Changing dynamics of Movie Marketing: Are digital efforts translating into in-theater leads

And are the big bucks spend on social media marketing being measured? Experts share how digital movie marketing can be translated into in-theater leads.

Just finished watching the video of Varun Dhawan’s preparation for getting into the role of Mauji (the character he is playing in the film Sui Dhaaga), also how Anushka Sharma perfected the saree look- while scrolling down my Facebook timeline.  Amazed? Yes, me too and that my friends is call movie marketing on social media. 

Around 2000 movies are produced every year with Bollywood giving close to 1000 releases singly. From live streaming the trailer launch event to releasing a song on Facebook, producers are betting big on social media. Gone are the days when gossip around movies and film stars were only devised from those glossy magazines or Page 3 photographs. Nowadays, celebrities themselves present ‘meat’ for people to rave about, especially when films are being announced or under filming. 

For instance, even before the shooting for Sui Dhaaga started, the makers had released different photographs of Varun and Anushka online as a teaser of their characters. Varun has even named his Twitter handle as ‘Varun Mauji Dhawan’ and this isn’t an isolated example. Creating an all together film’s profile on various digital platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram is also a new age phenomenon where each day, every minute a new video or post pops up to drive consumer engagement and required desirability for a movie goer

In the decade of 2007-2017, digital media strategy played a lead role in the industry making a departure from a ‘single-event’ launch or press interaction to an entire campaign spanning weeks or months.

Challenges – The digital movie marketing chapter

India has become the 2nd largest digital market in the world which makes it easier to reach the Indian audience through digital. From the Indian audience perspective, the key challenge is to find fans and ambassadors for a film even if it doesn’t have a popular star. These fans then serve as the core that the movie promotion can fold around.

Also Read: Report: Facebook & YouTube most effective in driving Buzz for movie marketing

The effectiveness of communication lies in creating an ongoing engagement between the audience and the film through apertures across platforms thereby creating buzz for consumers to book tickets and watch the film on the 70-mm screen.

“From a classical reach-frequency approach to reaching the biggest TG block, it is now about adding the hundred niches which add up to the niche-mass. This is daunting and fun for us as marketers and keeps us agile and nimble as a unit. It also fuels us to come up with solutions that address the divergent and growing expectations of our audience(s),”said Pranay Anthwal, Executive Director, Publicis Entertainment.

On the other hand, Saurabh Kanwar, Co-founder, Flarepath and highlights that digital still comes lower in the priority list of film marketing for some producers and studios, resulting in lower attention by teams, lack of availability of stars’ time, and reduced budgets as well.

This means that either impact or momentum is lost, even with a good creative campaign thought, because someone thought it better to focus on one media net article versus a powerful social campaign that could sustain for weeks.

The primary challenge is to build content, visibility and traffic around the key promotables of the film: first look, poster, trailer, songs/dialogue promos rather than reinventing the wheel. The execution should also be differ based on whether the movie’s most vital bit is the story, or the characters, or the star cast, or in some cases, the music. Also while sticking to the story-world created for the movie, to make for a consistent experience across elements. 

“The key advantage of the digital medium is audience segmentation; the more precise your audience targeting, the more effective are your digital spends,” commented Rudrarup Datta – Head of Marketing, Viacom18 Motion Pictures.

For instance, in the case of an unconventional film like The Quite Place, the production house initiated engagement with it’s target audience by means of a unique but limited ‘social experiment’ that gave Mumbaikars a chance to experience silence in the true sense of the term. Whereas for a franchise film like Mission: Impossible, it achieved maximum reach through a YouTube Masthead.

As per Manish Kumar, CEO of Digi Osmosis it is not challenging to build effective communication once you understand what the movie stands for and what it wants to communicate from a production house’s and distribution’s perspective. 

Films are like brands within themselves, but unlike brands, movies have a definite lifespan when it comes to marketing. Imran Shamsi, Founder, What Works noted, “It’s difficult to be heard in too much noise and the only way to stand out is by creating campaigns that are unique, unconventional and sometimes even bizarre. If a campaign gets the eyeballs but doesn’t focus on sending the right message across then it just ends up being a gimmick.”

Budget Woes

Stats reveal that 25-30 percent of the entire production cost is spent on digital marketing. With blockbusters like Queen, Mary Kom, Mission Impossible, for Viacom18 Motion Pictures the contribution of Digital Media (including social marketing) has been steadily increasing and now constitutes nearly 18 to 20% of the total spends.

Production houses have started to reorient their movie promotion budget and have started to allocate 15-20% of their budgets to digital. Top studios are actively moving from paid media plans (media buying) to owned media (owning the discussion) plans.

From where only less than 1% of the movie budget was assigned for digital with the aim to increase YouTube views, it has changed to spending almost 4-5% of the budget for commercial movies. For niche movies, as they don’t have big enough budgets to promote on mainline, they spend 15-20 % as they find digital more targeted & more effective. “Now higher budgets are being assigned for ROI which was not the case initially. Digital has changed from buzz creating to and ROI platform,” informs Manish Kumar.

When it comes to film studios, they are spending INR 5 lacs to INR 50 lacs on just creating promotional content.

They also spend a lot of money additionally ensureing the content reaches the right audience. This is no news where a lot of brands get into deals with studios for promotional content. For instance last year What Works did the campaign for Raees and Red Chillies Entertainment partnered with Uber to create a co-branded video. So the studio got a video asset to promote the film, Uber got association with the film and the agency got a chance to produce some interesting content. It was a win-win for all.

The fundamentals of a digital movie marketing campaign

Publicis Entertainment’s approach towards promoting Sanju was to create a series of moments across digital touch points that helped them land critical assets and aspects of the movie. A specific use case was ‘Jaadu Ki Jhappi’ initiative on Father’s Day, that highlighted the film’s main father-son relationship.

For Dear Zindagi while SRK was a part of the film, the producers knew that overselling that would not work for his core fans, and possibly confuse the core millenial TG of the movie. Also, the story-line was slice of life (rather than some potboiler plot), so that expectation needed to be set.

All the promotions focussed on digital where the key audiences were, in forms and ways that kept the light humor of the film alive, while looking and feeling like classy social content rather than a typical Bollywood movie. Meanwhile, Alia Bhatt did a tremendous amount of original digital video creation.

You start with spending a lot of time understanding the content, their offline marketing strategy and then go about dividing it into different stages according to the assets of the movie. Today the whole business of digital has become very ROI heavy. It is a mix of creativity along with using the latest technology to make the most effective campaign.

Shamsi beleives that the most important thing is to strike a strong emotional connect with the audience. That’s when true virality happens and it also builds incredible affinity for the film. In 2016, when WhatWorks did the campaign for Yash Raj Film’s Shah Rukh Khan starrer FAN, they made short and engaging documentaries telling endearing stories about real life fans of SRK across the globe. The campaign had such a huge impact that FAN trended worldwide 3 months before the release of the film.

Conversion of online engagement to offline ticket sales of a movie

Viacom18 Motion Pictures’ initial spends on digital are focused on sampling of the trailer and leading them to the community page of the film. Over the course of the campaign, there’s a perpetual engagement with the audience through a plethora of activities, once in the release phase all exposures are directed to encourage user clicks leading to the online ticketing platforms, thus maximizing sales.

Welcome to movie marketing 2.0 where movie makers and marketers have realised that if they build a community in advance, when the time comes, they can launch it in the community.

YouTube is a go-to medium to watch everything movie-related and listen to the latest tracks on loop, for this same community. The Facebook bot is also leveraged as a marketing tool which allows movie makers to incentivise users for engagement, and works as a native ticketing platform.

While building a community to sway the conversation around the movie, it is crucial to identify the true advocates. While identifying influencers, Viacom18 Motion Pictures looks for three key factors;

  • Synergy between the film’s positioning basis our campaign and the influencers’ fan base.
  • Adaptability of their creative style to the communication of the film.
  • Absolute reach of the Influencer in the target audience for the film.

To give you a perspective, Facebook and Instagram contributes most to first day box office collection at 21 per cent. YouTube comes in second at 18%(Source: Ormax Media Study).

Now a new trend of partnerships with BMS,, PAYTM ticket sales has initiated. Alongside there are alliances happening for discounts & cashbacks with tie ups for debit and credit cards which is boosting online transactions. For DigiOsmosis, if the CTA isn’t strong enough to make the person buy tickets, the complete campaign communication isn’t effective enough.

Also  Read: Expert Opinion: Rs 1.4 cr worth YouTube Masthead worth for brands?

Meanwhile Imran Shamsi points out that there aren’t many accurate ways to measure the conversion of a great digital campaign into offline ticket sales. Mostly, the success of marketing campaigns is measured by the collections of the opening weekend of the film. But conversations lead to ticket sales and as a marketeer one has to ensure that the film has lots of positive conversations going on for it before the release. He believes that in the near future content will be able to directly drive users to online ticketing platforms and that would be a much better way to measure and track conversions.