Wednesday, April 27, 2011


This blog is a direct response to the April 4 Hollywood Reporter article by Peter Bart. It is titled, “In Hollywood, the Glass is Gaffe Full." In it, Peter characterizes the senior executives in the film industry as being locked in a general fear of failure. From my perspective, Peter’s article is pretty much correct in as far as it goes. I will take it a bit further. To read Peter’s article go to: 

My experience in the world of film marketing is limited but I can promise that successfully marketing a film is no different than marketing cat litter, cooking sauce or any other product or service. The film market is a service industry that grew up with a lot of bad habits, and remains committed to hanging on to most of them.

From a pure marketing point of view, I see two ways to improve the process. It is a common practice to place responsibility for the Key Art (print materials) and the Trailers (video materials) in the hands of two separate groups. Instead it needs to be integrated and driven by one cohesive Selling Proposition. Having said that, I am sure that every marketing executive in the film industry is sure his marketing is fully integrated…it is not.

Back in the early days of film marketing, the One Sheet and other printed materials were considered critical because they would get reproduced in various sizes and posted all over town. At that time the trailer was more of a production function and the goal was simply to develop one that stimulated interest. The effect of this history is that there are creative groups around Hollywood who produce one or the other but rarely both. This separation internally and externally guarantees an incohesive environment. Marketing 101 says, develop a Selling Proposition that resonates to your target audience and ensure that message is present in all advertising and promotion materials.

Today film marketing is very different in that the printed materials are far less effective and the trailer is now absolutely critical. With a boost from the Internet, I can review trailers on my iPhone in seconds. What we have then, are senior executives instructing junior managers to hire the best outside creatives to develop POWERFUL trailers. It’s easy to develop a POWERFUL trailer. Have you noticed they are all melodramatic hype from start to finish these days? The idea of creating and communicating a Unique Selling Proposition targeted to the correct audience is non-existent.

Here then is the problem. Now, more than ever before, the film industry is subjected to heavy word-of-mouth promotion. That would be a dream come true in the categories I market in, but it’s a marketing tool that needs to be handled with skill.

The marketing goal for the film industry should be to identify all of the target users appropriate for the film and create a Unique Selling Proposition that they find compelling. Secondarily, and of almost equal importance is, never drive an inappropriate target consumer into the theater. Those people are not your friend, they are your enemy and you don’t want them viewing your film.

The operating state of all humans is, “What’s wrong here?" If they don’t love the film, they will be even more enthusiastic about spreading the bad word than if they liked it. It would take a very sophisticated piece of research to identify how many people you lose when you drive one person inappropriately to a film. If film executives had that statistic, they might stop developing POWERFUL trailers and experience a great deal more success.

So, Mr. Peter Bart. To my mind, the senior executives in the film industry have good reason to be afraid. The likelihood is that as our electronic information driven society continues to advance, it will likely get worse.


Keith Chambers

Keynote Marketing Speaker
Creative Marketing Consultant
(310) 473-0010

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  1. I have to beg to differ on at least one of the points you made:

    "…marketing a film is no different than marketing cat litter…". There's something a successful film requires that cat litter does not: a great story, well told. With cat litter or any other similar product, the content is pretty much the same so the way the product is advertised (the marketing message) is the determining factor of success or failure. Not true of films. The real marketing of a film begins when a script is green-lit. I've seen many bad films have lots of ad dollars thrown at them which turned out to be a dismal failure at the box office.

  2. HEY BILL:

    My observations in the blog, disregard the quality of the film, it is the quality of the marketing I object to. It is directed to the Incredibly POOR TARGETING in the industry.

    I don't disagree with anything you say, Bill. My point here is that the current method of marketing films is to drive as many people into the theatre at the earliest possible time. Unfortunately, due to the incredibly intense "word of mouth" in that industry, those who have a bad experience will kill you and the film will close fast. If I developed a can of chili that was very "Hot", then drive all chili lovers to it. Ninety percent of those who try it will disapprove. Fortunately the chili category users don't discuss their experiences like those of us who love films.

    That disregard to targeting has been killing films for as long as I have been in the marketing business. I do not expect it to change.

    I trust all is well with you Bill. Thanks for your response.