Knowing a massive fan base already exists for its “X-Men” franchise, Twentieth Century Fox decided to enlist some of YouTube’s more vocal moviegoers to help promote the homevideo release of “X-Men: Days of Future Past” this month.
In a first for the studio’s homevideo division, it invited at least 10 YouTube channels from around the world to create videos themed around the film, that’s released on DVD and Blu-ray on Oct. 14. It’s already available on most digital platforms.
While Fox is remaining largely hands-off creatively, it did give its vloggers some help.
Late last month, the YouTubers, who flew in from as far away as Australia, Germany and Japan, set up their cameras on the Fox lot’s Stage 21, where “X-Men: First Class” was filmed.
On three sets were backgrounds, tables of props and mannequins wearing costumes from the film, while “Days of Future Past’s” writer and producer Simon Kinberg was on hand for interviews.
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Items on hand included Professor Xavier’s floating wheelchair; Wolverine’s claws; Mystique’s passport (with a photo of Jennifer Lawrence, who plays the character); plastic weapons; Magneto’s helmet and cape.
“We thought this could be a fun way to reach younger fans (of the ‘X-Men’ franchise) and marry up the content with an experience,” said Mary Daily, president and chief marketing officer of worldwide marketing for Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment.
By turning to YouTubers, Fox wanted to mobilize Marvel and “X-Men” fans, especially 18-34-year-old males around “Days of Future Past,” which is the most successful entry in Fox’s “X-Men” franchise, having earned $745 million worldwide.
Fox’s strategy was to let fans tell the story, and as a result, market the film’s homevideo release in a way that would appear less like marketing and more as a conversation with viewers.
Through popular YouTube channels like Australia’s “That’s So Nathan,” Germany’s RocketBeans.TV, Italy’s Favij, Mexico’s Esto Es Combo, the Netherland’s Banjomovies, and Japan’s Megwin TV, Fox felt it could utilize highly influential and relatble spokespeople who would entice their viewers to buy the film.
“The old ways of doing things are shifting and people are finding that younger audiences want to be served a story or content in a different way so that they can be part of the story,” Daily said. “Part of the appeal of YouTube is (viewers) are looking at people like themselves and they’re more likely to be influenced by their peers.”
To put it another way, junkets don’t really work for YouTubers — especially interviews with celebrities where they’re sitting in a chair with a backdrop of the film’s poster.
“They want things that are original and see and share things that they wouldn’t ordinarily be able to see,” Daily said.
Getting to play with the film’s props and costumes was a draw in helping attract the vloggers to the Fox lot (the studio covered the cost for the flights and hotel stay).
“You forget that it has a tremendous cache and appeal to people who don’t get to see that stuff every day,” Daily said. “Even for people who work at the movie studio.”
The shoot was developed with YouTube Space LA, which has previously worked with Legendary Entertainment to promote “Godzilla” and is currently hosting three sets designed under the guidance of Guillermo del Toro to hype gothic thriller “Crimson Peak,” as part of a Halloween event.
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YouTube has courted a number of studios to use its facilities for similar marketing campaigns. Fox also wanted to set up its “X-Men” promo there, but Legendary’s shoot made that difficult. Instead, YouTube staffers went to Fox’s own backyard.
Not only was the YouTube stunt the first homevideo promotion with a major studio for YouTube, it also was the first time Fox’s homevideo division had created a global launch event with vloggers.
They were chosen to represent different worldwide markets — including the U.S., Japan, U.K., Australia, France, Germany, Brazil, Italy, Mexico, Netherlands and Russia — where the studio is looking to hype the film’s release on disc and digital platforms.
The resulting videos will stream on each of the creators’ YouTube sites and will be promoted across all social media channels.
Should the “X-Men” videos prove a hit, Fox likely won’t be the only studio to turn to more vloggers in the future.
“You have to constantly look at how you get people to share and experience the content in a different way,” Daily said. “That’s what these guys will do. It’s the next evolution of marketing and puts their take on (a film) so they can share it with their followers and feel that they have an investment in the property without changing the property in a single way.”