4 Digital Marketing Techniques Movie Studios Should Use to Drive Attendance in Theaters

With sweeping changes in technology, evolving media consumption and advances in audience data habits, the model of marketing new movie releases is poised to undergo radical change. Movie studios have continued to shift portions of their advertising budgets to digital over the last 20 years to ensure movie promotions are reaching consumers where they spend time online. Today, studios still spend a significant portion of their marketing budgets on TV and yet movie attendance in theaters has dropped by 5% this year compared to the same period in 2016. This trend will likely only continue as consumers are provided more options for content and some studios experiment with making film releases available for streaming at home at the same time they are being released in theaters.

Today, studios still spend a significant portion of their marketing budgets on TV and yet movie attendance in theaters has dropped by 5% this year compared to the same period in 2016.

Within this environment, marketers want to know that they’re getting the most bang for their buck when it comes to promoting blockbusters. Particularly after a disappointing summer at the box office with lackluster turnout for films such as “Dark Tower,” “The Mummy,” “Valerian,” “Transformers,” and most recently, “Blade Runner 2049,” an efficient approach to consumer engagement is more important than ever.  This jointly entails recognizing avid moviegoers across their devices, delivering messages about their favorite theater or platform for content consumption, and unearthing potential viewers via a collection of online and offline consumer data.

Based on my work with movie studio executives, I have identified four ways digital marketing efforts can be fine-tuned to be more efficient, drive better campaign performance, and ultimately ensure moviegoers are attending their movie premieres. With fall in full swing and holiday budgets already spent, now is an opportune time to adopt these techniques in order to generate stronger ticket sales in 2018.

Focus on moviegoers

An efficient approach starts with reaching the right individuals. Focusing on consumers who are not likely to go to the movies is a waste of digital marketing dollars. Instead of broadly reaching the masses, digital should be used to focus on the consumers who have the highest likelihood of going to the movies– actual moviegoers. Having access to data on past ticket purchases at the title level and TV consumption at the show level to understand a consumer’s unique movie and content preferences is a great place to start.

Reach moviegoers on their preferred device

The average consumer now spreads their digital time across nearly four devices and switches from device to device throughout each day. As audience attention becomes increasingly fragmented, the ability to reach the same individual across all their devices, particularly their preferred device for a given contextual moment, is key. One of the primary problems with most cross-device solutions today is that they are simply tying devices together rather than linking them back to an actual, verifiable consumer. Movie marketers need a consumer-centric approach to cross device, which entails accurately recognizing a consumer across their devices and tying those devices back to persistent central profiles (as opposed to simply tying devices together). This practice ensures that all messaging is informed by a rich, historical and ongoing understanding of the individual, and equally important, it allows for 1:1 measurement without modeling.

Diversify and personalize your message

With digital marketing, movie studios are afforded unlimited opportunities to engage consumers. Just like any normal conversation, those interactions should be unique to the individual, different every time, and pick up right where they left off from the last interaction. It’s not just about connecting with moviegoers in the moment, it’s about having a conversation with them over time. The point is, too many movie studios deliver advertising messages that fail to connect to a consumer because the message is general and does not tap into a known trait or preference of the individual. By maintaining a connection with moviegoers online over time – instead of one-off connections around whenever a new movie is being released – marketers can deliver diverse and personalized messages that drive action.

Despite the focus on driving sales during opening, the top 100 movies in 2017 saw 67% of their total box office sales hit in the weeks following.

Extend your campaign beyond opening weekend

Despite the focus on driving sales during opening, the top 100 movies in 2017 saw 67% of their total box office sales hit in the weeks following. In fact, the global box office has been the saving grace for most films this year, particular the summer flops. Movie studios should consider extending opening weekend to the full opening week and extend their marketing dollars accordingly, as there is significant potential to drive action with would-be moviegoers in the days after new release.

Movie studios are under immense pressure to deliver better results in 2018, which will continue to be a challenge as consumers add more devices and are given more choices for video content across a variety of channels. TV, radio, and outdoor will continue to be important parts of the media mix, but the marketers who adopt a more efficient approach to engaging the right audiences via digital in combination with traditional marketing methods will have the biggest breakthrough at the box office next year.

Matt Weisbecker

Vice President at Conversant
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