Never has there been a time where an effective marketing strategy will be a more important asset to cinema exhibitors, as movie theatres reopen their doors the world over. Yes, there’s a keen desire to come back to the movies from customers themselves post-pandemic, but clear communication is crucial, in part to reassure patrons that coronavirus-related health and safety is being taken seriously. But also to remind and reignite the passion felt for the multi-sensory, escapist experience that is a visit to the cinema.
Larger multiplex cinema companies have the ability to kick their marketing output up a notch, presumably having spent some of the last few weeks planning their return in detail. Many marketing minds working on brand positioning, long-awaited blockbuster releases and clever post-COVID communications will set them in good stead for the rest of 2020. But what happens to the small-to-medium sized cinema operators who don’t have this luxury? Or any marketing staff at all? Enter FilmFrog.
Who Is FilmFrog Marketing?
Founded and launched in March 2019 by former Head of Marketing for Studio Movie Grill Brandon Jones, FilmFrog is a marketing agency based in Texas, that can be contracted as a whole marketing department, or turnkey solution. Alternatively, and on a smaller scale, the FilmFrog team can be drafted in to kickstart or assist with one specific area needing attention – the “missing piece” to an existing marketing strategy. Or somewhere in between.
Devised to come in and help smaller exhibitors at a reasonable cost, FilmFrog doesn’t compromise on the standard of work deployed. Instead the team seeks to level the playing field so those with less of a budget can still implement sophisticated marketing campaigns. And this flexible approach, to fit in with a client’s way of doing business, is an effective way of demonstrating their unique – formed-from-years-in-the-business – methodology, of which Jones is particularly proud.
The FilmFrog Approach
FilmFrog’s methodology is to sit in as a special advisor to cinema management or executives, or as an “outsourced-brought-inhouse” Chief Marketing Officer (CMO). Broadly speaking, their working roadmap follows a rolling 52-week campaign that fluidly adapts to the constantly moving parts of cinema marketing. A variety of different marketing functions can be layered into the process and, as Jones pointed out, “It’s our job to know when and where to pull different levers to achieve maximum effect.”
Since its inception last year, FilmFrog has worked across 250 screens in the Texas area with a hand in all marketing output of their clients. And still in its infancy FilmFrog has now had to contend with a global pandemic.
The pandemic has, of course, been a challenge for many – but it forced Jones to reassess FilmFrog’s position in and contribution to the industry. During the time cinemas were dark and consequently marketing campaigns weren’t functioning as normal, he decided their efforts would go towards helping get exhibitors back on their feet the best way he knew how.
Assets for All
And so FilmFrog started (and continues) to produce a range of marketing assets for any exhibitor to use – for free – as part of a marketing strategy to entice patrons back to the big screen.
The available assets are broken down into two categories: “social media content” and “film series themes.” The former ranges from an “At the Movies – Safety” video clip, to what can only be described as a (rather clever) tongue-in-cheek, food porn video about the snack synonymous with the silver screen: popcorn. And with many others in between.
The “film series themes” category has acutely honed in on the big question that exhibitors were left with when studios started pushing back their upcoming releases: what content should (or even could) be played? An appetite from cinema-goers for classic content led FilmFrog to develop a meaty selection of assets to promote a variety of film series. Faith, Horror, Ladies Night and Sci-Fi are just some of the creations FilmFrog came up with, the rest can be found here.
The Story of Exhibition
Another principle on which FilmFrog was founded is that exhibition has a story to tell in its own right. Rather than just being the site, or vessel, through which films are physically shown, Jones believes exhibition companies should embrace the storytelling aspect of the full experience they provide to their customers. This, coupled with the story of their own brand’s creation and history, means cinemas could essentially become content creators themselves.
The movie-going experience is so much more than simply watching a film on a big screen and Jones’ goal is for FilmFrog to help exhibitors realise and communicate this. As Jones said, “A film title is finite but going to the movies is on-going. We’re on a mission to help exhibitors tell their stories.”
So how will the cinema landscape look, post-COVID19 and how will FilmFrog fit into it?
Jones believes that among the many lessons learned will be one predominantly of discipline and perseverance. The regular release-window questions of “where” and “how” films are played will have to be discussed in a more open-minded, flexible way. The importance of ensuring audiences are comfortable in public spaces is vital, he said, and it’s the industry’s job to put the best available content onto screens in the best way.
But, more specifically, another area of onscreen content that this could be an opportunity for is Alternative Content (aka Event Cinema). Jones explains his take on this by saying that “Audiences are more malleable to that type of content.” With the United Kingdom’s West End “Theatreland” facing an uncertain future, a cultural fix could come from screened plays, concerts and sports.
But for Jones and FilmFrog, the essential ingredient that has to be reaffirmed when the industry is back to normal function (however that looks), is the sense of coming together as a community. Much like as has been seen during the pandemic, the milk of human kindness and empathy is something to be cherished, with cinema nurturing and facilitating exactly this. Jones said, “The world wants stories and escapism. We have to get that back on its feet.”