Insights from latest DXTalks:Tech Innovation & Cinema: Trends, Fans, Stories

March 18, 2024
The DX Team
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For our first #DXTalks of the year, Martin Berg (DX CEO), Jan Runge (DX consultant), and guest Nikolaj Mathies, founder and CEO of entertainment marketing agency Vievo Media, talked all about current industry trends, social-first marketing, working with influencers, and collaborative storytelling content to promote films. 

Nikolaj has worked in film promotion throughout his career, most recently at digital marketing company GRUVI before launching his own agency, Vievo Media. His journey gave him a comprehensive understanding of the film distribution process, namely the challenges of tight promotional timescales and the rapidly evolving marketing landscape. Recognizing the shift towards vertical content and the dominance of social-first marketing approaches, Nikolaj positioned Vievo as a pioneer in leveraging social platforms for innovative promotional strategies.

We’ve pulled together the key takeaways from the trio’s deep-dive conversation including recommendations for how and where cinema operators and distributors can explore more creative marketing activity to build audience engagement. 

Rise of Arthouse Films:

Nikolaj is enthusiastic about the increasing popularity of arthouse films among mass audiences, potentially aided by the 2023 Hollywood strike, which opened a window for smaller, independent productions rich in narrative to fill the gap as blockbuster release dates were pushed back. 

This trend is likely to continue growing, offering new opportunities for distributors in the independent space to explore more creative marketing and to leverage niche creator and fan communities where previously they might not have.

AI Integration:

Martin saw 2023 as the breakthrough year for AI, acting as a wake-up call for the film industry, presenting both opportunities and challenges. 

In 2024, the initial skepticism and hype will wear off, and he anticipates a focus towards more practical applications of AI for improving efficiencies on the business and operational side, and enhancing the overall movie-going experience.

Evolution of Film Marketing:

The traditional, linear route to market for a film is no longer direct, nor straightforward. Audiences are tired of ads. The traditional approach of the single trailer and release date announcement, repeated again and again, no longer has the same impact and will struggle to cut through to the right audience.

People are not waiting passively to be sold to. They’re active participants in the marketing journey and want to be stimulated through engaging stories and collaborative opportunities. Films looking for audiences today have to compete with 24/7 news cycles, and a saturation of content across multiple platforms from the moment they are even announced. 

Instead, marketers like Vievo are exploring multiple trailer edits, diverse narrative angles, algorithm-driven content approaches, and audience engagement through storytelling around and beyond the film itself.

Role of Social Media:

Social media platforms, particularly TikTok, are essential for engaging audiences around films. You can argue that TikTok and Youtube are now entertainment channels in their own right, more than just ‘social networks’. They offer their users sophisticated creation tools and in-app e-commerce capability (e.g. TikTok Shop), giving huge power to the consumer to craft their own narratives, build loyal communities and sell directly to followers. 

We see social media users now curating feeds around the films, music, and topics that they love in the same way that Millennials and older generations would display their books or DVD collections. It’s a source of pride, to show off our individuality, and as status markers to attract like-minded followers. 

The difference with social media is that the content is public and can reach millions of people, offering so much more opportunity for operators, distributors and producers to capitalize on that user-generated content, tap into those creator’s audiences, and gather large swathes of meaningful data.

The Shift in the Marketing landscape:

The modern challenge of film marketing is that there are now so many channels, the linear route is no longer predictable, and the pace is dizzying. Martin observes that in the past there was Facebook (paid and organic), and you segmented the audience for ads. That was it. Now every platform is its own segment, has paid and organic, has different functionalities, different algorithms, etc. 

For Nikolaj, the challenge is that each film now requires a tailor-made campaign approach based around the unique narrative, themes, and talent every time - which is very difficult given the short time frames for film releases.

At Vievo, they are identifying the commonalities between individual campaigns to establish where automation or streamlining can be put in place, to allow for more time embracing creative experimentation, adapting strategies in real-time in response to audience sentiment, and collaborative content creation with relevant influencers. They can test at speed, not wait ages to see the impact.

Measuring ‘influence’ ROI:

Taking into account all the above trends, it is still difficult when you have to justify the bottom line as a business, to demonstrate the return of social-first, engagement-based marketing or the impact of influencers and creators. 

At Vievo, the focus is on the bigger picture. All the marketing strands play a part in driving visitation to a cinema, but the pathway to a ticket sale is rarely directly from an ad. Unlike a product sale, it’s harder to measure the impact of engagement metrics such as likes, comments, etc. 

So rather than focus too heavily on conversion, they look at social content marketing as driving awareness, word of mouth, and the opportunity to learn what  audiences want and are interested in by social listening. We know these factors impact the decision to book a ticket. We know that storytelling that prompts discussion around films generates buzz and interest. 

Whether it is film producers, distributors, or cinemas, so many stories are not being told that could be: behind the scenes, stories from film sets, the people who are involved. 

The beauty of social is you get to experiment multiple times, adapt quickly and learn fast what works or not. You’re not relying solely on one hit from a trailer to pull in an audience.

How can cinemas work with creators and influencers?

One of the biggest misconceptions that we need to challenge is that influencer marketing or working with content creators is inaccessible, expensive, or only for large-scale campaigns. These myths are one reason all of us on the call believe many cinemas have been hesitant to tap into this marketing opportunity. 

The reality is there are now many easy routes to accessing creators, whatever your budget. For example, through TikTok creator marketplace, you can input your content needs, brief, budget, etc. and get back a shortlist of creators able to meet that brief, ranging from € 70-€ 400 and you go from there. There are other influencer agencies offering this solution, and for fashion and retail brands, this is already a commonplace form of marketing. 

Effective influencer marketing is not determined so much by having massive followings, but more whether their audiences are relevant to your film or cinema, and whether they are actively engaged. 

Martin raises the concern around the authenticity of creator-made, or influencer content - since we know audiences crave genuine content, not ads. How can we ensure audiences trust the content made by paid influencers? 

At Vievo, the aim is to collaborate with creators around meaningful themes to develop content that is genuine and that the creator has a vested interest in making, not simply asking them to plug our films. That doesn’t work for audiences. 

For example, on a recent Danish film dealing with the topic of alcoholism in the family, we worked with creators whose platforms already addressed personal issues around alcoholism, and whose followers are interested and invested in this theme. The resulting marketing was genuine, meaningful, and created something original and interesting rather than just pushing the film.

What should cinemas or distributors bear in mind when working with influencers?

Provide a clear brief, but ensure the resulting content is collaborative - you are a co-creator, not just asking an influencer to do what they want. Trust their ability to speak meaningfully to their audience in their own style, but be sure to also participate in the creation with them through dialogue, a clear brief and scope, etc. 

Think of ways to work with influencers that encourage user-generated content and audience participation.

How will AI affect ‘authentic’ content marketing?

The general consensus around the table is that AI will continue to be a highly useful tool, helping streamline laborious processes, or speed up duller, less creative work - everything from more efficient video editing, to better dubbing (e.g through software like Runway). This helps us get more time back to focus on creative marketing, exploring new opportunities.

That being said, there is a feeling that AI is moving at such a fast pace it is impossible to make accurate predictions!

Developing engaging content strategies, whether for cinema operators, or distributors, and whether it’s with creators and influencers or in-house, remains a hugely untapped opportunity to engage with audiences and drive authentic word of mouth for films. 

Social-first marketing allows us to fail fast and learn quickly, with lesser risk, to speak directly to our audiences and gather valuable data from them, and helps future-proof the industry by adapting to how younger audiences consume. 

To find out more about how Vievo is building communities and content that echoes with the next generation of film fans, watch the full episode of #DXTalks

Vievo Media bridges connections between fan communities, films, and entertainment globally through audience-focused content. Nikolaj regularly writes about how the industry can leverage new technologies and creator culture to innovate how films are marketed.

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