If you’re a movie fan, you might have every premium movie channel piped into your home by satellite or digital cable, you might have the most expensive home theater setup on the block, you might visit every independent film festival between Colorado and Cannes, but you really can’t immerse yourself in a movie unless you go online. That is, you can’t experience everything that a movie has to offer without going online.
“We look at recent studies, and three points jump out,” says Tom Goosmann, executive creative director at True North, Inc., which counts Buena Vista Home Entertainment among its clients. “One, entertainment information is a top reason users go online. Two, as broadband grows, users spend more time online and less watching TV. Three, whether online or on TV, users try to avoid ads. The obvious conclusion: You’ll miss a growing audience segment if you’re not online with an entertainment product like movies, and you need to offer users engaging, interactive content to overcome ad reluctance. Placed in the context of a site for movie enthusiasts, such ads actually help publishers meet user expectations. The ads become content.”
Destination vs. Syndication
Official movie Websites often offer a communal focal point for fans of specific movies to completely immerse themselves in the film universe, or dare we say, the film’s brand. The nature of the medium is to provide immersive experiences founded on two-way, active communication, as opposed to the lean-back, passive experiences that traditional media typically offer. Sneak-peek features, games, trailers, interviews with cast and crew, wallpapers and screensavers are just some of the content elements that can provide value to movie-going consumers and get them excited about a particular theater or home video release.
One trend within the movie marketing space is to bring these content elements to the audience, as opposed to bringing the audience to the content.
“For Buena Vista Home Entertainment, we’ve been creating what we call AdSites since last year,” says Goosmann. “These are in-page, interactive units that give control to the users. Without leaving the page, the user can stream in trailers, hear music, read about DVD features, play games, and so on. Publishers love them—users stay put and interact rather than clicking away—and interaction rates have been many times higher than banner click-through rates.”
With a syndicated model, advertisers do not necessarily have to rely on luring Web surfers from an engaging content area on a movie site to an official destination site in order to get their message across. Taking the content to the audience also allows marketers and agencies to segment their targets appropriately, often by where they are in the consideration process for attending a new movie release, or buying a home video or DVD.
Interaction from Every Angle
Destination sites within the movie category tend to be somewhat specialized, which gives advertisers the opportunity to market to different segments of movie enthusiasts. Standing in contrast to general entertainment sites are sites like Moviefone and Fandango, which allow for ticket purchases and can be used tactically to reach moviegoers in the last stages of consideration for in-theater releases.
Similarly, those marketing DVD or VHS releases might consider advertising with sites like the Internet Movie Database (imdb.com), which hosts an extensive informational resource for movie buffs, including plot outlines, cast and crew information and user reviews. Such sites are great places to find people seeking out a specific title.
Destination sites can also help to market movies prior to their release date, especially when trying to get the word out on a sequel to a prior release. WhatIsTheMatrix.com caused a splash when teasing the introduction of The Matrix. The site now has a second lease on life, promoting the sequel – The Matrix Reloaded. In the same vein, fans of Marvel Comics’ X-Men who registered at the official Website when the first X-Men film was released were treated to trailers, a game called Mutant Madness, live video chats with the cast and a chance to buy advance tickets to X2: X-Men United on opening day, all brought to them via an HTML newsletter known as The X2 Insider.
Whether marketing a new in-theater release or driving sales of a home video or DVD, marketers have many options for tapping into the various segments of movie buffs.
“Mass media like TV can establish broad awareness of a movie during the theatrical run, but online is particularly suited to translating that awareness into action later for the DVD release,” says Goosmann. “We can craft interactive content to re-position a movie or to target audience segments based on research during the theatrical run. We can deliver right to the ad interactive content that the user wants about the coming release, and can drive the person to a sales site or collect e-mail addresses.”
Interactive Media Immersion
Movies represent escapism for many, as immersing oneself in fictitious storylines and settings can serve as an escape from reality and routine. Interactive media can complement such movies by providing a two-way interaction with the film’s “universe.” Take, for instance, StarWars.com. A focal point for all things Star Wars, the site provides the latest news on the films, but doesn’t stop there. It also offers community features, e-commerce, FAQs, fan club memberships and much, much more, including a section called “Expanded Universe” where fans of the popular movie franchise can get information on novels, comics and games set in the Star Wars universe.
StarWars.com also features a database of collectibles and an engine to allow collectors to comparison shop for Star Wars merchandise across multiple online vendors. Since the site is a true platform for all things within the Star Wars universe, it allows fans to immerse themselves as deeply in the Star Wars brand as they might like. At the time of this writing, pop-up ads on the site were pushing Yoda and Darth Vader-themed credit cards.
Another example of immersive, escapist environments is the official Website for the movie AI, which was released in 2001 and featured Haley Joel Osment as an intelligent robot boy capable of emotion. Upon arriving at the site and after viewing the movie trailer, users are greeted by a chatbot that can actually carry on intelligent conversations. We know you’re dying to try it out, if you haven’t already. The URL is aimovie.warnerbros.com. Caving in to the temptation to be mean to the chatbot will result in its taking offense. But don’t worry – if you offer a sincere apology, the bot will accept it.
Involvement over Awareness
Film is a highly visual medium, and thus other visual media may be the best choice for generating awareness of a new movie. In fact, research released by DoubleClick earlier this year indicates that television is vital to all aspects of the purchase decision process for movies.
But online isn’t a linear medium, and it can impact the purchase decision significantly because the channel is not constrained by the limitations of the 30-second spot.
“Movies aren’t soap flakes,” says Goosmann. “They’re uniquely suited to marketing online. Unlike most products, we can actually offer an online sample, but unlike TV, we’re not limited to just a 30-second trailer. We can let users view a trailer in the ad, but we can also provide extra content the user can interact with over extended time.”