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Social media gains virility

Facebook, Twitter add to marketers' arsenal

Despite its soaring cool factor, it is rare that social network marketing can, by itself, make a movie a big hit — or cause it big damage. But no film marketer dare go without it.

Social media is one topic on the minds of attendees and panelists at the Film Marketing Summit presented by Variety Oct. 5-6 at the Universal Hilton. Execs will discuss everything from managing buzz to new opportunities in creative advertising to handling fast-breaking media outlets to partnership branding.

“No single media piece of a campaign is responsible for the success of anything — it’s about optimizing your mix,” says Gordon Paddison, veteran movie marketer and chief executive officer of entertainment marketing consultancy Stradella Road.

Social network marketing for films has created a glut of entertainment messaging as it has become part of every marketing plan. But for many film marketers, it is still just one piece of their overall plan — and, almost always, not the single biggest part.

Research from the likes of film tracking company OTX and Paddison’s Stradella Road confirm what many media executives already know — that fully 70% to 75% of all movie awareness for consumers still comes from TV advertising.

“Social media isn’t the magic bullet,” says Bob Marich, business journalist/author of “Marketing to Moviegoers.” “It’s just additive.”

Marich adds that social marketing sometimes takes on a value bigger than it can deliver: “The higher up you go among movie studio executives, the more unreal the expectations.”

Movie marketing experts point to Universal Pictures’ “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” as a film that might have had such a problem.

The movie got positive reviews, posted big social media numbers and positive messaging from Twitter, Facebook and other platforms. All this seemed like the perfect mix.

But it underperformed big time at the box office — just $31 million domestically to date against a production budget estimated at more than $60 million.

What happened? No one knows for sure. But observing the social media area might provide a key.

“You can get this echo-chamber effect,” says David Berkowitz, senior partner of emerging media and innovation for Dentsu-owned digital media agency 360i. “That people are just talking to themselves, and not getting out to other communities.”

Social media proponents believe online efforts overlay and touch all other marketing and messaging — TV, print, radio, public relations and other efforts.

“The key benefit for promoting a film in a social (networking) environment is driving virility, which creates an enormous multiplier effect,” says Nada Stirratt, chief revenue officer of MySpace. “This is a very rich place to start.”

Dan Greenberg, founder/CEO of social video advertising company Sharethrough, says his firm has worked on at least 30 movies in calculating “shared” material — video, tweets and other content.

Measuring a “shared-through rate” can give marketers a better idea of what is working and what isn’t. Fans of movies typically don’t share negative content. Two movies Sharethrough worked on — “The Karate Kid” and “Eat Pray Love” — had high share-through rate metrics.

“Movies have more interesting challenges than for any other kind of marketer,” says Berkowitz. “You have this short window to market films — and then it all goes away. It flies in the face of the social media’s best practices (to be around the long-term). You don’t want it to look like a campaign.”

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