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Studios Entice Prime Demo Online

5 Sep, 2006 By: Thomas K. Arnold

Universal Studios Home Entertainment promoted its Dave ChappelleƆs Block Party online.

To promote the June 13 DVD release of Dave Chappelle's Block Party, Universal Studios Home Entertainment focused its marketing efforts on the Web. The studio teamed with video-sharing site Revver.com on a contest in which users were asked to create their own brief videos, inviting the comedian to a fictional “block party” of their own.

The winner, based on user votes, would win an all-expense-paid trip to New York City.

The contest ran the entire month and attracted a cadre of quirky entries, from a rapping yarn puppet to a hand-drawn cartoon of a loser badly in need of some fun. The winning video was a futuristic look at a block party set in the year 5000, complete with dancing androids and men with foil hats.

“DVD consumers are increasingly going online to get their entertainment information,” said Ken Graffeo, EVP of marketing for Universal Studios Home Entertainment. “To that end, Internet marketing has become a key element of all our DVD campaigns.”

Universal isn't alone. DVD marketers from the biggest Hollywood studios to the smallest niche suppliers are flocking to the Web, promoting their latest releases through trailers, ads and contests on video-sharing sites such as YouTube.com, Google Video, Revver.com and vMix.com.

Studios' DVD marketers are eager to tap into the growing number of eyes drawn to these burgeoning sites in lieu of traditional media such as network and cable television.

“Our core consumer, 18 to 34, has never seen a world without the Internet, so you can't just rely on traditional media to reach them,” said Lexine Wong, senior EVP of worldwide marketing for Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, whose parent, Sony Pictures Entertainment, earlier this month plunked down $65 million to buy video-sharing site Grouper.

“According to statistics our agency gave us, in 1965 with just three spots you could reach 80% of the 18- to 49-year-old audience,” Wong said. “In 2004, it took 125 spots. Media has become so fragmented, so to use your money more wisely and efficiently, you have to reach consumers where they are and give them instant gratification.”

How powerful are these video-sharing sites? YouTube alone now streams upwards of 100 million video clips daily, from baby's first steps to seductive video lap dances, from grisly Iraqi war footage to animated serials by up-and-coming filmmakers. And something as simple as posting a trailer on YouTube — or any of the estimated 200 other video-sharing sites that have launched in the past six months — is now standard practice for most studios and independent DVD suppliers.

Sony, for example, typically posts trailers of new DVD releases to as many as 50 video-sharing sites, depending on the title. The studio's growing batch of direct-to-video titles get the most Web promotion, “since they may not have as much funds for traditional broadcast campaigns,” Wong said.

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, too, champions the use of video-sharing Web sites for most of its “new release, catalog, TV DVD and acquisition titles,” although the studio limits its trailers to sites that do not accept pirated content, according to Duncan Plexico, executive director of worldwide digital marketing.

“Sites such as vMix.com offer us the viral pass-along we seek while protecting our intellectual property,” he said. “The Internet is the most efficient media vehicle to reach a wide array of consumers, but more specifically the younger, sophisticated audience that may have migrated away from TV and radio.”

Plexico said video-sharing sites are an effective way to reach males between ages 18 and 24. To maximize exposure, Fox keeps trailers up a minimum of four weeks. “Allowing consumers to sample your product online 24/7 is a key to converting to a sale,” Plexico said.

Anne Parducci, EVP of marketing for Lionsgate, agrees.

“Viral video sites offer a unique way to highlight our releases to a very targeted group,” she said. “There's also a ‘cool' factor to these sites, and a word-of-mouth element that elevates our traditional marketing elements to the next level.”

Increasingly, promoting DVDs on video-sharing Web sites has grown beyond simply posting trailers — as evidenced by Universal's Chappelle promotion with Revver.

“To drive a title's core audience beyond just passively viewing a trailer or banner ad, it is critical to develop creative concepts that resonate on many levels of interactivity,” Graffeo said.

Several studios are buying interactive commercials on Revver, which is unique in that it tacks spots onto the end of video clips and then splits revenue, 50-50, with the poster. Warner Home Video for several weeks has been running commercials for V for Vendetta. Click on the opening screen, and a series of pop-ups takes you to an interactive microsite filled with detailed information about the DVD as well as storyboard galleries, downloadable desktops and more.

To promote National Lampoon's Dorm Daze 2: College at Sea, Lionsgate is peppering video Web sites such as YouTube, Revver and Google Video not just with trailers, but also exclusive clips and a music video from the DVD.

Lionsgate also is staging a contest on KnuckleheadVideo.com, the newest National Lampoon Web site, to promote the Dorm Daze 2 DVD. Users are encouraged to post their own homemade videos so users can vote on their favorite. The creator of the video with the most votes wins a trip for two to Cabo San Lucas; runner-up prizes include Dorm Daze 2 DVDs and movie posters.

Independent DVD suppliers also are harnessing the power of video-sharing Web sites. Palm Pictures routinely posts trailers of new releases on YouTube, MySpace Video and Google Video. “We have also done some contests in which we have encouraged fans to upload their own footage, or to edit our films and make their own trailers,” said Erik Martin, Palm's head of digital marketing and development.

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