Movie marketers get creative on Instagram to promote new releases

Entertainment marketers are increasingly looking to Instagram to promote upcoming releases.

For its upcoming feature comedy “The Perfect Match,” Codeblack Films, a subsidiary of Lionsgate, released a game show starring popular influencers on Instagram. The series, also called “The Perfect Match,” was made in the style of the classic ‘80s game show “The Newlywed Game,” in which couples compete to see who is the perfect match out of the group. Spanning eight 15-second episodes, it starred popular Instagram personalities like Draya Michele (4.5 million followers) and Lira Mercer (2.5 million followers).

Launched on Saturday, March 5, across the accounts of the six Instagram influencers that appear in “The Perfect Match,” the series has garnered more than 106,000 likes on the platform. It has also captured more than 37.5 million earned impressions there, according to Codeblack.

Typically, movie studios create social accounts for each movie and spend millions of dollars to draw attention to upcoming releases.

“That doesn’t make sense to me,” said Jeff Clanagan, CEO and president of Codeblack Entertainment, which focuses on producing films for the African American consumer market. “You’re spending all this money to build pages that you will abandon after the movie comes out. I’m focused on a niche market, and it was important for me to grow a community on Instagram and Facebook that I can come back to every time.”

For Codeblack, Clanagan has built a network of Facebook pages that reach millions of fans, including Codeblack Life (1.5 million followers) and Codeblack Comedy (3.6 million followers). Clanagan has also incubated a network of Instagram influencers that collectively reaches more than 20 million followers on the platform.

“Now all I have to do is flip a switch, because I have an active audience,” said Clanagan. (Clanagan is also comedian Kevin Hart’s producing partner at HartBeat Productions, and Codeblack is behind the comedian’s chart-topping stand-up specials like “Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain.”)

This socially driven approach is doubly important for labels like Codeblack. Unlike a major studio release, films like “The Perfect Match” don’t have big marketing budgets. A more targeted marketing strategy that makes use of finding and reaching the right audiences on social platforms has helped previous Codeblack films like “Addicted,” which made $7.6 million during its opening weekend even though it was only distributed across 846 screens.

This is the first time the studio has used Instagram as the centerpiece of its marketing campaign. While the game show cost less than $10,000 to produce, Clanagan believes it has already earned several times that in marketing value.

Codeblack Entertainment isn’t the first studio to employ Instagram for marketing an upcoming release. The team behind Paramount’s “Zoolander 2” also took to the photo- and video-sharing platform in a variety of ways. For instance, star Kyle Mooney’s character Don Atari has his own Instagram account, offering a peek inside the life of a typically vapid fashion designer. Here he is having “instabrunch” with Man Repeller’s Leandra Medine and Instagram’s head of fashion partnerships Eva Chen:

Overall, entertainment marketers are increasingly going to Instagram for influencer-driven campaigns. Nearly half of the 100-plus deals theAmplify, an agency focused on Instagram, Snapchat and influencers, did in 2015 were for movie studios on Instagram, according to CEO Justin Rezvani.

“Views of a trailer on YouTube and Facebook matter a lot for studios, but when it comes to influencers, Instagram is the most important platform for studios,” said Rezvani. “They can do a lot on their owned-and-operated channels on YouTube and Facebook, but Instagram is still a challenge for many.”

Clanagan is a believer. “We are going to create a lot more original content like this,” he said. “For other movies we are developing, one of the things I’ve asked writers is to create prequels for the movies [for Instagram]. Instagram is going to be a major part of our efforts going forward.”