Social media and film industry

Syed Tashfin Chowdhury | Published: July 18, 2018 21:30:57 | Updated: July 19, 2018 21:12:46

The immense potential of social media at promoting a movie became clear through the success of 2009 Hollywood blockbuster 'Avatar'. A few months prior to its release, the social media campaign of the movie included provision of content related to the movie on separate pages in Facebook, twitter and Myspace. This content could be downloaded for free and used by fans.

During one social media event, fans were able to ask questions to the movie's director James Cameron who answered the questions in real time. This unprecedented act led to a buzz among audiences worldwide which eventually helped the movie earn $ 2.8 billion at the global box-office.

Mainstream films in Bangladesh have not been able to replicate this success by using social media for promotional campaigns. Most movies remain limited to the creation of pages on Facebook and official websites through which posters and other content may be downloaded. More recently, dedicated YouTube pages have featured trailers of the said movies.

The movie 'Aynabaji' changed the trend in 2016. It belonged to the category of 'independent movie'-films that are produced outside the major film studio system, in addition to being produced and distributed by independent entertainment companies. It was made at a total cost of Tk 23 million. The marketing and promotional campaign was running on a shoestring budget. But the film managed to check almost all the points in the list of digital marketing strategies for any contemporary film in the West.

Innovative promotional activities a few days prior to the launch of the movie and afterwards, turned 'Aynabaji' into the most anticipated movie event of the year.

Prior to the release, promotional content for the film were available on popular social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram, digital channels on YouTube and mobile apps like Robi TV and Rabbithole. Social media was heavily engaged with hashtags, personalised profile pictures, online competitions and more.

The social media engagements triggered an interest that was further strengthened by a publicity stunt-the male lead, played by Chanchal Chowdhury, was seen in character at the national stadium during a live international cricket match between Bangladesh and Afghanistan. A social media competition named 'Spot the Ayna contest' (Ayna was Chowdhury's character in the movie) had asked contestants to win prizes by spotting the character at the stadium.

The trailers and memes related to the movie encouraged fans to create their own memes and share these with hashtags that had the movie trending.

After the release of the film on September 30, 2016, stakeholders like celebrities, sports personalities and political figures were invited to private screenings. Their reactions and reviews about the movie on social media and to media outlets also helped. 

Flash mobs, meet-and-greet and other events at private and public universities across the country also occurred simultaneously.

As a result, the movie ran house full for eight straight weeks at 80 movie theatres across the country. It had more than 90 per cent occupancy over the next eight weeks. Upscale theatres like Star Cineplex and Blockbuster Cinemas had to increase the number of daily shows for the movie.

Fan base for the movie on social media grew from a little over few thousands in August 29, 2016 to 73,700 by January 29, 2017.

The movie also drew attention of non-resident Bangladeshis. Eventually, the movie was screened in USA, UK, Australia, India etc.

In just two months, the analytics of the digital campaign found that more than 150 million impressions were made at an expense of $ 0.01 CPM (cost per mille). CPM is the cost incurred by a promoter for 1,000 views or hits on a promotional campaign.

The popularity of the movie also led to its screening at Cannes, IFFI, Mannheim and other film festivals over the next one year.

During the 41st Bangladesh National Film Awards on July 08, Aynabaji won eight awards at the ceremony including best director, best actor and best screenplay.

Subsequent films in the country have tried to replicate the digital media strategy of Aynabaji. Only 'Dhaka Attack', released in October 2017, had an identical strategy. The box-office revenue of over Tk 90 million for this movie speaks volumes about how an effective digital media campaign can help a movie's business in this day and age.

Encouraged by the success of Aynabaji and Dhaka Attack, almost all movies now released in Bangladesh are triggering the interests of their audiences through pre- and post-production digital campaigns. Teams behind such films are opening dedicated channels on YouTube, opening Facebook pages, maintaining Instagram and also arranging shows with popular and local YouTube programmes hosted by YouTubers.

Independent movie movement showed the way and the mainstream films adapted the innovative digital campaign strategy. Social media now provides crucial support to the country's film industry.

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