If you’re an independent filmmaker with a feature film that’s currently on the festival circuit, you’re probably already planning the marketing campaign for your VOD release. And if you’re not, you should be because hundreds of new movies hit platforms each week, and it’s easy to get lost in the shuffle.
If you’re serious about making a splash, you need to be serious about your marketing campaign. But, that doesn’t mean you have to spend a fortune on your ads in order to make it work. You do, however, need to be smart about your platforms and your audience targeting.
Each film has a unique set of attributes, which means that each film requires a creative approach to reach its best-fit audience. The following case study (the first in a series) will help illustrate, in practical terms, how an independent filmmaker might approach this data-intensive process.
Case Study #1 — Adele and Everything After
Adele and Everything After is an award-winning, feature-length documentary from director Melissa Dowler. Following a successful festival run, the film was picked up for distribution by Gravitas Ventures and will make its VOD debut on January 30, 2018.
Smarthouse Creative was hired to manage the strategy and execution of the marketing campaign for the film’s digital release with a focus on driving iTunes pre-orders. With a limited budget, our goal was to position the film alongside major studio releases (and well-funded “indies”) on the iTunes pre-order charts to increase its visibility and overall title awareness among potential customers. Success during this phase of the campaign would be measured by the film’s rank on the pre-order charts.
Drawing from both the filmmaking team’s audience data and our own understanding of the film’s themes and potential audience affinities, we built a primary audience profile within Facebook’s ad manager and developed ad creative that would likely resonate within this group.
Step One — Top-Level Demo and Geo-Targeting
After considering a number of factors, including festival screening locations, demonstrated and/or historical interest in independent film (especially documentaries), and relative size of various metropolitan areas, we arrived at the following top-level audience attributes:
Step Two — Granular Audience Interest Targeting
Once we had determined the general characteristics of our audience, it was time to dive deep into the “interest” categories that would help us precisely target Facebook and Instagram users likely to pre-order the film based on its themes and subject matter.
Step Three — Creative and Copy
With our audience targeting set, it was time to build our ads. For this pre-order campaign, we wanted to A/B test a pair of film stills that were already performing well in organic Facebook posts, as well as a teaser trailer. The following screenshots are representative of the ads as they ran on both Facebook and Instagram.
Step Four — Ad Metrics
Again, with a limited budget, there wasn’t much room for error, especially when it came to audience targeting (and subsequent revisions). What follows is the complete first phase ad metrics as viewed in Facebook’s ad manager.
The still images were running for longer than the teaser trailer, but you’ll note that the overall cost-per-click (CPC) was just $0.20, a remarkable return on investment (ROI), especially for that budget. However, it’s not enough to just have a low CPC when you’re trying to sell movies. The real measure of success, if you’re being honest with yourself (and your clients) is how the film fares on the iTunes charts, where it will be competing with major studio releases and well-known indie films with much better title awareness.
Step Five — Outcomes
In this case, the low CPC (and high number of link clicks — 2486) allowed us to position Adele and Everything After at the #6 position (behind major studio releases, yet in front of titles with much larger title awareness) in the iTunes Movie store:
Due to the unique nature of each film, there are plenty of variables above that will need to be determined for your specific campaign, but, by following our basic approach, you’ll have the best chance of success (on average, of course).
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