MARKETING MOVIES

A nice article in the International Herald Tribune by Stuart Elliot (he writes the advertising column for The New York Times) takes a look at the alterantive marketing strategy being used by Hollywood execs in releasing “Take the Lead,” a mid-level Antonio Banderas flick.

The premise for the article is that the film’s studio, New Line Cinema, “wants to find ways to market movies beyond traditional methods like advertising on television and in newspapers. It is a search that is also preoccupying the rest of Hollywood, which is eager to reverse a slump in ticket sales.”

And the way it is doing so utilizes peer-to-peer, consumer-generated media, promotional tie-ins, viral marketing, causal marketing…the list goes on. Let the article do the talking:

Taketheleadmovie_02

New Line is sponsoring unusual marketing initiatives, like a chance for computer users to create unofficial mash-ups. Those are mixed versions of music from the movie, using material available on the film’s official Web site.

New Line is also providing a variety of blogs, online social communities and Web sites with mash-ups of music and images from “Take the Lead” produced by professional disc jockeys and video jockeys, which supplement the trailers for the movie being shown in theaters. The disc jockeys are also playing the mash-ups they produced during live events at clubs where they work.

Among the online sites where the mash-up trailers can be watched are Google Video at video.google.com; iFilm, ifilm.com: MySpace, myspace.com; TagWorld, tagworld.com; and YouTube, youtube.com.

New Line, which is part of Time Warner, has marshaled a phalanx of promotional partners for “Take the Lead,” including the Bloomingdale’s division of Federated Department Stores; Circuit City; the Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s fast-food chains owned by CKE Restaurants; and Sally Beauty, a retailer of hair care and beauty supplies. The promotions include sweepstakes, merchandise giveaways and even a dance contest to be held at local chapters of the Boys and Girls Clubs of America….The goal is to encourage consumers “to make a proactive decision to engage with this content, instead of bombarding them with ads.”

But here’s the kicker to the story: According to Russel Schwartz, president for domestic marketing at New Line, to market the movie effectively to its intended audience of younger moviegoers, “you can’t force-feed them” with traditional top-down advertising.

Rather, “it’s all about giving these kids our trailers, our songs and letting them take control,” he added. “Our assets become their assets, and that’s how they become fans of the movie.”

Mash

There are risks to that approach, Schwartz acknowledged, particularly because it yields results that are “not as trackable or researchable” as those for campaigns in other media, like television or print. “The methodologies we have in place are not that valid anymore,” he said. “But it is a new world, and we have to be brave about it.”

Hold on a tick. Is this movie honcho saying that maybe, just maybe, spending all that money on TV ads may not be a good idea? Is he implying that success shouldn’t just be measured by box office take on the opening weekend, but also how the audience interacts with and spreads buzz about the movie? And what exactly is this thing about letting go of assets? Will movies one day be made with the audience, instead of just for it?

Let’s hope so.

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