What Brands Need to Know About Partnering With a Film

Posted in Consumer Promotions and Loyalty, Consumer Promotions, Film Promotions, Consumer Engagement, Cinema and Film

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From time zones and contract details to image approval and intellectual property, forging a promotional partnership with the next big cinema release can be fraught with daunting – but necessary – complexities, much like efforts to retrieve battlestation plans or chuck rings into volcanoes.

Mike Croston, business development director at Filmology, explains what brands need to know about film promotions, and how they can best prepare for a successful union.

DEFINE THE RULES OF THE PARTNERSHIP

The first step in any partnership between a brand and a film studio is about definition – defining the partnership, and each party’s responsibilities and commitment.

Once a brand has identified the film it feels will reach its target audience, it needs to work with the studio to create an agreement on both sides. It's essential to detail exactly how the partnership will work, and clearly identify what both sides are bringing to it.

Film studios can be understandably precious about their films. They want to strike commercial partnerships, but they also try to ensure that their brand dominates negotiations. It is important to establish what can and cannot be undertaken within the contract from the outset.

AGREE BEST VALUE FOR THE BRAND

Many of the brands we work with have never partnered with a Hollywood film before. It means most are unprepared for the imbalance between the brand and the film studio.

When defining the partnership, we can often negotiate much more value with the studio than it would normally be prepared to offer a brand, in terms of access to film imagery, for example, as well as securing prizes in the form of film merchandise.  Such agreements enable brands to redress the balance and ensure that they get maximum value from the union.

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BUILD IN FLEXIBILITY REGARDING FILM RELEASE DATES

One of the key challenges when brands start fleshing out a plan of action with a film studio is that the release date may not be fully confirmed. It means the date may well change because a competitor also has a film due for release at the same time, for example, because the studio wants to try and get the best exposure for its film.

We can’t control dates – such decisions are usually made in the hills of Hollywood – but we can take it into account in the planning stages and ensure that everything aligns. Brands need to be mindful of building in flexibility to the schedule wherever possible.

OVERCOME SEMANTICS – LIKE THE WORD ‘FREE’

A good example of what can and can’t be done when drawing up the initial agreement is the use of the word ‘free’. Many Hollywood studios dislike the word ‘free’ because they see it as devaluing their film brand.

On the other hand, brands often want to create an attractive proposition which says ‘buy my product and get a free ticket to this film’, to add value to the consumer. Of course, it isn’t technically free because the brand is funding each ticket, but it is often a real sticking point with negotiations.

‘Free’ is often described as the most powerful word in marketing, and getting film studios to understand how important the use of it can be in the right context is an education process. If we can’t overcome that, we work to find alternative phrasing, such as ‘make a purchase and get one of 10,000 cinema tickets’. Film studios will often be happy with this because it omits the word ‘free’ - it seems like a little thing, but it matters.

CREATE MATERIALS AND GAIN APPROVAL

Having agreed the exact definition of the partnership, reality kicks in. As the campaign starts to take shape, marketing materials need to be created. These can be anything from product packaging through to marketing communications such as TV commercials, radio advertisements, press advertising and dedicated campaign websites, not to mention PR and social media.

Each of these communication pieces needs to be signed off by the rights holders – namely the film studio. Typically, when working with Hollywood film studios, most of the approval process is carried out on the west coast of the US, so it can be quite tortuous. Time difference with the UK complicates things, but there are also many people involved so it can prove to be a lengthy process.  

BUILD IN CONTINGENCY TO ALLOW FOR (INEVITABLE) TIME DELAYS

At the very start, we build in time requirements for the sign-off of all such customer-facing communications. It can be frustrating when people are unavailable and print deadlines slip, for example, so we ensure that we build adequate contingency into the initial agreement. It's about eliminating any risk of surprise for the brand further down the line.

GET THE FINAL GO AHEAD

The final step is achieving sign-off of all of these plans, and making sure they're acceptable to all parties. Once this is agreed, the campaign is ready to go live!

HOW WE PUT IT INTO PRACTICE WITH THE SECOND BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL…

Filmology recently managed a partnership between The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, which was released in January 2015, and insurance brand, Staysure, whose products are designed for people over the age of 50. It was a perfect fit.

The film didn’t have a huge marketing budget behind it, but by partnering with Staysure it was able to tap into the energy of the brand’s communications and expand its reach. The union enabled both parties’ shared objectives.

The starting point of negotiations was April 2014; it's quite standard to take six to nine months from concept to a campaign going live. Staysure wanted to use imagery from The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel to promote its offer, which rewarded people who asked for an insurance quote with a free ticket to see the film. But the film studio was unwilling to have the word ‘free’ used in the promotion.

We worked with both parties to agree on using the words ‘complimentary cinema ticket’ instead. It changed the emphasis but still made it apparent to the consumer that entry was paid for by Staysure.

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