If you look back on Universal’s year at the box office, you see a studio putting out a steady stream of blockbusters, breakout hits and almost surprisingly profitable niche films. Everything from “Pitch Perfect 2” to “Minions” to “Straight Outta Compton” helped the studio to the highest-grossing spot in Hollywood.

So, what was the secret? Universal is known for its digital marketing experimentation, and Facebook was a big part of the online strategy for almost all its films. Universal and Facebook were at South By Southwest discussing their movie marketing collaboration over the past year and how the social network changed the way studios roll out their movies. Jim Underwood, Facebook’s global head of entertainment strategy, sat down to discuss how the platform is proving valuable in generating Hollywood hits.

How does Facebook work with movie studios?

“We’ve really seen explosive growth with studios as partners as video takes off,” Underwood said. The movie studios are figuring out how to customize trailers to work for mobile devices, how to target audiences by segmented demographics, and Facebook helps poll users to find out what movies stand a chance of success and with what audiences.

What’s the key to marketing a blockbuster versus a movie with narrower appeal?
“If you need to reach a smaller demographic and lift intent with young men, for example, or if you want to reach a 100 million person audience for a big franchise, you can do it,” Underwood said. “The best practice particularly for film marketing is reaching large audiences on a segmented basis.” Two examples: The movie “Unfriended” was seen mostly appealing to a female audience, but through tailored creative for men, Facebook helped lift the intent of that segment to see the movie, Underwood said. Then with the franchise film “Furious 7,” there were 100 million person audience to tap on the platform with a more broad approach.

How did Facebook help with marketing the surprise hit ‘Straight Outta Compton’?
“‘Straight Outta Compton’ reached a huge audience on the platform,” Underwood said. Still, it took some creative marketing to appeal to the many targets of the campaign. “There was a slight adaptation for creative to African-American audiences. We had done research to already see that they had high intent to see the film. They were very familiar with the characters, so we jumped right into the story,” Underwood said. “We also saw that there was an ability to persuade the general population. It’s one of the reasons the film broke out.” For U.S. Hispanic audiences, they used Spanish-speaking title cards over the video ads.

How has mobile changed the movie trailer?
“In the early days, almost every trailer to come into the News Feed had green bands on it [the opening card], so for several seconds you would not see any of the action of the film it would just roll for a bit,” Underwood said. The studio advertisers have removed those green bands, and cut up the traditional two and a half minute trailers to fit 15 seconds of action, leveraging the stars, and getting to the release date in a rapid-fire way. “It really helps to use creative production shops to create mobile tailored content,” Underwood said.

How is the trend of vertical video affecting movie trailers?
“We are seeing lot of creative now that is in the vertical or square aspect ratio, and that’s doing really well on the platform,” Underwood said. Facebook has found the key is mixing up vertical and longer-form horizontal creative. “You’re able to say, first to grab attention, to succeed in that three second audition, we’re going to have vertical tailored creative, and then pull people down through the funnel, have them watch longer content. And then follow up with a call to action to buy the movie ticket,” Underwood said.

The post 5 questions with Facebook’s head of Hollywood marketing magic appeared first on Digiday.



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