Dan Light • Film marketing consultant
“The social web can offer incredible value for money”
by Gonzalo Suárez López
In June 2010, Dan Light and Saffron Tucker co-founded Glass Eye, a film marketing agency specialised in creating community, content and applications for the entertainment industry. The two had previously worked together running the interactive marketing division of the Picture Production Company. Cineuropa caught up with Light at the 2010 EAVE Film Marketing Workshop (December 1-5).
Cineuropa: Is the cinema industry truly aware of the increasing importance of the Internet and social media as marketing tools?
Dan Light: The cinema industry has many parts. Major Hollywood studios, which are my traditional area of expertise, definitely are. Compared to other industries, they are prepared to experiment; they understand the value of creativity and the value of an idea. Besides, films are constantly being made and coming out and this drives things forward. There are opportunities to experiment and there is money in the industry for it.
But also independent and European film industries understand the importance of the Internet. Although I’m creating content for the international market, at EAVE we talk about more serious and intellectual projects, such as documentary features or arthouse films. These are different types of films to sell and market on the Internet. Given the nature of the funding they require a different approach, and understanding where the value is in terms of social media marketing is essential. The social web can offer incredible value for money because you can start to build up your own community around your film for much less investment.
Who owns or should own, for instance, a Youtube channel or a Facebook page on a particular film?
That is an interesting question for me. In the case of a studio, a major, it can be confusing because perhaps both the studio and the distributor are investing. When talking about independent films, there are many different situations too. Producers should think of Facebook pages and Youtube channels as assets, as investments that, if the film works, become very valuable in terms of sequels and merchandise. Producers have to go into these conversations with the distributors to make sure they retain ownership of the communities they are creating around the properties. These communities become a big part of the property of the film-making process.
How do strategies on social media marketing by a standard European production differ from US studios social trends?
It seems to me that the difference exists more between independent to major rather than between Europe and America. In Hollywood it is the entertainment industry, whereas in Europe it’s called the film industry – that is the difference in the way they approach it. There are some local social networks important in Europe that are also important in a social campaign, while in America Facebook, Youtube and Twitter are the three dominant channels, but these channels also dominate in Europe, and so Tuenti and Hyves, which are popular in Spain and the Netherlands respectively, they have both recently been sold to Telecoms companies because they understand that Facebook is going to be a big challenge for them and maybe they lack resources.
I think more and more people are going to be looking at the same channels in Europe as they are in America. The other difficulty obviously is that there are many languages spoken in and around Europe whereas in America it is possible to create an English-language site and have an audience and work around the time zones. In Europe these things are happening at a different time of day. It is necessary to create individual pages and channels for each country and scale the operation accordingly. But again this brings the opportunity to create pages and channels that are much part of the campaign for that market. I’m much happier with that model than with the one in which you start creating one page and one channel for the whole world thus lose the value of looking at the individual markets.
Are upcoming changes in your professional field predictable? What is the future of social media as tools for film promotion?
I know that mobile is going to be a huge factor – it is growing so quickly. It is also interesting that Facebook has increased the number of users too, from 500 million members to around 600 million. It was said that 200 million access Facebook on a mobile phone and those people use Facebook twice as much as everybody else, so access through mobiles doubles the usage. That suggests that access to these contents through mobile devices is going to increase.
Other trends such as geolocation are increasing too. Facebook has recently launched "Places", and other platforms such as Foursquare and Gowalla introduce an ingredient of knowing where you are geographically into your experiences. This leads to an idea of social proximity – knowing how physically and socially near you are to the people around you.
Gamification is clearly going to be another factor up in the next couple of years. To be honest, it is very difficult to know what is going to happen. Remember how quickly MySpace went from being the flagship of the social space to being integrated with Facebook in order to keep up. Is Google about to launch a social product? Is Facebook going to become more and more the Microsoft of social media? Hard to know.
Are social media also valuable in promoting B2B?
I think so. We have a very few followers on Facebook, but half of them are marketing professionals and major studios, and these are the people who can sustain a regular workflow for us. Also their friends and the people we have been working with for a long time. When we post something on our blog it is also visible on our Facebook page and they can also click on it and read what we think on a particular campaign or project.
This is valuable, because they are very important people to our business. B2C is more focused on quantity whereas B2B is more focused on quality and there is no reason why you can't get value out of these tools. You certainly can but it requires a different approach in terms of the content you create and how formal you want to be when speaking at your business. As we have seen more and more small one- or two-person businesses are being formed.
There are also more specialists that have a pool of contacts and connections that allow them to work on different projects. Those people really are their business so they can speak about it and people understand that. All these people have an interest in trying to formalise those connections with the people around them and maybe it is not contracts or agreements but the social aspects of business, collaborations and relationships that matter more when talking about B2B.
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