Once upon a time, and not that long ago, say a couple of years, the entertainment industry considered “drive to sample” – movie trailers, TV promos and movie posters with the catchy, punny line, the standard website with free wallpapers and games, and lots of publicity and PR – enough marketing necessary to drive audiences to create a hit. Of course we all know it takes a bit more than that – a good script for starters – but in entertainment marketing departments, those tried and true staples of the communications & marketing plan were enough. Today, savvy studios are becoming hip to the notion of using social marketing as a new platform, a new way to engage audiences in an effort to have them do the heavy lifting – using word of mouth to spread the word.
A few years ago it would have been unheard of to have a feature film director, such as Rob Luketic, the director of “Legally Blonde”, tweeting from the set of his latest production, not to mention the tweets and pics from actor Ashton Kutcher with well over 2 million followers on Twitter. Now we have the massive social marketing success behind Paramount Picture’s “Paranormal Activity”, a super low budget film that wasn’t going to get a mass release – and had virtually no money behind it to get the word out. So Paramount (with very little to risk financially) went the social media route, rather than the traditional advertising route – and came up with a great idea – let people tell Paramount where the film should open. They created a place to vote online, and created a grassroots movement, all through word-of-mouth, using crowdsourcing to help sell the film. By the time the smoke had cleared, the film was going into a much wider-than-anticipted release, and the buzz on the film was so hot that Paramount ended up getting a huge campaign for next to nothing.
“Paranormal Activity” is a great example of a studio creating something new and innovative in the social marketing arena. But I wondered to myself (with great disappointment), why their movie trailers and posters were so darned traditional and expected? Why did they breakthough in one area, and yet fall back on the safe and secure in the other? Weren’t the same smart, passionate and savvy marketers working on the whole marketing plan?
What is good work is debatable. But you’ve gotta admit, the entertainment industry, for such a creative-driven industry, likes to fall back on the formulaic, the tried and true. How many truly memorable movie or television ad campaigns can you remember?
Clients, and studio heads, and division heads all want brilliant marketing. But they want their brilliant marketing to look familiar. To look like what the suits over at ABC are doing. Or what the studio heads over at Paramount are doing and so on. If it’s what everyone else is doing then it must be good. Or, are we as creative people, not fighting the good fight, not finding ways around this group-think? Not finding the right ways to sell our outlandish ideas. Our radical campaigns? Some days it really feels like we’re engaged in a no win situation. Creative teams in marketing departments around the world are judged by their creativity, by their marketing innovation, and yet, very few are buying into it. To prove my point click here to see what is considered to be the worst movie poster headline in recent history.
That’s why I say hats off to BBDONYC. BBDO works on HBO. While HBO’s creative brilliance is debatable execution to execution, they are pushing the rock up the hill. They find the cracks and sell through work that’s never been bought by the entertainment industry before. Forget the excuses the rest of us in the industry can come up with – the money, the level of creative talent – production, research, and the account teams working on their stuff. They’re coming up with it. And they’re selling it. Are they there yet? Have they yet to come up with an out of the box hit in social media? A movie poster that could compete with the best the world has to offer in the ad industry? > (YES). But success in digital should yield results in traditional. But it seems the two areas are still siloed in most marketing departments. Digital desperately needs to be embraced by the entertainment industry – treated like a new platform for marketing and not just as a here today gone tomorrow trend. And traditional needs the creative infusion that digital marketing offers – the opportunities to create concepts that are innovative, never done before, to keep traditional media viable and fresh. Until these two creative disciplines work together as one unit, we’ll continue to scratch our heads and wonder why the two halves of the marketing department seem to be operating in their own worlds.
It’s more about creating an industry culture. And a lot less about the individual pieces.