5 questions with Facebook's head of Hollywood marketing magic

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If you look back on Universal’s year at the box office, you see a studio putting out a steady stream of blockbusters, breakout hits and almost surprisingly profitable niche films. Everything from “Pitch Perfect 2” to “Minions” to “Straight Outta Compton” helped the studio to the highest-grossing spot in Hollywood.

So, what was the secret? Universal is known for its digital marketing experimentation, and Facebook was a big part of the online strategy for almost all its films. Universal and Facebook were at South By Southwest discussing their movie marketing collaboration over the past year and how the social network changed the way studios roll out their movies. Jim Underwood, Facebook’s global head of entertainment strategy, sat down to discuss how the platform is proving valuable in generating Hollywood hits.

What’s the key to marketing a blockbuster versus a movie with narrower appeal?
If you need to reach a smaller demographic and lift intent with young men, for example, or if you want to reach a 100 million person audience for a big franchise, you can do it. The best practice particularly for film marketing is reaching large audiences on a segmented basis.

How did Facebook help with marketing the surprise hit ‘Straight Outta Compton’?
“Straight Outta Compton” reached a huge audience on the platform. There was a slight adaptation for creative to African-American audiences. We had done research to already see that they had high intent to see the film. They were very familiar with the characters, so we jumped right into the story. We also saw that there was an ability to persuade the general population. It’s one of the reasons the film broke out.

How is the trend of vertical video affecting movie trailers?
We are seeing lot of creative now that is in the vertical or square aspect ratio, and that’s doing really well on the platform. You’re able to say, first to grab attention, to succeed in that three-second audition, we’re going to have vertical tailored creative, and then pull people down through the funnel, have them watch longer content. And then follow up with a call to action to buy the movie ticket.