Right. Except, there is something different here. To promote the film, distributor 20th Century Fox is forgoing the usual marketing channels (expensive television spots, costly radio snippets and so on) for a rather more organic marketing method: simple word-of-mouth.
In an industry where films are made on $100 million budgets and receive marketing spend equal to that, this is something of a revelation. After all, let’s not forget 20th Century Fox distributed Avatar, a film that cost $230 million to make and hundreds of millions to publicise.
By comparison, Paper Towns is staking its success on the hope that people will generate interest in the film organically, but Fox knows what it’s doing. Paper Towns appeals squarely to the sort of teen audience that frequents social media the most. And at a cost of $12, Paper Towns is less of a commercial investment than, say, Avatar.
CNBC reports that the studio has approached social media gurus, TheAmplfy, to reach the widest possible audience. TheAmplify has a roster of 1500 social media influencers on its books, and has chosen a crack team based on the tone, style and subject matter of the film.
One of the chosen, Keegan Allen, has a Twitter following of 1.65 million and stars in the television show Pretty Little Liars. Right on cue, he took to Twitter on July 24 to post this Tweet:
— Keegan Allen (@KeeganAllen) July 24, 2015
@KeeganAllen was right paper towns is a great film! Really good movie. The book is awesome too! ❤️
— Pretty Little Liars (@heyo190) July 26, 2015
Fox expects the film to have made a modest $20 million this past weekend, but expects the word-of-mouth campaign to move into overdrive in the coming weeks thanks to the efforts of social media glitterati like Allen.
As novel as relying on word-of-mouth is, it’s not the first time Fox has used social media exclusively to create buzz about a property it owns. In 2014, another John Green book was adapted to the big screen. It was called The Fault in Our Stars and was create on a similarly tight $12 million budget. What did it end up grossing? Over $300 million, largely from the buzz of word-of-mouth.
Hollywood is a catalyst of trends, and we think it’s exciting that they’re embracing word-of-mouth the way they are. It’s a sure sign of the times when a mammoth, global distributor like 20th Century Fox uses Instagram, Facebook and Twitter to get people to see its film.
Of course, Paper Towns needs to stand tall on its own merits and deliver an engrossing two hours of entertainment, but providing it doesn’t get panned by critics, you can expect the word-of-mouth buzz alone to make this film a roaring success on next to no spend.
The same applies to businesses. Providing you deliver good service, on time, you can expect word-of-mouth buzz to be far more valuable to you than expensive marketing spend.
We live in an age where social media is disrupting the traditional way of getting things advertised, and Hollywood has taken note.