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Sofia : de l’utilisation du marketing viral pour la distribution de films

mai 27, 2011

Europa Distribution workshop about viral marketing has been held in Sofia from March 10 till March 12, in partnership with Sofia International Film Festival.

The first talk gathered Brian Newman, who used to head the Tribecca Film Institute, Jan Von Meppen who launched VODO FILMS and Tilman Scheel, from Europe Finest.

Brian Newman opened the discussion with a pretty engaging speech about creativity directors and producers should use with new media in order to reinvent the process of distributing movies, and take advantage of the ongoing digital revolution in spite of suffering from it.
He emphasized on the decline of traditional business models for films, including windowing, rights’ territoriality, and more generally gate keepers in a business that went from valuing scarcity into a business where contents are overabundant, and the valuable output no longer resides into the content per se.

Nowadays, consumers’ time is more valuable than the movie as a cultural good itself. Engaging audiences should therefore become a priority for contents producers, in order to encourage one’s public into consuming these images more than a video game or UGC contents. Interactivity should also be a priority, since participatory culture has become the norm, notably because of the expansion of Twitter, Facebook, among other popular social websites.

He notably referred to some artists that took advantage of crowd funding in order to build a fan base that not only play an active part into funding the project itself, but also into marketing it. Such websites as KICKSTARTER, or INDIEGOGO can therefore give a reality to documentaries and fiction projects, relying upon fans’ niche interest into gathering a pro-active community to support the movie (or other cultural products).

Zoe Keating managed to fund her album using these methods, Vanishing of the bees, and IRON SKY are other examples of how Internet, crowd funding and audiences’ engagement could make a project happen, and help finds its audience wherever it is.

He outlined the fact that producers should spend as much time, not to say money, into the marketing and distribution of a movie. The developing time (for the screenplay) should therefore be capitalize in order to build a fan base, with such easy tools as a common Facebook page (in the US, Facebook has now overtaken Google for search), posting creative teasers about the movie, and not hesitate into giving away samples of the product in order to increase public’s interest. Posting creative teasers may eventually be an affordable way of launching a buzz.

He outlined some key words that should remain plugged into our heads in order to capitalize on change.

MULTIPLATFORM:
Young audience is agnostic about platforms, brands and the way they consume media. They don’t care about windows, let alone exclusivity about platforms. Putting out contents on multiple platforms has become a prerequisite in order to reach these audiences and drive them away from piracy.

TRANSMEDIA STRATEGY
Licensing and developing transmedia around a movie is a great way not only to secure the loyalty of the public, but also to increase substantially sources of income.

The MATRIX franchise is a great example of multiplatform strategy with a comic and a video game developed after the movie brand.

The afternoon went on with a polemic presentation from Jan Von Meppen, who launched VODO FILMS. Basically, the website capitalize on P2P networks in order to reach the wide audience that torrents attract. They give away the content for free and cheer up users into paying the money they want to support the work of the filmmaker. It also promote a selected amount of projects, and collects money in exchange for incentives, like downloading the soundtrack, or giving away unique items, crediting donators as producers, ect…. The site makes filmmakers sign a Creative Commons license agreement. Advertisement is another income source, notably throughout prerolls on the videos. The website now counts Verizon, among others advertisers.  The use of P2P network eventually notably decrease the bandwidth used and therefore cost for the platform.

Some French distributors in the audience were completely horrified by this presentation, fearing Vodo would legitimate piracy through kind of monetizing it.  Tilman Scheel’s presentation about Europe Finest also generated mixed feelings among the audience.  They fear an increasing competition from this new service that brings in theaters around Europe some classical movies or more Authors features that would not get a theater release in a given territory, mostly because no distributors bought it. They don’t work on marketing the movie, but mostly into making it accessible to exhibitors. In France, with an average 20 new releases each week, these classics back on screens could generate an overabundant offer according to some participants.

The next matinee opened Saturday with the workshop on viral marketing, followed by practical case studies in the afternoon.

Xavier Roth from Mercredi Films, a French communication agency in entertainment, started with a presentation focused on the various ways a marketing plan should be developed over the web in order to support the film career.

He outlined that the main trend over the web consists in participation and community sharing. Social, video, content strategy and brand identity are key words in 2011.  He also emphasized producers should rely on popular websites in order to drive traffic towards their contents in spite of trying to make web users go to a dedicated website that they would not have ever heard about (that is to say YouTube is no longer the enemy).

The web strategy then should consist in a savant mix of traditional marketing plans over the web and more innovative ones (specifically addressed to this medium).  The classical part consists into building strong partnerships with strategic websites, launching web campaign to hit one’s targets…
The innovative part resides into targeting the relevant blogs, invite web journalists to premieres, and go social. Creating a Facebook page is a first important step, but it needs to be updated regularly, to give insights on the shootings for example, and more generally to give additional value to potential fans in order to make them go to the theaters as well as support the film with a positive word of mouth.  An active follow up of web users reactions and more generally increased interactivity may also enhance the efficiency of the strategy.

Pierre Alexandre Labelle who founded Under the Milky Way , which precisely support digital marketing and distribution online, presented the new company. They already enjoy a partnership with Apple. The company handled the distribution of Benda Bilili online, ranking among top sales on multiple VoD platforms thanks to a good community management as well as strong partnerships with ITunes. The website also allows to manage all the social content posted from a single location, which considerably enhance the web marketing campaign and provide a whole range of data upon users.

Thomas Mai closed the workshop with an inspiring presentation of how distributors should shift from 1.0 to 2.0, the former one no longer being a key for success. Marketing should be connected; distributors ought to pull people towards contents notably via making free samples to be shared available. For example, when FOX worked on AVATAR, almost the whole movie was available via samples for free over the web. Movies are fan dependent, and it’s important to make them part of the whole adventure, at the earliest possible stage.  Word of mouth spreads so fast via social networks that producers/distributors need to prove the quality to the every day man. “Today the closer you get to the audience, the closer you get to the money”.

The website also needs to be sociable by itself: like buttons, newsletters access, loyalty program are as many easy ways to engage the audience, and make the experience more exciting. The website is necessary even if the distributor is also present on FB and Twitter, because on the website, he is the only one in control, and can really build the brand. Facebook is also a great way to promote a movie with people you know, Twitter is addressed to people you don’t know. It’s important to adapt the social contents on each platform upon which the promotion is developed. For example on FB, if all the contents you are posting are commercial oriented, people will get tired of it. You need to mix 80% personal and 20 % promotional contents to keep the audience interested. For a movie, the personal can be creating profiles for the main characters and continue the movie experience in a creative way online.  Therefore, the message become socially credible, especially when information that is not available to the public are given away on these websites.

Thomas mentioned a few valuable websites that may allow distributors identify and reach their target in a more convenient way than in the past. Howsociable.com is one of these, providing brand visibility metrics among a given targeted population. Tweetdeck for example allows you to connect with people interested in definite topics, and therefore reach a potential identified target. Bit.ly is a useful URL shortener that allows to track users, Hotspots on Youtube measures what part of the video gets more attention, and Facebook ads allows to sort targets according to defined interests (including a prism through geolocalization, age, sex, ect…). A sample of Thomas presentation is available here.

The last part of the day has been dedicated to coaching cessions, where distributors were able to initiate the information they had been sharing during the workshop.

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