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The evolution of film marketing

“Has there ever been a better movie marketing campaign than ‘Deadpool 2’?” asked the website Quartz earlier this year.

It’s a tough question to answer given that, although it is the third-highest grossing ‘R’ rated film in history in the States (it’s predecessor is the first), it is still some way behind the likes of Avatar and Titanic on the all-comers list.

So we need to be a little subjective in evaluating that particular movie but what is without doubt is that the film’s irreverent humour, inspired in no small part by the fact it’s something of a passion project for star and producer Ryan Reynolds, was faithfully recreated in a campaign that generated an incredible amount of buzz by employing some pretty disruptive tactics.

From distributing ‘Deadpool-ised’ copies of popular Blu-rays including Predator and Fight Club to Walmart, to engaging global superstars such as David Beckham, the campaign prompted writer Blake Northcott to tweet “we’re all living in 2018. Deadpool 2’s marketing team is living in 3018.”

And this is the important lesson for studios.

Film marketing has to adapt to meet the challenge of blockbuster TV to maintain its place at the pinnacle of the drama pantheon and keep putting bums on seats in cinemas worldwide.

As Deadpool 2 made clear, talent remains key to meeting this challenge but not every title will enjoy or benefit from the commitment shown by Reynolds who seems, to all intents and purposes, to have become Deadpool in real life.

So the traditional junket and premiere approach to film marketing is having to change and digital content is becoming a preferred channel for marketers to extend characters beyond the confines of the movie title itself, to put characters at the heart of campaigns rather than relying on granting  media access to acting talent themselves to generate publicity as has been the case for decades.

As a result, Leicester Square is a little quieter as high six figure investments in premieres become less frequent, reserved only for the biggest, most bankable titles. And even then, as we saw with the premiere of Star Wars: The Last Jedi at the Royal Albert Hall, the idea of what constitutes a film premiere is being turned on its head.

Not only was the production itself incredible but the distribution strategy reflected the need to both reach fans in the digital world as well as to partner with commercial brands to help fund such a spectacular event.

Yes the royal family were there, the cast were in attendance and the place was crawling with Stormtroopers, but the real impact was made online, with exclusive access to the live stream of the event granted to O2 Priority customers.

As for the traditional tropes of film marketing, to quote Deadpool, quoting Thor, quoting Black Widow:

“the sun’s getting real low”.

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