Category Archives: Marketing & Promotions

AMC Scores Promotional Hat Trick With “Big Hero 6″ Giveaway

AMC Big Hero 6 Pin GiveawayI awoke on Monday morning to a notification on my iPhone related to “Big Hero 6“. The latest animated release from Walt Disney Pictures had just topped the box office in North America during its debut weekend, fending off Warner Bros. “Interstellar” by taking in over USD $56 million.

The iPhone notification however didn’t have anything to do with the past weekend’s box office. Rather it was sent by the AMC Theatres mobile app I have installed on my iPhone. I have the app set to enable notifications and even allow for it to use my location. That’s why every time I drive past an AMC multiplex my mobile buzzes with a notification. I still haven’t determined if that’s annoying or not.

The notification concerning “Big Hero 6″, pictured here, was alerting me to a special promotion the cinema chain was running that gave away limited edition pins for the movie with the purchase of tickets. The message read, “Which Baymax pin will you get?” with pictures of both the pins featuring the huggable robot at the center of the film. One ploy in the promotion is that only one in ten pins will be of Baymax in his hero armor, presumably making those versions more valuable.

The ultimate catch in all this is that the giveaway is exclusive to members of Stubs, AMC’s loyalty program. I continue to pay for Stubs each year, always swearing it’s the last year I’ll do so. Even though I could personally care less about them, exclusive benefits such as these giveaways make more inclined to not question the annual Stubs membership charge. After all, my kids would probably love the pins… even though each would probably get different versions leading to arguments over who gets which one on the way to our seats.

I only point all of this out to highlight how AMC used the giveaway to score a promotional hat-trick. They promoted the film, “Big Hero 6″ and their loyalty program, Stubs, while at the same time reminding me about their mobile app (which I rarely use).

They may have even convinced me to head on over to the nearest AMC Theatres so I can see the film while supplies last. Maybe I can pay for my Stubs membership by selling the pin on eBay. At the time of this writing they are already fetching over USD $11.40 and counting.

Early Release Of “Interstellar” On Film Is A Nostalgic Marketing Coup

Interstellar Film Ad

A heated industry debate was sparked last week by the announcement that Paramount and Warner Bros. would release director Christopher Nolan’s next movie, “Interstellar”, on film. Many of you may recall film as the sprocketed acetate material used by the motion picture industry to shoot, distribute and exhibit movies for more than a century before Hollywood studios “forced” cinema owners to install digital projectors. Adding insult to what some theatre operators see as injury, “Interstellar” will open two days early in theatres showing it on 35mm, the rarefied 70mm and IMAX.

I can understand the frustration certain exhibitors must feel at such news. Having shelled out millions to upgrade their facilities, they wind up watching those using analog technology get rewarded with exclusive access to a highly anticipated title (even if only for two days).

Maybe because of my age and generational ties, or maybe because I was trained at an educational institution commonly referred to as a “film school”, I am rather excited “Interstellar” will be shown on good old fashioned celluloid. I believe, with certain caveats, the decision can help boost the movie’s box office across all sites in which it is booked, no matter the method of projection.

Let me explain.

I used to own a phonograph. I don’t anymore, though kind of wish I did. My last turntable was part of a component stereo system which I purchased upon graduating high school. It was 1989, a time when record stores still stocked vinyl alongside shiny compact discs. Heck, it was even a time when record stores still existed. Ultimately, those reflective CDs took over more retail space and pushed vinyl records into a small corner of most stores. Some merchants just stopped carrying vinyl altogether.

I lugged that turntable around for the next 16 years from dorm room to dorm room and between every shack, apartment, and home I ever leased or owned. Even though I stopped unpacking my crate of vinyl records after moving into a new home, I’d still make certain to set up the phonograph… just in case someone stopped by with a first pressing of Led Zeppelin’s last album. At some point shortly after Napster had decimated the music industry through digital file sharing, I realized the absurdity of continuing to make room for the record player in my stereo cabinet. It was relegated to the garage… stored next to the crate of records it was meant to be playing.

The phonograph sat there gathering dust for a few years as any sentimental or psychological attachment I had to it withered. I finally gave it away to some friend of a friend. I can’t even remember who exactly. Of course, I would never give up my crate of records. There are some real gems in there dating all the way back to my days in primary school, including an autographed copy of “Bob McGrath Sings For All The Boys and Girls“.

At this point you might be wondering what my record player has to do with “Interstellar” being released on film. Technically, it doesn’t. Emotionally however, there are direct ties. To me, a phonograph and vinyl records evoke a certain nostalgia of a “simpler” time when musicians performed on real instruments, when recorded music sounded better than the compressed bytes we now listen to and when music was considered more important than it is today. Of course, the reality is that musicians were often playing instruments that required electricity, the audio quality of compact discs was far more consistent over time and music is just as important today as it was when vinyl records were en vogue. Still, the vinyl medium and technology are tied in my mind to memories that are generally positive.

Read More »

How Do You Make Marketing Movies Via Social Media Sexy? Ask Beyonce

This is one of those “in case you missed it” posts.

We have previously written about the use of social media in the marketing of movies and television. Yet, I can’t recall ever detailing the use of social media to promote the upcoming release of marketing material such as a trailer. Likely that’s because the most obvious examples would be banal Twitter posts announcing when a film trailer is debuting on YouTube.

However, the pop star Beyonce has managed to make teasing the launch of a movie marketing campaign via social media a lot sexier, as anyone who has ever seen her perform might expect.

On July 20th the pop singer posted a 15-second teaser to her Instagram account of the trailer for “Fifty Shades of Grey”, the film adaptation of the best selling erotic novel by EL James. Put another way, Beyonce published a teaser trailer for the trailer of a feature film. We can’t help but wonder if that’s a first.

Fifteen seconds is the maximum length Instagram allows for video clips, but Beyonce demonstrates her mastery of such social mediums by proving that, if done right, that is more than enough time to peak one’s curiosity and anticipation.

Read More »

“Sin City” Poster Too Graphic For MPAA’s Advertising Administration

Eva Green Sin City Poster

Every so often an incident occurs that serves to remind us just how many tasks need to be completed in the workflow leading up to the release of a motion picture. Tasks such as running your marketing material past the proper trade groups for approval.

Yesterday I took note that my never-ending Twitter feed was populated by numerous uploads of the same image. Over the course of a few hours the image popped up in tweets from industry professionals I follow on Twitter a dozen or more times. The picture featuring a scantily clad woman was hard to avoid noticing as it scrolled by in Twitter’s desktop app time and again. As it turns out, the picture was actually one of the posters (pictured here) for “Sin City: A Dame To Kill For”, which according to Deadline, had been rejected by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA).

In case you weren’t aware, or had forgotten, the Advertising Administration of the MPAA must review all the collateral marketing material used to spread the word (i.e. advertise) any film that has been or will be rated by the Classification and Rating Administration (CARA). Or in the MPAA’s own words, the Advertising Administration must review:

“…any material in any medium that is intended primarily to promote the exhibition, performance or sale of copies of the motion picture to the public and that is directed primarily to or for which a significant number of viewers are consumers in the United States.”

This includes a list of materials such as trailers, clips and footage, press kits, radio spots, Internet banner ads, billboards and, naturally, posters. And that’s just a fraction of a very long list. According to the National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO), the MPAA reviews “more than 60,000 pieces of marketing each year”.

So while most of us are zapping through commercials on our DVR and ignoring banner ads on our favorite websites, there is someone at the MPAA whose job it is to pay very close attention to movie marketing material. In regards to the material for “Sin City: A Dame To Kill For”, the MPAA nixed a risqué poster depicting actress Eva Green shown in a sheer white dress that reveals just enough, though apparently too much, of what lies beneath. According to Deadline (and several other outlets) the MPAA’s approval was withheld “for nudity — curve of under breast and dark nipple/areola circle visible through sheer gown.”

Read More »

Exhibitors Pin Their Hopes On Promotional Giveaways For Disney’s “Maleficent”

Regal Entertainment's Maleficent Giveaway

If Disney’s “Maleficent” fails to generate box office returns when it opens on May 29th it certainly won’t be due to a lack of marketing campaigns touting promotional giveaways. At least that’s the case in North America where the studio has partnered with two of the world’s largest motion picture exhibitors to run opening weekend promotions for the big budget movie which focuses on the villain from “Sleeping Beauty”.

Moviegoers buying a ticket to “Maleficent” at Regal Cinemas during opening weekend will get a free poster for the movie. It’s not clear from their promotional artwork (pictured above) or website whether the poster being given away is the official one sheet or if it’s a special poster created specifically for the Regal give away. Ironically, should the movie turn into a smash hit, it will be the latter which becomes more valuable in secondary markets such as eBay, since presumably such posters would only have been produced in limited quantities for the Regal promotion.

AMC Stubs Maleficent Pin Giveaway

That is the very approach being taken by AMC Theatres, which is using its “Maleficent” promotional giveaway as a springboard for a contest driven by social media. Anyone seeing the movie at an AMC cinema during its first few days will walk off with a collectible pin from “Maleficent” made exclusively for the exhibitor’s campaign. In an attempt to incorporate its own marketing push on top of the promotional giveaway, AMC is asking patrons to share pictures of themselves with their “Maleficent” pin on social networks such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. One winner will be selected to receive a USD $25 AMC gift card from those that submit selfless with the hashtag #shareAMC and #maleficent. This type of effort is meant to spark a network effect that builds awareness of the new release and ultimately the cinema chain.

AMC is also feeding into a tradition that has cropped up around the Disney brand over the years. Many die-hard Disney fans have taken up the hobby of collecting and trading collectible pins that feature characters, rides, attractions, etc. from the company’s movies and theme parks. Disney not only sanctions the practice, but encourages it by selling each collectible pin only for a limited time. Visit any of Disney’s theme parks and you’ll see loads of people walking around with pins that sometimes go back decades. Park cast members (as Disney refers to its employees) often have pins stuck to the lanyards holding their staff badges.

Read More »

“Shatner’s World” Takes Multi-Channel Approach To Marketing Alternative Content

Earlier today while posting a link to to Twitter promoting our piece on Nikki Rocco’s retirement from Universal Pictures, I spotted a tweet from Regal Cinemas in my timeline that provides a great example of alternative content marketing. Specifically, it provides an illustration of how event marketing activation can work by using multiple channels to build awareness.

In this particular case, the event being marketed was “Shatner’s World“; a one night cinema presentation of William Shatner‘s autobiographical one-man Broadway show.

I initially saw social media marketing directly from the retail channel where the product was to be purchased. This was a Twitter post from Regal Cinemas containing an image of the poster artwork for the event:

Read More »

Is Advertising a Movie During the Super Bowl Really Worth $4 Million?

Super Bowl XLVIII Movie Spots

In the run up to Super Bowl XLVIII last week a non-industry friend remarked how absurd they thought it was for Hollywood studios to spend $4 million to purchase a 30-seocnd television commercial during the game. That’s how much Paramount Pictures paid for its spots promoting “Transformers: Age of Extinction” and the Russell Crowe starrer “Noah”. Sony shelled out just as much to tease “The Amazing Spider-Man 2”, as did Disney for “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”.

Spending what appears to be a big chunk of a film’s marketing budget on a single spot seemed wasteful to my friend and they just couldn’t see how the math penciled out. Initially, neither could I… that is until I sharpened my pencil and ran all the numbers as we’ll go over in a moment.

First, for those readers not in the United States (as we have many) and who aren’t familiar with the Super Bowl, it is the annual championship game in American football. Each season culminates with two National Football League teams emerging from a round of playoffs to square off in a single game that is watched on television by tens of millions throughout the U.S. alone. It is often one of the most viewed television broadcasts each year.

In fact, since the year 2000, when 88.5 million viewers tuned in, the average audience for the Super Bowl has increased 25% to 111.5 million viewers this year. At least that’s according to the official numbers published by Nielsen, the company that keeps track of such data. Three of the last four Super Bowl broadcasts have set average viewership records.

Super Bowl Viewership Graph

In that same time frame the cost of running a 30-second Super Bowl commercial rose 90% from USD $2.1 million in 2000 to this year’s USD $4 million price tag. Despite the high cost of advertising during the game’s broadcast demand for doing so has never waned and ad inventory has always sold out.

And here’s why. Super Bowl ad buys are a huge bargain.

Read More »

AMC Theatres Expands Content Marketing Efforts With “Versus”

YouTube Preview Image

AMC Theatres is taking a page out of the latest marketing play books with its new online series “Versus”. The first episode was posted to their website, via YouTube, on Tuesday, January 28th.

The show is hosted by blogger John Campea and the format centers around two opposing advocates defending their viewpoints on a hotly contested issue. At least that’s Campea explains it. Not sure determining who gives the better super hero performance, Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man or Christian Bale as Bat Man, is an issue that is either hot or all that contested. Even so, “Versus” marks AMC’s latest attempt at content marketing.

If you haven’t heard the phrase “content marketing” yet, I can assure you that will change soon enough. By the end of 2014 you’ll be bombarded with so much content marketing the mere mention of the practice might send you running in the opposite direction. You know, kind of like the way traditional marketing does now.

That’s actually why content marketing was born in the fist place; consumers stopped responding to traditional marketing methods, so corporations began to attract their attention by producing and distributing relevant and informative content. The marketing technique requires the creation of media such as e-books, blogs, magazines, videos, podcasts, etc. that enhance the entire category in which a company operates.

Some classic, often cited, examples of content marketing include the Lego Club and its associated magazine, which help promotes Lego and the Cleveland Clinic’s Health Hub, an online health resource published by the academic medical center. Probably the paradigm that sets the bar for most content marketers is the Red Bulletin, a magazine for adventuresome thrill seekers published monthly by Red Bull, which manufactures an energy drink. Red Bull has proven that the readership of the Red Bulletin matches the demographics of the customers they are trying to acquire. It’s also served to raise the public’s awareness of the brand itself.

Read More »

CBS Films Masters The Art of Social Media Marketing

Inside Llewyn Davis New York Times AdUsing Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr and Instagram to advertise and promote a new or upcoming film release isn’t exactly a new concept. Distributors have been incorporating social media campaigns as part of their marketing efforts for the past several years now. However, most attempts at building awareness via social media have been learning experiences and results have varied widely. In other words, not all distributors are capable of exploiting social media to its fullest.

CBS Films, on the other hand, has proven over the past few days that they have mastered the art of marketing via social media.

On Saturday, January 4th, CBS placed a full page advertisement in the New York Times for their current release, “Inside Llewyn Davis”, the latest Coen Brothers film. That, in and of itself, isn’t so unique, but rather it was the content of the ad which caught everyone’s attention: a single Twitter post (also known as a tweet) from New York Times film critic A.O. Scott.

The ad placement turned out to be a marketers dream come true, as it soon went viral with countless mentions on Twitter, Facebook and photo replications showing up on Instagram. Then there were all the journalists who posted stories about the ad on their respective blogs. What CBS managed to do is brilliantly intermingle promotional mediums creating the ultimate self-reflexive marketing Mobius; a traditional newspaper advertisement featuring a Twitter post which people then reference in their own tweets and blog posts.

Granted, part of the reason for the ad getting so much attention was the “controversy” over whether 1) using A.O. Scott’s tweet without his permission was against Twitter’s terms of service and 2) whether it was ethical to edit the content of the original tweet which read.

You all keep fighting about Wolf of Wall St. and Am Hustle. I’m gonna listen to the Llewyn Davis album again. Fare thee well, my honeys.

The tweet as published in the ad removed the first sentence, which referenced “The Wolf of Wall Street” and “American Hustle”, two films that are competing with “Inside Llewyn Davis” for top honors during the current awards’ season. In yet another example that there is no such thing as bad publicity, the debate only served to expand the reach of the original ad in the Times well beyond the newspaper.

And in a turn of events that couldn’t be more meta, Scott himself used Twitter to comment on his tweet being used in the ad, setting off another chain of Facebook and blog posts:

Read More »

For Your iConsideration: Internet Streaming Overtakes DVD Distribution For Awards Screeners

For Your iConsideration

For the first time ever, Internet platforms have overtaken DVDs for distributing the largest number of “awards screeners” to industry professionals voting for year-end accolades. This post gives a breakdown analysis of the various streaming and download formats, with iTunes and Vimeo battling for the top position while fending off smaller rivals.

With the movie awards season upon us, Hollywood studios and independent distributors are fighting to get their films seen by the voting members of AMPAS (the Oscars), BAFTA, HFPA (Golden Globes) and the various film professional guilds (DGA, WGA, SAG, et al). Though studios prefer voting members to see their films in cinemas, the reality is that many will have to watch them at home on so-called “screeners”, particularly given the glut of prestigious films released towards the end of the year. Traditionally this has meant sending out VHS tapes (in the 90s) and ultimately DVDs, which tend to have embedded watermarks that are either visible (‘This DVD screener is the property of Studio X and not to be re-distributed’) or invisible (identifying the voting member it was sent to via a unique code).

The cost of sending out thousands of DVDs to the various voting members can be enormous, even for big distributors, particularly if they are individually watermarked. For films released earlier in the year commercial DVDs are often used, but recent releases like “The Wolf of Wall Street” or “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” need to be individually watermarked so they can be traced back to whom it was sent, in case this version is ripped and uploaded to the Internet, as has occurred in the past. Various attempts at new technology has been tried, such as Dolby’s encrypted DVD Cinea format, which involved sending a modified DVD player to each voting member of BAFTA and AMPAS. While working technically, it proved too cumbersome for voters who were often away from home over the holiday and couldn’t watch the encrypted DVDs on regular DVD players while traveling. Some studios have also begun sending Blu-Ray discs, with Warner Bros. first and Universal Pictures following last year.

This year Internet distribution has emerged as the cost-effective method preferred by smaller distributors, with many turning to streaming or downloading as the best way to catch the eye of voting members, at least in this case those of BAFTA, the British Academy of Film and Television Arts.

Read More »