Commentary

How Best Picture Nominees Connected With Consumers

This Oscar season, we can applaud not only the performances behind the most critically acclaimed movies of 2010 but, also, the online marketing campaigns that helped win fans and propel award-contenders into the social media spotlight. Frankly, with the amount of creativity the entertainment industry is channeling into such efforts, there should be an awards category for Best Online Movie Promotion.

With so much video content now widely available online, movie fans are able not only to find the official trailer for the movies that capture their interest, but also explore a movie before it opens. Curation of contextually relevant video content that surrounds a given release is an increasingly important part of buzz-building -- in many cases extending the movie marketing lifecycle to six-to-nine months before the premiere and continuing through the Blu-ray/DVD release several months later.

We see a strong appetite among our viewers for a first look at major movie releases several months before they hit theaters, providing movie studios a great opportunity to tap into and turn up this demand by establishing on ongoing dialog with consumers that generally peaks in the two weeks before debut. The magic is in providing viewers access to complementary content that rounds out a story -- in video. This might include a series of behind-the-scenes featurettes, exclusive interviews with the stars, an original mash-up that pays homage to related movies, music videos from the soundtrack or a countdown of all-time-great on-screen moments from past movies from the same director.

It is this more fully developed online entertainment experience that encourages consumers to act as ambassadors, not only watching and re-watching videos themselves but sharing this content with friends and helping build excitement about the movie in the social media sphere. This type of personalized entertainment experience, complemented by a multi-platform media campaign, in which consumers define their own pathway and engage with a movie over a longer period of time, is an example of the innovative approach to movie marketing that is well illustrated by two movies currently in the running for Best Picture: "Black Swan" and "The Social Network."

For the psychological thriller "Black Swan," Fox SearchLight gave fans the option of not viewing the trailer on the official website and skipping ahead to other content including an image gallery and downloads. Use of Twitter and Facebook helped build hype -- and is still keeping fans up to date on news such as award nominations. One of the more creative components of the campaign: The film's sister website, IJustWantToBePerfect.com, which features short videos called "fragments" and explores the psyche of lead character, Nina Sayers (played by Natalie Portman).

Sony Pictures Entertainment also made good use of online promotion for "The Social Network," with promoted tweets and heavy advertising across social sites, which interestingly included a home page takeover on MySpace. They also made a series of trailers which with their unique visuals inspired a host of imitators, most of which transferred the action from Facebook to some other online entity, from MySpace to YouTube to Twitter, all which were pretty humorous. In addition, a Tumblr blog has been used extensively to promote, given they didn't have Facebook as the hub for its social activity. And Sony Pictures created a number of short videos about the making of the film for an awards site, which also draws on images from print content and features quotes from the film.

Fox SearchLight and Sony Pictures took great care to promote these two Oscar-nominated films with multifaceted online campaigns designed to engage audiences. The reward for both is that many months later, these efforts are still living on and in many ways, evolving. Moving forward, marketers who don't integrate the many facets of engagement that online channels offer will likely struggle to build a similar level of excitement around their films -- no matter how groundbreaking the performances and effects may be.

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