• Ben Johnson

Netflix and the Art of the Buzz

With the recent announcement that Netflix is planning to release 80 original movies in 2018, dwarfing the 38 that Sony released this year, we decided to look at the marketing strategies of the streaming platform vs. the traditional studios.

The ‘Opening Weekend’ Strategy

A typical studio approach has to follow a relatively set process, due to the need to get people to buy tickets and go to the cinema, a momentum has to be built and a following has to develop. This usually takes the form of the following process (Using Warner Bros’s Justice League as an example):


(Credit: Warner Bros.)

Teaser trailer

Full trailer

This is usually followed up with a big push on posters across major cities in the build up to the release and online with banner ads, social media campaigns and movie websites. The focus is always to drive ticket sales for the opening weekend, hoping that a strong start will carry the rest of the release.

Subscription Generating Buzz

In the early days of Netflix’s original content (House of Cards, Orange Is The New Black), a traditional studio approach to promoting was taken – limited to big ads plastered to every billboard in sight, trailers and newspaper adverts.

Fast forward only 4 years and whilst most studio setups are the same, Netflix have significantly diversified their marketing toolset. They still spend a sizable amount on marketing ($991 million last year) but they do so without the time pressure of a release weekend; Netflix are after subscriptions.

In an excellent article over at The Ringer, Victor Luckerson takes a look at how the streaming giant has perfected the art of using “buzz” to create a must-see aura around their shows and movies. Their spend can be much more surgical and experiential – Superbowl ads, Snapchat experiences and taxi rides – things that get people talking as a group.

That being said, Netflix still uses billboards but they do so strategically, reinforcing their position as an industry disruptor. Take their Santa Clarita Diet billboard takeover in Potsdammer Platz at the 2017 Berlinale or their billboard for Okja in Cannes.

(Source: Handelsblatt Global Edition)

By keeping their metrics secret, Netflix can paint their own picture when it comes to the success of a series or movie. All they need is the perception in the wider public of a “hit” for subscriptions to go up.

Compare this to the studios, who don’t have the luxury of a subscription base and so must continue with the same old formula. Some studios are taking note but the theatrical release schedule will continue to dictate proceedings to a certain extent.

What is the future? Are we going to become a society that floats from cultural “buzz” to cultural “buzz”, or is there a sweet-spot in between? Amazon seem to think so, but only time will tell if they are right.

(Cover image: generate on makeitstranger.com)

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