Movie Marketing 2.0?

You can’t blame Hollywood studios if they cast an envious eye to the upstart gaming companies born of social media. Angry Birds developer Rovio, located all the way in Finland, spawned a franchise (with recurring revenue) that Hollywood would make the toast of the town.
20th Century Fox has clearly decided if it can’t beat them, they’d rather join them with its unique Rovio partnership that spawned Angry Birds Rio. The game, released in advance of Rio’s $40 million debut this weekend, could spell a new way of movie marketing — and developing revenue streams beyond the box office.
“This is a watershed moment,” said Randy Giusto, senior vice president of technology for research firm Ipsos Vanitis. “Angry Birds Rio is a model for everyone else going forward.  Why couldn’t Home Depot go to Rovio? Why couldn’t Zynga pull this off?”
That’s big news for two reasons: it means Angry Birds Rio is the biggest example yet of a game – let alone a mobile game — driving awareness for a Hollywood blockbuster. And it means every other studio, brand and agency now know the right mobile game could page huge dividends for them, too.
Angry Birds Rio is clearly a hit. The game has been downloaded as many as 20 million times over the last two weeks.The game’s success is all the more striking because Fox executives reportedly flew to Finland to sell the small company on the collaboration. Usually game companies are the ones desperate to collaborate with studios.
To date, studios’ game tie-ins have looked more like DreamsWorks’ Megamind promotion last November,  when the animated film’s title character became a “neighbor” to 17 million players of FarmVille. Or studios maintained tight control over their intellectual property, as with Disney Mobile’s release last December of its Tron Legacy iPhone app (CNET’s Download.com registered eight downloads last week).
From game companies’ perspective, advergaming has looked like the Nissan and Mazda product placements in Electronic Arts’ Need for Speed games. Or skateboarding apps from Axe Bodyspray.
Rio is a very different bird altogether. Fandango said last week that players can now directly purchase tickets to the movie through a link in the mobile app. This week, Rovio also said players will soon be able to sync their games across multiple platforms, including phones, PCs and tablets – an attractive idea for sponsors who would love to see their messages simultaneously broadcast to all of them.
The game will play dividends well beyond the opening weekend, however. Studios are always struggling with keeping their franchises fresh in minds between a theatrical and DVD release (much less subsequent installments). A wildly popular game franchise certainly couldn’t hurt.
Meanwhile, Rovio is making money handily, serving up ads on free versions of Rio, and charging up to $2.99 for downloads (Apple and Google also get their cut, of course). Neither Rovio nor Fox has commented on their cut of revenue, and neither were available for this article.
The  Rio game’s success may be hard to replicate, however. It’s not like there are dozens of franchises like Angry Birds out there.
“The Angry Birds gamer was going to buy the game regardless of sponsorship,” said Dino Mytides, vp of advertising for media research firm Interpret. “It just happened to benefit Fox.”
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