“Shelter in Place” Digital Movie Marketing Strategy
Marketing Theatrical Releases When Audiences Are “Sheltering in Place”
If a title, previously slated for theatrical release, premieres on demand rather than in cinemas, a robust and exciting digital campaign is more vital than ever.
We must show audiences that these are big and exciting quality movies, heavy on emotional impact, spectacular set pieces, escapism... We want them to see that these movies are a cut above those they can stream for “free,” and are worthy of a premium viewing price.
And with most folks currently at home, constantly checking their devices to stay connected, social content has never been more powerful—or had a bigger audience wanting to be entertained.
Eventize, Bring Together Community, Have Fun, Inspire Joy
A new digital strategy must make watching these movies still feel like an event. Something to look forward to as a community, even if it’s at home. To do this, we’ll use digital fun to create enhanced at-home viewing experiences, and help viewers feel like they’re watching the best new movies with friends, whether they’re a party of five or one.
Tactic 1: Host Virtual Premieres to Make Movie Streaming Still Feel Like An “Event”
Give audiences the feeling of “premieres” even if they aren’t at theaters, with activations that eventize release dates and make fans view these movies as special. In fact, in some ways it’s better than a traditional premiere, because now viewers get to be like the stars. Why can’t the red carpet be at home?!
Promote a virtual premiere party.
Fans will have fun making it an (in)formal Friday, when you deliver an invite via your social channels to an online premiere party. We’ll create in-feed social media assets that build buzz for the virtual event, inspiring viewers to cosplay, sport party attire, and post pics straight from their living room carpet using a dedicated hashtag. To accomplish this, we’ll:
- Identify audiences to target on social media.
- Create a branded social suite of assets to promote all online premiere activities.
- Revive Facebook Events to cultivate interest, drive urgency (and a little bit of FOMO), especially since the platform is experiencing a surge in activity as people shelter in place.
- Facilitate the premiere party / activations on a platform like Zoom, Facebook Live, Twitter, Instagram Co-Watching, Twitch, Houseparty, etc.
- Community management, interfacing with fans to build hype for the online event and keep it popping in real time.
Get talent to join in!
One lucky fan could win the prize of being the star's “virtual date” to the premiere (chosen from those who pre-ordered, who follow the title on social, or who post using a sweeps hashtag), as the pair live chat while watching the film together. Alternatively, talent could delight all fans by dropping into the online premiere party as a surprise guest, whether via Zoom, Instagram Live, or live tweet watchalongs. Or they could participate in live-streamed interviews with popular press outlets that are open to real-time fan participation. All avenues are sure to generate publicity on traditional and social media.
Pass the popcorn (printables).
A premiere isn’t complete without glitz and movie theater popcorn! So, we’ll create branded print-at-home decor and popcorn boxes to make it like you’re sitting in the theater — giving you something worthy of photographing to share on social media. Bonus: Each can have a QR code that gives you an exclusive surprise (message from talent saying thanks for watching, clip, game, or AR activation).
Tactic 2: Facilitate Virtual Co-Viewing Parties to Bring Together Community
Promote “watch together” parties.
Reports show that people are turning to streaming during this time, but are searching for a reason to watch “together” and rally around the same great content. So, let’s create spirit-lifting social pieces urging friends to watch your film together on the digital release date or other significant (Internet) holidays / marketing milestone moments.
- Simple branded statics in the tone and voice of the film.
- Zeitgeisty GIFs (because everyone needs a good laugh right now).
- Light motion videos with clear CTAs, driving them to a digital co-viewing space.
What’s this co-viewing space?
If your VOD partner has the ability, fans can be issued a Zoom code at point of digital purchase to join a global screening hosted by the studio. Alternatively, we can ask fans to submit their proof of purchase and email via a straightforward web app that later sends credentials to a “secret” Zoom hosted viewing party.
Create branded “movie date” invites…
…That viewers can screenshot on Instagram Stories and tag/share with friends, inviting them to watch the movie at whatever time and date they choose.
Show that your talent is just like us with smartphone shot, but professionally edited, promos.
To promote digital viewing, talent could film a video of how they prep for family movie night. We’d edit the talent’s raw videos and dress them up with motion titles. Both the O&O channel and the talent could leverage it. Plus, it could get earned media since so many sites like People.com share celebs at home.
Launch movie night filters / lenses / AR games / GIPHY stickers.
If it’s not on the ‘gram, did your viewing party even happen? Let’s create fun branded filters, AR lenses, games, and sticker “accessories” on Instagram and Snap that honor the virtual movie date you had with friends. What would this virtual flare look like? How about…
- Get your instant glam on with virtual “outfits” inspired by the movie’s costume design
- See 3D glasses with integrated branding appear on your face, and popcorn fill your screen
- Branded games where audiences use head movements to control their avatar’s movement. Like this functionality, but with a very different tone and style to fit your specific film and premiere event!
- Branded reaction stickers to add movie night commentary to stories (e.g., bravo, two thumbs up, yasss!)
Don’t silence your phones - play a branded swipe-up game or app!
One of the few advantages of watching a movie at home, rather than the theater, is that it’s okay to have your phone out. So let’s add some second screen fun to take advantage of this! We’ll create a “quiz” that you can play with friends while you watch the movie together in different houses, and find out once and for all who is the biggest movie nerd. The game could be trivia about the movie, asking viewers to guess what’s going to happen next. And the interface could be simple text questions, incorporate clips, or even be “hosted” by one of the stars from the movie.
Tactic 3: Attention-Getting Social / Digital Promotions for Premium Home Ent Releases
Pre-Order = Pre-Movie Watching Fun
To drive pre-orders, we’ll create social media assets promoting a free game we can develop or exclusive extras if audiences purchase early. If it’s not technically feasible to send customers a unique code or link to enjoy these extra perks, we can instead create and promote an Instagram swipe-up game that drives users to your preferred place of purchase after entertaining engagement with your IP.
Early Release of BTS/Bonus Content
Of course we can’t host a Facebook Live Screening of the entire film—NO SPOILERS! But we can reveal a sneak peek of bonus or exclusive BTS content to drive purchases. Even better, we can ask talent to join the live stream or pre-record a bumper that we can polish and pipe into the feed before we share the never-before-seen clips. Of course, we’ll make sure everyone knows to tune-in by producing promo graphics to alert fans to the fun! And, to keep the momentum going after the live debut, we can edit and launch a video for YouTube so it’s a discovery tool that drives even more awareness for the digital release.
Digital Download + Dinner Delivery
Missing your classic “dinner and a movie” date night? Create the ultimate at-home movie night with double the fun—a digital download when you purchase a designated meal package through a fast casual restaurant or food delivery service. To support such partnership marketing efforts, we’ll create social media and paid marketing assets to drive awareness and help convert fans into paid viewers and diners.
Tactic 4: Social Content that Sustains Conversation and Expands Reach
We Watched Together Image Generator
We’ll make a site that allows two or more friends to upload pics that are then composited into a cute branded social shareable declaring you watched the movie together to show your unity…while stealthily promoting the movie as something that’s allowing friends to still hang out.
Custom Zoom Backgrounds
People of all ages and stages are using Zoom to stay connected, from homeschooling to work conferences to dance parties. Anecdotally in our own experience, we've seen our at-home students change their backgrounds to show their personal flair as well as rep brands that speak to who they are.
We’ll create a custom series of branded Zoom backgrounds for your title. These can be either static or video. For video, it should be something that is clever, funny, and/or interactive. It would ideally loop. But for ease of use, we think statics are the smarter way to go.
GIPHY Stickers are social currency among followers because they allow for personalization and brand love without requiring one to be a billboard. And, let’s be real, they’re easy to use and fun! So we’ll create stickers of characters from the movie with messaging “I’m not alone, I’m with CHARACTER NAME” or “self isolation is better with CHARACTER NAME.”
Digital Wallpapers / “Interactive” Templates
To beat the boredom blues, people are turning to Instagram to liven up their digital presence and/or bring new life to their devices. So, let’s lean into that and create custom branded wallpapers for your film’s Instagram Stories, where fans screenshot to get their "personal" wallpaper. Or we could create fill-in-the-blank templates keyed to different film themes that fans screenshot and repost, filling the answers using the stories interface and GIPHY stickers. For reference, check out the ones we created for Sony’s Charlie’s Angels.
Sing-alongs are a great way to engage fans in a unique way and “visit” them during these unprecedented times. We’d leverage talent to perform a popular tune from a musically driven film on Zoom where all could participate simultaneously, or we could edit a prerecorded video that feels organic in nature for social feeds that asks people to share videos of their performance on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, etc. with a dedicated hashtag. We’d then craft a one global music video with animated lyrics to be shared on both the film’s and talent’s social channels.
Virtual Dance Party
Kids (and parents!) need to get the wiggles out. And, let's face it, dancing just makes us feel good. As mentioned above, people are using live streaming and conferencing options like Zoom as a way to sing and dance together.
We would use clips from your title to cut together a dance party edit complete with action moves and boomerang-style gestures using some of the soundtrack's most danceable songs. In addition to cutting together the video, we would "mix" the songs, so it would feel like a character from the movie was actually DJing the party. We couldn't actually post this as a live video on Instagram, but we could post it on IGTV or TikTok, or format it for YouTube where families are sure to discover it.
Let’s make it happen!
Maybe you need to devise a custom “shelter in place” strategy that makes sure the right audience knows that your title is launching, and that they view it as a premium “event” movie. We can do that.
Or maybe you already know exactly what you need, and just want some help in creating high quality touch points that will truly shine in this new marketplace. Either way, with our roots in interactive, and our broad experience across entertainment verticals, we’re uniquely positioned to make it happen. Connect with us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can get started.