Hunger Games insider talks social media secrets

Marketing pros say that as consumers are increasingly empowered in the digital age, producers have to harness that power to promote their projects.

Marketing TV and film properties isn’t what it used to be, says Blammo Worldwide partner and chairman Alan Gee.

“Back in the day, advertising was like rolling a bowling ball down an alley. The consumer was at the end, you bowled them over. Maybe the weight of the ball was the amount of money you spent,” said Gee at last week’s Playback Summit in Toronto.

“Today it’s more like a pinball machine. You fire the ball off, it zooms around in a billion places and you’re frantically trying to keep it in play,” he added.

Gee was part of a panel that tackled the issue of how to successfully market properties in the digital age.

Joining him were Tribal DDB Toronto’s Jason Chaney, Alliance Films’ Lauren Jacob, Prodigy Pictures’ Vanessa Piazza and Mongrel Media’s Danish Vahidy.

Social media channels like Facebook and Twitter have opened up countless new advertising avenues and presented producers with daunting new challenges.

For starters, their advent has changed the marketing landscape, empowering consumers to become marketing agents in their own right.

Chaney, Tribal DDB’s VP of strategy, and Piazza, the co-producer of Lost Girl say this makes listening to consumers vital to any successful marketing campaign – much like Starbucks has done by using social media to tailor its product experience based on consumer demands.

“[Consumers] want to be the voice, they don’t want to be told want to think. They have their own opinions about [shows],” insisted Piazza.

She said that this is particularly true of Lost Girl fans, who have created a community of blog sites and fan sites around the show, and spread the brand through social media.

But even with the added power of consumers, marketing a property isn’t any easier. Forming clear and effective marketing strategies that make the best use of the most appropriate social media channels has become more important than ever.

“You need to be strategic with your decisions. We don’t have the luxury of using everything out there or throwing a million dollars in the air and seeing what sticks,” said Vahidy, Mongrel’s director of marketing.

For Jacob, Alliance’s digital marketing manager, it’s all about having a clear timeline and being open to using whichever channel happens to be working for your project, whether it’s Facebook or Craigslist.

“Have a plan for your content distribution and always be giving the fan something,” she insisted.

She said this was the key to Alliance’s Hunger Games campaign, which spanned a year and a half and featured a newly released element every month to prevent the buzz from fizzling out.

Despite the need for new strategies, there was a consensus among the panelists that staying true to the fundamentals of traditional marketing is as important as ever in the online world.

“Knowing your product and knowing the audience is always key, as is trying to figure out the most cost-effective way to get the message across to the audience,” said Vahidy.

For Jacob and Chaney, it is authentic messages that are vital to a campaign’s success.

“Providing something that’s real and true is critical – not pushing your message through the channels, but getting people to openly and honestly deal with your product,” said Chaney.

“The message has to be authentic. Audiences don’t want marketers telling them what to see and what not to see,” added Jacob.

Photo: L-R Jason Chaney, Lauren Jacob, Vanessa Piazza, Danish Vahidy / Sean Torrington