Tuesday, 2 December 2014

“Successful media products depend as much upon marketing and distribution to a specific audience as they do upon good production practices”. To what extent would you agree with this statement, within the media area you have studied?

I agree that the marketing and distribution of a film is more crucial to the success of one than whether it is highly regarded by critics. This is due to a number of factors, such as; the production practices used in contemporary times to distribute and market films to specific audiences, how audiences respond with these strategies, and how media convergence targets a specific audience. However, there is an element of positive opinions from critics playing a role in a films financial success as well.

For example, The Grand Budapest Hotel has been highly acclaimed by critics and has a 92% rating on the website 'Rotten Tomatoes'. These positive reviews of the film interest people into going to see it in order to know what all the excitement is about, and to see it as they don't want to miss an excellent film. Furthermore, those who can't afford to go to the cinema very often want to go to see a film that they think is worth the trip- so if the film is critically acclaimed than they are more likely to go to see it. All of these factors contribute to the films financial success, meaning that the critics’ opinion is vital.

On the other hand, for big budget American blockbusters such as The Avengers (which had a budget of $220 million) they don’t need particularly good critical reviews to be successful. This is due to their spectacular visuals and A-list stars (for example Robert Downey Jr. and Scarlett Johansson) that appeal to the four quadrants, and therefore contribute to a larger audience and a bigger financial success.

However, production practices which allow films to be distributed and marketed for specific audiences are more integral in a film’s success than critics’ reviews. For example, The Grand Budapest Hotel is available in UltraViolet (UV) format- this means that when consumers buy a physical DVD they don't have to buy a film again online in order to have it on devices (like tablets) as they receive a redemption code with their physical copy that allows them to download it on to multiple devices. This distribution targets people with devices such as phones and tablets, so it targets mostly young people that are stereotypically more technologically advanced than those who are older. UV allows young people to access films easily and therefore they are more likely to buy the film, contributing to its gross- and subsequently its success.

Other production practices such as the actors used in a film also make the film a bigger success due to them appealing to a certain target audience. In The Grand Budapest Hotel there are some actors that perhaps target a mature age group, such as Bill Murray and Ralph Fiennes. Older age groups tend to have seen these actors work before, more than younger age groups, and may be interested in seeing their new work, meaning that they'd go to see the film. Subsequently, the film would have a larger audience and a higher gross- resulting in a bigger success. However, Wes Anderson has to have an ensemble of well-known actors in order to draw in audiences, due to his auteur directing only appealing to aficionados at times, whereas blockbuster American films can only have one A-list star in (for example Jennifer Lawrence in The Hunger Games series) and people automatically want to see it.

The size of a distribution company also allows for a film to be a bigger success. For example, 20th Century Fox are the world's second largest film studio- distributing massive commercial successes such as Avatar and Alien. The size and wealth of this distribution company means that they can afford to distribute their films worldwide and therefore can allow a vast audience to easily access their films, and they can afford a large marketing campaign to raise their films' profile and encourage people to see them. These factors tend to result in a huge gross, due to a film having a large audience, and a hugely successful film.
Furthermore, the marketing of films through social media using convergence promotes a film and therefore makes more people aware of it, and likely to go and see it. An effective use of social media to market a film to a specific audience was during the promotion of The Amazing Spider-Man. There was an official Twitter account for this film that revealed a scavenger hunt by posting a tweet saying 'Property of Peter Parker... Lost' with the latitude and longitude co-ordinates of direct markets in big US cities. The people who won this scavenger hunt were able to view a scene related to the film after graffitying the Spider-Man logo on a wall. This use of marketing was effective as it used Twitter, which young people mainly use- and therefore got them talking about the film and encouraging others their age to go and see it. This type of marketing is also exciting, on a wide-scale and appeals not just to young people, but everyone, once those that use social media have spread the word.
The marketing of The Grand Budapest Hotel includes a website that had clues and hints about the films plot. This wasn’t particularly exciting and only appealed to those that were already fans of Wes Anderson’s films, wanting to find out information about his new one. This therefore didn’t get a wider audience involved, like The Amazing Spider-Man’s marketing did, and resulted in a smaller audience and a smaller gross.

The marketing of specific types of products is also key in a films financial success. The marketing for The Amazing Spider-Man included the release of action figures of the film's version of Spider-Man by various companies such as Hasbro, which was revealed at the July 2011 Comic-Con. These action figures appeal to children and therefore may make them want to go and see the film and encourage their parents to see it. Furthermore, the fact that the Hasbro figure was revealed at Comic-Con clearly appealed to The Amazing Spider-Man's key audience- as these are the people who are most likely to be fans of the comic, and therefore will want to see the film. This subsequently got these people even more excited for the film, increasing its audience size, gross and success.

Furthermore, the marketing of specific types of products is also seen in the promotion of the film Dredd. There was a prequel to Dredd in the form of a comic book, which followed the life of the antagonist of the film (Ma-Ma) before the film begins. This raised awareness of the film in fans of the comic book, which were a large target audience, and got them increasingly excited about it and talking about it, therefore encouraging more people to go to see it and creating a bigger audience. This resulted in larger financial success.

How audiences engage with distribution and marketing strategies clearly conveys the effectiveness of them. For example, statistics say that 15-24 year olds make up the largest percentage of the cinema demographic- this shows that marketing (through social media) aimed at them obviously works as it encourages them to go to the cinema resulting in this percentage. This is why films such as The Avengers did so excellently at the box office, as it appeals to this age group. Furthermore, this is why it was so crucial that The Grand Budapest Hotel had a variety of marketing that could appeal to 15-24 year olds as well as the older generation who are usually interested in Wes Anderson films. Strategies were used like a viral video of how to make your own Mendl’s pastries (from the film) that may appeal to a younger audience, as it is quite unique and entertaining.

On the other hand, the fact that phone-free screenings and over 30s screenings have had to be created suggests that this is the result of such a large young audience that other age groups may not want to sit and watch a film with. This goes against the communal experience of going to the cinema, and infers that marketing strategies may not be as effective as it seems when concerning all age groups. So, this may show that there needs to be more marketing aimed at older audiences in order to have a more equal cinema demographic so measures like these wouldn't have to be necessary.

Also, there are arguments against the film industry's methods of success at times. For example, Lionsgate UK CEO Zygi Kamasa has said that he believes that cinema admission prices should be lower for British films. He said that 'a blockbuster can cost $250m and a UK independent film can cost $4m but it's £10 or more to see both. I think we should see UK films priced at £4 and US films at £10'. He believes that this would stimulate admissions and also increase the demand for British films. The lack of price flexibility makes people less likely to go to the cinema to see a smaller, independent, British film than a US blockbuster as they want to go when they know that it will definitely be worth it if they can't afford tickets on a regular basis. They don't want to take a chance on spending their money to see the smaller films that they are not guaranteed to enjoy.

Furthermore, at times audiences challenge distribution practices such as the use of UV. For example, redemption sheets that come with the physical DVDs can sometimes direct the buyer to websites that you need to make an account on, and these often confuse the consumers. This problem caused a backlash when UV was first launched. Also, some consumers have tried to sell their redemption codes online- taking away gross from the DVD sales. Another problem with UV is that companies such as Apple do not support it, and this is a problem with films that are released in this format that are targeted at a young, and mostly technologically advanced, audience that perhaps have iPhones or iPads and will not be able to use UV- resulting in a lower gross from the sales of UV DVDs. This was a problem with The Grand Budapest Hotel as this was released in UV yet its target audience of aficionados mostly had technology such as iPhones and therefore couldn’t utilize the UV technology.
Another example of distribution practices being used incorrectly was the fact that Dredd was released in only 3D in most cinemas, meaning people would have to travel to cinemas a long way away from their home to see it in 2D. This made those who weren’t Dredd’s target audience not want to see the film; as they wouldn’t be willing to pay extra for a 3D ticket for a film they weren’t really interested in or travel a long way to see it. Also, the target market of Dredd (aficionados) are not the kind of people who would want to see a film in 3D- therefore this is poor marketing to the film’s target audience, and would result in less gross at the cinema as they would just buy it on DVD instead.

In conclusion, I believe that the use of effective distribution and marketing to a films target audience is far more pivotal in a film’s success than whether the critics regard the film highly or not. Without marketing and distribution people would not be necessarily aware of a film at all, and would have no ease of access to it- meaning that they wouldn't be able to watch it in some cases. This would mean that a film would be a financial failure, and therefore what the critics thought of it wouldn't make much difference to its financial success.

1 comment:

  1. Sophie. Well done this is a very comprehensive essay. It would benefit however from using the YouGov profiles site to see who the films we've studied are aimed at and how successful the marketing strategies were. Move your point on the UV software not being suited to the needs of Wes Anderson's audience to your earlier section.

    For the Avengers you could use more details about marketing strategies and discuss Marvel's decision to use every previous film to promote the Avengers (also mention their announced plans for the next few years).