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Industry Report: Marketing

Marketing, Promoting and Licensing a Feature Film


- Since 1999, Anne Sanchez is Associate Director of Agence Mercredi. Created in 1993 by Arnaud Rouvillois, Agence Mercredi is dedicated to the promotion and partnerships for releasing movies in cinemas in France. Among the 600 films Agence Mercredi dealt with in the last 12 years, it promoted among others Le hussard sur le toit, Pulp Fiction, Le fabuleux destin d’Amelie Poulain, Kirikou et la Sorcière, the trilogy Lord of the Rings, Chicken Run...

(The article continues below - Commercial information)Cine Iberoamericano Int

When should a producer think about marketing?

Once you pitch your movie, you must think about marketing. We need to think about it very very early because there is strong competition. There are, on average, ten or fifteen new movies every week. There is no time for word of mouth. If the film does not have the expected success, it will be out of the theatres in a week. The film needs the audience to be there on the first day to survive. The film must be very well known when it enters into the theatres.

The first thing is to have early meetings, brainstorming. Early meeting are beneficial for several reasons:
-Can help in the choice of the voices; we can work with the producer on the soundtrack
-Can help in the development of allied products such as the video games, books…
-It is important for the technical partners or product placements that will create partnerships for the release:
-To give marketing elements to the licensing agent and the international sellers;
-To benefit time to create the artwork, the licensing guideline, and develop strong partnerships and promotions;
-To include the production of DVD bonus.

When we market a film, there are several cases. First case: we are doing the marketing in the home country of the producer, that’s the dream, the ideal situation. Second case: we are dealing with a foreign distributor and it’s much more difficult, because we don’t have always access to the talents, or to the producer.

In the case of a French movie, French producer we have always very early meetings. We get the producer, the local distributor, the international seller, the TV broadcaster, especially if he is a co-producer, the merchandisers, the licensing agent, the creative agency. We work the concept: what is the movie, what is the timing and we start thinking about the marketing. Because we can include potential marketing tools right at the beginning.

It is also important to develop products from the very beginning. You can’t do a video game after the film is finished and do it in two months. Producers must start right away to create it. There is the need to find partners, manufacturers…

The producers can add brands to the production of the movie. With Renaissance, we started work in 2001 for a release in 2006. It’s a futuristic animated movie, set in Paris and we thought: why not do product placements? We wanted to show the brands and see if the script fitted their image, to be in the movie and ask them to help us promote the movie. We got Motorola, Galerie Lafayette, Citroen, Coca Cola. Motorola fitted because it’s about technology. Galerie Lafayette wanted to show that in 2054 there would still be Galerie Lafayette in Paris.

IBM is a technical production partner. They financed part of the film and they are going to announce that they took part in the production.

It is essential for producers to give marketing elements to the international and the foreign distributor, as much as possible. It helps them sell it. It is always useful to involve foreign distributors from start, they can be involved globally.

Sooner the producer has marketing tools, the better prepared he will be to adapt to opportunities. Especially in merchandising and in promotional licensing. It is important to include DVD bonuses.

Even if the film is delayed, the marketing can go on. In our agency, we start 2 years before, or even 3 or 4 on the marketing. It’s the same for animation as live action.

What main elements should have a marketing strategy?

The first thing is to identify the targets: who is the movie targeted to? And who do I want to speak to? For a kid’s movie the producer targets kids but he needs to speak also to families. One thing that have to be recalled: the audience over 50s, it’s a major audience! Now it represent 25% of the audience. Seniors can make more money than teen movies. Producers and marketing people have to target everyone who can legitimate the movie.

Probably the most important factor is the release date that has to be decided as soon as possible. The date is tied to:
-The audience availability (vacation time for kids targeted animated movie). It would be much better to release the film in vacation time.
-Whatever date the distributor picks, the film will in strong competition. For example, only in December 2005, there was: Harry Potter, Kirikou & The Wild Beasts [+see also:
film profile
, Chicken Little, Narnia and King Kong!
-Occasionally the season can matter, for instance it would be better to release a snow film in February rather than July.

Another important factor is the expectations: what do you expect? The expectations will determine the number of prints and the marketing budget. The budget for marketing is decided between the producer and distributor.

Other marketing tools are linked to the items of the movie:
-The knowledge of the character (a “brand”), the knowledge of the director or the “Studio”; the use of famous names for the voices, soundtracks…
-The story and the content (including the educational aspect)

Is there a marketing which is specific to animation?

There are not that many differences between animation and live action. Of course in animation there is absence of talent: Which is not that bad since in terms of promotion you can do a lot more things. You want to put Kirikou on a pack, you don’t have call an agent and Kirikou’s not asking for 3 million to be on the pack. So you can do what you want with the character as soon as the author agrees. The author may be an obstacle but he can help the marketing. It is important to bring them to the first brainstorming. The producer and the marketing people should explain clearly what they want: the author wants his film to be seen too. The marketing expert let the author say what he likes and doesn’t like, explains the feel of the film. So we don’t waste time running after promotions he will never accept. It is essential to involve the author in the marketing.

You promote a brand, the next Miyazake or the next Pixar. So you promote the voices or the soundtracks because you don’t have the talent. It’s a whole world of marketing not just a poster saying this is a new movie. You don’t have an actor’s face so it’s a different design. Let them get used to the world. In Europe it’s more educational, there are values. So we look for association with schools with teachers, because parents love to bring kids to films to educate them.

What do you need for your marketing mix?

In the marketing mix, you need the calendar, the artwork, the licensing programme, the publicity, the theatre partnerships and the promotion, the events and the media investment.

a. Calendar: the calendar is critical, what can I do during that longest possible time? It is critical for an animated movie to build up its visibility before its release. The distributor can mix the different tools to ensure the movie has constant visibility towards its audience.

b. It is essential to define the artwork right away and get the logo as soon as possible. It is important to deepening the knowledge of the character, the design.

c. The licensing programme. Today the merchandiser likes a brand. Producers can get it but it’s more difficult with a new brand. It’s difficult to give a Pan European release, so it is essential to focus locally. There are two kinds of licenses: products and promotional licenses. The products can be: mugs, books, or more international products like Kellogg’s. The promotional license can be pan European. You can integrate it into the marketing not just count it as revenue.

d. Publicity: it is important to target the right medias because they are competitors too. For marketers it is essential to choose the right ones. Marketers must determine the timing of the elements and the articles releases.

e. Timing: it is important not to show too many images too early. Tease, we don’t show the whole movie. What works very well is an early presence with teaser posters and trailers, and a strong proximity programme for the trailer and poster instalment. When possible, it is very valuable to take advantage of previous animated movies releases or, if necessary, a teaser trailer campaign to be bought. What is essential is to exist among other movies: there is the need for events and promotions, snaking tie-in-promotion, decorations (Christmas time)…

f. Publicity. It is essential to find an angle for the publicity. Like in Kirikou one was Africa and he is an ambassador for UNICEF. With Renaissance, it was how Paris would look in 50 years time.

g. Partnership and promotion is close to licensing. If it’s after the release of the movie, it’s a license. If it’s before and it gives visibility, then the producer can decide if it’s promotion or license. It is important to choose the partners carefully because some may be really bad for your movie. For instance for Kirikou, Photomaton was good promotion because it is everywhere and visible for months. It was a great opportunity.

h. The media Investment. In some countries (like in France) TV commercials are not allowed. A new way of buying media is to increase teaser phases, and part of the budget dedicated to the new medias.

i. Poster campaign. It can be very useful to launch a teaser phase during vacation travels and a strong visibility a week prior the release.

j. Internet is a powerful tool. There is the need for an official website and an increased investment on Internet, especially during teasing phase.

k. Festivals. Cannes and other events are very important, like premieres, they give media and extra promotion.

Cartoon, the European Association of Animation Film
Cartoon Master Postdam, Germany, November 2005


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