Bringing Movies To Life: Experiential Marketing's Impact On Film Promotion
In an age where audiences seek more than just trailers and posters to pique their interest, experiential marketing has proven to be a potent tool for filmmakers
Experiential film marketing strategies have come a long way, and the roots of this innovative approach can be traced back to 1999 when ‘The Blair Witch Project’ disrupted the traditional marketing playbook. This low-budget horror film, initially made for a mere 60,000 USD budget, eventually raked in a 250 million USD worldwide box office collection. The internet allowed people to immerse themselves in the world of the Blair Witch.
The film's marketing campaign included the creation of an extensive website which hosted additional found video footage, drawings, and writings, allowing visitors to delve deep into the fabricated lore of the Blair Witch.
Experiential marketing as a way of promoting movies has gained popularity in recent years. The trends we see today play with various levels of engagement from small-scale to larger-than-life. These immersive campaigns not only create a buzz but also provide audiences with a taste of the movie's world, ensuring that the line between fiction and reality continues to blur in the world of film marketing.
Noting the use of experiential marketing in Bollywood, Tushar Dhingra, Founding CEO, Dhishoom Cinemas said, “Any marketer is trying to break the clutter and they're looking for a peg which will be newsworthy, which will attract a certain niche of people and will create what we want to see for that title. In the advent of digitisation, clutter-breaking is the key. During Ghajini for example, we got all our servers to shave their heads and look like the lead role. It is about creating that immersive experience, which is out of home, which is going to take you to an emotional journey away from what your typical day-to-day life is. You want to give audiences a little taste of what to expect when they come and watch the film.”
In 2017, the hit Netflix series ‘Stranger Things’ orchestrated a highly successful experiential campaign in New York City. Residents found themselves treated to pedicab rides by drivers resembling the show's character Dustin. These pedicab drivers cruised through city streets, blasting 80s music in line with the series, creating an authentic experience for passengers.
In an effort to create brand engagement and loyalty, Netflix remade the historical neighbourhood of ‘Little Italy’ in New York City. The production house took the neighbourhood back in time to 1975 with a revamp promoting the release of Martin Scorsese’s ‘The Irishmen’ in 2019. Netflix put up branded phone booths in the neighbourhood where if you answered the ringing telephone, it played a clip from the movie. Netflix hired actors to populate the neighbourhood and talk about the disappearance of Jimmy Hoffman and printed newspapers dated 1975 featuring news about Hoffman’s disappearance.
Insidious: The Red Door
More recent experiential marketing campaigns include Warner Bros.’ ‘Insidious: The Red Door’ where the passers-by at Hollywood Blvd were treated to a pop-up, ‘What’s Behind The Red Door’. The door would make knocking sounds and as unsuspecting people opened the coveted ‘Red Door’; they were charged at by the red demon featured in the film. The prank helped generate immense buzz around the film’s release, providing people with a real-life encounter with the demon featured in the film.
Released in July, despite opening to a 38 per cent Rotten Tomatoes Critics Score, ‘Insidious: The Red Door’ garnered a global box office collection of 182.5 million USD. The film surpassed Universal Studios’ M3GAN which was previously 2023's highest-grossing horror film with a global cumulative total of 180 million USD.
The Nun II
Warner Bros.'s latest release, ‘The Nun II,’ continued this trend of innovative marketing. The film had already crossed the 85 million USD mark at the global box office during its opening weekend on September 10th, and it has now joined the 200 million USD club. Receiving a push from its creative marketing approach, featuring a pop-up book stand at Venice Beach, California. Innocent beachgoers approaching the book stand were in for a surprise as ‘The Nun’ herself appeared to give them a shockingly memorable encounter.
Chetan Vohra, Managing Director, Line Communications & Weddingline, noted the impact of experiential marketing on creating reach for films and TV.
He said, “I think the world is turning to experiential marketing for anything wanting to leave a mark and films are no different. Giving their audiences a dipstick into the plot or the characters is a sure-shot way of getting them hooked. Walk down Times Square in NYC and you will find characters ranging from 'The Mask' to the professor from 'Back to the Future' and whilst these may be private entertainers - they continue to draw audiences. Now imagine this being done at a bigger scale by a studio.”
Dhingra emphasised the bright future for experiential marketing in film and TV.
“It's a growing market, the Indian box office grows by 10 per cent to 12 per cent every year and around 1600 titles come in early. You must make your films discoverable and that’s what these campaigns do.” He added.
In an age where audiences seek more than just trailers and posters to pique their interest, experiential marketing has proven to be a potent tool for filmmakers.
Ankur Kalra, Managing Director, Vibgyor said, “When we create immersive experiences for films or OTT it gives consumers an opportunity to touch, feel and get familiar with the content first-hand. Lately, consumers have been facing an overdose of content and are bombarded with new releases every week and creating live experiences is a sure-shot way of attracting them. The content can become relatable and real for consumers if they go through a first-hand experience through an immersive environment.”
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