Online marketing is a rapidly evolving craft, and one that distribs know they have to harness effectively, but it’s not always clear which tools to use and whether they work.
Teen romantic comedy “Chalet Girl,” which stars Felicity Jones and “Gossip Girl’s” Ed Westwick, opened in the U.K. on March 16, and local distrib Momentum Pictures is now looking carefully to see if its innovative online campaign, which links an interactive trailer with Facebook, can nudge up the box office, and help revenue to flow more freely from ancillary markets further down the line.
“The key thing is that we wanted to appeal to the core ‘Chalet Girl’ audience, which is online and completely savvy with social networking,” says Jamie Schwartz, Momentum’s VP of theatrical marketing. “We wanted to reach out to the audience on its own turf, and give a value-added experience to watching a trailer, and use it to promote an ongoing relationship with (that audience).”
The interactive trailer — which is located on the movie’s dedicated website — has several “Like” buttons couched within the footage, which when clicked allow the viewer to find out more information about the cast, locations, music, clothes and makeup, as well as accessing information about the products and services of the film’s brand partners, such as sportswear company Roxy and travel firm Thomas Cook.
“It’s almost like a microsite in itself, held within the interactive trailer,” Schwartz says. “We are using it as a portal into the world of the film. It’s a really immersive experience.”
When a user clicks on the “Like” link, info is flagged on the user’s Facebook page, which can be seen by their friends, raising awareness of the film. “They are promoting the film themselves, inadvertently, just by interacting with the trailer,” Schwartz says.
Brand partners also benefit as users can link through to their websites. Those brands respond in kind by publicizing the film on their websites and elsewhere.
“?’Chalet Girl’ is a very brand-friendly film,” says Pippa Cross, one of the producers of the movie, whose storyline centers on a snowboarding contest. One of the brand partners on the film was energy drink company Red Bull, a leading sponsor of snowboarding events, which worked alongside Roxy to ensure the snowboarding scenes looked authentic.
“The point about brands in a world like snowboarding is that it would look odd not to have them,” Cross says. “You have to engage with the people who live in the world that you are invading.”
Cross says that for indie producers and distribs alike, there is no option but to adopt such innovative marketing strategies. “Stand still and you are dead,” she says.
In order to create interactive online tools, producers need to gather, log and retain all the information — the metadata — about a film’s production. That data enables the interactive trailermaker to create multiple touch points — for example, the link for the film’s setting in the resort of St. Anton, or even the makeup the female star is wearing — that can then, potentially, be monetized. “Chalet Girl’s” “Chalet Girl’s” trailer is kind of a pilot program.
The significance of such interactive trailers, says Peter Buckingham, head of distribution and exhibition at the U.K. Film Council, which paid for the trailer through its Digital Innovations in Distribution program, is in their use of this information. “The film industry really has not woken up to how important metadata is,” he says. Cross says it helps to have brand partners onboard from script stage, which allows the data to be used in promotional material from the get-go. “You start to build your family around the film, and you are using your data as you create it, rather than using it as a library after you’ve finished the film,” she says.
Liz Rosenthal, managing director at digital media specialists Power to the Pixel, says that for such interactive campaigns to be effective, it is important to start working on them at the start of the production process. “The earlier you try to engage your audience the better. You should do it as soon as you are developing your project,” she says. “Storytelling doesn’t end, and marketing begins. They are completely intertwined.”
The interactive trailer is at present just a marketing tool, but it has the potential to become a revenue tool as well, as the links could lead to online purchases of the products and services tagged in the trailer.
“The trailer becomes an extremely valuable piece of real estate for anyone who has a product inside that trailer,” Buckingham says.
In campaigns for other films funded by the UKFC digital program, which will segue, along with Buckingham, to a new home at the British Film Institute on April 1, links from interactive trailers to online competitions have also elicited information about the users’ geographical location. This is then shared with exhibitors, who use it to help them decide where to screen the film.
Rosenthal, who acted as an advisor to the UKFC program, says these tools are most effective when a film brand is extended onto other platforms, taking its fanbase with it. For indie producers, as with the majors, franchising is the logical route to follow. And so, as well as a sequel to “Chalet Girl,” it could make sense to develop a TV series or vidgame spinoff.