Ravenous: Marketing a Horror Movie in the Social Media Era

A socio-support campaign, influencers, audience targeting on Facebook and Twitter: here’s an analysis of the role played by social media and digital platforms in developing an online community for Quebec’s horror feature film Ravenous (Les Affamés), nominated for five Canadian Screen Awards.

Whereas Canadian horror films are renowned throughout the world since David Cronenberg produced his first works back in the 1970s, Quebec has still not managed to build up a strong reputation in this genre.

It is in this context that La Maison de prod, a Montreal-based independent production company, approached the development, production and promotion of Ravenous, a zombie drama directed by Robin Aubert that flirts with the alternative cinema, bloody thriller, and schoolboy comedy genres all at once.

Franco-Quebec Horror: a Genre to be Conquered

In any given year, horror films are a sure bet for box offices in Canada and abroad. In fact, 2017 turned out to be a record-breaking year in terms of revenue and the exceptional recognition awarded to Get Out and It—two films that contributed to establishing horror as a mainstream genre once and for all.

In Quebec, American horror films are very popular both in theatres and on video-on-demand (VOD) platforms the likes of Netflix. However, the reality is completely different for Franco-Quebec cinema despite catalysts such as the Fantasia and SPASM festivals.

As an example, it took 12 years before director Robin Aubert, whose career took off with the fantasy film Saints-Martyrs-des-Damnés, was able to go back to genre cinema.

2015: Validating the Project’s Potential

Ravenous, a zombie film set in Quebec’s countryside, required six years of work to complete. To convince funders that Quebec audiences had an interest for genre cinema, producer Stéphanie Morissette retained the services of social marketing agency BeauRobot.

The aim was to create a socio-support campaign based on the crowdspeaking principle and develop a community of Quebec horror film fans to generate a significant number of “Likes” as well as followers, tags, shares and retweets on social networks.

The campaign gravitated around three main aspects:

  1. To give an idea of the project’s tone and universe, four demo-type video capsules, scripted and directed by Robin Aubert, were launched in partnership with specialized genre cinema festivals (Fantasia and SPASM) and influencers followed by local and international communities such as the Horreur Québec website;
  2. A contest offered 100 fans the opportunity to take part in the summer 2016 shooting as zombie extras;
  3. A micro-site was brought online to generate subscriptions to the production newsletter.

By the end of this six-month campaign, BeauRobot had collected statistical data on frequency and subscriptions and produced a report that La Maison de prod presented to the funders for the production stage.

Here are the results:

  • 3,500 subscriptions to the micro-site;
  • 3,482 Facebook subscribers (including 2,000 subscribers less than one week after the site had been brought online);
  • More than 20,000 views of the video capsules.

The decisions made to refocus subsequent interventions on Facebook rather than Twitter and to use the newsletter to reach fans directly were also based on these results.

2016: Segmenting the Target Audiences

It was interesting to observe how the fan community reacted in the following months, after various media announcements regarding the project and more particularly the unveiling of the distribution.

The announcement of the participation of renowned actor Marc-André Grondin (GoonCheC.R.A.Z.Y.) revealed the fact that female subscribers to the Facebook page were more likely to like, comment and share the news. It’s a strong tendency that was also observed during subsequent production stages.

French-speaking women aged 35–44 form the most highly engaged group of fans on Facebook
English-speaking men interested in cinema and current events form the largest group on Twitter

A high point was also observed on Twitter following the announcement published in specialized publications like Variety and Screen International as well as websites and blogs specialized in horror like Bloody Disgusting (135,000 followers) and Dread Central.

This was the main platform used to reach potential fans outside Quebec during the film’s festival tour (2017–2018).

Three Main Influencers On Twitter

  1. Tout le monde en parle TV show, Québec (@OFF_TLMEP) – theatre release in Québec, October 2017
  2. In The Panda, France (@InThePanda) – Netflix release, March 2018
  3. TIFF, Canada (@TIFF_NET) – world premiere, September 2018

 

2017: Optimizing the Promotional Strategy on Social Networks

Upstream of the film’s world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), an exclusive excerpt was distributed through the Entertainment Weekly website as well as in Quebec. The excerpt presented information on the film’s release dates in theatres as well as the film’s various social network accounts.

Ten days later, the trailer was officially released online.

Showcasing female characters

The award for the best Canadian feature film at the TIFF and the initial reviews of the film, which echoed the preponderant role played by women in Ravenous, a rare phenomenon when it comes to horror films, encouraged the distributor—Christal Films/eOne—to focus their strategy on promotional items that showcased the female characters.

The best marketing strategy for each social media platform

The number of views each promotional video received reveals the following:

  • Two of the three most viewed videos last at most thirty or so seconds;
  • The videos that were uploaded to the film’s official account generated more views on Facebook than on YouTube;
  • YouTube is the preferred platform used by speciality film sites to attract their fans by incorporating trailers into their dedicated channel;
  • The trailer developed for Quebec was retrieved and distributed on unofficial YouTube channels to foreign horror fans who are passionate about the genre—regardless of language or feature performers.

 

COMPARATIVE TABLE OF USERS BY PLATFORM

Territory

  • Quebec
  • French-speaking territories
  • Quebec
  • Canada
  • World
  • World
  • World

Communication languages

  • French
  • French
  • English
  • French
  • English
  • Multilingual

Audiences

  • Fans
  • Contributors
  • Media
  • Reviews
  • Blogs
  • Fans
  • YouTubers
  • Festivals
  • Ultra-fans
  • Journalists
  • Bloggers
  • Horror fans

Discoverability

  • Community members (tags)
  • FB events
  • Hashtags (titles in different languages, terms such as “zombie”, “Netflix”, etc.)
  • Official and external channels
  • Title and keywords
  • Image captures
  • Images
  • Hashtags
  • Current events
  • Media site referencing

Content

  • General information
  • Announcement of regular and supplementary viewings
  • Sharing of user comments
  • International information

  • Demo clips
  • Teasers
  • Official trailers
  • Interviews
  • Video reviews
  • Video reports
  • Reviews
  • Reportages
  • Blogs
  • Evaluations
  • Online purchase links
  • Illegal viewing links

Highlights

  • Launch of the socio-support campaign
  • Announcement of the shooting and distribution
  • Selections in festivals
  • Announcements of awards and nominations
  • Netflix release
  • Main festival releases
  • World premiere
  • Quebec release
  • Netflix release
  • Publication of current events regarding the film

 

Two types of fan-generated content were used to reach other segments of the large web community of horror film fans who had not been targeted by the initial deployment strategy: video reviews on YouTube and live-tweeting sessions on the film following its release on Netflix.

Despite the modest results obtained, it will nevertheless be interesting to plan and incorporate this type of promotional content in collaboration with these additional influencers in the future.

Cross-Evaluations: Critics Vs. Fans

Seven major websites published the aggregate results of film reviews made by Internet users and critics. Here are the results:

IMDb

ROTTEN TOMATOES

CINÉMA MONTRÉAL

GOOGLE USERS

iTUNES CANADA

LETTERBOXD

GOOGLE PLAY

ALLOCINÉ

Score (%)

64%

89%/58%

66%

73%

80%

65%

80%

44%

Respondents

1,400

9 pros/

84 fans

107

N/A

10

575

8

40

 

Based on these indicators, La Maison de prod arrived at the following conclusions:

  • The decision to feed the film’s IMDb file on a sustained basis the moment the funding had been secured, namely by publishing a high number of reviews online, was rewarded by increased user participation on the site;
  • The compilation of Likes and Dislikes on Google is still an opaque and experimental process (how many votes over what period?), but it could prove useful is combined with an optimized and transparent methodology;
  • The voting system on the Letterboxd site is the most transparent and it could gain in popularity if its interface was optimized and it was incorporated into social networks;
  • Rotten Tomatoes, despite the shortcomings recently expressed about it, remains the only platform that accounts for both critics’ and Internet users’ reviews;
  • It remains practically impossible to compile the reviews of Netflix subscribers (Netflix purchased the international rights to Les Affamés) on a global scale;
  • A mega aggregator capable of compiling, standardizing and analyzing a majority of professional and fan reviews would prove to be a useful tool for more effectively focussing distributors’ and VOD platforms’ promotional initiatives.

Recommendations

In retrospect, the Les Affamés adventure made it possible to test and assess a variety of online tools and platforms to better decipher how audiences had understood and appreciated the film on the basis of their viewing habits and the sites they visited.

Although each film requires its own strategy, it would appear that, when used reasonably, these tools make it possible to plan the production’s social marketing on more solid bases by taking into account the following recommendations:

  • Use more visual and video elements (such as GIFs, memes, etc.) to feed the social network accounts more systematically and in other than informational contexts (humoristic, based on the news and calendar, etc.);
Illustration from the Les Affamés : Décomposition en images exhibit (Credit: Jean-Philippe Marcotte)
Credits: Francis Cloutier, Ashton Lamont, Coffee & Cigarettes/Alma Cinéma, Netflix
  • Distribute on a larger scale all of the official visual elements and those designed by fan communities throughout the world in accordance with a deployment scheduled developed with everyone involved in the film (distributors, sales agents, festivals, influencers) to the greatest extent possible;
  • Analyze, target and reassess main influencer types and functions at each stage of the film’s operational cycle (festival, local premiere, theatre release, VOD distribution).

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