Studio Marketers Push Direct-to-Consumer Approach During Pandemic

As Hollywood slowly re-emerges from shutdown during the coronavirus pandemic, studios have rejiggered marketing efforts to help sell content and entice a wary consumer base.

At an Aug. 31 online industry roundtable, marketing reps from Amazon Studios, Universal Pictures, Sony Pictures, Neon and Searchlight Pictures International discussed the marketing challenges for new movies in the COVID-19 era. Specifically, studios contend they don’t have the luxury of time to educate consumers about a new title as they did pre-COVID-19.

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“In the old days … we all thought that you had to launch a trailer early out, maybe four, five months out, and then you would build awareness and so forth,” Dwight Caines, co-president of marketing at Universal, told the roundtable hosted by Variety. “Now, we launch trailers a month and a half out and feel that we can still build awareness for that core audience.”

The marketers said social media and video chat platforms have become the new norm pushing a movie, the director and key actors to the consumer in place of the previous press-junket that often limited talent to time-consuming one-on-one interviews.

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“There’s something that’s very democratic and sort of egalitarian about being able to work with the talent in different time zones via technology,” said Searchlight’s Rebecca Kearey.

Marketers said the move toward premium VOD and transactional VOD for some new-release titles has been helped by advancements in technology that enable talent to conduct many more interviews from the comfort of their home.

“That’s one of the elements that when we return to life as we knew it, a theatrical experience, we will still keep some of those remote publicity and campaign opportunities,” Caines said.

Christian Davin, head of movie marketing at Amazon, said the push toward PVOD and expedited transactional VOD allows studios “to pierce the cultural zeitgeist in a global way.”

“When you have a singular day and date release around the world, it no longer matters if you live near a theater … or if you’re in a country where in a traditional model the movie wouldn’t get to you for a couple of weeks. You can, through the power of technology, have a shared universal experience with people across the globe,” Davin said.

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