OPINION: 3 Ways Hollywood Studios Are Finally Embracing Mobile Marketing

The following is a guest contributed post from Robert Ferrari, CEO of Bare Tree Media

It’s not an easy time to be a Hollywood studio. Movie theater attendance is at two-decade lows and digital distribution continues to break the tried and true delivery model. In addition to the difficulty the industry is facing with getting butts in movie seats, it’s also dealing with a perplexing question facing companies across many sectors today. How do we get the attention of millennials on mobile screens?

Digital natives seem content serendipitously discovering new content to watch with a flip of their thumb through Netflix libraries or Instagram stories. The pre-release film junket and red carpet walks of actors – supported by television advertising air cover – isn’t cutting it anymore. Afterall millennials and Generation Y now spend more time in front of their televisions.

So what are Hollywood studios to do? With one dollar often allocated to movie marketing for every two dollars spent on a film production, marketers’ budgets aren’t exactly vanishing. Increasingly, forward thinking studio marketers are embracing mobile marketing strategies to engage potential filmgoers and franchise fans. After all, if consumers are spending five hours a day on a mobile device you better figure out a way to get their attention there. Here’s a look at how Hollywood marketers are finally marketing to the vertical screen.

Extending Franchise Shelf Life with Mobile Games

With the lucrative businesses of movie franchises and sequels seemingly drying up, studios have been scratching their heads looking for ways to extend the life of films beyond one viewing. A new path they’re taking to both grow the appetite for these types of movie franchises and extend the shelf life of them is mobile games.

Lionsgate’s March release of the mobile game ‘Power Rangers: Legacy Wars,’ which launched in tandem with its Saban’s Power Rangers movie, is a great example. The mobile game was downloaded more than 6 million times in its first four days on the market.

Not only did this raise awareness of the movie, which was a smashing success at the box office, but it should increase shelf life for the franchise as it works to quickly bring fans a sequel. This could be especially true in mobile-game-crazy China where the movie was released in May.

China has become a growing marketing for Hollywood games that often incubate a fan base before a movie is even launched there. For instance, the mobile game Minion Rush did astonishing well in China without the Despicable Me being released in country. The game grossed more than $80M in China, built up a very engaged user base and ultimately led to Despicable Me 3’s record breaking film release in China this summer.

Character and Scene Extension Into Mobile Messaging

Messaging is an increasingly big use of consumer time on mobile. Flurry, an app analytics platform, estimates that 12% of all time spent on mobile is on mobile messaging platforms. Furthermore, A recent eMarketer report estimated by 2019 there will be 2.19 billion global consumers active on messaging apps.

Savvy studios have started to wade into engaging potential movie goers via mobile messaging platforms in a variety of ways. Disney and Pixar’s mobile marketing of the Good Dinosaur on Whisper resembled a Google Adwords campaign. When users on the platform typed in a keyword related to the movie, branded character content from the movie would appear.

Film-branded stickers and emojis are also becoming a growing native opportunity to engage mobile messengers while extending character lives and scene-specific content. Our own research indicates that consumers using branded stickers send 5.5. stickers per session on mobile messaging platforms.

This has led studios such as DreamWorks, Warner Brothers and Lionsgate to launch sticker packs and sticker-enabled apps to correspond with movie premieres for the aforementioned Saban’s Power Rangers, as well as, Wonder Woman, Batman Lego, Fantastic Beasts and Trolls. One recent mobile sticker campaign that corresponded with a national movie premier drove 350,000 sticker pack downloads and 100M impressions in under 30 days.

Future sticker and emoji campaigns within mobile messaging  could soon even include clickable links within mobile stickers that lead consumers to buy a movie ticket via an app like Fandango or see a trailer to an upcoming film on YouTube.

Looking even further down the road studios will need to examine how to best use AI and messaging bots to circumvent moviegoers only relying on word of mouth and their friends’ text recommendations for movies. Whether studios sponsor robot-given recommendations through a messaging bot on Facebook like andchill or opt for building their own movie recommender bot for their entire studio’s portfolio of films — the future of automated movie recommendations via a text or an iMessage looks bright.

Influencing Movie Choices on Social Media

In the five hours that the average U.S. consumer spends on their mobile device, more than one-third of that time is being spent on social media. Can consumers’ choices be influenced on social media? It appears so, as a past study by Twitter and Nielsen found that 87 percent of Twitter users over 13 said tweets influenced their movie choices.

This provides a big opportunity for movie marketers that are willing to create campaigns, which  move beyond only using promoted tweets or sponsored posts. So how do you create engaging content on social media that isn’t just another ad?

Perhaps the best digital marketing campaign to date for a movie release was Deadpool’s in 2016. 20th Century Fox’s online efforts spared no shortage of social media marketing highlights.

From lead actor Ryan Reynolds’ staged Twitter fight with Hugh Jackman, to running their own click-bait columns across Facebook like “43 Secrets the Internet Will Never Tell You About Kittens,” to knocking out Mario Lopez in an E! TV video shared over 2 million times, the movie’s marketers left no stone unturned on social media. This led to the movie garnering the largest social media footprint of any film since 2013 according to comScore and a whopping $135M opening weekend.

While this breakthrough campaign highlighted the true potential of mobile marketing to influence theater attendance, there is still a lot of ground to cover for Hollywood marketers attempting to reach consumers on mobile devices.

As Mary Meeker of of Kleiner Perkins noted in her annual Internet Trends presentation earlier this year “people spend 28% of their time with mobile media while brands are only spending 21% of their budgets on it.”

That represents a $16 billion opportunity that the movie industry must aggressively capitalize on if it hopes to revive Hollywood and movie-going in the minds of mobile millennials. If they continue to replicate some of the more creative mobile marketing campaigns highlighted above, they may have a movie-worthy comeback story on their hands.