• Ben Johnson

The Truth About Planning In Online Movie Marketing


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The competition and challenges of film launches are only set to become more difficult over the coming years with the ongoing expansion of services like Netflix, Amazon, HBO, etc. Despite this pressure, movie production is growing and there is a fantastic array of new content entering the market each year. The range of stories and storytelling only seem to be getting better and better.

We embarked on analysing the status quo and breaking down what steps distributors, filmmakers, producers and entertainment content producers in general can take to cut through the noise to bring their content in front of the relevant audiences.

The final result is Winning Your Audiences. Movie Marketing in the Connected World- an ebook filled with case studies and actionable insights driven from our activity here at Gruvi. The entire ebook is available to download for free:

In the first part of the ebook, we discussed the socio-economic and political factors that are affecting film launches, highlighting the increased competition and complex issues producers and film distributors face today.

In this section, we will take you through some strategies that will allow you to maximise the impact of your marketing, so that you have the best chance to reach and engage your audiences. We will describe some of the processes we use at Gruvi to ensure that media buys and ad creatives work hand in hand. We will also cover strategies for how to optimize audience interactions during the film’s life cycle.

Digital marketing presents many valuable opportunities to distributors looking to market their film and should, in our opinion, form a substantial part of the marketing budget for any contemporary campaign. The beauty of digital is its transparency, specificity, and scale. However there are a few important perception problems that need to change in order to better make sense of this complex advertising and communication medium.

The Myth of Online Marketing

The myth of online marketing is that people buy what is being advertised from the first ad they see.


Excuse the caveman language but Rand Fishkin, in his excellent Slideshare presentation, makes this very valid point.



The truth is that digital advertising requires multiple touch points with the consumer over time and the building of an overall good experience, in order for them to remember the brand when they have a need for the product.

You are Marketing to Humans If you start with the mindset that you are building trust over time rather than accelerating the user towards a transaction, this will meaningfully impact the way you rconduct your marketing. It will also help you understand why it’s so important to build the conversation (chatter) around your film.

Your Audience Needs Time The pressure of blockbuster economics and constrictive release windows leads to a model of release that simply doesn’t work economically for most movies. The main reason is that the timing normally doesn’t fit with how most audiences find out about movies, let alone with how they organise their lives around going to the cinema. Take a look at this chart taken from Google’s 2012 Win the Moments that Matter presentation delivered at UNIC (the same principles, in a more general form, are shared here). In this chart they plot the number of search enquiries for a movie title during the course of its release cycle. Note that this release was for a major tentpole production, with all the luxuries of a huge marketing spend, lots of content to seed, and a dedicated marketing & social team.


Google’s 2012 Win the Moments that Matter — Adapted with Gruvi’s analysis of when and how the marketing budgets are typically allocated.

The important thing to emphasize is how marketing budgets are allocated for the early trailer seeding, theatrical and home entertainment windows of the campaign. In our experience, at least 80% of the budget is sunk into the opening week. We argue that this model is too short a timeframe to engage an indie audience, unless the film has a clear thematic draw and a large pre existing audience base (e.g. Straight Outta Compton, last year’s stellar performing indie hit).

Short marketing cycles and release windows have another negative side effect. A recent study found that many movies were missing up to 35% of their potential ticket sales (on average): by the time those potential audience members found out about the film and decided that it was worth checking out, the movie had left cinemas. The phenomenon is termed Latent Demand and is a sad reality of the business. Once you’ve successfully activated somebody through marketing, if that person is unable to find a legal version of the film, your investment will have been in vain.

So we want to a make a strong warning to indie filmmakers and distributors:

One week before the release of your film

is NOT the time to make a marketing plan.


If you are starting your marketing this late you are wasting your money. We recommend starting as early as possible, with the actual campaign beginning a minimum of 3–4 weeks before the premiere night.

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