Pop-up prospects

Studios click online with pic promotion

Hello, online. Goodbye, cruel print world.

Google’s purchase of YouTube offers a glittering chance for studio marketers: a way to reach the exact audience that’s interested in a movie, in exactly the right medium.

It could also be one more dagger in the heart of print media.

Studios are diverting coin from print and toward online in record numbers. After spending many years as one of the largest ad categories at the New York Times, film advertising has fallen out of the top tiers; retail and real estate now vie for the top spot.

On Oct. 11, in the heat of the New York Film Festival and amid several openings, ad count for movies in the paper measured just over half a page.

TNS Media Intelligence reports pic ads declined by 7% at the L.A. Times last year.

Worse, the one demo newspapers are still good at reaching — the 50-plus crowd — tends to see fewer tentpoles, instead favoring pics like “The Queen,” which don’t have millions to spend on ads in the first place.

Online media, on the other hand, is now seen as a more potent, and suitable, marketing tool. “If you’re reaching 1,000 people in a targeted campaign, that’s a lot better than taking out at a full-page ad in the dailies,” says one exec.

As another exec tells it, when Apple QuickTime can inexpensively show your trailer, why pay tens of thousands for a still and some blurbs? That’s why Fox Atomic has suggested it may stop advertising altogether.

Online also offers another big advantage: CPMs are much lower. So studios can move ads online and pay a lot less.

Some other factors:

  • Marketers, especially in a nervous box office environment, like what’s new, if only because it’s not old. “If people were suddenly reading skywriting, there would be ads up there,” says P.R. vet Amanda Lundberg.

  • Young people tend to read blogs and Google RSS feeds, not newspapers.

  • The chicken-and-egg rule: Review coverage is shrinking, so there’s less need to take out an ad to counter a bad review. (Of course, papers say if there were more ads there’d be more reviews.)

So who exactly is soaking up the online ad dollars? MySpace, first off. The News Corp.-owned site is so hot it’s considering upping its premium film package to as much as $700,000, up nearly 50% from current rates.

Smaller sites like PerezHilton and Gawker are also in the game; witness Lionsgate’s online campaign for youth-themed comedy “Employee of the Month.”

The effects of all this are far-reaching.

At the New York Times, ad shrinkage possibly led to the decision not to review every film during the New York Film Festival. (Paper says the decision was driven by editorial.) And like the L.A. Times, the paper has seen only modest ad-rev success from its blogs on the kudos scene.

Alternative weeklies are floundering, too –witness the bloodbath at the Village Voice, where ad declines led to layoffs of contributors like film critic Dennis Lim.

At weekly mags, ad contractions have led pubs like Entertainment Weekly to slim down.

Online could cool, too.

Despite MySpace’s astronomical rates, the site has offered little proof that premium placement translates into substantial B.O.

All around town execs note that the pic with the perfect online campaign, “Snakes on a Plane” –which offered the coveted troika of targeted auds, high levels of engagement and cred with teens — didn’t set the B.O. on fire.

Ironically, the slowdown in pic advertising is hurting print at the same time celebrity magazines are enjoying a renaissance. In figures just released by Magazine Publishers of America, In Touch Weekly increased ad pages 39% since the start of the year; The Star is up 9.1%.

Consumer interest in Hollywood may never be greater. But Hollywood’s interest in reaching consumers has never changed faster.

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