Boost film and entertainment marketing results in a paranormal kind of way

Today’s film and entertainment marketers continue to grapple with how to best cater to the digital consumption habits and preferences of their audiences and how to offset declines in weak areas of their market like traditional DVD sales.

These challenges are top of mind for me every day as I work with our film and entertainment clients to help them manage the shift to digital with a particular focus on their inbox marketing (e-mail, SMS, social and micro-messaging) requirements. In principle, I believe that all marketers must first understand how to leverage consumer insight across their efforts to achieve or exceed their key goals. For film and entertainment marketers, these goals often include driving awareness as well as ticket and disc sales.

Historical studio spending has not always aligned with these three goals, as it trended towards expensive branding vehicles even as advertising shifted online. This left enormous opportunity on the table in several ways. It underused the power of inbox marketing to complementarily and efficiently each high interest consumers. It also failed to invite audiences to do things they can only do via interactive channels, like engaging with trailers, offering opinions and/or signing up for future communications and offers. In other words, studios talked to audience versus with them. Then came Paranormal Activity; a strong case that all marketers can benefit from reviewing.

The 2009 U.S. release of Paranormal Activity was perfectly aligned with current film and entertainment market conditions and drove unprecedented results. Much of the success has since been documented online. Here are a few of the gems.

On September 25, 2009, Paranormal Activity opened in thirteen college towns across the United States. On his website, director Oren Peli invited internet users to “demand” where the film went next by voting on This was the first time a major motion picture studio used the service to virally market a film. Twelve of the thirteen venues sold out. On September 28, Paramount issued a press release on Peli’s Web site, announcing openings in 20 other markets on Friday, October 2, including large-market cities such as New York and Chicago.

On October 3, it was reported that a total of 33 screenings in all 20 markets sold out and that the movie had made $500,000 domestically. A day later, Paramount announced that the film would have a full limited release in 40 markets, playing at all hours (including after-midnight showings). On October 6, Paramount announced that the movie would be released nationwide if the movie got 1,000,000 “demands” on The full limited release of the film started on Friday, October 9. On October 10 the counter hit over 1,000,000 requests. Paramount announced soon after that the film would get a wide domestic release on Friday, October 16 and then expand to more theaters on the 23rd. By November it was showing in locales worldwide.

What did this look like commercially? The 12 opening day theaters generated $36,146 the first day and $77,873 the first weekend for an average of $6,489 per venue. Eventually, the film grossed $107,917,283 domestically and $34,000,000 in foreign markets, with a total gross of $141,917,283.

Granted, not every marketer has the same task or goal as those that marketed Paranormal Activity. Some marketers along the chain will be more focused on increasing awareness and buzz. Others will be tasked with driving sales. Still others will be responsible for developing audience insights while building customer databases or tapping into new monetization opportunities. Despite different goals, what we do have in common is a need to stay integrated and leverage data we are responsible for taking action on to increase our results. What data and how?

The range is great enough to populate a tome. So, for now, I leave you with four action items and a few requests for feedback to get you started.

1. Incorporate ways to collect and take action on consumer response and insight to dictate your marketing efforts. What are some examples you can think of?
2. Close the loop with the consumer to ensure they understand that there insight is having a direct impact on success. Again, any examples?
3. Optimize creatives to appeal to different segments of your audience based on what motivates them to action. Are you already doing this?
4. Report back on the results of your data driven marketing efforts in comparison with prior campaigns.

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