Like millions of others, I love the experience of going to the movies. Despite the endless amount of content available via Hulu, Netflix, and on-demand cable services, there is still something special about going to the theater. In fact, 2017 North American box office sales eclipsed the $11 billion mark for the third straight year and, while the industry is certainly evolving, movie-going is still alive and well.
I can vividly remember the excitement I felt as a kid when I saw Back to the Future for the first time in 1985. Leaving the theater with my grandmother, mother, and older sister, I just knew I had to start riding a skateboard if I wanted to be like my new idol Marty McFly.
There would be many more movies during my childhood and into adulthood that would help shape my view of myself and the world around me. And I’m willing to bet that you can name at least three movies that have had a profound effect on you over the course of your life.
The movie industry is a powerful force with the ability to tell moving stories, spotlight unexpected heroes, and help shape the culture in which we all live. And while the industry can sometimes get a bad reputation, there have been some great examples of positive stories and role models recently, including Wonder Woman, Hidden Figures, and Black Panther.
These films and many others are often backed by strategic marketing plans with hefty budgets, which help to ensure that millions flood the theaters on opening weekend and beyond. Some of the best marketing ideas have come from the entertainment industry, including The Blair Witch Project’s viral campaign, The Simpsons Movie 7-Eleven to Kwik-E-Mart store conversions, and Deadpool’s “12 Days of Deadpool” series. Here’s one of my favorite marketing stunts for Spider-Man: Homecoming.
But with great power, comes great responsibility (wink, wink). The good news for cause marketers like myself is that the movie studios get it. Over the past few years, more and more movie studios have been using their marketing expertise, budgets and intellectual property to further social issues and advocate on behalf of important causes.
And while Hollywood has always been cause oriented, with many outspoken actor-activists, now the studios themselves are getting behind social movements and connecting them to their film promotions directly.
With the Ad Council, I’ve worked on many film tie-ins and advertising campaigns that support social issues. These promotions take a variety of forms, with everything from social media campaigns to retail promotions to public service advertising. Most recently, we partnered with the movie Peter Rabbit to help reduce food waste – every year 40% of food in the U.S. never gets eaten.
The Star Wars “Force for Change” campaign is another notable example of how Hollywood is using their marketing powers for good. They used one of the most iconic movie franchises to raise awareness and funds for UNICEF and Starlight Children’s Foundation, which provide much needed support for children around the world.
Not only do these films have a built-in audience for these important messages, they can deliver the information in a unique and entertaining way. It gets even more exciting when everyone involved gets behind the effort, as was the case with this Ad Council campaign with Ferdinand to address learning & attention issues in young children.
Not only did the movie studio support the message with their characters and marketing, but John Cena and WWE helped extend its reach by sharing it on their social channels and other platforms.
As cause marketers look for new and effective ways to drive cultural change, the movie industry will continue to play a larger and even more important role. As an industry filled with some of the most talented storytellers and larger-than-life characters, how can they not?