela: I'm also much more aware of international now - natural disasters can change your marketing strategy. What happens to the Euro impacts your strategy.
Vincent: Cultural issues matter for trailers. In some countries for Iron Man, you want to show the clips of him helping people, that's what heroes do. Alvin and the Chipmunks won't be a good sell in Japan, the CGI isn't going to play with expectations there.
Pamela: Things that hamper international releases include access to your talent. Big issue - by the time you get the international distribution, often your talent is onto the next project, not available [to do or assist media events].
Q: Wouldn't you do the interviews onsite, like on set, release the content later when you need it?
Pamela: You need the journalists from the relevant venues onsite to do the interviews (long explanation of process).