Why did “The Interview” Win Top Marketing Campaign?

Yes, tonight’s the night – the night where all of Hollywood’s stars align as one in Los Angeles. I’m not going to talk about their red carpet ensembles today, though. Rather, let’s take a look at something a little more scandalous…the PR/marketing aspect of cinema. How else can we understand how movies attract attention to soar above noisy competition?

The International Cinematographers Guild granted “The Interview” the Maxwell Weinberg Publicists Showmanship Motion Picture Award for Top Marketing Campaign Feb. 20. In simpler terms, Sony Pictures’ “The Interview,” a comedy starring James Franco and Seth Rogen, garnered the most attention and buzz last year.

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A promotional poster for “The Interview.” Aesthetically, I fancy its fiery color scheme and symmetrical layout.

How could a movie pulled from cinemas nationwide win such an award, while competitors like “Selma”, “The Fault in our Stars” and “Guardians of the Galaxy” were blockbuster hits? When you throw in threats from a communist North Korean leader and cyber hacks obliterating countless emails and communication methods, it becomes clear.

Sony’s marketing/PR team “rose above the ashes,” per se, and continued publicizing the film no matter how many threats it received.  Even theater chains on the home front contributed to the film’s potential failure by refusing to release it (in all honesty, I wouldn’t risk my life to watch a film in a theater threatened by terrorists). Spinning a negative situation into a powerful marketing opportunity, however, shows a publicist’s prowess.

Releasing “The Interview” on popular video-on-demand outlets saved the film from sinking into oblivion. Truly understanding your target audience is the foundation for any campaign. VOD users’ demographics constantly expand (from age ranges to education levels), and Sony smartly tapped into this growing market. The platform’s audience provided Sony gross profits of $31 million from online and video-on-demand revenues – just in its first week and a half!

Publicists demonstrated their aptitude by revisiting their campaigns from scratch and relying on novel communication methods that cyber attackers couldn’t hack. Choosing a theatrical release method that didn’t jeopardize audiences from potential terrorist attacks helped as well. Tons of news and entertainment TV programs, newspapers, magazines and blogs covered the film’s unfortunate situation, and tracked its success despite numerous obstacles.

Although “The Interview” isn’t nominated for an Oscar tonight, its marketing campaign shines brighter than any 24-karat gold statue. Bravo!

Enjoy your Oscar-watching parties, friends!

-Jonathan

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