Cable Sankar



All about Publicity Stunts!, Sun Network, W


We have seen the marketing techniques and tactics used in India. How do they do it in Hollywood?

Though India produces the highest number of films globally, most of them are regional language films. Only Hindi movies are released beyond Mumbai across most / all states. But regional language movies like Tamil films are confined to only Indian metros except Tamil Nadu state. For next release destinations, the film has to cross the oceans. This overseas market is available only for big movies. Small movies do not have a sizeable market at all.

It is easy for giants like Sun network to reach their movies to the public by continuously telecasting advertisement tirelessly every five, ten minutes. Added to this, there are thousand ways like posters, hoardings etc. All this is only for the global Tamil population of 10 Crores.

In Hollywood, which is number two in film count after India, the films are produced only in English and thus at least five films are released per week. Apart from this, direct DVD releases, movies released in cable and satellite media, Internet releases all add up to around 10 to 15 releases per week. Movies from English speaking / viewing countries like Britain and Australia add to the tally. For number munching readers, 573 movies were released in 2008.

With so many releases around, no matter how big the cast or crew is (Hero value is only useful for overseas rights), without marketing, the movie would never see the light of the day.

Hollywood is a hardcore corporate area brimming with corporate companies and administrators and thus, their marketing ways are similarly king-size. For film marketing, they adopt almost every marketing technique used by a marketing arm of an FMCG major.

These promotion activities start a year ahead of the film release. They include trailers, hoardings, TV advertisements etc. Beyond this conventional route, the following avenues also are adopted.

Making your own

Oliver stone, the director of ‘W’, has given a speech in every available video interactive website, more importantly in YouTube and the likes. The speech requested the viewers to create a trailer of the movie with the scenes available in the film’s official website. Prizes were announced for the best trailer thus created. This advertisement has become super hit, more than the director himself. Following its footsteps, many making own versions are afloat now. Few on documentary, few on BGM and some more on trailers.

Online (Guerilla) marketing

This marketing technique uses sudden assault. The target audience isn’t aware how and who would advertise. This is the best suited for Internet advertisements. This would play with and tease the public’s psychology. Online marketing does not care about the success or failure of the movie, the only motto being to take back the investment and profit in the beginning itself.

All these movies would have a catch phrase like ‘Based on a true story’ or ‘Based on true events’. ‘The fourth kind’, released in November 2009 was such a film with Guerilla marketing. It talks about aliens kidnapping earthlings. The advertisement communicated that similar incidents happened in Alaska and the videos shown were real footages.

To make this look authentic, marketing company, by itself, would piece together articles and stories, and create bogus websites and post them online (sometimes a year in advance). Common cinema fan when enticed by the advertisement campaigns tries searching internet for relevant information. He is typically led to these bogus sites in his search and starts believing the whole propaganda. Later on, these cooked up stories are spread through word of mouth too. Studios earn rich profit from them.

Total budget of ‘The fourth kind’ is only $ 10 Mn. Due to this aggressive guerilla marketing; they reaped the whole budget in the collections of the first week itself. When studied the story later, the Guerilla (pun intended) came out of the bag. The film showed a small city of Alaska as the location of the plot. The city filed a defamation lawsuit on Universal. The studio confessed of all the fraud it committed on this film; closed the suit with $ 20000 penalty. Return? A massive $ 25 Mn!

Viral Marketing

This also has internet as turf.  Blogs, FaceBook, Twitter, Website and all other social media devices are used to spread the news about the film. The authenticity of the information is not bothered much. Justifying the name, the communication spreads rapidly. Most commonly, this is the advertisement format preferred by most films.

Publicity stunt

News of ‘heroine severely injured and falls in sea’ type news would be making headlines. Hero or Heroine would ‘accidentally’ have a wardrobe malfunction. You can expect statements like ‘connection with the maid; My husband is a Gay!’ etc.

All the above are publicity stunts. They go a long way in movie marketing. Remember Shasha Kohen of Borad fame stuck his bum, only clad with innerwear, right on Eminem’s face in a jam-packed auditorium? You must be too innocent to think this incident was accidental. Rehearsal was going on for months for this publicity stunt. Immediately after the act, they would vanish off the scene well before the fuss is over. Both the sides love these kinds of stunts as this brings in publicity and fame for both.

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