Marketing movies online

How to get more bang for your buck

Ben Johnson
5 min readApr 10, 2017

The competition and challenges of film launches are only set to become more difficult over the coming years with the ongoing expansion of services like Netflix, Amazon, HBO, etc. Despite this pressure, movie production is growing and there is a fantastic array of new content entering the market each year. The range of stories and storytelling only seem to be getting better and better.

Together with Mirona we embarked on analysing the status quo and breaking down what steps distributors, filmmakers, producers and entertainment content producers in general can take to cut through the noise in trying to bring their content in front of the relevant audiences.

The final result is Winning Your Audiences. Movie Marketing in the Connected World- an ebook filled with case studies and actionable insights driven from our activity at Gruvi. Over the next weeks we will publish excerpts from the book here (you can find previously published excerpts here). The entire ebook is available to download for free on our website:

In the first part of the ebook, we discussed the socio-economic and political factors that are affecting film launches to highlight the increased competition and complexity producers and film distributors face today.

In this section, we will take you through some strategies that will allow you to maximise the impact of your marketing so that you have the best chance to reach and engage your audiences. We will describe some of the processes we use at Gruvi to ensure that media buy and creative are working hand in hand. We will also cover strategies for how to optimize audience interactions along the film’s life cycle.

Digital marketing presents many valuable opportunities to distributors looking to market their film and should, in our opinion, make a substantial part of the marketing budget for any contemporary campaign. The beauty of digital is its transparency, specificity, and scale. However there are a few important perception problems that need to change in order to better make sense of this complex advertising and communication medium.

The myth of online marketing

The myth of online marketing is that people buy what is being advertised from the first ad they see.

Excuse the caveman language but Rand Fishkin, in his excellent Slideshare presentation, makes this very valid point.

The truth is that digital advertising requires multiple touch points with the consumer over time and the building of an overall good experience — in order for them to remember the brand when they have a need for the product.

You are Marketing to Humans

If you start with the mindset that you are building trust over time rather than accelerating the user towards a transaction, this will meaningfully impact the way you run your marketing. It will also help you understand why it’s so important to build the conversation (chatter) around your film.

Your audience needs time

As Mirona detailed in the previous section, the pressure of blockbuster economics and constrictive release windows leads to a model of release that simply doesn’t work economically for most movies. The main reason is that the timing normally doesn’t fit with how most audiences find out about movies, let alone with how they organise their lives around going to the cinema.

Google’s 2012 Win the Moments that Matter — Adapted with Gruvi’s analysis of when and how the marketing budgets are typically allocated

Take a look at this chart taken from Google’s 2012 Win the Moments that Matter presentation delivered at UNIC (the same principles, in a more general form, are shared here). In this chart they plot the number of search enquiries for a movie title during the course of its release cycle. Note that this release was for a major tentpole production, with all the luxuries of a huge marketing spend, lots of content to seed and a dedicated marketing and social team.

The important thing to emphasize is how the marketing budgets are allocated for the early trailer seeding, theatrical and home entertainment windows of the campaign. In our experience, at least 80% of the budget is sunk into the opening week. We argue that this model is too short a timeframe to engage an indie audience, unless the film has real a thematic draw and a large pre existing audience base (e.g. Straight Outta Compton, last year’s stellar performing indie hit).

Short marketing cycles and release windows have another negative side effect. A recent study found that many movies were missing up to 35% of their potential ticket sales (on average) because by the time those potential audience members had found out about the film and decided that it was worth checking out, the movie had left cinemas. The phenomenon is termed Latent Demand and is a sad reality of the business. Once you’ve successfully activated somebody through marketing, if that person is unable to find a legal version of the film, your investment will have been in vain.

So we want to a make a strong warning to indie filmmakers and distributors:

One week before the premiere of your film is NOT the time to make a marketing plan.

If you are starting your marketing this late you are wasting your money. We recommend starting as early as possible, with the actual campaign beginning a minimum of 3–4 weeks before the premiere night. Planning should start even earlier. Below we outline the process of planning, preparing, launching and monitoring your campaign for optimal results.



Ben Johnson

I run a company called Gruvi: we help entertainment brands reach and build audiences for their content through technology and intelligent media buying.